Sunday, December 30, 2007

Breakin' up Christmas

Breakin’ Up Christmas is both the name for 12 days of partying, dancing, and music making ending up on January 6th, Old Christmas day, and also a song sung during that period. The tradition harks from the area that roughly includes Surry County NC, nearby Grayson and Carroll counties in VA, and the independent city of Galax located between the two.

Hooray Jake, hooray John
Breakin’ up Christmas all night long
Santa Claus come, done and gone
Breaking up Christmas right straight along
Don’t you remember a long time ago
The old folks danced the doesey-doe

The tune itself is not of great antiquity. It may have been composed by Preston 'Pet' McKinney, a fiddler and Civil War veteran from Lambsburg, VA. Mt. Airy, NC fiddler Tommy Jarrell, a 1982 NEA National Heritage Fellowship recipient strongly associated with this song, cited McKinney as one of his early influences.

Whether McKinney was the actual author of Breakin’ Up Christmas or not, there's a reason the song can be distinctly pinpointed to the tri-county area. During rainy periods, that region's roads, made mostly of red clay with no gravel, historically became so muddy that wagon wheels would sink in up to their axles. This made travel during inclement parts of the year either difficult or impossible.

Fiddler Tommy JarrellNew tunes only slowly made their way into the area, often by visitors or because a community member made a trip outside of his locality. Even so, as a tune bounced back and forth over the mountains between North Carolina and Virginia, local musicians might give it a different name, speed it up, add a new twist, and come up with a 'souped-up' version.

"Through this country here, they'd go from house to house almost - have a dance at one house, then go off to the next one the following night and all such as that. The week before Christmas and the week after, that's when the big time was. About a two-week period, usually winding up about New Year. I wasn't into any of this, but used to laugh about it. They'd play a tune called Breakin' Up Christmas, that was the last dance they'd have on Christmas, they'd have Wallace Spanger play Breakin' Up Christmas. There's an old feller by the name of Bozwell, he'd cry every time."

Lawrence Bolt, fiddler
b. 1894
Galax, VA

Originally blogged at Appalachian History

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

I hope every Hillbilly Savant is having a joyous and merry holiday season!

Christmas Day 2007: The Maynard Johnson Farm near Horse Creek in Greene County, TN.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Busey's Lotion from Martinsburg WV

Busey's Lotion brochure, circa 1900. My husband found this in western Virginia some years ago, and was charmed by the elegant ad copy.
Originally posted at The Beatinest Things

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Legend of Ruling Days

You know you are deeply imbedded in a culture when you take for granted things that other people have never heard of.

That’s what I’ve had to learn along the way. And, there’s no better example of it than Ruling Days. You can call it Hillbilly Witchcraft. You can call it White Magic. Or, you may think it’s simply a load of malarkey. But, Ruling Days have been around as long I can remember.

The core idea behind Ruling Days is that certain days are predictors for weather for the upcoming year. More specifically, those days coincide with what others would call Kingdomtide or The Twelve Days of Christmas.

12 drummers drummingHere’s how it works.

According to the legend of Ruling Days, the weather on December 25th will be the predominant weather for the upcoming January. The weather on December 26th will indicate what kind of weather you will have in February. December 27th will forecast the weather for March. And, on it goes, until you get to the forecaster of the next December, which falls on Epiphany, aka January 6.

Trust me. The old folks in my neck of the woods swear by it. And, I, myself, have found it to be uncannily accurate.

I’m not an anthropologist, so I wouldn’t dare attempt to conjure a theory on how Ruling Days developed. I do know Southern Appalachia was settled by folks whom the European feudal system more or less rejected. And, so, some of the original settlers may have still had a bit of orthodoxy in them and they simply adapted it to their purposes.

I don’t know.

But, Ruling Days is a part of our culture. It’s a part that no amount of intellectualism or sophistication can take away. It’s in us, and that’s what makes it real.

by Timothy W. Hooker, author of the Sushi Tuesday blog. Tim teaches English at Cleveland State Community College [TN], is a "Point of View" moderator for WDEF-TV 12, and is the author of several works, including: "Rocket Man: A Rhapsody of Short Stories," "Duncan Hambeth: Furniture King of the South," and "Looking For A City."

Originally blogged at Appalachian History

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Ridge

Looking up from the crazy stretch of the 15th to my road, there is a caravan trailer that the mountain reclaimed. It grew trees around it, embracing it, and lovingly decorated it with vines. There are many old bones of human habitation here. Some are old cars, sentinel chimneys and steps to nowhere. They stand, waiting for people long since dead, long since gone. And in the spring, their few living legacies, the flowers and alliums, will poke their heads above ground and weep for dead gardeners.

