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 story of Napoleon Hill. Hill’s book ‘Think and Grow Rich’ is the all time bestseller in the success motivation field, with over 100 million copies sold around the world. The world famous author and speaker got off to a lousy start. By the age of 12, Hill tells us, he was a pistol toting ne’er do well in Pound, VA. But his new stepmother, Martha Ramey Banner, saw the boy’s potential and bought him a typewriter. “It was a turning point in my young life; it opened a new world for me,” says Hill.
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.
“It looked like the arch of some grand old cathedral,” wrote Henry E. Colton in 1859 of his discovery of North Carolina’s Linville Caverns, “yet it was too sublime, too perfect in all its beautiful proportions, to be anything of human, but a model which man might attempt to imitate.” The caverns lie deep inside Humpback Mountain below the Blue Ridge Escarpment, not far from the towns of Boone, Blowing Rock, and Asheville. For 30 million years, as the nearby Catawba River ate away at the valley between the Humpback and Linville mountains, North Carolina’s only publicly accessible caverns have slowly drained.
Next, Leora Rhodes Brooks Franklin (b. 1920), long time resident of Richmond, KY, describes the effects of school desegregation at Richmond city schools in the 1950s. “One of the teachers told us that they have other students grading their papers and all of that. And if the student don’t seem like they want to get anything, you just leave them alone, just pass them on. They don’t have to get it.”
The Meaders family of potters is probably the most influential family in the history of Southern Appalachian folk pottery. The White County, GA family was featured in Allen Eaton’s 1937 book, “Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands,” and was honored with a special event at the Library of Congress in 1978, when the Smithsonian Institution’s documentary film on the Meaders pottery was released. In this segment you’ll hear how the family business got its start in the 1890s.
Christopher Stahley was a foot grenadier in Napoleon Bonaparte’s old guard. He fought bravely in Napoleon’s ranks in over 50 major engagements. From the Egyptian campaign to the 1812 push towards Moscow, he narrowly escaped death a thousand times over. “There were 480,000 of us who went forth to glory [in 1812],” he relates. “Less than half that number returned. In 1822, in company with my wife, I emigrated to America. I bought a farm and settled down near Somerset, OH. Then began my disasters.”
We’ll wrap things up with a nod to the Magyars of West Virginia. Great numbers of Hungarian immigrants came to the United States around the turn of the century. Hugarians called the wave of immigration from 1880 to about 1915 the ‘Great Economic Immigration’
It drew about 1.7 million Hungarian citizens, among them 650,000-700,000 real Hungarians (Magyars), to American shores. These immigrants came almost solely for economic reasons, and they represented the lowest and poorest of the population. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 halted mass migration, but by 1922 7,300 Hungarian-born Magyars had found their way to West Virginia.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Library of Appalachia, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Doc & Merle Watson in a 1965 recording of “Gambler’s Yodel.”
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.