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 tale from Elbert William R. Ewing, Esquire, who opened his career having to prosecute a boyhood friend for murder in Wise County, VA. This situation made the newcomer so nervous that he asked the judge to excuse him from the case. Which the judge would not do. “I went to my office almost wild with despair, grief and the weight of the unsought responsibility. Suddenly I recalled having heard of George A. Ewing as a successful lawyer. Rushing out, I wired him : ‘Have just been appointed to prosecute so and so. Have recently gone to the bar. For the sake of the Ewing name will you help me?’
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.
Alabama’s oldest Baptist congregation will be 202 years old this year. Or not, depending on whom you ask. Elder John Nicholson led the first worship on October 2, 1808 at the home of James Deaton in Killingsworth Cove (now part of Huntsville.) And for 170 of those 202 years the congregants who’ve adhered to the tenets of the original Flint River Baptist Church of Christ (the “Primitive” Baptists) have been at odds with more modernized, or “Missionary” Baptists.
This Sunday, May 9, is Mother’s Day. It took the individual effort of two West Virginia Jarvis women, mother and daughter, over 43 years to forge the Mother’s Day we recognize today. And it’s a story with a twist, so buckle up!
By 1928, German conglomerate VGF had opened 2 rayon plants in of Elizabethton, TN. Visions of economic growth encouraged government officials in the small East Tennessee town to make concessions to VGF concerning property taxes and charges for the huge volumes of water needed to make rayon. They also promised the German industrialists that they would have an abundant supply of docile and cheap–that is, nonunion– labor. The stage was set for one of the first, if not THE first, strikes in the Southern textile field.
We’ll wrap things up with a selection from a 1972 speech by Dr. O Norman Simpkins on what constitutes Appalachian heritage. “With the inroads of media upon isolation, highway networks opening up the back hollows, spreading urbanizing influences, and a rising level of living, our cultural heritage is rapidly fading into the past and in danger of being lost,” said Dr. Simpkins, the Chairman of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Marshall University. “Over the years,” he told his listeners, “the blending of many cultural strains, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, German, Southern European, African and others in this mountain environment have combined to produce a rich heritage of which every native son and daughter can be justly proud—a cultural endowment well fitted to answer every man’s question as posed by John Steinbeck: ‘How do we know it’s us without our past?’”
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Archive, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Stuart Eydmann in a 2006 recording of a traditional Scottish hornpipe
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.