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 the childhood forces that shaped Roy Rogers before he became Roy Rogers. One of Hollywood’s most famous cowboys wasn’t raised on a western ponderosa. Leonard Slye grew up west of Lucasville, OH on a small farm in Duck Run.
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.
The Dust Bowl crisis of the early 1930s for the first time brought national attention to the acute dangers of soil erosion. Southern Appalachian farms, for their part, suffered from poor soil conditions and erosion as a result of practices that maximized the short-term potential of corn, tobacco and cotton cash crops at the expense of the soil’s long-term health. But in early 1938 South Carolina became the first state in the nation to implement a farm conservation plan to combat these imbalances.
Next, we’ll hear a leg stretcher of a yarn from one Fess Whitaker, of Letcher County, KY. Whitaker had been elected county jailer in 1917 and decided to run for county judge in 1921. But while on the campaign trail he got caught up in a street fight, a disturbance of the peace that led to his incarceration in the very jail he supervised, and earned him the nickname “The Jailed Jailer.” While imprisoned, Whitaker continued his campaign and was eventually elected.
William Ganaway Russell had the good fortune to buy a farm exactly halfway between Walhalla SC and Highlands NC. There was no railway service between Walhalla and Highlands in the mid-nineteenth century. Travelers would have to ride horseback or via stagecoach on the Highlands Highway for two days to get to Highlands, 30 miles away. And waiting for them at the end of their first day’s ride, along the banks of the Chattooga River near the old Cherokee settlement of Tsatugi, sat the Russell farmstead and inn.
Benjamin Parks is credited with being the person who discovered gold in Georgia in 1828, west of the Chestatee River in Lumpkin County. He made some money from his find, but the man he sold his prospecting lease made even more. “That is the peculiarity of gold mining,” he observes in this 1894 interview in the Atlanta Constitution. “You will go day after day exhausting your means and your strength until you give it up. Then the first man who touches the spot, finds the gold the first opening he makes. It is just like gambling; all luck.”
We’ll wrap things up with the story of the largest Waldensian colony in the world outside of Italy–Valdese, NC. The Waldensians are a Christian sect founded in the 12th century by Peter Valdo, a merchant of Lyons, France who lived only a short time before St. Francis. For many years the group was confined to a rugged area in the Cottian Alps along the boundary between Italy and France. King Louis XIV was determined not to let Protestant beliefs seep into Catholic-driven France and persecuted the Waldensians mercilessly. Toward the later part of the 19th century many Waldenses emigrated to North and South America to form missionary colonies—no longer because of religious persecution but because their small strip of land in the Alps had become overcrowded.
And, thanks to blogger Jeremy Stephens of Jeremy’s Saggy Record Cabinet we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music by Wade Mainer in a 1937 recording of “Starting Life Anew with You.”
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.