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 Frances Benjamin Johnston, who transcended both regional and national notions about women’s place in the 19th century to become a pioneer in American photography and photojournalism. Born on January 15, 1864 in Grafton, WV, Johnston is best known as a crusader with her camera for the historic preservation of the Old South.
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 Kentucky’s Pack Horse Library Project. The Project was aimed at providing reading materials to rural portions of Eastern Kentucky with no access to public library facilities. Starting in 1935, librarians riding horses or mules traveled 50 to 80 miles a week up rocky creekbeds, along muddy footpaths, and among cliffs to deliver reading materials to the most remote residences and schools in the mountains. Some homes were so remote that the book women often had to go part of the way on foot, or even by row boat.
“One day when I was past 3 years old,” says Joseph Mills Sapp (1893-1989) of Knoxville, OH, “I was still sucking my bottle and I remember getting up at nights and filling my bottle. Well, this day Father and Mother took me and went to see Grandpa and Grandma Sapp and Uncle Anson, then when I went to suck my bottle of milk, Uncle made fun of me, so I took my bottle and hid behind the room door and he still teased me, so I crawled under the bed and finished it and after that I drank my milk from a tin pint cup, like they used in those days at farm sales for coffee and a free sack lunch.”
Old Jonathan Plott would probably be surprised to find a valley and a mountain and a range of mountains, as well as a creek, bearing the family name. He probably would be even more surprised and amazed to find that it has been the dogs he brought from Germany that have made the name Plott a legend. The Plott Hound was officially adopted as North Carolina’s State Dog on August 12, 1989.
We’ll wrap things up with a 1930s oral history from Lola Simmons of Knoxville, TN. “Calvin and me both can read right well,” she tells us. “In times back we use to read the Bible pretty much. But seems like you always come across something you can’t make out straight. So we just stopped reading it. Looked a pure shame, as wore out as we was, to read things that upset your head.”
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Library of Appalachia, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Sanford Collins in a 1977 recording of ‘John Henry.’
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.