Listen Here: Appalachian History Weekly podcast posts today

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 14, 2014

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 guest author Gary Greene of Rome, GA. The storyteller, singer, songwriter and historian recently came up against a rude surprise in his genealogy research. “I have a relative who was a murderer,” he tells us. “It is hard for my family to accept. We have always been peaceful people. It is a just a fact of life in genealogy: you may unearth family skeletons.”

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.

Coshocton, OH, located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, has long been called the birthplace of specialty advertising. The first art-inspired advertisements were printed on trade cards in 1884. From that humble beginning an entire industry branched out to produce signs, trays, thermometers, calendars and hundreds of other items. A new exhibit at the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum displays these wonderful wares.

We’ll wrap things up with the saga of Sallie’s Crying Tree, an ancient white oak in Marion, VA. If the Crying Tree could talk it would tell us that slavery was brutal, that people were sold like horses and dogs, that life was especially hard on black men and women. But it would also tell how valiant people are, how former slaves built communities and how their descendants are today’s leaders.

And thanks to the good folks at Berea College’s Southern Appalachian Archives, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from W.L. Gregory & Clyde Davenport in a 1975 recording of Cumberland Gap.

So call your old Plott hound up on the porch, fire up your corncob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian history.

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Tapping Oil at the Roots of a Family Tree

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 12, 2014

The following piece by Janice Cole Hopkins ran September 6th & 8th on her blog Reflections – Past, Present, and Future with God. It is re-posted here with permission.


Out of the mountains of North Carolina and the plains of Texas comes an intriguing tale of a black sheep, oil fortunes, and poor mountain families. The story begins with Pelham Humphries, who had been born out of wedlock in the Watauga Settlement area of North Carolina, which would later become part of Tennessee. His mother married a Gragg when he was just a boy, but his childhood must have been rough, and I imagine he was called many names. His adulthood seemed to be rocky, too, because he tended to be drawn into fights.

Greene family members related to Pelham Humphries.

Greene family members related to Pelham Humphries.

Pelham married Sudie Bell, but got into a drunken brawl and stabbed a man. Thinking he had killed someone, Pelham took his wife and a friend, J. William Inglish, and fled to Texas using a flatboat on the Watauga River. He fought in the Mexican Army in 1829 in their war for Mexican independence and was given a land grant for 4,000 acres on the Nechos River in 1835, but Sudie Bell died of a fever not long after they were deeded the land. Later, Pelham was shot to death at a Jefferson County boarding house in a fight between him and Inglish. Pelham’s family back in the Appalachian Mountains knew nothing about what had happened to him, and he and Sudie had no children. Information on exactly what happened in the ownership of the property becomes very muddled and confused at this point.


What we do know is that in 1901, long after Pelham’s death, oil was discovered on this land. Ever heard of Spindletop, the first oil discovered in Texas and the biggest producer of oil for years? Spindletop got its name from the heat waves rising in swirls from the prairie that made a grove of trees look like spinning tops when viewed from a hill above them. From here, many of the big oil companies got their start -Texaco, Gulf, Sun Oil, and Mobil. Today it’s owned by Chevron.

I found out who got the money for Spindletop, the controversy and questions that still exist today, and what happened when the mountain relatives tried to file a claim in the 1980s, and some more interesting information in my family tree, by being one of those distant descendants.

After Inglish shot and killed Pelham Humphries in an argument, the information gets sketchy and contradictory. Apparently in 1859, Inglish acquired the 4,000 acres of property in a transfer. However, instead of Pelham being the transferring party, the name of William, his brother had been inserted. Yet, according to the family and records back in North Carolina, William never went to Texas. This has caused speculation that Inglish may have forged the land transfer, as well as killed Pelham.

