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 Benjamin Parks, credited with being the person who discovered gold in Georgia in 1828, west of the Chestatee River in Lumpkin County. He made some money from his find, but the man he sold his prospecting lease made even more. “That is the peculiarity of gold mining,” he observes in this 1894 interview in the Atlanta Constitution. “You will go day after day exhausting your means and your strength until you give it up. Then the first man who touches the spot, finds the gold the first opening he makes. It is just like gambling; all luck.”
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.
The White Caps of Sevier County, TN were a vigilante group formed in approximately 1892 by citizens who wished to rid Sevier County of individuals (mostly women) whom they deemed lewd or adulterous. Their modus operandi was to leave the offending party a note signed “White Caps,” occasionally accompanied by hickory switches, warning them to leave town. If this tactic proved ineffective, the group escalated to whippings. In 1896 a cold blooded murder by two White Cappers finally brought the law down upon them.
Hagerstown, MD industrialist Mathias P. Möller named the luxury sedan ‘Dagmar’ after one of his daughters. Only a few hundred were built from 1922-1926 at prices upwards of $6,000.00. By comparison, the autos produced by Ford and Chevrolet during the same era sold for approximately $500.00. Not even the endorsement of Miss America 1924 could keep wealthy clients interested in the coupe.
Being a telegraph operator was a good way to make a living for a lot of people in the second half of the 19th century and on into the first few decades of the 20th century. One career hazard, though, was that operators who used the key for long periods of time developed a debilitating problem, which they called glass arm. Today the same type of problem has a kinder name — “Repetitive Motion Disorder.”
We’ll wrap things up with the story of musician Samantha Bumgarner, who entered her first music contest in Canton, N.C., when she was still playing her “cheap 10 cent banjo.” “And here I looked up and saw all these fine banjos coming in from Asheville,” she told a Sylva [NC] Herald reporter years later. “I wanted to leave, but they wouldn’t let me. I tell you I was so nervous I didn’t know I was hitting the strings. … But I won that contest. And I’ve been winning them ever since.”
And, thanks to the good folks at the Internet Archive, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Ernest Thompson in a 1924 recording of Are You From Dixie?
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.