A road opens — bring on the flying machines!

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 11, 2015

“The old mud road is a road that leads down to perdition. The improved road leads upward to a better land; to better homes; to a better and broader civilization,” said West Virginia Governor Ephraim Morgan as he, along with the mayors of Kingwood and Terra Alta, untied the ceremonial ribbons and let the barrier of bunting fall away. The Terra Alta-Kingwood Road was officially open.

The weather had been cold and rainy for several days prior to September 11, 1924 and it looked as if celebrations could not be held; but on the appointed day the sun appeared and dried the roads and grounds to everyone’s satisfaction.
Work on the Morgantown-Kingwood Road
It’s hard today to imagine a mere road opening being followed by a ball game, basket picnic, airplane rides, band music and various athletic events, but the automobile was still a novel way to get around in Preston County—only 30% of the state’s residents had a car yet. And this stretch of highway was seen as a major connector to the outside world.

The road from Kingwood to Terra Alta is a part of the old Winchester and Morgantown turnpike, which was perhaps the first road designated in the county. The turnpike was, from the area’s earliest settlement, the main route through the county to Morgantown. Some of the first pioneer wagons from the east trundled over it.

The road leads from the outskirts of Kingwood to Terra Alta and joins with a concrete road built from that point to the Maryland state line. From the state line a short two mile stretch in Maryland connected to the National pike.

“The National or Cumberland Road was perhaps the most important [regional Indian trail that became a road], extending originally from Washington to Cumberland and later to Wheeling. These old roads are still in use,” noted Governor Morgan in his address. “Parts of them have been improved and hardsurfaced in recent years. The day is not far distant when the most important of these routes will constitute the main arteries of motor travel across the state over improved roads.”

The governor concluded: “I want future generations to point to these roads and say ‘There are roads that were constructed in the pioneer stage of road building in West Virginia under the first State Road Commission after the first comprehensive system was established; and they have endured to this day.’” And he headed off to catch the afternoon’s ballgame between Rowlesburg and Kingwood.

source: www.wvculture.org/history/thisdayinwvhistory/0911.html

related post: “Paving Paradise”

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When the Grand Jury met, he was not there to appear against me

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 10, 2015

The following was brought by my father’s first cousin, Roy Hodges, to the family gathering following my uncle’s funeral in 1985. It was handwritten, and in pencil. James Pinkney Pittman (1855-1946) was the grandfather of my father, Victor Randolph Pittman, Jr.

James Pinkney PittmanThe handwritten text ended in mid-sentence on the last page of the steno pad. Obviously, there is or was at least one more steno pad like it that has been lost.

Judging from the markings on the pad, it appears to have been written some time in the late 1920s or early 1930s. I have endeavored to preserve the original misspellings. No doubt, I have added a few of my own.

—Victor Darrell Pittman, James Pinkney’s great-grandson, June 1997

“I got into truble. I went hunting with two men, one was midal eag, the other was young. The young man got killed out in the woods and the other man told evry body that I killed him. Well, I was arested, tryed and put under a ten thousand dollar bond untill the grand jury met. The county seat was Ashville Ala. I did not know a sole in the town. I ask the Sharif what he was going to do with me. I dident want to be put in jale. “Can you make a bond?” “I can try.”

“It w now getting dark when w come down out of the court house. Seemed I had the simpthy of older men. Went into a large store. The croud of men folowed us in. I ask the propreator if he would go on a tempry bond untill I could make bond, but when he found out how much the bond was he shook his head. One man in the crowed said he would, then another. So there was a lot of them went on the bond, a temporary bound. I gave my bond to a frend of mine from Springville to see if he could make bond in Springville for me. I wated sevrel days. So I ask the men that signed my bond if tha wood let me go to Springville and try to make my bond, that if I couldent make bond I wood come back. They told me to go.

St. Clair Courthouse, Ashville ALSt. Clair Courthouse, Ashville, AL

“Now there was a Mr. Wood and Miss Vick that was sumoned as witnesses at the trile. Mr. Wood had been going with Miss Vick and wanted her to mary him. So he told her that they w send me to the pen or hang him so she told him that wouldent do him no good, that she would mary me before I went. You see hur friend tryed to keep hur from maring me because I drink a little two much, but that dident do any good.

