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 1881 poem titled ‘The Ashland Tragedy’ written in response to a shocking news report. Three Kentucky teenagers of that city were sexually molested, then beaten to death in their home, and the killers set the house afire to hide the crime. An enraged mob lynched one of the killers, and very nearly lynched the other two. This provoked a ferocious gun battle as 200 state guards tried to hold back the attacking crowd.
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, we’ll take a look at a 4th century European Christmas folktale that has survived and been carried into Appalachian tradition. ‘The Holly Tree’ tells how the gentlest of the trees took Joseph and Mary under its boughs to hide them from the Roman soldiers who were in hot pursuit, during the holy family’s flight to Egypt. But the soldiers spared no tree in their search, and started to whack back the holly’s branches. It looked as though the soldiers would discover the holy family for certain, but then a miracle happened.
Jesse Jewell (1902-1975) modernized what was to become Georgia’s largest agricultural crop- poultry. Jewell pioneered vertical integration in the poultry industry —the combining of all phases of the business, such as raw materials, processing, and distribution, within a single company. At the helm of J. D. Jewell, Inc. for more than twenty years, Jewell was a key national leader of the poultry industry.
“When we came to the rail fence surrounding the house there was an old man and woman standing in the doorway. The old man wore a slim beard reaching down to his waist, and the old woman was throwing out dish water.” J. Frank Browning discusses growing up in Sang Run, MD, a town that in the early 20th century was full of ginseng collectors, moonshiners … and ghosts. “No one believed our story about the old man and woman, as the house had been unoccupied for many years, and no one answered the description of these two old people. In later years I learned that a tragedy of some sort had occurred in that log-house.”
We’ll wrap things up with a look at a WV petroglyph that may or may not contain one of the earliest North American references to the Nativity Story. “At the time of sunrise, a ray grazes the notch on the left side [of this stone] on Christmas Day” says a portion of the Wyoming County glyph, as translated by Harvard professor Dr. Barry Fell in the 1980s. Dr. Fell’s published findings brought immediate disagreement: “[Dr. Fell] is in fact an extremely controversial figure whose previous decipherments of this same kind have been seriously challenged, after careful study, by American, Irish, English and Scottish archaeologists and linguists,” countered Monroe Oppenheimer and Willard Wirtz in The West Virginia Archaeologist.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Juneberry78s.com, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from the Roanoke Jug Band in a 1929 recording of ‘Johnny Lover.’
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.