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 an excerpt from Kentuckian Mary Brewer’s The Rugged Trails of Appalachia (1958). “So many outside writers had come in and . . . and given such a terrible account of the people,” she says. “They had put ‘em down a lot in their articles that I didn’t think this was true, because the people that I met were very intelligent and they were very civilized. They were not like they were pictured in these articles at all. And I thought that somebody ought to come through here and give the true picture of them.”
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.
“It looked like the arch of some grand old cathedral,” wrote Henry E. Colton in 1859 of his discovery of North Carolina’s Linville Caverns, “yet it was too sublime, too perfect in all its beautiful proportions, to be anything of human, but a model which man might attempt to imitate.” The caverns lie deep inside Humpback Mountain below the Blue Ridge Escarpment, not far from the towns of Boone, Blowing Rock, and Asheville. For 30 million years, as the nearby Catawba River ate away at the valley between the Humpback and Linville mountains, North Carolina’s only publicly accessible caverns have slowly drained.
O.H. Booton spent 42 years as a newspaperman in Mingo County, WV. In this next piece he recounts the details of one of the biggest crime stories in county history: the Glen Alum payroll robbery of August 1914. The robbers headed into the hills after the robbery, followed in hot pursuit by a posse of local lawmen. As the sheriff and his crew closed in on the cornered thieves, a strange thing happened. “The order was given to charge the bandits’ stronghold,” Booton explains, “but [the posse] thought it was a warning that ‘they are coming out.’ Instantly there was panic and a wild stampede.”
Author James Milton Hanna’s memoir, Cornbread and Beans for Breakfast, published in 1995, portrays the Depression era scene from his childhood in Cherokee, AL. His title story from that collection recounts the teenaged Hanna’s visit to a friend’s house, and the young man’s surprise when he learns that he’ll be sleeping in a bed with his friend AND the friend’s two sisters!
We’ll wrap things up with the story behind the founding of the Western Maryland Hospital. “In 1888, a group of Cumberland women, realizing their duty to fellow citizens, hit upon the plan of establishing an old folks’ home, in that way to be of service to the older men and women who did not have the comforts of a private home,” says the History of Allegheny County Maryland, by James Thomas. “Several wards were admitted to the home, and the institution was doing excellent work, but it was noted before long that Cumberland was without a hospital.”
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Archives, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from the Skillet Lickers in a 1926 recording of Pass Around The Bottle And We’ll All Take A Drink.
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.