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 story of how the poinsettia got its name. Joel Poinsett served as Secretary of War under Martin Van Buren, founded the Academy of Fine Arts in Charleston, SC, and was America’s first diplomatic minister to Mexico. In fact, the decorative Christmas plant that takes its name from him is such a footnote to his illustrious life that it is mentioned only ONCE in the entire length of “The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett,” an 1888 biography.
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.
As the sky grew dark, the Indians sang a death song to honor this beloved man of peace whom they called the Son of the Creator, goes the Cherokee Legend of the Stone Crosses. All of the animal nations of the forests soon came and stood by them. Because of their sorrow, the Cherokee began to cry. Their tears soon covered the ground.
How did you spend New Year’s Day this year? Eating hoppin’ John? Watching or lighting fireworks? Lighting bonfires on a hillside? In this next segment we’ll take a look at some of the more common Appalachian traditions to welcome in the new year.
Breakin’ Up Christmas is both the name for 12 days of partying, dancing, and music making ending up on January 6th, Old Christmas day, and also a song sung during that period. The tradition harks from the area that roughly includes Surry County NC, nearby Grayson and Carroll counties in VA, and the independent city of Galax located between the two.
We’ll wrap things up with an inside peek at the It’s Wheeling Steel radio show. On January 2, 1938, this a live radio program at the Capitol Theater in Wheeling, WV premiered coast-to-coast on the Mutual Network. The show was broadcast nationwide until 1944 every Sunday afternoon on WWVA and NBC’s Blue Network.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Library of Appalachia, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from J. Roy Stalcup in a 1979 recording of ‘Wildwood Flower.’
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.