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 the most famous 19th century Welsh settlement in America. Welsh preacher Samuel Roberts of Llanbrynmair, Wales established Brynyfynnon in eastern Tennessee, in 1855. The settlement got off to a rocky start with court disputes over title to the lands. And the arrival of the Civil War several years later sealed the unhappy fate of the venture. Samuel Roberts was an ardent abolitionist. Northerners were baffled as to why he and his followers remained in Tennessee; many locals viewed his colony as a sort of 5th Column working for Northern interests. The center couldn’t hold, and the colony collapsed.
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.
Albert Hash’s custom built instruments can today be found in the Birthplace of Country Music Museum of Bristol. The legendary fiddler was the founder and leader of the well-known White Top Mountain Band. Our next piece is a compilation of articles by his friend Muncy Gaultney, who wrote the My Ashe County Home column in the Ashe County NC newspaper “The Plow” during the 1960s-1980s.
Next we offer up a short oral history from journalist Elizabeth Daingerfield’s Aunt Cynthy. “I don’t reckon you want to see my quilts, do you?” asks the Kentucky farmwife. “I reckon you’ve seen a sight better, but they are always new to me. Thar’s hist’ry in ‘em, and memory.” She sheds light on the differences between piece quilting and patch quilting.
During the early decades of the 20th century, hundreds of short-line railroad existed across the nation, and most all were regarded by the local people as ‘their’ railroad. There was something appealing about the character of a little railroad that was trying to compete with the big lines, and usually the short line’s tiny locomotives and makeshift equipment had a certain flavor to them that set them apart from the uniform look of the big railroad lines. West Virginia’s Kanawha, Glen Jean & Eastern Railway was no exception.
We’ll wrap things up with the story of the feud over Alabama pioneer John Gunter’s estate. Gunter, one of the first whites to settle in Marshall County, AL (in 1785), had amassed a small fortune down through the years and left large tracts of cleared land, many slaves and around $5,000 in cash. Before the Gunter will was finally settled, several persons had died in gun battles, and it became one of the most talked about events in the early history of Marshall County.
And thanks to the good folks at the Blue Ridge Institute Archives, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from “Crip” James Diggs in a 1963 recording of Valleydale Theme.
So call your old Plott hound up on the porch, fire up your corncob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian history.