Listen Here: Appalachian History Weekly podcast posts today

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 28, 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 the story of historical presenter Larry Rowlette, who since 2000 has regularly inhabited the character of Johann Culmann, founder of Culman, AL. “I enjoy spreading the message of heritage, tradition, and values everywhere I go,” Rowlette says. “I also try to live by those same words, because it gives me something to work toward – honoring the heritage, speaking and promoting the tradition, and living the values each day.”

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.

Today the Whipple Company Store, built in 1890 by coal baron Justus Collins, is the only remaining coal company store of its architectural design type in southern WV’s Pocahantas coal basin. Its oval arch entry sheltering a deeply recessed porch is typical of a design style once commonly found in the 30 or so company stores that dotted the basin in the early 20th century. “People think of this place as a museum, but to me it’s a place for sharing stories,” says Joy Lynn, who with her husband Chuck purchased the compound in 2006.

We’ll wrap things up with an oral history excerpt from one Mrs. Nellie Wilhoit, about her recollections of life growing up on a farm in Cleveland, GA. Mrs. Wilhoit discusses mountain superstitions in White County, GA from the early 20th century.

And thanks to the good folks at Warren Wilson College’s Archives, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from David ‘Fox’ Watson in a 1979 recording of The Reel of the Hangman.

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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General Braddock’s road through the Wilderness

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 26, 2014

Today realtors tout the Dingle neighborhood west of Cumberland, MD for its charming Craftsman houses of the early 20th century. But this placid upscale neighborhood was a fierce wilderness when Nemacolin, a Delaware chief, and Thomas Cresap, a Maryland frontiersman, first blazed a trail through here in 1749 or 1750.

The trail ran between the Potomac and the Monongahela rivers, traversing the land beneath this Cumberland neighborhood and leading on to the mouth of Redstone Creek, near Brownsville, PA.

John Kennedy Lacock postcardSite of the Dingle in Cumberland, MD. Braddock Road is on the right and it’s heading up Haystack Mountain. Today, right behind where the car is in this photo is a modern Maryland Historical Road Marker reading: “The National Road (called The Cumberland Road) was the first of the internal improvements undertaken by the U.S. Government. Surveys were authorized in 1806 over the route of “Braddock’s Road” which followed “Nemacolin’s Path”, an Indian trail over which George Washington Travelled in 1754 to Fort LeBoeuf.” Photo by Ernest K. Weller.

In 1755, during the French & Indian War, British General Edward Braddock of the Coldstream Guards led a 2,100-man army from the Washington DC area to what was then Fort Cumberland. The troops intended to dislodge the French from Fort Dusquesne on the “Forks of the Ohio” (now Pittsburgh) roughly 100 miles away.

Braddock had received important assistance from Benjamin Franklin, who helped procure wagons and supplies for the expedition. Setting out from Fort Cumberland on May 29, 1755, the expedition faced an enormous logistical challenge: moving a large body of men with equipment, provisions, and (most importantly for the task ahead) heavy cannon, across the densely wooded Allegheny Mountains and into western Pennsylvania.

Braddock’s aide, Captain Robert Orme, duly recorded the army’s 30 wagons, 400 horses, siege artillery and tons of supplies. Braddock built a road over Wills Mountain, across the Cumberland Narrows, continuing over Haystack Mountain through (what was not yet) the Dingle, close to Nemacolin’s path, and ending ultimately in Great Meadow, near Union Town, PA.

By the time he was ready to leave his 4th camp, Braddock acknowledged the ongoing challenge posed by advancing such a massive retinue, and so took a young George Washington’s advice and created a flying column, “leaving the heavy artillery and baggage behind to follow by easy stages under Colonel Dunbar,” according to the General Braddock’s 5th Camp Maryland Historical Road Marker.

Among the wagoners, incidentally, were two young men who would later become legends of American history: Daniel Boone, and Daniel Morgan.

