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 a look at fruitcake traditions in Appalachia. Yes, it’s heavy as a brick, and lasts long enough that you can re-gift it year after year without anyone commenting on its shelf life having expired. Blame the Scots.
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.
Next, Ohio farmer LP Bailey testifies before a 1912 Congressional agricultural subcommittee on the threat of an unregulated margarine industry to the health of America’s dairy industry. “I am interested—am in favor of oleo,” he says. “I believe there is a need for oleo—a place for it, a demand for it—but I want it to stand on its own merits like everything else stands on its own merits.”
“When all the white boys and girls would be away Miss Beckie would gather the little negro children around the fire and talk with us,” explains former North Georgia slave Levi Branham (1852-1944) in his memoirs. “One day I said to Miss Beckie: ‘Why do we little negro children have to work for you?’ She said, ‘That’s the way our fore-parents fixed the matter.” I said to her, “when I get grown I am going to change the situation somewhat.’ “
John Gable was born in 1910 in Superior, WI, and moved to Konnarock, VA with his family in 1936. In this oral history excerpt from 1995 he examines the evolution of the Christmas tree farming industry in that area from his young manhood till now.
At 10:20 a.m., December 6, 1907, explosions occurred at the No. 6 and No. 8 mines at Monongah, WV. The explosions ripped through the mines at 10:28 a.m., causing the earth to shake as far as eight miles away, shattering buildings and pavement, hurling people and horses violently to the ground, and knocking streetcars off their rails. Three-hundred and sixty-two men and boys died. It remains the worst mine disaster in the history of the United States.
We’ll wrap things up with a look at the variations on the centuries old Christmas carol “The Cherry Tree.” The Appalachian versions mention the actual date of Christ’s birth, unlike the original English carol, and that helps folklorists to place a particular version in time. Old Christmas Day, NOT December 25, is the date they look for. In 1751, when a change in the calendar had become expedient, eleven days were dropped out between September 2nd and 14th, 1752, thus making January 4th the date of Old Christmas Day. In 1800, another day was taken from the calendar, and in 1900 still another, so that Old Christmas Day now falls on January 7th.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Archive we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music by the Knoxville trio Mountain Laurel in a modern recording of “Hewlett’s Air” by the great Irish Renaissance harpist and composer Turlough O’Carolan (Toirdhealbhach Ó Cearbhalláin).
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.