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 Walter & Minnie Gassaway, whose mansion in Greenville, SC is still the largest house in the upstate at 22,000 square feet. “Walter L. Gassaway is one of the very well known bankers and financiers of Upper South Carolina,” according to the 1920 book History of South Carolina, Volume 4. “He is president of three banks, including the American Bank of Greenville, and is also extensively engaged in cotton manufacture.” Walter Gassaway went on to become Greenville’s most successful stockbroker and speculator in the 1920s. The mansion was completed just before the 1929 stock market crash. But then disaster struck.
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’s Valentine’s Day this week. We know lovers everywhere are preoccupied, but what about everyone else? In this next segment we’ll observe a day in the life as reported in the February 14, 1930 edition of the Clinch Valley News in Raven, VA.
“The convenient and pithy term for the mountain people of Kentucky, ‘our contemporary ancestors,’ does not indicate the origin of the customs, beliefs, and peculiarities which persist among them,” states the WPA Guide to Kentucky, published in 1939. “For they too had ancestors. These were, for the most part, British, and of the soil. Just as today many a mountaineer has never been ten miles from his birthplace, so also his forebears remained at home.”
They specialized in unusual photographs, many of which depicted historic and religious themes. Their best known photograph was the “Knaffl Madonna” (1890), which won praise at the Photographer’s Association of American Art Convention in Lake Chatauqua, NY, in 1899. James Henry Brakebill partnered briefly with photographer William J. McCoy at the turn of the 20th century in Knoxville. But by the end of that first decade he merged his business with the Knaffl brothers to form Knaffl & Brakebill. Knaffl & Brakebill went on to receive widespread acclaim for their photographic work in the early decades of this century.
We’ll wrap things up with the story of Arizona Houston Hughes (1876-1969), who taught elementary school in Avery County, NC for 57 years. In 1953 she was honored by the state, receiving the North Carolina Teacher of the Year award at the annual North Carolina Teacher’s Conference in Asheville. She “was selected as honor teacher because of her record as the State’s active teacher with the longest continuous record,” reported the Asheville Citizen.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Library of Appalachia, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from the Skirtlifters in a 1990 recording of The Fox Chase.
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.