Braddock met defeat east of Fort Duquesne and was fatally wounded. He was buried in the middle of the road he built and his soldiers marched over the grave in hopes of concealing its location from the Indians.

More than 150 years after Braddock’s march to his disastrous fate, John Kennedy Lacock, a Harvard Professor hailing from Amity, PA, led an expedition to retrace the original route of Braddock’s Road. Lacock spent countless days scouring the countryside and was able to identify the exact path of Braddock’s march.

“From Fort Cumberland westward Braddock had to make a road for his troops across mountains divided by ravines and torrents, over a rugged, desolate, unknown, and uninhabited country. The history of the construction of this road and a description of its course it is the purpose of this paper to set forth; for the growing interest with which the routes of celebrated expeditions are coming to be regarded, and the confusion that attends the tracing of such routes after a lapse of years, make it altogether fitting that the road by which the unfortunate Braddock marched to his disastrous field should be surveyed, mapped, and suitably marked while it is yet possible to trace its course with reasonable definiteness.”

‘Braddock Road’ by John Kennedy Lacock

Lacock hired photographer Ernest K. Weller of Washington, PA to document the road. Fortunately, Weller’s photographs survive in the form of postcards which Lacock published between 1907-1914 (see above).

The Dingle, Cumberland MDThe Dingle development then being built around Braddock’s historical path was no doubt one motivator for Lacock and his survey. The president of The Dingle Company, Tasker Gantt Lowndes, was the well-connected son of a recent Maryland governor, and contesting his development was probably difficult.

And why, exactly, was it named ‘The Dingle’? “After a beautiful private estate on the outskirts of Liverpool, England,” said Lowndes in a 1926 letter. “The Dingle lies between two roads (McMullen Highway and Braddock Road), and means a ‘Hollow between the Hills’ which is very appropriate”. When it was first developed it was a gated community that excluded Jews and African Americans.


Sources: “Redcoats in the Wilderness: British Officers and Irregular Warfare in Europe and America, 1740 to 1760″, Peter Russel, The William and Mary Quarterly > 3rd Ser., Vol. 35, No. 4 (Oct., 1978), pp. 629-652

Who’s who in Finance and Banking, By John William Leonard, Who’s Who in Finance Inc., 1922

Western Maryland Regional Library
Allegany County, by Albert L. Feldstein, Arcadia Publishing, 2006
Empire of Fortune: Crowns, Colonies, and Tribes in the Seven Years War in America, by Francis Jennings,New York: Norton, 1988. history/ braddock-lacock.shtmlJohn

General+Edward+Braddock the+Dingle Cumberland+MD John+Kennedy+Lacock appalachia Benjamin+Franklin Daniel+Boone appalachian+history appalachian+mountains+history

One Response

  • Rick Witt says:

    Thanks Dave. In my younger days I lived atop Haystack Mtn. Roamed the hillsides and traveled Braddock(s)Road almost everyday of my life. In retrospect, I wish I’d taken a bit more time to absorb the history that surrounded me. It’s always great to read a story about a place you know.

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Busted not for selling babies, but for the abortion clinic

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 25, 2014

From 1951 to 1965 Dr. Thomas Jugarthy Hicks began to quietly offer babies for adoption from his Hicks Community Clinic in McCaysville, GA. Quietly, because the clinic he’d been running since the mid-1940s was not a licensed adoption agency. Hicks cared for the mundane health issues of local farmers and townspeople in the front of the clinic, while performing abortions, which were illegal during that period, in the back rooms.

Law or no law, he advertised his abortion services on phone booths, bus stations and bridges. Women came by bus, car and train to pay $100 to “fix their problem.” A small airstrip was built in nearby Ducktown so the prominent could fly their daughters in from Atlanta and Chattanooga for an abortion.

fetal ultrasound imageHis black market baby-selling ring, which may have ‘moved’ as many as 200 babies with no questions asked, relied on young, poor women from North Georgia and Eastern Tennessee. They’d come to him for an abortion, and he persuaded some to carry the babies to full term. The women would reside in the clinic for a few months, or the good doctor would provide a room for them at his farm, or in the New York Hotel in adjoing Copperhill, TN, or in his apartments in the telephone company building.