I woke to blowing snow that could not stay this morning. The weather, like the people, is transient here. It comes and goes, and while it is here, it pounds the earth. And when it is gone, it melts into the streams and springs and is never seen again.

It is folly to think that we make a lasting impact here. We are but snowflakes blowing on the mountain. The mountain doesn’t care that we leave our footprints here. She will lovingly cover them and take them into herself. Just as she does our bones, our lonely bones left in holes on the hillsides.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

3Peat at 3,333 Feet

Photo by Marie Freeman, who has lots more.

Cross posted at Appalachian Scribe

Friday, December 14, 2007

Appalachian Blog Tapas (You Bring the Wine)

Silver Bridge of Point Pleasant, West Virginia circa 1928
(Image from Wikipedia)

Pour yourself a glass of your favorite beer, or wine, or whiskey, or perhaps even Dr. Enuf, plop your laptop into your lap, and help yourself to an assortment of delicious Tapas - some are sour, some are sweet, others more toothsome, yet others salty, and a few are downright bitter - but together they make for something vibrant.

"The Jobs Issue in West Virginia"

The West Virginia Blog

"Give a Gun for Christmas"
tug's life

"Notes on the Cullowhee Copper District"
ruminations from the distant hills

"Cheerwine, RC, a Pick-Up, and North Carolina"
The Field Guide to What's Good

"John Johns Mural"
The CartoonSteve Blog

"More From 'Bridge Day' 2007"
The C Spot

"Weird Woods"
Buzzardbilly: Appalachian Being

"another of those terrible times"
Buffy Holt

"Lectionary Haikus: Zacchaeus"
Among the Hills

"Say Goodbye to the Cataloochee Side of the Park"

Appalachian Writers

"Welcome to Roach"

"Religious Freedom in West Virginia"
Huntington West Virginia Blog

"bad ride"

"State-Wide Organization Formed to Protect Landowners' Rights"
West Virginia Highlands Voice

"One More Winter, Warm"
Fragments From Floyd

"A Taint of Death"
The Goat Rope

"From Back in the Holler"
Its a Blog Eat Blog World

"Thank the Lard!"
The Herbwife's Kitchen

"Sandwich Party of One"
Hillbilly, Please

"Parkersburg HDJ Review - Mr. Diggity"
West Virginia Hot Dog Blog

"Nitro city officials are trying to figure out what happened to $40,000 in missing checks"
West Virginia State Gov't Watcher

"I Smell Corn Dogs - LSU Must Be Playing the Vols"

"As the Eyes Have It"
Nameless Creek

"Sometimes . . ."
Open Mike

"The Longest Autumn"
Plummer's Hollow, Pennsylvania

"Winter Time Tree"

"Keep Dreamin' of a White Christmas"

"Northern District of West Virginia to Realign its Divisions"
Brian Peterson's West Virginia Legal Weblog

"Ashevegas Street Musicians"

"re: welcome to the show"

"a gorgeous December day"
Southern Highlands Cam

"Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike"
Juanuchi's Way

"Green Thumb Sunday"
A Laughing Gypsy

"Sacred Insanity"

"Christmas with Washington Irving"
Destination Unknown

"Weeds of Brooklyn #5"
Dope on the Slope

"Buildingscape: Let Them Eat Cake"

"Tory Amos"

"Feelin' Asheville"
1000 Black Lines

"Cookie Time!"
Carpe You Some Diem!

"Rodent Writing?"
Pocahontas County Fare

"Mast General Store - Since 1883"
North Carolina Mountain Dreams

On Location With Rick Lee

"Suspended School Official Sold Hot Dogs During His Time Off"
One Stack Mind

"It had to be here"
Tennessee Jed

"Blogger difficulties, fiber store, free yarn"
Thistle Cove Farm

"Small Business"

"cascade falls pembroke, virginia"
oya baka mama

"The Tailgate"
Bastard Sons of Pinfall Marks

"Loving Thoughts Collage"
Beyond the Ninth Wave

"Roaming the Ashevillosphere"

"The Maysville Jockey Club"
Maysville, Macon County, Kentucky

"Roanoke's checkbook."
Just Another Day in Roanoke

"Defending the Poor in W.Va."
Lincoln Walks at Midnight

"Major South Waterfront Development Announced"

"Pedestal Rock"
Life Through 4 Eyes

"The Emily Brass Band Shines On"
Loose Leaf Notes

"My Other Home"
Tennessee Text Wrestling

"fall day?"
This is Not My Blog.

