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 right 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 tale of a murderous vigilante from Wise County, VA. “Dr. Marshall B. Taylor was a sturdy, farm-bred lad, descended from an honorable family; a quiet and studious youth; a brave and generous comrade in arms; a physician with a practice covering almost the territory of an entire county; a United States officer, zealous and faithful; and, at last, a criminal of refined cruelty.”
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.
When they weren’t touring the world, the celebrated Siamese twins Chang and Eng were busy raising two large families and cultivating their Mt. Airy NC plantation. “Messrs. Chang and Eng are strict and thorough going businessmen, remarkable for their energy and industry, and frugal in their manner of living,” says one contemporary biographer of them in 1853. “They are excellent hands to carry up the corner of a log house—exceeding all their neighbors in cutting saddles and notches in corner logs—both of them wielding the axe, double handed, with a power and dexterity superior to any of the most expert wood choppers, even in that wooden country.”
Next, newspaperman Peter Livengood walks us through a day in the life at Little Crossings, the oldest inn in Grantsville, MD. “On one occasion while Mr. and Mrs. George Matthews kept tavern at Little Crossings,” he tells us, “they received advance notice from one of the stage companies then operating on the [National] pike that on a certain date thirty prominent Indians on their way to Washington to confer with “The Great White Father” would stop with them for dinner.” The innkeepers seemed to have everything in hand, preparing great quantities of roast beef and turkey for their guests. Then one of the expected stagecoaches didn’t show up.
We’ll wrap things up with a short appreciation of South Carolina’s Blue Ridge Railway. This railroad was intended to link Knoxville and its nearby coalfields with fuel hungry Charleston. In the early 1850s its completion looked to be a sure thing, once a tunnel was cut through the Stumphouse Mountain near Walhalla. But the Civil War arrived, and the tunnel, only two-thirds done, was never finished.
And, thanks to the good folks at Rounder Records, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Taylor, Stella & Ivery Kimble in a 1976 recording of “Breakin up Christmas,” from a disc titled “Old Originals Vol. 1” and subtitled “Old-time instrumental music recently recorded in North Carolina and Virginia.”
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.