Martha Hamby Greene, Marie, & baby Geneva (my mother)

Martha Hamby Greene, Marie, & baby Geneva (my mother)

Some descendant of Pelham Humphries in the North Carolina mountains came across this story, and, in the 1980’s, a group got together, called a family meeting, and proposed hiring a lawyer to tap into the funds owed to them from the oil companies spinning off from Spindletop. Rumor had it that some of the oil companies had a trust fund set up for just such a purpose.The possible list of claimants was huge by this time. Since Pelham had no direct descendants, those coming from the branches of cousins, etc. had a claim. Several meetings were held over the next few years. Diligent people worked hard to put together genealogies that would prove their connections.

Clinard Greene's house & family in the early 1900's

Clinard Greene’s house & family in the early 1900’s

My mother’s family, the Greenes, were included. From a hard-working relative, I gained a written genealogy, which proved I was related to Pelham Humphries. It also gave me what I considered to be a more interesting bit of information. I am a direct descendant of Israel Boone, Daniel Boone’s brother. Can I blame my love of travel and wanderlust on Uncle Daniel? Oh, but that’s a story for another day.

Wedding picture of Chilo Greene and Martha Hamby

Wedding picture of Chilo Greene and Martha Hamby

Nothing ever came of the court case of the current descendants. The crucial events had taken place too long ago. I always thought this would be the case, but I found the family trees, genealogy, and information I found out about my family history much more important.

As a funny footnote, my dad had always pretended to be serious when he joked that he, I, and the Coles were related to Daniel Boone. Well, I was indeed related to the explorer, but it came from Mom’s side of my family and not his.

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  • I welcome you to visit my website ( time. With my Appalachian heritage, several of my past posts may be of interest. I also welcome comments or questions. My historical novel, CLEARED FOR PLANTING, to be released in November is set in the Appalachians in 1804.

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Finding Out The Truth – A Rude Genealogy Surprise

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 11, 2014

Gary GreenePlease welcome guest author Gary Greene. Greene is a storyteller, singer, songwriter and historian who is currently a part-time clerk at Etowah Indian Mounds in Cartersville, GA. He has performed from North Carolina to Texas, and in between. The Rome [GA] News Tribune has called him ‘a walking history book of Appalachian and Cherokee lore.’ Greene has a great love and respect for the culture of Appalachia and the history of the Cherokee.


My father, Isaac, was born in the mountains of East Tennessee. He didn’t talk about his father except to tell me that he died, too young, from sleeping sickness in the nineteen thirties. Dad was born Isaac Allen Green on February 14, 1914 to John and Hannah Shultz Green. He never spoke of his grandfather. Now, at 61 years of age, I may have finally figured out why.

A few weeks ago, a Facebook page from Sevierville, TN helped me put together my family puzzle by providing me with the missing pieces. I won’t mention their names because I am not sure they want to be named in this article. It has been over a hundred years, yet today it remains a very sensitive issue. The subject still brings fear and loathing to so many different families around the mountains of Sevierville.

My great-great grandfather was Newton (Newt) Green. Along with his cousin, West Hendricks, they murdered their uncle Aaron McMahan. Aaron was married to the sister of James Green, who was Newt’s father, and who was also the sister of West Hendricks’ mother.

Newt Green on right. West Hendrick on left. Tom Davis Deputy Sheriff in the middle. Courtesy the author.

Newt Green on right. West Hendrick on left. Tom Davis Deputy Sheriff in the middle. Courtesy the author.

Aaron McMahan’s daughter had been accused of adultery. During the middle of the night, she was taken out of her bed in her bedclothes by a group of masked vigilantes called the White Caps. Aaron had expressed how cowardly it was for a group of grown men to beat a defenseless woman. This news reached the White Caps, of which Green and Hendricks were members.

More than likely they were the ones who had beaten his daughter. I don’t know if they were chosen to deal with the situation or they just did it on their own. In Wear’s Valley, along Little Cove, they ambushed McMahan, his son, and his son-in law. All were wounded but McMahan, receiving the worst of it, died in agony ten days later, vowing it was his nephews Newt and West who had done the deed. I was shocked to realize I had finally found the proverbial genealogy skeleton in my closet.

