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 award winning author Sharyn McCrumb reading from her newly published book The Ballad of Tom Dooley, which tells the true story behind the celebrated folk song. This scene, narrated by Pauline Foster, describes the first time she saw Tom Dula. McCrumb is best known for her Appalachian “ballad” novels, including the New York Times best sellers The Ballad of Frankie Silver and She Walks These Hills, and for St. Dale, winner of a Library of Virginia Award and featured at the National Festival of the Book.
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.
In 1782 Tennessee Governor John Sevier had a question for the then 90-year-old Oconostota, a Cherokee, who had been the ruling chief of the Cherokee Nation for nearly sixty years. Sevier asked the Chief about the ancient peoples who had left the fortifications in his country. The chief told him: “they were a people called Welsh and they had crossed the Great Water.” If true, this fits with the known history of 12th century Welsh Prince Madoc ab Owain Gwynedd, who sailed from Wales to explore the New World in 1170 A.D., hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus.
Next, we’ll hear a story from the boyhood of Ulysses S. Grant. Grant, the 18th U.S. President and Union general-in-chief during the Civil War, grew up in Georgetown, OH, the son of an Ohio tanner. In this segment from Grant’s memoirs he describes trading a horse with a Kentucky farmer when he was fifteen. Trouble was, the horse had never pulled a carriage before. Grant bought it anyway, much to his regret when halfway home the horse starting bucking the carriage wildly. It says quite a bit about the future soldier how he solved the problem, as you’ll hear.
“Most of the boys carried an old Russell Barlow pocket knife,” Clyde Mullins of Elkhorn City, KY explains in this next oral history segment. “You could get a one blade at a store for fifteen cents and a two-blade—that is, a long blade and a short blade—for a quarter. So every boy around, practically, carried a Barlow.”
We’ll wrap things up with the story of the Glades. The Glades are Maryland’s largest and most open mountain peatland. They are of great scientific interest because they are fed solely by rainwater (an ombrotrophic system), and contain peat up to a 9 foot depth. This area is one of the oldest examples of mountain peatland in the Appalachians.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Internet Archive, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from the Carolina Twins in a 1928 recording of The Boarding House Bells are Ringing.
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.