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 1910 crime report from Poe Mill, SC. Ben Allen was found in his bed one April morning, with a bullet through his temple and a gun in his hand. But investigators smelled foul play; the gun was only a few inches from his head and the muzzle was pointed at his head. If he had indeed shot himself, the recoil from the gun would logically have thrown the gun to a more chaotic position. Matters were complicated by the fact that a man boarding in the house with the Allens was rumored by neighbors to be having an affair with Mrs. Allen.
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.
Sweat flies, Russian hornets, sand hornets, and Japanese hornets are some of their common nicknames. Warm weather’s here, and that means they’re starting to come back. In both Appalachian and Ozarks folklore, news bees appear as omens to those wise enough to read them.
“Agricultural education throughout [West Virginia], and scientific farming, have developed within the last fifty years,” said James Morton Callahan in his 1923 ‘History of West Virginia.’ In this next segment he explores how the establishment of the College of Agriculture at West Virginia University spearheaded the growth of various farmer’s cooperative groups statewide, most notably the Extension Service, which still thrives today.
She entered her first music contest in Canton, N.C., when she was still playing her “cheap 10 cent banjo,” Samantha Bumgarner told a Sylva [NC] Herald reporter years later. “And here I looked up and saw all these fine banjos coming in from Asheville. I wanted to leave, but they wouldn’t let me. I tell you I was so nervous I didn’t know I was hitting the strings. … But I won that contest. And I’ve been winning them ever since.”
Fulton Caldwell opened his personal diary with details of a trip from Ohio to Iowa in December 1859. His careful list of all expenses clues the reader in right away to a man concerned with the details. Between January 1873 and December 1910 ‘Fult’ Caldwell of Noble County, OH managed the impressive feat of producing a daily journal entry that is invaluable to us in understanding daily farm life.
We’ll wrap things up with a look at ‘Hickory chickens,’ or ‘dry land fish.’ They don’t have anything to do with chicken, fish or hickory. They are morel mushrooms and they’re in season right about now. Batter dipped and fried up, nothing compares to the ‘sponge mushroom’s’ mild oyster flavor (hence the ‘dry land fish’ label).
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Archive, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Frank Hutchinson in a 1927 recording of “The Chevrolet Six.”
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.