I had heard tell about my Dad making and running moonshine during the Depression. It did not set well with the Worthington’s (my mother’s family, who were poor sharecroppers from Cassville, GA). But my Dad admitted to being an alcoholic. He quit drinking in 1950, the year my parents were married. But I still remember the summer visits when my uncle Will would bring a quart of shine to ask my dad if it was as good as they made during the 30’s. Dad screwed off the lid to smell it. He replaced the lid tight, turned it upside down and counted the bubbles. He related to my uncle Will that it was such and such proof and that it was real good shine. There is an art to making moonshine I learned that day.

My dad Isaac was in the CCC in the late 30’s, early 40’s. He helped pave the road from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, as well as the famous loop around beautiful Cades Cove. He fought in WWII. He spent four years in the Army plus an additional four years in the Army Air Corp (later to become the Air Force). I am sure he killed Germans. He was a cook and he worked in field artillery.

He would talk about them leading the aim of the cannon way ahead of the German airplanes, and watch the planes as they would crash into the shells. He would then grow silent. He did not enjoy the memories of the war. My dad was a hero to me. Silent and stoic, he used words sparingly so as not to give too much away. It is hard to believe his grandfather was an out & out murderous real outlaw. A member of the criminal vigilantes called the White Caps.

NY Times, October 27, 1894 article about the White Caps.

NY Times, October 27, 1894 article about the White Caps.

I posted the photo of Newt and West in handcuffs. I mentioned to my son that he favored him. My son James (Jamie) was not amused. He told me he really had a problem finding out that he and I had a relative that was a murderer. It is hard for us to accept. We have always been peaceful people. It is a just a fact of life in genealogy: you may unearth family skeletons.

Be forewarned, I am not proud of parts of my family history. American history is filled with family feuds. The most notable, I think, would be the Hatfields and the McCoys. I may have my own opinion on vigilante justice, which would not be approved by some of my ancestors, I am sure.

I bought a book called The White Caps : A History Of The Organization In Sevier County, by E.W. Crozier. Page 114 describes the arrest of great-great grandfather Newton (Newt) Green. Deputy Sheriff Tom Davis followed the boys and ultimately they were surrounded in a cotton gin in Texas along the Red River. Newt was the first arrested. The deputy sheriff Lynch told him he was wanted in Texarkana. Newt hung his head a moment and said, “Hell, I’ve heard that tale before but we ain’t done nothing at Texarkana. I guess, by God, Tom Davis wants us in Tennessee. He glanced over at the other 2 officers and said “Hello Tom, by God you got your mustached blacked, but I know you. “

After being handcuffed together and headed back to New Boston, TX, Newt and West started singing “Take me back to Tennessee ; there let me live and die.” It had taken Deputy Sheriff Tom Davis 8 months to track them down. In the book, they were referred to as “wily offenders” and “ slick ducks.” The pair had avoided many traps before they were finally captured.

I accept my family history, as I have had to do with so many other things in history. Sometimes you just don’t agree with it, but yet it happened. If I don’t report it someone else will. I know everyone says if you search deep, long and wide, you’re gonna find out things you never really wanted to know. And they are right in this case.

Diligence is a way of life for the ladies who have helped me uncover this branch of my family history. I would not be writing this article if not for their help. So, many thanks to Donna Moncy Allen, Doris Noland Parton, and Sherry Whaley. During this search, we actually found out that we were related. It was really great finding more relatives still in the Sevierville area. I hope to return to the genealogy department soon to learn more about the lives and stories of my Smoky Mountain ancestors.

One Response

  • Gary Carden says:

    I tried to leave this message for you on Facebook, but it miscarried and ended being posted in conjunction with some political rant…..So, here it is again. There is a Native American named Buffalo Child Longlance who became a hero and a celebrity after WWI and became an honored authority on Native American history for the film……however, he committed suicide when a newspaper reporter found out that his father was a Lumbee from NC (and therefore suspect of having a blood line tainted with African blood. Good story.

