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 a wonderful old 19th century Cherokee tale set in upcountry South Carolina, by William Gilmore Simms. “The Occonies and the Little Estatoees,” he begins, “or, rather, the Brown Vipers and the Green Birds, were both minor tribes of the Cherokee nation, between whom, as was not unfrequently the case, there sprung up a deadly enmity.”
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.
Next, from WV, we offer up an oral history of Zelma Zane Bennett’s life, as told by her daughter Brenda Collins Dillon. In 1918-1919 both Zelma’s mother and her older sister died from the influenza epidemic. Her bereft father “was left with a baby whom he felt wouldn’t live either. He wrapped the tiny baby and placed her into a cigar box, and covering it with a towel, walked a few doors down to the Godfrey house.”
America’s most sociable bird, the purple martin, is getting ready to pack up and head south for the winter in the next couple of weeks. The bird’s usefulness was already recognized in Appalachia by the early Cherokees, who hung bottle gourds horizontally on long poles to attract them. Not only did the birds eat prodigious amounts of insects, but they also drove crows away from cornfields and vultures away from meat and hides hung out to dry.
We’ll wrap things up with the story of Nannie Kelly Wright. Wright (1856-1946) was probably the only woman ironmaster in America’s history. She married into the business, but her husband’s holdings fell into dire straits when the Panic of 1893 struck. From 1894 to 1897 the iron industry in this country was practically at a standstill and stocks were worth about 15 to 20 cents on the dollar. Buyers at that price were scarce. Nannie Wright, a close observer of political and financial affairs, reasoned an upward trend was due and used her own money to buy back the family’s ironworks. She was said to be the second richest woman in the world by the early 1900′s.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Internet Archive, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music by Grayson & Whitter in a 1929 recording of I Saw a Man at the Close of Day.
So, call your old Plott hound up on the porch, fire up your corncob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian History.