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 guest author Ed Wetschler’s description of the secret nuclear fallout shelter built below West Virginia’s Greenbrier Hotel. “If the Soviet Union had attacked Washington, D.C., any time between 1962 and 1992 – if the Cold War had turned into a hot war – every member of the U.S. Congress would have been whisked there,” Wetschler tells us. “This shelter, as envisioned by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, would have protected Congress so it could function during a nuclear war. I recently took a tour of the bunker, now approaching its fiftieth anniversary, and it made my hair stand on end.”
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, join us as we retrace the route of one of Ohio’s Underground Railroads. Early slave laws discouraged black settlement in southeastern Ohio. In spite of the severe fines and penalties imposed by these laws, Ohioans were quite active in aiding fugitive slaves on their journey north to freedom in Canada on the Underground Railroad network. A number of small black communities sprang up near the Ohio River, across from slave-holding Virginia, and quite often served as “stations” along this network of safe houses. Many of the “conductors” worked in secret, and never told even their families of their involvement.
One Monday morning, just a few yards from her porch in Buchanan, VA, Mattie Johnson was doing the wash. The water for washing clothes was heated outdoors on a large stone fireplace. A copperhead, driven out of the rocks by the heat, approached, unseen by Mattie. Guest author Edd Fuller talks about snakes, BB guns, and a tough mountain grandmother.
“The convenient and pithy term for the mountain people of Kentucky, ‘our contemporary ancestors,’ does not indicate the origin of the customs, beliefs, and peculiarities which persist among them,’ begins our next piece, a 1939 article in The WPA Guide to Kentucky, Compiled by the Federal Writers’ Project of the Work Projects Administration for the State of Kentucky. ‘For they too had ancestors.”
We’ll wrap things up with a lyrics reading of Bill Monroe’s lovely tune ‘Carolina Sunshine Girl.’ Monroe is credited with creating the ensemble, and the sound, that we have all come to know as bluegrass music. The term for bluegrass music derives from his band, assembled during the 1940’s, “Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys”, which was named in honor of his home state of Kentucky, where the bluegrass grows.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Library of Appalachia, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from John Lozier in a 1981 recording of ‘Blackberry Blossom.’
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.