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 the feud over Alabama pioneer John Gunter’s estate. Gunter, one of the first whites to settle in Marshall County, AL (in 1785), had amassed a small fortune down through the years and left large tracts of cleared land, many slaves and around $5,000 in cash. Before the Gunter will was finally settled, several persons had died in gun battles, and it became one of the most talked about events in the early history of Marshall County.
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.
Great numbers of Hungarian immigrants came to the United States around the turn of the 20th century. Hungarians called the wave of immigration from 1880 to about 1915 the ‘Great Economic Immigration.’ It drew about 1.7 million Hungarian citizens to American shores. These immigrants came almost solely for economic reasons, and they represented the lowest and poorest of the population. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 halted mass migration, but by 1922 7,300 Hungarian-born Magyars had found their way to West Virginia.
“We didn’t even know what a union was,” says textile mill worker Christine Galliher in discussing the 1929 plant strike at the North American Rayon Corp. in Johnson City, TN. “We’d never heard tell of a union. But we just decided that we wasn’t going to work for this wage. We just wasn’t going to work for $10.08 a week. But as it happened, there was a carpenter and a union man, John Penix. He called someone that he knew in the labor movement, and they came here and organized, and it was just one big mess.”
If you’ve ever been through Dalton, GA you’ve probably noticed it bills itself as the bedspread capital of the world. In the early part of the 20th century vacationing families headed towards Florida on US Highway 41 found the roadsides in and around Dalton—‘Peacock Alley’—clustered thick with family stands hawking chenille bedspreads and quilts of all sorts. Big business came rolling in by the late 1930s. Dalton’s B. J. Bandy was reputedly the first man to make $1 million in the bedspread business.
We’ll wrap things up with a profile of Mrs. Augusta Robinson of Castle Hill, VA, who was interviewed in 1955 by the Lexington Gazette for their ‘Past 80 Club’ column. She wasn’t famous or rich, but her observations on social customs and mores of the area during the late 19th and early 20th century are priceless to us. She courted her husband for 7 years before marrying him, for example, and was of a generation that transitioned from cooking over a fireplace to cooking on a stove.
And, thanks to the good folks at Juneberry78s.com, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Ashley and Foster in a 1926 recording of I Love My Baby.
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.