We post a new episode of Appalachian History weekly podcast every Sunday. Check us out on the Stitcher network, available on mobile phones, in-car dashboards and tablets worldwide. Just click below to start listening:
We open today’s show with the story of John C.C. Mayo. Mayo’s life story could have been lifted straight from the pages of Horatio Alger. He was born a poor mountaineer in Paintsville, KY. By the time of his premature death in 1914 at age 49 of Bright’s Disease, Mayo had amassed a fortune in the neighborhood of $20,000,000, making him Kentucky’s wealthiest man. He started as a schoolteacher but quickly learned how to buy up coal-rich land on the cheap.
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.
And you thought your work week dragged on? Lucille Thornburgh went to work at age 16 in a Knoxville cotton mill that demanded 10-12 hour work days, 6 days a week. Thornburgh and seven of her coworkers weren’t willing to accept that treatment, and they drew up a union charter. In this oral history excerpt, Thornburgh tells you how Cherokee Mills workers joined textile workers across the South in a general strike known as the Uprising of 1934.
South Carolinians have known about the mineral springs of Glenn Springs, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Spartanburg, for centuries. You’ll enjoy the story of how it went from being a deer lick to, by 1931, providing the official water of the United States Senate.
It’s the most famous murder ballad in American folk music history. And chances are, if you know it, you know the version popularized by the Kingston Trio. Their recording of the song became a major commercial hit in 1958, selling over 6,000,000 copies. That hit single spawned a movie and helped spark the folk music revival of the 1960s. How did Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley make its way to the Kingston Trio? Therein hangs a tale.
It’s May, and that means strawberries are in season! We’ll wrap things up with the myth of ‘How the strawberry came to the Cherokee people,’ as retold by Barbara Shining Woman Warren. First Man and First Woman have a fight and she storms out. The strawberry turns out to be the thing that gets them back together, with a couple of amusing twists along the way.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Internet Archive, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music by Oscar Ford in a 1929 recording of Henry Ford’s Model A.
So, call your old Plott hound up on the porch, fire up your corncob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian History.