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 an overview of Old Harp, or shaped-note, singing, and its origins. “‘Singers in the Harp’ number many thousands of people through the South and West who sing religious folksongs and fuguing tunes,” says Sidney Robertson Cowell, in her liner notes for the 1951 Folkways record ‘Old Harp Singing,’ featuring the Old Harp Singers of Eastern Tennessee. “They are accustomed to meet on one or two Sunday afternoons a month, to sing from one of the many collections of religious songs that were printed in shaped notes around the middle of the nineteenth century.”
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.
Next, Maryland historian Jacob Brown, writing in 1896, tells us a bit about the lumber industry in Garrett County, MD at century’s end. “The demand for lumber is on the growth, while the supply is shrinking. There are in the southwest part of the county vast bodies of timber, especially of the Yough and North Branch, hardly touched. Timberland capitalists are now purchasing lands in that favored part of the county with a view of entering largely in the manufacture of lumber. They are experienced men from the lumber regions of Pennsylvania, and will bring with them the most modern labor saving facilities now in use.”
Northwest Georgia preacher Howard Finster (ca. 1915-2001) was an unlikely candidate for celebrity status on the post-modern art scene. Yet his eccentric ‘outsider art’ paintings, sculptures, and constructions have been shown in prestigious museums and galleries around the world. He became something of a guru to thousands of academically trained young artists, ambitious collectors of outsider art, musicians, and others who made the pilgrimage to Pennville to meet him and to visit the two-acre Paradise Garden that he spent fifteen years building in his backyard.
We’ll wrap things up with an account of family hog butchering in Depression-era Martinsburg, WV. “The scent of locust wood smoke and the sound of crackling fires permeated the early morning scene on hog butchering day,” says Kenneth A. Tabler (born 1926) in his autobiography ‘The Day is Far Spent.’ “Granddaddy Ambrose, an adroit butcher and meat cutter, readied himself for the evisceration process by donning a white apron. First he removed the pig’s head, then dashed more hot water over the carcass, using his newly sharpened butcher knife to shave any remaining spots that were not completely clean. This procedure was repeated as necessary until the smooth and pinkish skin was free of hair and bristles.”
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Archive, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Aiken County String Band in a 1927 recording of “High Sheriff.”
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.