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 odd tale of Montague and Duck Moore of Rocky Mount, VA, accused by neighbors of practicing witchcraft. During the Depression the Federal Writers’ Project sought to compile anthologies of oral history, folklore, and music. The Virginia Writers’ Project (VWP) was the state-sponsored segment of the Federal Writers’ Project. The VWP collected over 3,850 items from 62 counties between mid-1937 and mid-1942. In 1991 Thomas E. Barden published 150 of the pieces from the VWP Collection in Virginia Folk Legends, from which this oral history was taken.
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 early days for some strange reason, the little town of Keystone, WV sported one of the biggest red light districts [Cinder Bottom] in existence,” P. Ahmed Williams tells us in his 1977 essay “Black Culture,” from the West Virginia book of essays Mountain Heritage. ”On payday Saturday nights, men, young and old, came from far and near to pay their respect to the “ladies,” and for other sports such as drinking and gambling.”
“I have often seen the goody, goody boy turn out to be a very worthless sort of man, while the harem-scare-um-devil-may-care brother may turn out to be a first class citizen and successful business man,” says Tennessean R.M. Edwards in this next oral history excerpt. Looking back on his early 19th century childhood in Loudon County, Edwards has more poignant nuggets of wisdom to share on the human condition.
With the growth of the western end of Carter County, KY, residents there sought to form a new county in 1904. They broke away, along with some citizens of Rowan and Elliott counties, to form Beckham County, with the county seat in Olive Hill. It wasn’t long, though, before legal questions over the formation led to the county being dissolved by state action. Eighty days long, to be exact. Beckham County has the distinction of being the only Kentucky county to ever be abolished.
We’ll wrap things up with the Cherokee myth known as The Removed Townhouses. Long ago, goes the tale, the people on Valley River and Hiwassee heard voices of invisible spirits in the air calling and warning them of wars and misfortunes which the future held in store, and inviting them to come and live with the Nûñnë’hï, the Immortals, in their homes under the mountains and under the waters. “If you would live with us,” said the spirits, “gather everyone in your townhouses and fast there for seven days, and no one must raise a shout or a warwhoop in all that time. Do this and we shall come and you will see us and we shall take you to live with us.” If only the people had listened.
And, thanks to the good folks at Rounder Records (The North Carolina Banjo Collection, Rounder CD0439/40), we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Charlie Lowe in a 1952 recording of Cripple Creek.
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.