Hicks knew he could count on word of mouth to bring in the baby buyers. The Fannin County Courthouse records list 49 babies, for example, who went to Summit County in Ohio. All the fathers who bought them worked in the Akron tire companies, except for a Cuyahoga Falls doctor who bought two babies. All the sales were arranged by a West Akron Goodrich employee who bought four babies for herself. All of them paid up to $1,000 for a baby no one could trace back to its mother.

Hicks made sure the birth certificates listed the people adopting as birth parents. The doctor kept no known records of the birth mothers, who discreetly vanished.

Thomas Hicks was no stranger to shady dealings. After getting his medical degree from Emory University in Atlanta in 1917, he moved to Copperhill, TN, but lost his medical license and served time in federal prison for selling narcotic pain killers to a veteran working undercover for the FBI.

While incarcerated, he studied a lung disease that kept copper miners from living past the age of 40.

Once out, he was hired by the Tennessee Copper Co. to treat miners. The only problem was, he filed more claims than there were miners with the disease.

After he was fired from that job, he opened up the Hicks Community Clinic in McCaysville.

Once a baby was available, Hicks wasted neither time nor words with his prospective buyers. “You have 24 hours to come or I call the next person on the list,” he’s reported to have said to more than one client.

Hicks warned his baby buyers not to be picky. If you told Hicks you only wanted a boy or you wanted a girl, you could forget about getting a baby.

It may never be known how many illegal adoptions were conducted by Dr. Hicks, who was stripped of his medical license in 1964, but never jailed. He was, after all, a member of the Copperhill Kiwanis and the Adams Bible Class of the First Baptist Church (to which he donated a Wurlitzer organ). He was known to give free medicine to the very poorest in town. He made house calls to those who couldn’t otherwise get to his clinic.

Dr. Thomas Hicks’ abortion clinic was an open secret tolerated by a town that appreciated the bulk of his medical contributions. “He didn’t perform any services that anyone didn’t request,” noted local resident Marlene Matham Hardiman, who once rented an apartment from Hicks.

The court papers disbarring him made no mention of the black-market babies. The abortion charges against him were dropped, and he continued practicing for a time thereafter.

Thomas Hicks died of leukemia in 1972 at age 83. His lawyer, nurses, wife and son are dead. His only living relative, a daughter, lives in seclusion in North Carolina.,,20124848,00.html

Thomas+Hicks Hicks+Community+Clinic abortion illegal+baby+adoptions Mccaysville+GA appalachia +appalachian+history appalachian+mountains+history

5 Responses

  • Tonya says:

    What sparked your interest to write about Dr. Hicks? Did you know him or did you live in the area?

  • Dave Tabler says:

    He lived and died long before my time. And no, I haven’t lived in the area. But it’s a fascinating story full of drama, conflict and moral choices. It deserves to be part of the Appalachian story.

  • Tonya says:

    Thank you for responding.

    We lived in the area when I was a child and although I don’t condone some of his choices, Dr. Hicks was very good to all of my family. Thank you for posting the story to your blog.

  • Angela Wright says:

    From what I understand from my family, my grandmother worked for him. This has fascinated me for years now. I have heard quite a few old-timers in McCaysville talk about what a good man he was. I do hope that the mothers can be reunited with their children, but from my family telling the story, the mothers didn’t want to be found. That’s why they went to Dr. Hicks instead of other places. I’m guessing that the people that adopted/bought these kids did so for many reasons and I hope that they have had good lives. I wish there was more on this subject, I know there are people that know the truth and even if the birth mothers don’t want to be found, medical records should be provided.