"The Word is Out - Can You Help?"
Front Porch Blog

"Evening Mists"
Appalachian Treks

"Bear Hunting is Gung Ho, Part II"
Appalachian Patria

"West Virginia Stereotypes: Don't Believe the Hype"

"One Hundred Years Ago Today: Monongah Mine Disaster"
Appalachian Greens

"Fire Up the Christmas Pudding!"
Appalachian History

"Whoa Mule - Folk Song Lyrics"
Appalachian Music Blogger - Henry Queen

"First Snow 2007"
Blue Country Magic

"Licking Wounds and Liking Barn Quilts"
Blue Ridge Blog

"Mountain Witness Tour Mosaic"
Pictures and Words

"How Big is MTR Mining"
Charlestonian Blog

"Iron Mitten Featuring Tom Adams"
The Bluegrass Blog

"'There isn't enough super glue in the world' or ' Sunshine, stat'"
American Twentysomething 3.0

"Outhouses of my youth . . ."
Al's Rantings

"Through a Glass Darkly"
the Contrary Goddess

"On Creating 'It's a Wonderful Life' for the Stage"
Cup of Joe Powell

"It Was Self-Defense"
Les Jones

"Knoxville man arrested for flirting on the street"
Knoxville Trivia Blog

"Kentucky Earns High Marks . . . For Breakfast"
Kentucky School News

And to finish?

See What's hAPPening! for the latest on our boys over at Appy State and their semester-long drive for there 703rd National Championship in a row and's Hot Topics (1, 2, 3, & 4) for a series of entries on the tragedy of Point Pleasant's Silver Bridge - one is light, one is heavy, and together they'll leave you satisfied.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Handmade Holiday Trunk Show (Part 2)

The Show
(This and all images photographed by
Justin Smith; actual art by a plethora of artists)

Okay Ladies and Gents - for those of you who haven't been to the Handmade Holiday Trunk Show (I know I have already dropped you that knowledge, but golly, I've got some good stuff for you, so let's get in the trust tree), you missed a great formal Opening for it tonight - - - the opening was a genuine delight. Great local beer; jazz, bluegrass, and punk music (not live, I can't lie, but you know, the kind of mix that gets a man to dancin'); a 5th story view of the Knoxville Christmas Parade; and, of course, tons of local and regional artists and craftsmen. That said, the party will continue - in fact, not only will it continue in the sense of the art being up for several more days, but furthermore on the Saturday the 15th there will be a Closing, essentially another chance for good-times, good beer, and general awesome. Oh, and the low-down?

Show Dates (Thursday - Sunday):
As of now: Dec. 8th – 9th, Dec. 13th – 16th

Thursday & Friday: 4 - 8
Saturday: 12 - 6
Sunday: 1 – 5

424 Gay Street on the the Fifth Floor of the Woodruff Building
(home of the Downtown Grill & Brewery, home of delicious foods and brews)

I thought I'd share some details with you about it since, um, now I have a lot more. Consider:

We didn't get quite everybody (apologies) but I hope this sample will do to convince you of the big dance. And dare I forget - - - -

Delicious Beverages a la Downtown Grill & Brewery's
Woodruff Brewing Company

Alright, all said, this show is great, the folks running it are great, and the beer is, um, delicious. I insist you visit it immediately. Danggit. Oh, also, some links from the resident artists - you know, so you can get a sense of the talent here (and of course so you can patronize them later) - dig on these links. Trust me - they are worth the mouse click. Ahem:

Amy Campbell {Illustration & Design}
Knoxville, Tennessee

Dot Iris Headware
Knoxville, Tennessee

Pseudopots Ceramics Studio
Knoxville, Tennessee

Michele Richards, Artist
Knoxville, Tennessee

Eric Drummond Smith
Knoxville, Tennessee

Judy Stuecker, Fiber Artist
Asheville, North Carolina

Yee-Haw Industries: Letterpress & Design Company
Knoxville, Tennessee

That's the long and short of it - - - I hope it gives you a case of the happies, and I hope to see you on the 15th, if not before.

Red Eyes

Hog Slaughter & Lemon Pie
low fire enamel on blown glass, ham curing bags
By Elizabeth Ware Perkins

Elizabeth is a good friend of mine and a wonderful Glass Artist.