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Learning the Curve: The Artistry of Matt Moulthrop

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 10, 2014

Please welcome guest author Lisa Chastain. Chastain is the Curator of Collections at the Museum Center at 5ive Points in Cleveland, TN. Their current exhibition, “Learning the Curve: The Artistry of Matt Moulthrop,” is open through November 2014 and features the diverse and intricate art of that Southern regional artist.


Drought. Famine. Disease. Sun. Rain. All of these factors contribute in the creation of a life story. The interpretation of these factors is the real challenge for any person, including historians, anthropologists and even artists.

One artist in particular has chosen a medium which is generally not considered when the idea of expressing a life story comes to mind. Third generation wood-turner Matt Moulthrop has taken up the mantle of telling stories in his own particular way: through trees.

Museum Center 1

The life of a tree is influenced by the world around it; growth rings tell the story. Within the first few years of life, a tree may experience severe drought or an overabundance of rain. Each of these events is recorded within the tree. Drought and disease, flooding and lack of sunlight, major weather events – all leave evidence behind in the form of ring spacing and coloration. Hidden in plain sight is the accurately recorded history of mankind all around us in the trees.

An example of this can be seen in this new exhibition with the display of both an American chestnut cup and a large redbay globe. Each of these tree species has an interesting and diverse history. The American chestnut tree is virtually extinct in our region due to a blight which causes a bark fungus. The introduction of an Asian chestnut tree brought this fungus to the United States. This species no longer exists widely in nature, and yet on display is an example of the story of a chestnut tree.

The redbay globe is a second example of a species on the verge of extinction. Growing along the borders of swampy lands in the South, redbay trees are being scoured by the introduction of a beetle which carries a different type of fungus. The size of the globe on display is potentially the largest that will ever be seen.

Matt Moulthrop has stepped in to interpret these stories through his art. The idea of giving trees a voice is an interesting and a new approach. With his selection of various trees found mainly in the Southeastern United States, Moulthrop tells the unique account of our region. His works of art are turned bowls in classical forms, such as globes or vessels, leaving the simplicity and elegance of the piece to do the talking. Each turned object is a singular story of a location in our region.

AshLeafMaple 2012

Matt works with the wood, first by selecting the best pieces. Secondly, turning this piece on his lathe, he begins to unveil every growth ring, wormhole, and imperfection in the wood, unraveling a tale of life, growth and death. The final step captures this story within a glass-like finish.

Learning this particular art form began with his grandfather, Ed Moulthrop. The elder Moulthrop was always proficient in art, becoming a painter specializing in watercolors. However, a turn of events led Ed to achieve a successful career as an architect. Only after discovering that woodturning could in fact enable him to care for his family, Ed worked in his shop full-time, leaving behind his first career. He developed his own tools, crafting them from scrap metal and turned large-scale projects, the likes of which the woodturning world had never seen.

2014-08-29 16.47.45

Ed’s son, Philip, learned the love of the art after he also had a successful career, as a lawyer. Philip turned full-time as well, never staying with one form or style long, preferring to let each tree decide its own unique form. After much trial and error, Philip eventually created his Mosaic series—a body of work that is created with various wood pieces and a dark resin, turned in the classical styles befitting a Moulthrop piece.

Matt, too, learned the art of woodturning after having a previous career. He learned with the help of his father and grandfather, who was slowing down in his later years. Matt helped his grandfather in the studio by roughing out new forms, all the while gaining valuable knowledge concerning the contributions of trees. Matt added a dozen new tree species to the Moulthrop family’s body of work, and also developed a system which distributes and enhances the glass finish on each Moulthrop piece, successfully capturing the story of life.

The stories that the Moulthrop family have revealed continue to grow as they receive commission pieces for beloved trees, such as a tree that fell in Chattanooga dating back to the 1930s, or through the immense pile of wood available in their back yard. Each tree that Ed worked—and both Matt and Philip continue to work—shows another snapshot of history, and tells another story that reveals an unknown tale through the medium of wood.