  • Tom King says:

    One of the facts in your story is incorrect. Dr. Hicks never had a daughter. There is no family member “living in seclusion in North Carolina”. He had a son who also became a doctor, but the son died before Dr. Hicks. That is the only child the doctor had. His wife also preceded him in death. He died at age 85 in 1972 from Leukemia.

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Book Excerpt: ‘Faces Behind the Dust’

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 24, 2014

Cora L HairstonPlease welcome guest author Cora L. Hairston. In 2013, Hairston released her debut novel, a story told through the eyes of a coal miner’s daughter ‘on the black side.’ Faces Behind the Dust traces the challenges, triumphs and tragedies of a young black woman’s coming of age in the southern West Virginia coalfields in the 1950’s and 1960’s, towards the end of segregation and the dawning of the Civil Rights era. Hairston is well known in southern West Virginia as a musician, composer of more than 20 gospel songs, concerned child advocate and twenty-year veteran of the Logan County Improvement League. Hairston has also been a speaker at area schools during Black History Month, sharing and celebrating stories of and achievements by African Americans in U.S. history. She often performs “A Rosa Parks Portrayal.” Radiology Coordinator for Logan General Hospital, Hairston retired after 30 years of service. We’re pleased to present this excerpt from Faces Behind the Dust.


“Ya can’t breathe a word of dis,” Aunt Cellie declared. “Promise, Thea-Thea, promise! Ya have to take dis secret to yo grave!

Thea-Thea was standing with her hand over her mouth and a look of complete terror as she said “Ceeee-Leeee, what’s happened?”

Knowing she had frightened Thea-Thea, Aunt Cellie said calmly, holding up her right pinky finger, “gimme yo pinky.” Thea-Thea knew than that there was nothing wrong—well at least not in the family—as this was their childhood way of showing the trust they still carried.


“Sooooo!” said Aunt Cellie, after the sisterly pinky finger oath, “I had cooked a pot of pinto beans, and they was too much for just me, so I took some over to AnnaBelle’s so she could have ‘em for her kids,” she said breathlessly, pacing the floor, wringing her hands.

Thea-Thea, with a worried look on her face, screeched “And….and what Cellie?!”

“Well…I walked up on da porch,” Aunt Cellie said, demonstrating, “and I knocked and opened da screen door, at da same time saying ‘Knock, knock!’”

She got very excited then, and said “CHILD, Cecil had AnnaBelle in a bear hug behind da stove, gitting it ON!”

Thea-Thea said, “Oh Lawd!”

Aunt Cellie flopped down in a kitchen chair and said disgustedly, “He gotta have a burn on his ass, cause he fell back on da stovepipe, as he bent over to pull up his pants!” Thea-Thea covered her mouth and groaned as Aunt Cellie continued.

“AnnaBelle was hysterical. I was apologizing dat I hadn’t knocked ‘stead of busting in,” Aunt Cellie screeched. “But then I got mad—I mean I was ticked! The two of ‘em standing there looking like they had done been caught wit they hand in da cookie jar.

“I started in on Cecil. ‘YOU!’ I screamed.

“He ran like a scalded dog. AnnaBelle was standing there trembling…like a wilted flower, begging and pleading for me not to tell, saying she needed to buy some food, and Cecil was her undercover sugar daddy, and he was da way dat she had extra money to buy groceries.

“Well, as she cried and talked, I softened, and then in a state of shock, I tol’ AnnaBelle dat her secret was safe wit me… but,” Aunt Cellie continued, “not till after I had done gave her a piece a my mind!”

Aunt Cellie stood up and leaned over the table to face Thea-Thea as she had faced Ms. AnnaBelle, saying, “’Now, I’m yo friend, but so is Francine. How could ya do dis to her?’ I screamed! AnnaBelle was crying uncontrollably, saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’

“’Well,” said Aunt Cellie, “now dat’s tween you and GOD. Just member dat when ya up in church sanging like an angel, looking out, and seeing Francine enjoying dat beautiful voice GOD done gave ya. Member just how I’m sorry ain’t good enough…and another thang, for God’s sake, lock da damn screen door!’ I left, slamming the screen door behind me.”

