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 1912 capture of fugitive outlaws Sidna Allen and Wesley Edwards. They were members of a family gang who months earlier had shot up the Hillsville, VA courthouse when it was in session, killing the presiding judge and others. Detective W.G. Baldwin, head of the Baldwin Felts Agency, trailed Edwards’ fiancé from Mt. Airy, NC to the boarding house in Des Moines, IA where the two were laying low.
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.
“My father is to be honored for his stick-to-itiveness,” says Barbara Lee Tate in this excerpt from a letter to her cousin Gerald Lively written in July 2001. “Everyday he went into the dark pits of the mines to earn what it took to care for us children.” Her upbringing in Mabscott, WV was not always easy. Tate was born in the poorhouse after her parents separated, and her brother later died in a truck accident. There’s no self pity in her letter, though. “West Virginia was a beautiful place to grow up. Thank God for the beauty around us.”
Next, we’ll take a look at the joys of winter from a child’s perspective in this memoir of growing up in Emmitsburg, MD by Michael Hillman. “When it came to skating, Emmitsburg was tops,” he remembers fondly. “Skating was so good, in fact, that kids in Thurmont would often be seen crying and even cursing their parents for not having the foresight to settle in Emmitsburg.”
He was a world famous cave explorer at the time he was trapped in Kentucky’s Sand Cave in January 1925. Rescuers tried everything to free Floyd Collins—digging and hacking at the passageway, sinking a new shaft, feeding him to keep up his energy, and sending down reporter Skeets Miller to chronicle the drama. At one point, rescuers even considered amputation. Nothing worked. Eventually, a passage just above Collins collapsed, cutting him off from aid. Fifteen days after being trapped, Floyd Collins pushed his last crawl.
Have you been to the little Niagara of the South? Geologists estimate that the rock over which the Cumberland River plunges is about 250 million years old. The falls is 65 feet high and is 125 feet wide. When the Cumberland River is at flood stage the width of the falls can quickly expand to 300 feet. Long known to Native Americans of the area, Cumberland Falls received its name from Dr. Thomas Walker during his 1750 exploration of Kentucky.
We’ll wrap things up with the story of the Brasemore family of Huntsville, AL. “With Daddy in jail it was up to me to run the business,” Jim Brasemore recalls. “Before he got caught, Daddy had hid the worm (copper condensation coil) and I got a neighbor to build me a pot. It wasn’t but just a couple of weeks ‘til I was back in business. When I run off my first batch they said the sheriff thought my father had escaped. ‘Nobody makes whiskey that good,’ the sheriff said, ‘except for old man Brasemore!’”
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Archive we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music by Clarence Ashley in a 1929 recording of “Coo Coo Bird.”
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.