“Well, back to the bond. I made the bond and sent it in. My friends in Springville went to work on the case. They corned the man that acused me out where the young man was killed and ask him where he was standing when the young man was killed. He showed them & thay traced the shot came from on the undergroth that killed the man. So he got scared and run away. So whe the grand jury met, he was not there to appear against me. So my case w throon out of court and I was clared. You see, he was the onley wittnes. God knows I dident kill him. It was all done axedently.”

Full memoir at: The Memoirs of James Pinkney Pittman

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Just passing through—the Scottish Travellers

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 9, 2015

Oh, Lady Margaret she sat in her high chambers.
She was sewing her silken seams.
She lookit east and she lookit west
And she saw those woods grow green.

So, picking up her petticoat
Beneath her harlin gown,
It’s when she came to the merry green woods,
There she let them down.

Oh, she had not pulled one nut, one nut,
One nut nor scarcely three,
When the highest lord in all the countryside
Came a-riding through the trees.

–opening of Lady Margaret, a traditional Scottish Traveller song
told by Duncan Williamson; transcribed in ‘Scottish Traveller Tales’

Who are the Scottish Travellers (a small contingent of whom emigrated to Appalachia in the late 19th century)? In the Old Country, this nomadic group has pitched its bow-tents just on the outskirts of villages and earned money there as tinsmiths, hawkers, horse dealers and pearl-fishermen for at least 500 years.

They were called tinkers, from the Irish tincéirí, eg. tincéir or “tinsmith.” “It’s not worth a tinker’s dam” (a little rivet for repairing stuff) is the original saying from whence we get the less polite common saying. Travellers themselves now consider the term derogatory.

Tinsmith in shenandoah valley vaCaption reads: Tinsmith at work in drainpipe section in one of the flourishing shops in the Shenandoah Valley. Photo John Vachon, 1941.

In Scotland, they developed regular routes and sold goods, repaired carts and pots and pans, and worked the horses or land as they went from one side of that country to the other. In Appalachia the men are still itinerant in the sense that their work takes them away from home for many months at a time, but they have a home base where the women and children stay during the school year.

The Travellers never bank their money but spend it quickly, or keep large amounts of cash on hand, or they turn it over into silver and gold and carry that with them. They don’t trust banks or governments, so they fend for themselves.

Scottish Travellers devised two languages. One was Cant, a combination of Scottish Gaelic, English, Romany and Arabic. The other language is a version of Gaelic unique to the Travellers alone called Beurla Regaird.

These languages are guarded. They are taught only in the community, taught from birth, and those who marry outside the community do not teach their new families the language. In fact, to marry outside the community is to die to your family.

Scottish Travellers in America do intermarry with other groups from time to time. Most frequently, when they marry outside the Travellers, they marry Melungeons, Gypsies, or mixed blood groups such as Redbones, Brass Ankles, the Guineas of WV, or Lumbees.

mule traders in campton kyPhoto caption reads: “Jockey” Street, near the courthouse. Here is where mountaineers and farmers trade horses and mules. Campton, Wolfe County, Kentucky. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott, 1940.

Scottish Travellers are and were known as storytellers, entertainers, humorists, and musicians. Scottish Travellers have a word in the Cant language – conyach. Conyach describes the state when who you are, and what you are doing, merge into one. It’s a highly sought after state when one is the singer, dancer, or storyteller at a ceilidh.

In a traditional informal ceilidh, family and friends got together after dinner and the dishes were done, and there was that little bit of time between then and time to go to bed, and they sat and visited with each other. And they talked, and sometimes they got to telling stories or singing together.

Stories were often told that were hours long. They could be drawn out over several days, told in parts every night. Common stories included the Jack Tales that we now associate with Appalachia, but were originally from the British Isles. They exist both in Gaelic and the Scots tongues.

Usually at the ceilidh, songs would be sung about local people. This was a form of social control. You could spread gossip, make fun of someone, express admiration or love for someone, spread bad news about someone, or ruin the reputation of someone, just by singing a song about them, or inserting their name into an already existing song.

Travellers share a love of words in songs & stories. Also — a desire to constantly move on. They tend to travel before a birth so that the children have the right to be in more than one country. They tend to be drawn to thrown away people, or outcasts, the broken, or the hidden. They are known for passing through quietly, not making a noise unless they are wanted, needed. You might move on an hour or so down the road or you might move to another country. That is the way of the Travellers.


sources: Scottish Customs: From the Cradle to the Grave, by Margaret Bennett, Polygon, 1992
Scottish Traveller Tales: Lives Shaped through Stories, by Donald Braid, Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2002
The Thistle and the Brier, by Richard Blaustein, McFarland, 2003

5 Responses

  • Love the poem. This is an interesting post I am Scottish myself.