Aunt Cellie continued pacing the floor. “Now dis has done put me in a big bind! I got da chance to corner Cecil by hisself ‘fore I got here. Da rat didn’t have da nerve to go home—he was sitting on da Crow Pole—on da Crow Pole of all places! Da sorry sot didn’t have da guts to face Francine.

“Well, I gave him a piece a my mind! He looked like a sick puppy. I tol’ him what a low down dirty dog he was. I tol’ him, ‘I’m only keeping my mouth shut cause of these women, not for yo sorry ass! Now ya know dis would kill Francine, and ya know AnnaBelle is desperate! Ya no-good SOB!’

“He said, ‘Sho, ya right, Cellie. I’s got ta slow my roll,’ grinning and looking like a chessy cat.

“Now ya done got me involved in dis, ya no-good…ooooooh, I could ring yo neck off, myself!

“He sats there wit his hands in his pockets, jingling change, saying, ‘Sho ya right, Cellie. Sho ya right.’

“Oh, shut da…ooooooh. I felt so helplessly involved in dis mess. He was disgusting to look at. I turned to walk off and whirled around and growled: ‘Don’t pull dat Holier-than-Thou-at-da-Foot-of-da-Cross, Shouting-and-Praising BS Sunday! Don’t! I’m gonna stand up and tell da world bout yo sorry good-for-nothing…oooooh!” Aunt Cellie screamed.

She breathed a sigh of relief as she said, “Well, needless to say, his grin faded, but I felt dirty, cause it seemed as if he was mo ‘fraid a losing his upstanding repatation in da community than anythang else, so I fought to find something to say dat might reach down in his soul.

“I clinched my teeth and walked very close up to him, so dat he could smell my breath and know dat I meant business, as I growled, ‘I might not be much, but I sho as hell ain’t gonna play church, ya rotten so ‘n’ so! It’s men like yo sorry behind dat make me wanna puke!’”

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New Exhibit: The Civil War in Morgan County, AL

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 23, 2014

SONY DSCPlease welcome guest author John Allison. Allison has been Director of the Morgan County Archives in Decatur, AL since 2006. A native of Morgan County, Allison has heard stories of the Civil War since he was a boy. He can be contacted at


October 24, 2014 will see the grand opening of a new permanent exhibit at the Morgan County Archives, The Civil War in Morgan County, Alabama. This event is the culmination of three years of work by the Archives staff in cooperation with McComm Group (formerly McWhorter Communications). The exhibit tells the story of our county’s citizens from the antebellum period through reconstruction.

Morgan County Archives Civil War Exhibit

Morgan County’s geographic location and socioeconomic background produced a complex wartime experience unlike any other in the state. Many citizens disagreed about the necessity of going to war, and indeed the county voted against secession before hostilities began. Some farmers in the hilly south of the county even joined Union forces as the core of the Union’s First Alabama Cavalry.

This Union element was one reason Union Col. Abel Streight launched his raid through the area in 1863, where he met Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest in furious combat. Others rushed to join the Confederate forces in other states, since Alabama was initially unable to properly equip volunteer forces. Many more embittered residents joined the fight after experiencing the Federal occupation of 1862.

Morgan County’s enslaved people met the conflict with both uncertainty and excitement. At the war’s beginning, some young men went off to war with their masters, as servants. When the Union occupied Decatur, many of the enslaved rushed to Union lines to claim their freedom, with varying degrees of success. After the Emancipation Proclamation, the young men were able to join the 106th United States Colored Infantry (U.S.C.I.), the only such unit raised in Alabama.

Decatur, with its vital railroad links and its position above the impassable Muscle Shoals, was a strategic location, and as such changed hands several times during the War. The exhibit explains the crucial role Decatur played in the 1862 North Alabama campaign of Union Gen. Ormsby Mitchel and in the grand strategy of Gen. W.T. Sherman in his 1864 “March to the Sea.”