According to legend and not necessarily facts, Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), 7th President of the United States, who was an American General at the time, called his cook over to tell him what to prepare. The cook had been drinking "moonshine" corn whiskey the night before and his eyes were as red as fire. General Jackson told the cook to bring him some country ham with gravy as red as his eyes. Some men nearby heard the general and from then on, ham gravy became "Red Eye Gravy.’"
(Whats Cooking America)

I know that I haven’t posted anything is a very very long time but recently I have had one thing on my mind which happens to be Country Salt Cured Ham and Red Eye Gravy. Damn straight, now were talking!!!! I love it!!! Bam, shazam, and sparkles all around. It is that time of year for a little heavenly grit on your plate no matter how bad it might be for you later on in life. A little greasy, highly salted meat never hurt anyone. I am buzzin just by the thought. So in my present obsession for this southern delicacy I have done a bit “researchin” as they say into various topics on Country Ham.

First of all is the history of ham in the states and Virginia. You can’t go wrong here and the next time you are on Jeopardy this might be that question that kicks you into the next round.
Whats Cooking America Country Ham History

I picked up this cookbook while over at Neal’s house last time I was in and “OMG.” ☺ It was like walking back in time to my grandmothers kitchen when she used the real stuff. Who makes green beans with a chunk of animal fat, butter, and honey anymore? I could smell the aromas of my childhood learning how to cook as I flipped through the pages of this wonderful treasure. This cookbook is as original as moonshine and maybe with the same kindakick. With 145 pages this books fits into the building blocks of a long passing culture with sheer blunt “cookin truths.” It’s a hard one to find and in fact I have not had a chance to find it yet outside Neal’s kitchen. There are some great Ham recipes in this one. --

I think I have mentioned this one before and have it in my kitchen now. I recommend this to you all. Such a delightful read. --
Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread & Scuppernong Wine:
The Folklore and Art of Appalachian Cooking

By Dabney, Joseph Ear

Smithfield Ham Website

The Country Ham Store (For your ordering pleasure)

Appalachian Traveler

Wealth of Information-----
Dry-Curing Virginia Style Ham

Ham Definitions (I can’t believe I have said that)

I am sure there are plenty more so throw me some this way.


I just thought I'd post a couple of the more interesting stories I've found from the region - just dropping it like its hot. Bam.

Associated Press/ "Bah-humbug! Tennessee Christmas tree farm finds tops chopped off large firs"

The Athens News: "What Can Athens Learn From Cleveland About Self-Promotion?"

Bluefield Daily Telegraph: "City Board Considers Vacant Building Ordinance"

The Charleston Gazette: "Manchin joins Massey, industry in mine ruling appeal"

Forbes: "Mountaintop Removal Permit Challenged" Good News: "Fenton Glass Lives On...For Now at Least"

The Parthenon: "Faculty Research on Appalachia Goes Beyond MU Campus"

The Tennesseean: "UT-Knoxville Receives Green Award"

WKYT-WYMT: "Beshear, Manchin Offer Proposal In Nurses' Strike"

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Shawnee

Got another one for you ladies and gents - a great book from the University of Kentucky Press entitled The Shawnee. Which is, of course, relatively self-explanatory, isn't it?

Well, actually, probably not. Tell you what - let's do an exercise. Grab a piece of paper (perhaps yellow, ruled, and legal-sized and two pens - one black, one red. With the red pen write the names of all the native American nations you can think of. Then, with the black pen, write every nation-specific fact you can think of, perhaps underneath each nation, perhaps beside them, perhaps elsewhere connected by little lines and/or squiggles. Now, the odds are, especially if you're from east of the Mississippi in North America, that one of the tribes you named was the Shawnee. And, odds are, you had no more than two or three facts you could write about them. Interesting, eh? [Outliers are to be rewarded with no more than three and no less than one cool point per point of information known about the Shawnee exceeding four - trained anthropologists, sociologists, or historians are excluded from cool point distribution unless they drew some really awesome robots, monsters, cartoon figures, or jet planes on their paper.]

I have a theory about why this is. Specifically, this is a product of the fact that among the eastern native American nations only two divisions have made it into our popular lore (read as "high school history books") on a large scale level. In the northeast lived one of these two groups, the Iroquois (alternatively known as the "League of Peace and Power", the "Five Nations", the "Six Nations", the "People of the Long house", and, most properly if the truth is told, the Haudenosaunee). Their immortality would be guaranteed to the Haudenosaunee largely because of their federation's size, on the one hand, and on the fact that their political arrangement was not only preserved, but may have inspired key aspects of the United States of America's constitution. The other major group of eastern native Americans generally remembered are the nations generally classified as the "Five Civilized Tribes." These tribes, the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole, lived in the southeastern United States originally, but, while sharing some cultural traits (particularly activistic policies of adopting key political, economic, and social goods from their neighbors of European and African descent), survive in our modern memories largely as a product of their deportation to the American West, even after they had demonstrated a willingness to integrate into the American political-economy - a historical moment aptly known as the Trail of Tears.

