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 rise of the commercial apple industry in Western Maryland. “Hancock and its surrounding area during the main span of the 20th century was one of the largest fruit producers in the nation,” begins the Maryland Historical Marker along West Main Street in that same town. “In 1886 Edmund Pendleton Cohill began the cultivation of fruit crops. Over the years his planted acreage increased, and Cohill formed the Tonoloway Orchard Company. Other company and family names followed…” Nowhere does the marker mention Henry E. Van Deman, and that’s a shame, for without him Cohill’s Tonoloway Orchard may not have risen to the dominant market position it ultimately achieved.
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.
North Carolina native Nina M. Greenlee crossed paths with one Frenchy Larue during her time working in Allied Headquarters with the Women’s Army Corps in Italy. “[In 1949] About a year later after I got out of service, I was leafing through the newspapers one night and I saw this little article about so long about ‘Al Capone’s Henchman Commits Suicide in Trieste [Italy]‘. And I read it, and it was Frenchy. He had been summoned to appear in court for some minor something or other offense, to appear in Italian court, and rather than face the court he committed suicide.”
Next, we’ll peek over the shoulders of newspaperman Louis Pilcher as he describes the comings and goings of one DY Combs, one of Hazard Kentucky’s most influential men in the early 20th century. “Having leased his fields of the best coal to large coal operators,” says Pilcher, “it is believed that everybody’s D. Y. is destined to be in the near future one of the richest men in these rich fields, but nobody believes that he will dress in purple and fine linen and fare sumptuously every day, for D. Y. doesn’t care a snap for all that sort of thing, being as plain and simple as the proverbial old shoe.”
“Man of Constant Sorrow: My Life and Times by Dr. Ralph Stanley” has recently been published. Guest reviewer Jeanne Powers, who reviews books regularly for the Reference Department on the Bristol Public Library [TN/VA] site, weighs in with her reactions to the book. “I picked this book up thinking that it would be another standard celebrity biography, perhaps with a slab of cornpone on the side,” she says. “I hoped there would be some mentions of this area among the name-dropping, but I wasn’t exactly holding my breath. Instead I found a book to which I could relate and one that I’ll be recommending to anyone who wants to know about Appalachian life and who enjoys a good, well-told story—even if it’s someone who covers his ears when he hears a banjo being played.”
We’ll wrap things up with a short tale told by one Frank Mehaffey of Maggie Valley, NC. He and his brother go coon hunting one winter day in the Smokies. If you choose to believe him, Mehaffey’s dog Track must be one of the smartest coon dogs that ever lived: “He treed the coons in the cliff and stuck the fire under it and set the leaves afire, smoked the coons out, and had them, three big ones a-lyin’ there dead.”
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Library of Appalachia, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys in a 1994 recording of “Shout Little Lulie.”
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.