Robert Murphy, Sr., who left the Morgan County plantation where he was enslaved to fight with the United States Colored Infantry.

Robert Murphy, Sr., who left the Morgan County plantation where he was enslaved to fight with the United States Colored Infantry.

While fortifying Decatur to protect Sherman’s railroad supply line, Gen. R.S. Granger evicted most residents and leveled the town. It was this Union fortress at Decatur that Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood ineffectively assaulted with the 30,000 men of the Army of Tennessee while just a few thousand Federal troops grimly held on. Hood’s delay at Decatur may well have cost him the disastrous Battle of Franklin.

In addition to panels with narrative, photographs and graphics, the exhibit also contains three cases containing artifacts on loan from various Morgan County citizens, most of which have a local provenance. A fourth case contains a carefully researched reproduction uniform representing a soldier in the 1864 Confederate Army of Tennessee.

Designing the Exhibit

From the outset, we have tried to keep in mind our audience for this exhibit. We assume that our visitors will have some basic knowledge of the War, but will be unaware of the special circumstances that prevailed in areas like Morgan County. Here, large plantation cotton culture existed but was not the dominant antebellum lifestyle. We wanted visitors to think about the many types of relationships that existed among members of the planter, yeoman farmer, merchant and slave classes of society that could be far different from established conventions of thinking about the period.

Another very important concern was restoring African Americans to their crucial role in the narrative of the War, as active participants who shaped their own experiences on the way to freedom. The exhibit tells of the “contraband camps,” the raising of the 106th U.S.C.I. and the brave charge of the 14th U.S.C.I. on Confederate artillery positions at Decatur on October 28, 1864. Slaves’ individual decisions to leave captivity began a practical end to slavery before the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment marked the institution’s legal demise.

A 42-inch monitor plays war and local history-related video material in a loop. A new short film about Morgan County’s role in the war is currently in production. For little hands that simply must touch, the exhibit contains a large cotton picker’s basket and a huge cannonball found near Decatur.


Planned Additions

We did not have room to tell all the fascinating individual stories and photographs of civilians and soldiers that we gathered during the researching of the project. Pending funding, a future phase of the project will create a touchscreen media table with these stories, interactive maps, and rosters of known soldiers. We hope that this element will add a more personal element that will help visitors to identify with the struggles of our ancestors.

“Thunder in the Valley,” Oct. 24-28

The date of the exhibit’s opening coincides with the 150th anniversary of Hood’s assault on Decatur, and is a part of a variety of activities that weekend in remembrance of that event. On October 25th, the Old State Bank, the Archives, the Blue and Gray Museum, the Dancy-Polk House, and the grounds of the Burleson-McEntire house will be open to visitors, and guided walking tours will tell visitors more of Decatur’s fascinating Civil War History.

On Sunday, October 26, a Community Period Church Service will be held at the Daikin Amphitheater. The service will be conducted by members of First United Methodist and King’s Memorial United Methodist. These congregations were once one congregation until the black membership of First U.M.C. created their own congregation in1854. That congregation was first named St. Paul, but changed their name to King’s Memorial in 1908.

Living history re-enactors will be encamped at the Dancy-Polk house and doing demonstrations in other areas. There will be a special showing of The Red Badge of Courage at the new amphitheater at Founder’s Park. On Monday, October 27 at the Amphitheater, the Madison Community Band will give a concert of period music and afterwards will be a performance of Chuck Puckett’s two-man play Lee and Grant at Appomattox, sponsored by the Bank Street Players.

On Tuesday, October 28th, at Rhodes Ferry Park in Decatur, there will be a ceremony to honor the charge of the 14th United States Colored Infantry on a Confederate artillery emplacement near that site 150 years before. Asa Gordon, Secretary General of the Sons and Daughters of the U.S.C.T., will speak, and in the evening the Princess Theatre will have a special screening of Glory. CLICK HERE for a complete schedule of events.

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