Now, let me reiterate - I'm not saying the facts that I've listed are the most important facts surviving on these groups, or that they are unusually important amongst native American nations. Rather, I am trying to sketch out the limits of our knowledge on the average.

That said, look at your list. Certainly you listed the Shawnee people, their name written in red. Perhaps you even know a few key facts about their geography (for instance, since I'm writing about them here, the Appalachian Mountains made up a key part of their former territory). Heck, I'm with you on that (or was before the book I promise I'm about to review). But what else?

Let me see if I can help by listing some key facts for you that the good Dr. Jerry E. Clark compiled into his excellent work The Shawnee.

1 - The primary territory of the Shawnee people at its greatest known extent, which often overlapped with that of other nations, included most of Pennsylvania and Ohio, as well as the western line of the Appalachian chain (and its western plateaus). They also had other, far-flung towns, notably along the Savannah River in South Carolina and Georgia and made frequent use of the mountains of West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky as hunting territories (as did many of the regional native American tribes in the period immediately before and following European settlement of the Americas. This latter bit is deeply interesting to me . . . let me quote a bit of Clark's work for you:

One reason for the apparent inconsistencies may lie in the lack of understanding of the Shawnee people by the whites in the early period. The Shawnee were nomadic at least part of the year, when they moved their small family settlements in pursuit of game. They considered the land free to be used by any Indian group who had need of it. In the summer they settled in rather large villages where they raised crops of corn, beans, and squash. Smaller family bands moved regularly in the winter and established rather impermanent settlements as they hunted deer, bison, and other meat- and hide-producing animals. Though Kentucky was a favored hunting area for the Shawnee, the lack of permanent year-round villages may have given the false impression that the region was not occupied by the Shawnee.
After American independence, most of the identified summer villages were located north of the Ohio River. but the Shawnee also considered Kentucky as their own. In 1769 a group of Shawnee had warned Daniel Boone to leave Kentucky, because it belonged to them. When he did not obey, it cost Boone the life of a son. So Kentucky was occupied, perhaps not in the sense of being secured by European-style settlements and towns, but frequented by a group of Indians who used it and called it their own. (2-3)
Ah, in other words, the Shawnee were employing a communitarian variation of John Locke's theory of initial capital formation - to work and use a good is to own that good; unused goods are unowned goods - in a form that presages the use of our national and state parks by centuries. Groovy, eh?

2 - To quote again:
Linguistically the Shawnee were identifiable with the group of Central Algonquian speakers including the Miami, Kickapoo, Illiniwek, and Sauk and Fox, among others. (5)
3 - And on the subject of languages, there is the question of names. . . .

Early historic references to the Shawnee also raise problems of identification. Since the term "Shawnee" means southerner , it may have been applied to many Algonquian and non-Algonquian speakers existing south of the main body. (8)
Okay, okay. . . hold on. I find myself on the verge of quoting everything in my heavily dog-eared copy of The Shawnee. I just want to tell you there is soooooo much information here - a tremendous description of the social and political organization of the Shawnee, a very good description of their religious structure, and a tremendous description of the conflicts and associations between the Shawnee and the descendants of the various European nations who colonized the continent, noting in particular the Shawnee's fervent efforts to preserve their traditional culture and territory (and to lead other nations' attempts to do so). Indeed, Clark makes it pretty clear that the Shawnee were as much master diplomats as warriors, developing into a unique role as a buffer people for such nations as widely dispersed as the Cherokee, the Creek, the Delaware, the Miami, and the Wyandot - oh, and in post-Columbian America, the French, the Spanish, and the Texans. Perhaps the one thing I craved more data on but wasn't rewarded with was their confederacy of the late 1700s with the Delaware, Wyandot, Miami, Ottawa, Chippewa, and Mingo, formed specifically to force American settlers from Ohio and Kentucky, specifically on the structures and institutions of the confederacy - though I suppose it was highly likely this data is lost in time or at least highly dispersed.

