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We open today’s show with the haunting story of Octavia Hatcher. Her husband James was one of the wealthiest, most renowned citizens to ever grace the small town of Pikeville, Kentucky. He built one of the grandest hotels the town had ever seen, and on display in the lobby was his own casket, which he had specially crafted years prior to his death. This coffin was special. It latched on the inside and had to be sealed with a special tool that would then be pulled out when the body was buried. James Hatcher had a severe phobia of being buried alive, and not without reason.
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.
Certainly if you were in Wheeling, WV or Parkersburg, WV that night you could have received it. Even as far out as Zanesville, OH or Gallipolis, OH, if you had a crystal radio set, you could have picked up the very first commercial radio broadcast from Pittsburgh station KDKA on November 2, 1920.
“While I am not one of the people about whom I write,” novelist Will N. Harben told a reporter in a 1905 interview, “my childhood and most of my life was spent amid such scenes as I have attempted to portray. Those people and the customs and conditions of their lives are as real to me as your own family life is to you.” Harben goes on to share with us the methods he uses to develop his North Georgia characters.
“From the year 1830 to 1840, though embracing a period of great financial distress, yet was included a period of great improvement in [Huntsville, AL] and vicinity,” says Thomas Jones Taylor in a 1940 article in The Alabama Historical Quarterly. “The old brick court-house on the public square had become dilapidated and insecure, and after discussing ways and means for several years the commissioners finally let out the contract for the building of a new one.”
We’ll wrap things up with a 19th century tale told of one Betty Knox, of Dunbar, PA. To this day, the fate of Betty Knox has never been revealed. The legend is an old one and like the rest of the mountain stories, it isn’t told as frequently as it once was. Sometimes years go by without any direct mention of the stalwart young woman who hauled grain along through country avoided by most men. But always it seems, when the legend grows so dim that it nearly vanishes as sure as the woman who inspired it, strange occurrences are reported.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Library of Appalachia, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian cymbalum music by the Joe Fulaytar in a 1991 recording of a Chardash Dance Tune.
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.