The exhibition will be on display until Saturday, November 15, and is sponsored by Bank of Cleveland. The Museum Center is open Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. till 3 p.m. Additional information can be found here.

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Road Trip to the Secret City

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 9, 2014

The following article by Raina Regan ran on August 26 on the PreservationNation blog. It is reposted here with permission. Regan is a Community Preservation Specialist for Indiana Landmarks in Indianapolis. Raina enjoys exploring historic places on the open road and spreading awareness about heritage through Instagram.


Aerial view of the plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Credit: American Museum of Science and Energy

Aerial view of the plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Credit: American Museum of Science and Energy

Science, secrecy, and a large sense of scale uniquely identify those sites associated with the Manhattan Project. Of the three primary sites — Los Alamos, New Mexico; Hanford, Washington; and Oak Ridge, Tennessee — the latter has always captured my interest because of its moniker “The Secret City.”

The Manhattan Engineer District built an entirely new military reservation on 59,000 acres in an isolated area of rural Tennessee. Construction on the site began in 1942, with the townsite located in the northeast corner of the six-mile-long reservation. Clinton Engineer Works, the Army’s name for the Oak Ridge Manhattan Project site during World War II, hosted the Project’s uranium enrichment plants (K-25 and Y-12) and the pilot plutonium production reactor (X-10).

After reading Denise Kiernan’s The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II and supporting the proposed Manhattan Project National Historical Park, I felt compelled to visit the city which had fascinated me for years. I convinced my sister, a fellow history buff who had also recently read Kiernan’s book, to take an atomic-inspired road trip to eastern Tennessee.

Completed in 1936, the powerful Norris Dam played a significant role in the success of the Project in Oak Ridge. Credit: Raina Regan

Completed in 1936, the powerful Norris Dam played a significant role in the success of the Project in Oak Ridge. Credit: Raina Regan

Driving to Oak Ridge, I passed through the adjacent town of Clinton and instantly made the connection to Clinton Engineer Works. Driving southwest on Tennessee 61, the roadway curved and bended around the Clinch River. Later during our trip, we traveled to Norris Dam, a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Dam constructed as part of the Works Progress Administration. Located upstream of the Clinch River, Norris Dam is part of the Project’s story in Oak Ridge. The prevalence of TVA dams and their power capacity played an integral part in the selection of the site for the Project.

Our trip started at the American Museum of Science and Energy. During the summer, the Department of Energy (DOE), in partnership with the AMSE, host bus tours of the DOE Oak Ridge sites. The tour includes the three main historic sites at the Oak Ridge reservation: Y-12, X-10, and K-25. The tour also features other areas within the reservation typically off-limits, including the Bethel Valley Church.


When I think of Oak Ridge and the Project, I see black-and-white images of women on stools monitoring knobs. These iconic photos capture the thousands of women involved in the project at Oak Ridge. Y-12 was one of the Manhattan Project uranium enrichment plants and continues to serve in a similar function as a Department of Energy National Security Complex.

Calutron operators at the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Calutron operators at the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The tour stops at the New Hope Visitor Center, which features displays and artifacts about the history of Y-12. For security reasons, the tour doesn’t enter Y-12. Through photos and an outside-of-the-gate glance, you can still understand the size and scope of this facility today while capturing a glimpse into the high security atmosphere surrounding the site.

After Y-12, we headed into the heart of the reservation. The distance between the two plants allowed us to reflect on the space between each site — intentional, of course, but still dramatic while nestled between heavily forested areas.

After passing through the security gates, we entered the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). We learned that scientists from around the world visit Oak Ridge to use the ORNL during a brief drive-by of the Spallation Neutron Source.

X-10 Graphite Reactor

From the outside, X-10 is a nondescript building. In fact, we weren’t permitted to take any photos of the exterior, with barbed wire fenced in buildings nearby. Once inside X-10, the space provided an authentic look at the first permanent nuclear reactor after Enrico Fermi’s Chicago Pile. The space is remarkably well preserved, even though plutonium production ended in 1963.