Okay, all that said, great book, great read. Too few works exist on (unjustly) lesser known nations such as the Shawnee that are suitable for novices to the subject like myself, but this is one of 'm. I haven't done it justice here, I know, but if you're interested in native Americans in general or the pre-modern history of the Appalachians in general, well, this is one for you. Check out the University of Kentucky Press site here to order - I'll bet you can still get it for Christmas. Still not sure you're interested enough? Well, that's natural enough. . . dig on this entry from The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture on the Shawnee.

Et cetera.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The New York Times Discovers the Libation of the Deities of Transylvania and the Cumberlands

Image by Tony Cenicola and from The New York Times

Check out this interesting article from the New York Times for you on good, ol' fashioned bourbon . . . one criticism, however - seems that this is a little late in the coming. Another sign of what I have been calling, recently, the Appalachian Renaissance. Cite appropriately (grin).

Oh, and speaking of citing, a nod and a wink to Mike Mason for recommending this one.

Cherokee Voices: Early Accounts of Cherokee Life in the East

(Image of the cover of Cherokee Voices: Accounts of Cherokee Life before 1900 by Vicki Rozema, published by John F. Blair Publisher)
So there I was, browsing the shelves of a local bookstore, not intending to buy anything in particular, just passing time really, and, as so often happens, I stumble across a tome that demanded my attention, Vicki Rozema's Cherokee Voices: Early Accounts of Cherokee Life in the East. Why did this work grab my attention so absolutely? Let me explain:

So often in our lessons (both taken as students and given as instructors) what we call "history" is hardly history at all. It is selected interpretations of events, emphasizing our someones' (ours included) goals. Inconvenient truths are consciously or unconsciously excised, left behind to emphasize the villainy or innocence of one party or another, minor events swell in their apparent importance with time (and after the "winner's editing"), and so on. Now, I hardly think that every history book writer or teacher, formal or informal, has a conscious political-economic goal set leading them to propagandize (though some certainly do). But between winners' need to justify their win (victory always being the successful domination of one or more parties through coercion, threats of coercion, or bargaining to achieve unequal goods), survivor's desires to both justify their survival and to reiterate their ancestor's value (eg. they lost but only because of rule-violation), and "-ists" of all kinds need to demonstrate the properness of their respective "-isms", well, history tends to become, well, something else.

Thus my attraction to first-materials, both for teaching and for learning. Sure, reading a book about the Constitution is sometimes a good decision, but it is a helluva' more important undertaking to read the thing itself (repeatedly, frankly) . . . not to mention its predecessors, the contemporary arguments of those who made it, and the official justifications of its passage (The Federalist Papers, if you were wondering).

This leads me to my laud for Rozema and others of her ilk. Far to rarely are first materials drawn together for easy consumption of subjects that less popular (or rather have fewer proven markets) than, say, American Constitutionalism, despite their genuine importance. Academics have a tendency to sneer at their peers who focus exclusively on such work (I have heard more than one peer refer to such collections as mere "textbook fodder"), while normal folks are rarely pushed to seek them out (especially since, if they include works in excess of 150 years old, they're generally written off as simply "hard to read," a symptom of our "write to the six-grade level" culture).

Rozema, however has chosen a tremendous subject. She collects works dating back into the early 18th Century. She concentrates on a subject (British-Cherokee and American-Cherokee political, social, and economic discourse and negotiation) that hardly has common appeal (especially since it does not concentrate on the Cherokee people as either a model of utopia or a warrior culture and certainly not as a Romantic epic). She annotates her work, but sparingly, letting it speak for itself - I wish I was half as elegant and precise. And through reading words that she "merely" found and brought together, she outlines the ever greater intersection of British-American culture with that Cherokee (as well as several other peoples), an intersection that yields tremendous truths about acculturation, assimilation, conquest, cultural preservation, and the seeds of the Cherokee people's survival in modern America (a success many, if not most, native American peoples sadly did not achieve). To say I admire this work is an understatement; I wish only that it was longer, that the picture was fuller, rounder. Oh - and I wish it had maps . . . many, many maps.

I don't want to give away too much, because this is a book that deserves to be purchased. I just want to tell you that the exchange of documents regarding the assault of Hanging Maw and his family and friends reads like shortened version of the long relationship between British and American authorities and those of the Cherokee - one of promises from well-meaning parties being unable to prevent the predations of parties damned and determined that cohabitation simply wasn't an option. It is this theme, along with that of a Cherokee people who constantly adapt to British and American political-economics at first as a way of gaining power and influence (as well as certain key goods), but who ultimately become dependent on that political-economy, rendering them essentially conquered long before their lands were entirely seized, but ironically leaving them better prepared to preserve other parts of their culture after conquest. The story, if it can be called that, is in other words complex - - - there are no simple answers, because no matter what the high school history textbooks my tutorees are issued proffer, the conquest of the native American nations cannot be summarized in half-page essays. There are untold lessons our people, our democracy, needs, both moral and practical, in these original documents, hard lessons that sanitized history simple cannot and does not teach.