  • Richard, I remember your fiddling and you so fondly. Charlie and Dorothy Acuff have both passed away now and his father’s fiddles were sold. We miss Charlie dearly. David went to see him at the nursing home in Newport as often as he could. David recorded a tribute CD of tunes he learned from Charlie. We would love to see you if you’re ever in Nashville–still at the same house I’ve lived in since 4th grade. We have two sweet girl grandchildren from our daughter, Holly. our son, Nathan, lives in Cincinnati with his wife. I’m hoping you will get this and stay in touch–Trish Cannon

  • Jane irvin says:

    great article. Explains so much to me about my mum and her family…. I dont think they have ever forgiven her for getting married to a english non traveller and bringing us all here to live in Australia in 1965. We were never told of her Scottish Traveller background. I only found out 5 years ago…. I have been referred to by them as a gorja breed of the scummy kind as we dont always see eye to eye. very sad bunch indeed. And yes, they spread untruths about us…. so proud of my mum, God rest her soul.

  • Jenny Terry says:

    I am very interested in Appalachian history. My entire family lived in the mountains of Tennessee, but many settled in SE Kentucky. They seem to be a wild bunch. Coal mining, farming and making shine was their way of living. They are primarily Scots and irish

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The Catawbas teach former enemy their pottery secrets

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 8, 2015

The Carolina coast was the site of the earliest evidence of pottery making in North America, with pieces dated 4,500 BC and tempered with Spanish moss.

In 1540, when Hernando De Soto traveled through the Carolinas, the Catawba Indian Nation controlled 55,000 square miles of land including portions of North Carolina and Virginia, and most of South Carolina. The Catawba Nation has maintained the longest pottery making tradition in North America and was instrumental in keeping the Cherokee pottery making tradition viable.

The Catawba, who eluded forced removal to Oklahoma by the US Government during the 1830s, joined with their former enemies, the hold-out Cherokees, hiding in the hills, in the struggle to remain on their homelands. But by 1847 most of the Catawba left the Cherokee and returned to their original base in South Carolina (the 1760 treaty of Pine Hill and 1763 treaty of Augusta had established a fifteen mile square reservation for them along the Catawba River). Before they departed, they left behind a permanent influence on Cherokee pottery making.

bowl by Cherokee potter Cora WahnetahThe Native American Art Collection at the University of Houston – Clear Lake purchased this bowl by Cherokee potter Cora Wahnetah in 1969.

“The Catawba and Cherokee pottery families intermarried,” says Michael Simpson, author of Making Native American Pottery. “A cross-fertilization of methods took place, with the final result being that the Cherokee adopted the Catawba method of firing in an open pit, abandoning forever the traditional mound firing method, which has been nearly forgotten in modern times.”

Within both traditional Catawba and Cherokee culture, women were the potters, though that gender barrier was broken during the 20th century.

After pulverizing dried clay and mixing it with water, Cherokee craftswomen molded and coiled their earthen vessels. The coil building method more easily accommodated the production of large storage pieces.

Cherokee potters often used carved wooden paddles to imprint designs — zigzag, crosshatch, feather and figure motifs—and smooth the surfaces to make them waterproof. Partly dry pottery may be burnished with a polishing stone to achieve its characteristic satin patina. Some pieces are deeply carved, some painted with slip (a liquid form of clay that may have color additives).

If clay preparation is not done correctly, or the pots are constructed incorrectly, they will crack upon simple drying. If stone polishing takes place at the wrong drying stage, or the friction of polishing is allowed to overheat and hence dry out the still damp clay, the pots will be rough- sanded, rather than smooth-polished.

This Cora Wahnetah wedding vase has been low-fired, burnished, and has an inscribed design.

The stone polishing procedure is a method that smooths by compressing the clay particles, not by sanding it, hence contributing to its strength, rather than weakening it.

The work is unglazed, and is fired in pits of burning bark and native woods, the subtle tones of red, cream, and soft grey to deep black determined by the kind of wood used in the fires. To further waterproof the insides, corncobs and bran were thrown into the fires while the pots hardened.

