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 western Maryland’s apple industry. “Hancock and its surrounding area during the main span of the 20th century was one of the largest fruit producers in the nation,” begins the Maryland Historical Marker along West Main Street in that same town. Nowhere does the marker mention Henry E. Van Deman, and that’s a shame, for without him local market leader Tonoloway Orchard may not have risen to the dominant market position it ultimately achieved.
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.
You can still see part of the boiler room and a few intact boilers from the old cotton mill in Mortimer, NC if you know where to look. There’s also a white maintenance building built by the CCC during the 1930s, and some other CCC building foundations remain behind it. Today these silent remnants welcome hikers and campers at the entrance to the Mortimer campground in the Pisgah National Forest. What a story they hide!
Curt Jett, the ‘wild dog of the mountains,’ was a member of the Hargis clan in Kentucky’s Hargis-Cockrill feud at the turn of the 20th century. He was given life imprisonment in the State Penitentiary for the cold blooded murder of two men on two separate occasions at the Breathitt County courthouse. But rather than breaking him, prison brought Jett to God. “Even the expression of Jett’s face has changed and he has none of that hard look that he used to wear,” stated a reporter for the ‘Owenton Herald News’ seven years into Jett’s sentence. “He is bright and cheerful and the warden, Col. Mudd, says there is not a better prisoner in the penitentiary than Jett. The Rev. Joseph Severance, the prison chaplain, says that Jett is one of the best Bible scholars he ever saw and knows more about the Bible than many earnest church workers.”
Next, we’ll hear a segment from author/journalist Rebecca Harding Davis’ 1904 autobiography, “Bits of Gossip.” Davis relates the details of growing up amidst a stern religious atmosphere in Wheeling, WV. “While the ordinary life of these people was wholesome and kindly,” she tells us, “their religion, oddly enough, was a very different matter. The father of that day believed that his first duty toward his child was to save him from hell. The baby, no matter how sweet or fair, was held to be a vessel of wrath and a servant of the devil, unless he could be rescued.”
We’ll wrap things up with the story of the The Meaders family of potters, one of the most influential families in the history of Southern Appalachian folk pottery. The White County, GA family was featured in Allen Eaton’s 1937 book, “Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands,” and was honored with a special event at the Library of Congress in 1978, when the Smithsonian Institution’s documentary film on the Meaders pottery was released. In this segment you’ll hear how the family business got its start in the 1890s.
And, thanks to the good folks at Warren Wilson College, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian fiddle music from Peter Gott in a 1977 recording of “Wild Goose Chase.”
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.