In summary, this is a damn fine book - a quick read (157 pages, though the official website indicates less) that is so good that should I see an updated, expanded edition (hint hint, wink wink) I won't hesitate to buy it. But I know what you want - - - so here they come.

Publisher's Official Site

Vicki Rozema's home page

Seriously - all fancy words aside, this is a great work, not only for students of the Cherokee people, but for students of intercultural (and inter-systemic) relations in general. And, of course, for us Appalachians, it is a record of one of the most crucial junctures in our region's history.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Appalachianista Blogs

Hotel Sign in Rainelle, West Virginia
(Image from the tremendous Field Guide to What's Good)

You know me - I love "technology" and the "internet." It makes me all giddy. Well, this morning while I was surfing during breakfast I decided to hit up the legendary (among bloggers) Technorati and perform a very particular sort of search - I decided to specifically look for those blogs claiming to be about Appalachia in general - 70 sites were listed for my blog-pleasure as a result. I decided to rank order them according to their authority rating and list 'm for you (editing out spurious or dead entries as well as sites which haven't updated since August of this year) for your life-pleasure. The results, maestro:

Authority of 77: Smokey Mountain Breakdown

Authority of 66: Hillbilly Savants

Authority of 53: Buffy Holt

Authority of 50: Shuck and Jive

Authority 0f 41: Appalachian History

Authority of 36: The Herbwife's Kitchen

Authority of 31: Pocahontas County Fare

Authority of 22: Among the Hills

Authority of 18: Appalachian Writers

Authority of 18: Quo Vadis

Authority of 15: Tales From Creekistan

Authority of 12: Rednecromancer

Authority of 9: Mari's Midnight Garden

Authority of 9: Tug's Life

Authority of 8: Beyond the 9th Wave

Authority of 6: Plummer's Hollow, Pennsylvania

Authority of 4: Quilts and Creativity

Authority of 2: Garysworld 'Appalachia'

Authority of 2: Mindracket

Authority of 2: Zezrie's Ponderings

Authority of 1: Dog and Pony Show

Authority of 1: epizoodiks. . .

Authority of 1: Guide to What's Good

Authority of 1: Life Through 4 Eyes

Authority of 1: pfly

Authority of 1: Pictures and Words

Authority of 0: Appalachia

Authority of 0: Appalachia and Beyond

Authority of 0: Appalachia's Best Mullets

Authority of 0: Appalachian Music Blogger - Henry Queen

Authority of 0: Cross-Cultural Encounter: Appalachia

Authority of 0: Oh, Appalachia!

Authority of 0: Reading in Appalachia

Authority of 0: Six Weeks in Appalachia

Authority of 0: Ups and Downs in Appalachia

So the final count is about 35 - we're a pretty elite group of writers, eh? Of course there are tons of localist Appalachian bloggers writing about a particular county, town, city, or sub-region, but wow - - - surprisinglicious. Anyway - if there are sites you haven't visited, you should check'm out (I'll be adding several permanent peer links in the next few days, in case you're wondering) - there are some gems in amongst this group. And stuff.

Appalachia's "Utopia of Temperance"

When one thinks of Appalachia, one does not often think of the Victorian values or the ideals of Temperance, a nineteenth century movement that sought to ban alcohol. But there a city in the region that was founded on these values, designed to be a city on a hill and a “utopia of Temperance.” That city is Harriman, TN, located about 25 miles west of Knoxville.

Founded in 1891, the history of Harriman actually begins in 1888 when the East Tennessee Land Company purchased Colonel Robert King Bird’s plantation from his widow. For $20,000 the company purchased most of Byrd’s 10,000 acres. The city was the brainchild of Frederick Gates, a former Methodist minister and ardent prohibitionist. Gates founded Harriman on the belief that Temperance and Prohibition could be commercialized for the betterment of mankind and for business profit. On Christmas Day 1889, the company began staking out the first streets and lots for the Utopia of Temperance.

