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 nod to early Buckeye women. Pioneer settlers moving into Ohio’s Miami Valley and the Virginia Military Tract were generally poor and unable to buy land directly from the government, but they were able to buy lots and small farms from speculators. The women settlers were forced by economic circumstances to learn to live off the land and fend for themselves when the men were away.
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 Dust Bowl crisis of the early 1930s for the first time brought national attention to the acute dangers of soil erosion. Southern Appalachian farms, for their part, suffered from poor soil conditions and erosion as a result of practices that maximized the short-term potential of corn, tobacco and cotton cash crops at the expense of the soil’s long-term health. But in early 1938 South Carolina became the first state in the nation to implement a farm conservation plan to combat these imbalances.
North Carolina is home to at least 48 species of salamanders, and the mountain counties are the most productive with at least 35 species. And among those 35 species is the hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis), one of only three giant salamanders found in the world.
“Agricultural education throughout [West Virginia], and scientific farming, have developed within the last fifty years,” said James Morton Callahan in his 1923 ‘History of West Virginia.’ In this next segment he explores how the establishment of the College of Agriculture at West Virginia University spearheaded the growth of various farmer’s cooperative groups statewide, most notably the Extension Service, which still thrives today.
We’ll wrap things up with a segment from an April 2000 oral history with G. Gordon Bonnyman, who talks about how his father organized Hazard Kentucky’s Blue Diamond Coal mine in 1916. “It was a financial success and it was a successful mine,” Bonnyman recounts. “It fell my lot to wind it up because it worked out and it worked out. I mean it worked back. They retreated the mine.”
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Library of Appalachia, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian harmonica from Ray Barger in a 1977 recording of Red Wing.
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.