The dominant feature of the interior is the Graphite Reactor Loading Face, which towers over the entire space. We climbed into the authentic control room, sitting next to the center of the loading face. The original log book is next to the control desk, open to the page from November 4, 1943 — the date when the reactor was first “criticality reached.”

The X-10 reactor control room is authentically preserved, from lighting to the unique knobs and levers that controlled the reactor. Credit: Raina Regan

The X-10 reactor control room is authentically preserved, from lighting to the unique knobs and levers that controlled the reactor. Credit: Raina Regan

I noticed the National Historic Landmark plaque for X-10 bears a date of 1966, only 23 years after its construction. This early designation recognizes its vast significance to American history. The industrial character, with exposed steel trusses, steel casement windows, and concrete columns, all create a space that demonstrates the science and manufacturing that was at the heart of the Project.


During our visit to Oak Ridge, the demolition of K-25 was nearly complete. The tour stopped at the K-25 overlook — a beautiful vista which permitted a glance at the former uranium production facility.

We learned that K-25 was at one time the largest building in the world at 44 acres. Although it was mid-demolition, and contemporary buildings covered the grounds as well, it seemed as if the site stretched for miles on the horizon. The bus tour took us around the site, with dense trees providing a modest boundary for the East Tennessee Technology Park.

Even from a distance, Regan could see the ongoing demolition of the massive K-25. Credit: Raina Regan

Even from a distance, Regan could see the ongoing demolition of the massive K-25. Credit: Raina Regan

The Town

Although we scheduled our trip around the DOE Sites Public Bus Tour, we learned that the story about Oak Ridge was just as compelling in areas outside the modern-day reservation. We ate in Jackson Square, the historic townsite of Oak Ridge. We instantly recognized other Oak Ridge landmarks of note within the vicinity, including the Chapel-on-the-Hill and the Guest House (Alexander Inn).

My immediate thought turned to the modest architecture of all the sites, constructed quickly and with an emphasis on function, not style. However, this was the true cultural center for those working at Oak Ridge, where the Army attempted to provide some normalcy for its isolated community.

An original, Manhattan Project-era flattop house is authentically interpreted as an outdoor exhibit at the American Museum of Science and Energy. Credit: Raina Regan

An original, Manhattan Project-era flattop house is authentically interpreted as an outdoor exhibit at the American Museum of Science and Energy. Credit: Raina Regan

An original 1940s Flattop House is an outdoor display at AMSE, complete with original furnishings and materials. These simple, minimally sized homes provided housing for predominately white families working in Oak Ridge during the Project years. The prefabricated homes followed standard plans, and the demand for housing led to the use of temporary materials, such as cemesto board, to increase the speed of construction.

Driving around the vicinity of the townsite, we immediately recognized homes with these structural bones. These homes have been modernized with vinyl siding, contemporary windows, and additions, but at their core they maintain the visual integrity of the World War II-era housing. After viewing the original Flattop home on display, I was astonished these temporary homes survived, although modified, for over 50 years.

Shift change at the facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Credit: American Museum of Science and Energy

Shift change at the facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Credit: American Museum of Science and Energy

Visiting Oak Ridge provided a sense of scale and sense of place unlike anything I’ve read about the Manhattan Project. The Project itself was a massive endeavor, but the physical place itself is on such a large scale it cannot be truly understood unless in person.

The distance between each of the three primary sites — Y-12, X-10, and K-25 — are the equivalent of the distance between small towns in my home state of Indiana. The commute for workers from the townsite to each plant is farther than my commute to work today. Through experiencing these sites firsthand, we can better grasp the monumental scale of the Manhattan Project through its extraordinary impact on our built heritage.

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  • EMS says:

    This blog post is the epitome of why I am so infatuated with history. Before reading your post, I thought that the only area of the USA effected by the Manhattan Project was the Southwest. I attend school in Kentucky and have added seeing Oak Ridge to my list of places to visit before graduating. The pictures that you have chosen for this post draw the reader in, I felt like I was there while reading along.

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