Among the Company’s board of directors was Walter C. Harriman, the son of Walter Harriman, a former colonel and later general for the Union during the Civil War. He went on to serve two terms as governor of New Hampshire. During the Civil War, he and his troops camped near the site that would eventually become Harriman.

Early in 1891 pamphlets distributed across the country began advertising the new and ambitious project. On February 26, 1891, the land sale began, with newspapers and pamphlets across the nation carrying advertisements for this new utopia in the Tennessee hills. General Clinton B. Fisk, the 1888 presidential nominee of the Prohibition Party, was named head of the East Tennessee Land Company, and, due to his notoriety, his name was used extensively in advertising the land sale. Advertisements were seen throughout New York and New England, emphasizing the high moral vision of Harriman, based on its prohibition of “demon rum,” superior education, and industrial base (Fisk University in Nashville is also named in his honor). Not surprisingly, many of Harriman’s early settlers were New Englanders, eager to put their moral vision into practice.

Given his role in advertising the city, it’s no surprise that Harriman was initially to be called Fiskville. However in July or August of 1889, a chance encounter by Walter C. Harriman and other directors of the Land Company provided a new name. W. Hartwell Harriman, son of Walter C., explained the event in a 1953 letter to the Harriman Record:

…the directors were riding on horseback and visited the old Margrave House on Margrave Street where they found and elderly cripple sitting on the porch. My father asked him if he had lived there during the war and he said yes, that he had always been too crippled to enter military service.

Then he asked if he remembered when some Northern troops came down on the flats for a few days waiting to be joined by some others.

He said: “Yes, and the used to come up and get some water from the spring in the ravine back of the house. When they did, the Colonel used to come up on the porch and talk with me.

“I remember he said once that this would make a fine place for a town, and now you’ve gone and done it.”

My father asked if he remembered the Colonel’s name and he replied: “Yes, Colonel Harriman. He was a very friendly man.”

At the next directors’ meeting, it was voted to name the city Harriman.

Harriman was founded on an ambitious vision, and the city boasted the American Temperance University, public school system, vibrant industrial base, and, of course, no saloon.

Unfortunately, as it usually the case with utopian societies, Harriman never lived up to the plans envisioned by her founders. The 50,000 residents envisioned never materialized. As early as July 4, 1894 the New York Times proclaimed the city a failure:

After a year years it appeared that even with a fine hotel, good business blocks and factories, a railroad to the mines, and other rich equipments, the company did not flourish. Two years ago the investments became non-salable, although maintaining a nominal quotation at about 10. Then the company passed into a receivership.

Nevertheless, Harriman lived on. American Temperance University, opened in 1893, remained in operation until 1908. Early on it was widely respected, but by 1903 it was characterized as a “sham” and became embroiled in a controversy. It eventually closed for good in 1908, being replaced by the Mooney School that would also fail in the 1920s. Today American Temperance University is best remembered for its 1906 gridiron battle against the University of Tennessee, a game American lost 104-0 (the most points ever scored in a single game by UT).

In 1929 a flood on the Emory River washed away many businesses and did untold economic damage to the city. Nevertheless, industry lived on for years to come. Two hosiery mills and paper mill operated in Harriman for many years, but had vanished by the 1990s, taking with them jobs generations of Harriman residents had come to depend upon.

In 1993, after much soul searching, raucous debate, and intense controversy, Harriman residents voted to legalize liquor by the drink in the city, a move that surely caused the founders to turn over in the graves and represented perhaps a final defeat for the prohibitionists in their own city.

In 2003 the Harriman City School System ceased to exist, as the city schools were turned over to the Roane County School System. The Harriman city school system had served the town for more than a century but the voters decided they could no longer afford it. Thus another remnant of Harriman’s utopian past vanished.

Today, Harriman boasts a population of about 6,700. Like many small towns, it is badly in need of a downtown revitalization, as most businesses there have either closed or moved to South Harriman to be closer to Interstate 40.

About the only elements Harriman retains of its glorious past are the Temperance Building, formerly the home of American Temperance University and now city hall, and the beautiful Victorian Architecture of Cornstalk Heights, which still draws tourists from across the country.

Thus Harriman lives on, a city that serves as the successful product of the unsuccessful Temperance movement.

Downtown Harriman today

Harriman City Hall, known as the Temperance Building.

Emory River

Cornstalk Heights

Chase Drugs has operated in Harriman since 1891.

A modern cafe draws on Harriman's glorious past.

Also please visit my personal blog.

Sources: Harriman: The Town that Temperance Built, by Walter T. Pulliman; TN Encyclopedia; New York Times Archives