The vast tourist market in the North Carolina mountains that opened starting in the 1920s provided an important source of income for the Cherokee potters. Traditional wares were being produced in very small quantities, but pottery making was maintained through the creation of small decorative ware for sale.

The well known Cherokee potter Cora Wahnetah (b. 1907), whose work is shown here, tapped into that outside market starting in the 1940s. As a young girl, she had learned pottery making from her mother, in the traditional Cherokee manner: first forming the very simplest type of pot (pinched); next, the slab pot, and finally the coiled pot.

Wahnetah’s work varies from traditional pieces– pit-fired, incised pots–which would have been used in ceremonies by her ancestors, to contemporary pieces. Her pieces are owned by the Department of the Interior and are on permanent display at Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual in Cherokee, NC.


sources: Catawba Indian Pottery: The Survival of a Folk Tradition; Thomas John Blumer; Univ of Alabama Press, 2004
Making Native American Pottery, Michael Simpson, Naturegraph Publishers, Happy Camp, CA, 1991

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The SC house the old Confederate veterans called home

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 4, 2015

After her father died in 1904, Frances Miles Hagood (aka “Miss Queen”) inherited his house in Pickens, SC. That same year she married Judge Thomas J. Mauldin, and the two of them remodeled the Hagood house from a simple farmhouse with a detached kitchen to a sumptuous Classical Revival dwelling. They added a detached law office building in the same style.

Judge Mauldin served as judge of the 13th Judicial Circuit of South Carolina from 1914 until his death in 1931. He graduated from The Citadel in 1891 and was admitted to the bar in 1892, but he taught for several years before entering the legal profession.

Hagood Mauldin House, Pickens SCHe was also editor of a local newspaper for a time, and during his lifetime was a Mason, a Shriner, a member of the Sons of the Confederacy, and a member of the Sons of the American Revolution. He and Frances helped organize the Pickens chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which held annual meetings on the grounds of the house for many years to honor surviving veterans of the Civil War.

Frances Hagood Mauldin remained a social leader of the community until her death in 1954, was active in the Daughters of the American Revolution, and was president of the South Carolina Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy. Each June 2, the old soliders of the Confederacy met at their home for a parade and picnic.

The earliest section of the Hagood-Mauldin House was built about 1856 in Old Pickens Court House. The first owner, James Earle Hagood (1826-1904), son of wealthy landowner Benjamin Hagood, was a public official, lawyer, and planter of Pickens District. Hagood was a merchant until 1856, when he began his public career as Clerk of the Circuit Court of Pickens District, a position he held until 1868. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Hagood was made Commissioner in Charge of the Poor and a member of the Soldiers’ Board of Relief.

He loyally gave material to the cause of the Confederacy. Among his duties, he made several trips to and from the battlefields of Virginia, bringing home the sick and wounded soldiers as well as recovering the bodies of solider who had died in service, and ministering to the destitute and dependent families of the soliders in the field.

When Pickens District was divided into Pickens and Oconee Counties in 1868 Hagood was appointed to the Board of Special Commissioners which was authorized to select a site for the town of New Pickens (the present town of Pickens). He acted as Secretary Treasurer of that Board. He also served as Clerk of the Probate Court in the new county seat and as Clerk of the Board of Pickens County Commissioners (initially convened in 1868).

In that year, he had his house dismantled, the rafters and beams numbered, and moved to New Pickens. He was soon elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives and served Pickens County in the General Assembly 1869-1872 during the same period that he practiced law with partner Joseph J. Norton.

Hagood Mauldin House, Pickens SCIn May 1873, Hagood was appointed Clerk of the United States Circuit Court for the District of South Carolina in Charleston, serving in that capacity for 30 years.

Each room in the Hagood-Mauldin House was heated by a fireplace, and each fireplace mantel and trim has a different design and style. A traditional southern-style deep front porch is located on the west side of the house, with a low sloped roof and round spindle columns to form the entry. The cooking house was to the rear, separated from the main house. Several windows are triple-hung sash with cross lattice glass panels.

The Pickens County Historical Society acquired the house in 1987 from the estate of Mrs. Irma Hendricks Morris, and the home was opened as a fine arts museum in October of the following year. In 1997 the home was accepted onto the National Register of Historic Places.

Source: http://www.nationalregister.sc.gov/pickens/S10817739011/

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