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 a look at the ‘pearl rush’ fever that gripped the residents of Clinton TN at the turn of the 20th century. Picturesque accounts published in the local papers reported hundreds of persons camping at various points along the streams, some in tents and some in rough shanties, and others going from shoal to shoal in newly built houseboats. They were described as easy going, pleasure loving people, the men women and children working hard all day, subsisting largely on fish caught in the same stream, and dancing at night to the music of a banjo around the camp fires that lined the banks.
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 offer up the tale of ‘Sure Shot Bessie,’ written by a WPA writer for North Carolina’s “Writer’s Program” during the Depression. A mountain man builds his best gun ever from a hunk of magnetic iron given him by a stranger. Come to find the gun never misses its mark. The puzzled owner asks a local teacher how this could be. “And what do you suppose that perfessor feller says? He says it’s all according to the laws of physic. Says all them animals been feeding on things growed full of iron. That puts iron in the critters, and the iron in the critters draws the bead on my magnetic gun barrel.”
During the early decades of the 20th century, hundreds of short-line railroad existed across the nation, and most all were regarded by the local people as their railroad. There was something appealing about the character of a little railroad that was trying to compete with the big lines, and usually the short line’s tiny locomotives and makeshift equipment had a certain flavor to them that set them apart from the uniform look of the big railroad lines. West Virginia’s Kanawha, Glen Jean & Eastern Railway was no exception.
Prior to the funeral industry’s rise and its use of embalming, a practice that gained legitimacy during the War Between the States, the interior of a corpse was generally not accessible to prying eyes, hands, or medical equipment. Instead, the deceased was prepared – laid out – and remained in the home until burial. We’ll take a look at some of the details of this sacred, almost ritualistic, process.
We’ll wrap things up with a guest post from Lisa Isbell, who runs the White Oak Attic website—a blog about hobbies including genealogy, shabby chic decor and making a cozy homelife. “The company store built at Ward, WV in 1948,” Lisa tells us, “is said to have featured yellow tile, though the source I referred to for this article (the 1984 Ward Community Reunion Book) does not say whether the tile was floor, walls or elsewhere and mother doesn’t remember anything about any yellow tile. She does remember going to the store with her father and my grandfather, Steve Kozak, and shopping for school supplies on his store credit.”
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Library of Appalachia, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian dulcimer music from Ed Harris in a 1977 recording of ‘Unclouded Day.’
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.