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 rise of Seneca, SC. If you walk down West South 1st St from the Seneca Presbyterian Church to Poplar St you’ll be smack in the middle of “Silk-Stocking Hill.” Six of its houses were built by the Gignilliat family. George Warren Gignilliat (1853-1926) and his brothers were among the pioneer merchants who came to Seneca and made large contributions to the development of the town. He’s one of the owners of the Seneca Oil Mill & Fertilizer Co. He also started Charles N. Gignilliat & Sons, Cotton Merchants, based in Seneca and Spartanburg.
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.
“Which of you shall we say doth love us most?” asks King Lear of his three daughters at the opening of Shakespeare’s tragedy. The King Lear story, though not identified as such, made its way into the oral folk tradition of Appalachia via Scots Irish settlers who had heard the original in the British Isles. Mid-20th century teacher, folklorist and storyteller Richard Chase was one of the first to transcribe and publish an Appalachian version. The tale, as told to him by a seventh grade student in Wise County, VA, appeared in ‘Grandfather Tales’ (1948).
“My father called on me to know why I had not been at school,” says folk hero Davy Crockett in his 1834 autobiography. “I told him I was afraid to go, and that the master would whip me, for I knew quite well if I was turned over to the schoolmaster, I should be cooked up to a cracklin’ in little or no time. But I soon found that I was not to expect a much better fate at home; for my father told me, in a very angry manner, that he would whip me an eternal sight worse than the master if I didn’t start immediately to the school. I tried again to beg off, but nothing would do but to go to the school. Finding me rather too slow about starting, he gathered about a two year old hickory, and broke after me.”
‘Hickory chickens,’ or ‘dry land fish,’ don’t have anything to do with chicken, fish or hickory. They are morel mushrooms and they’re in season right about now. Look for 3 varieties throughout Appalachia: morchella esculenta, which can be found under old apple or pear trees when the oak leaves are about mouse-ear size; morchella angusticeps (‘fat morel’), which can be found under oak, beech or maple forests, when the serviceberry is in bloom; and morchella crassipes, found on swampy ground near jewelweed.
Some know the song as “Nancy Brown,” others as “The West Virginia Hills.” The ditty tells the tale of Nancy Brown, who throws over one suitor after another until she finds the man she’s been waiting for: “A city slicker with hundred dollar bills.” They live happily ever after, until…
We’ll wrap things up a 1939 Federal Writer’s Project interview with Fletcher, NC farmers Jane & Jim Riddle. “All our folks was farmers,” says Mrs. Riddle, “back up in the mountains. No, I don’t know when they settled there, or where they come from. Jim’s people and my people lived in the same cove. I’ve known him all my life. His brothers and my brothers all farm.
And, thanks to the good folks at Juneberry78s.com, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Reaves White County Ramblers in a 1928 recording of ‘Shortening Bread.’
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.