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 an appreciation for America’s most sociable bird. The purple martin (Progne subis) is getting ready to pack up and head south for the winter in the next couple of weeks. The bird’s usefulness was already recognized in Appalachia by the early Cherokees, who hung bottle gourds horizontally on long poles to attract them. Not only did the birds eat prodigious amounts of insects, but they also (and still do!) drove crows away from cornfields and vultures away from meat and hides hung out to dry.
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.
Her schools earned plaudits from Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Franklin Roosevelt. The Boys Industrial School motivated communities throughout the South to begin educating their young people in earnest, blazing a trail for the establishment of an agricultural and mechanical school in each of Georgia’s congressional districts. As a result of her 40 years of work in education, Martha Berry (1866-1942) is among Georgia’s most prominent women of the first half of the 20th century.
Next, guest blogger Jim Rada weighs in with a tale of a jealous husband in Oakland, MD. Rada writes the monthly local history column for the Cumberland Times-News, and has had four historical novels published that were set in the region. “Ann Johnson was a woman who believed that she deserved more from life than to work in a general store owned by her older husband, Cornelius, and live in a backwoods town,” Rada tells us. “The general store was on Railroad Street, just 300 feet away from where the handsome young Dr. Conn had set up his office.”
“Do you know that the first bathtub in the United States was made by a rich man in Cincinnati in 1852? It was built of mahogany and lined with tin, and the owner proudly showed it for the first time at a Christmas party. Of course he never used it. Next day the city papers denounced it as ‘wicked, undemocratic and vain.’ Then came the doctors who proclaimed it as ‘unhealthful and a menace to life.’” Dr. Johnson Archer Gray, the author of this statement in a Middlesboro, KY newspaper article about bathing history in America, was just one of the thousands of journalists and historians across America who were taken in by the most astonishingly successful journalistic hoax of the early 20th century.
We’ll wrap things up the story of the most famous of the keelboatmen, who plied the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers for two decades until they and their watercraft were displaced by steamboats. By the early 1800s, Mike Fink owned and captained two boats headquartered at Wheeling, WV. Working his way west, Fink’s career paralleled that of American expansion into the Mississippi Valley.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Blue Ridge Institute Archives, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Abe Spangler in a 1979 recording of “Darling Little Joe.”
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.