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 the childhood forces that shaped Roy Rogers before he became Roy Rogers. One of Hollywood’s most famous cowboys wasn’t raised on a western ponderosa. Leonard Slye grew up west of Lucasville, OH on a small farm in Duck Run.
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 work of the mountain mother is burdensome and she bears more than her share of responsibilities of the household,” reported Dr. Frances Sage Bradley in a 1918 NC survey for the Children’s Bureau of the U. S. Department of Labor. “Her housework includes washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning, sewing, and often spinning and knitting for the family. Handicapped by lack of modern conveniences, her task involves undue hardship.”
“Well, the [Civil] war was now over, the South subdued and our entire Southland almost all devastated, the people poor and discouraged,” explains John Thornton Miller of Dade County, GA in a Reconstruction-era oral history. Given the bleak outlook if he stayed put with his family, the western frontier beckoned. “So we had to begin at the bottom with only a few dollars in cash, and our living to buy.” Polk County, AR, in the midst of the Ozarks, held the promise of feeling like back home. “I did not like Arkansas, and thought I would go back,” Miller continues. “But George [his brother, who lived next to them] always influenced me, and we stayed. So we are here yet.”
During the early twentieth century, it was not possible to return prisoners doing work in the most distant parts of Oconee County, SC to the county jail at Walhalla every night. The solution was the Oconee County Cage, or “Jail on Wheels,” a prison pulled by a team of horses. While this treatment of prisoners seems horrible by today’s standards, it was hardly unusual for the early 1900s, and it was certainly far better than the treatment many prisoners received during the years before 1900.
We’ll wrap things up with a selection from a 1972 speech by Dr. O Norman Simpkins on what constitutes Appalachian heritage. “With the inroads of media upon isolation, highway networks opening up the back hollows, spreading urbanizing influences, and a rising level of living, our cultural heritage is rapidly fading into the past and in danger of being lost,” said Dr. Simpkins, the Chairman of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Marshall University. “Over the years,” he told his listeners, “the blending of many cultural strains, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, German, Southern European, African and others in this mountain environment have combined to produce a rich heritage of which every native son and daughter can be justly proud—a cultural endowment well fitted to answer every man’s question as posed by John Steinbeck: ‘How do we know it’s us without our past?’”
And, thanks to the good folks at Juneberry78s.com, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Reaves White County Ramblers in a 1928 recording of Drunkard’s Hiccups.
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.