We post a new episode of Appalachian History weekly podcast every Sunday. You can start listening right away by clicking the podcast icon over on the left side of your screen. If you’d rather grab the show off itunes for later listening, click here.
We open today’s show with the question: “Did Chicago mobster Al Capone ever set foot in Johnson City, TN?” During the 1920s the town was nicknamed Little Chicago. A reference acknowledging crime ties to the north? Or nothing more than an expression of local pride in the railroads, three of which ran through town?
We’ll pause in between things to catch up on a Calendar of Events in the region this week, with special attention paid to events that emphasize heritage and local color.
His beginnings were humble; he was born the son of an immigrant Scottish coal miner in the company town of Lonaconing, MD. But John Gardner Murray (1857-1929) rose to the heights of the Episcopal Church on the national level, becoming the first elected Presiding Bishop in 1926.
Some people have dark dark secrets, like the Aunt Mary of this next segment. Hers is the story of “The Hainted House,” from ‘South from Hell-fer-Sartin: Kentucky Mountain Folk Tales,’ and before its over you’ll be wanting to lock the door, close the curtains, —and especially—check the fireplace.
Alabaman James Pinkney Pittman wasn’t a bad man, but his fondness for liquor didn’t help his community standing any. In his handwritten memoirs he tells us how he was framed for the shooting death of a buddy in a hunting accident during a 3-man outing. He was booked for the killing in the St Clair courthouse, and amazingly, was able to raise bond from a group of strangers who were sympathetic to his position. Perhaps they knew a bit more about the other remaining hunter’s reputation than Pittman did.
What parent wouldn’t be utterly terrified to have their child kidnapped, never to be heard from again? It happened to Mr. and Mrs. James Sage of Clayton County, VA in 1793. Their daughter Katy was chasing butterflies in the side yard one morning, and suddenly she wasn’t there. Sixty years passed, when an Indian agent in Kansas mentioned to Katy’s now grown brother Charles that a woman who looked remarkably like him was living among the Shawnees.
We’ll wrap things up with a look at wooly worms. You could check to see if the bees are flying low, observe the size of the acorns on the trees, or pay close attention to how foggy recent mornings have been in order to gauge what kind of a winter it’ll be. Easiest of all, you could get yourself over to Banner Elk, NC or Beattysville, KY to each town’s annual Woolly Worm Festival, where the little critters compete for the honor of proclaiming the official winter weather forecast.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Library of Appalachia we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music by Jim Shumate and Wayne Erbsen in a 1977 recording of the traditional fiddle tune “Cumberland Gap.”
So, call your old blue-tick hound up on the porch, fire up your corn-cob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian History.