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 a roadsign painter for God by the name of Henry Harrison Mayes (1898-1986). Mayes, a Kentucky coal miner, began his roadside mission in 1917. Feeling that his life had been spared after a mining accident, Mr. Mayes decided to serve God by sharing the Good News with passing motorists. Mayes used money he made as a freelance sign painter to support his advertising crusade, an effort that resulted in crosses being erected in forty-four states. All the while Mayes continued to work, full time for 43 years, for the Fork Ridge Coal Company in the mines of Mingo Hollow.
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, Thomas Jones Taylor, writing in the Alabama Historical Quarterly, takes us on a guided tour of how Huntsville’s courthouse was built. It’s a wonder the building hasn’t dropped into the earth by now; according to Taylor, “To look upon the level green sward of the public square and the substantial basement of the court-house would make it difficult to realize that underneath are yawning caverns reaching down to the hidden waters of Huntsville Spring.”
“Most folks don’t know anything about an Appalachian Shivaree,” says guest author Verna Humphrey, “but it is not something a groom wants to face on his first night of marriage. It is like a bachelor party that has gone bad.” Humphrey and co-author Patricia Graham recently published “Hillbilly Tales from the Smoky Mountains,” and we’re pleased to present this excerpt from it.
It has become common knowledge that Cyrus H. McCormick invented and manufactured the mechanical reaper, but it was actually his father’s genius as a simple inventor that led to the family’s riches and renown. According to research compiled by Norbert Lyons, Cyrus’ mother Polly encouraged her husband Robert to give Cyrus his inventions as a gift and allow Cyrus, the assertive and most business minded member of the family, to make the most of it.
We’ll wrap things up with a Cherokee tale of murder, banishment, and grave robbing published in 1936 by Shepherd Dugger. No man knew the Blue Ridge people, lore, habits, and tastes better than Shepherd Dugger (1854-1938). In his day he was the foremost historian of the region and recorder of its traditions.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Archive, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Darby & Tarlton in a 1927 recording of “Columbus Stockade Blues.”
So, call your old Plott hound up on the porch, fire up your corn-cob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian History.