Archive for the ‘Appalachia’ Category

Podcast Appalachia: “Appalachian Abolitionism”

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

The latest episode of Podcast Appalachia is now available! It’s a little known fact that Appalachians, both in the North and the South, played a major role in the early movement to abolish slavery. In this episode I look at this history and examine the role Appalachians played in expanding human liberty. You can listen here or view a transcript here.

Podcast Appalachia: “King Coal”

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

The latest episode of Podcast Appalachia is now available! In this episode I look at coal. No rock has been more influential or more controversial in Appalachian society than coal; while helping fuel unprecedented economic growth in America and employment for generations of mountain people, it is also very dangerous to mine and has done much damage to the environment. In this episode I present a history of coal mining, as well as discuss the advantages and disadvantages associated with it. You may listen here or view a transcript here.

Mountaintop Removal Bill Dies

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

This is a real shame. Jeff Woods puts it in perspective:

With a coal company essentially promising to mine by blowing off the tops of Tennessee mountains, lawmakers inexplicably refused to act and all but guaranteed great swaths of ecologically important woodlands will be laid to waste.

The National Coal Corp. threatened to shut down in Tennessee if mountaintop mining were banned. So to save 234 jobs, the sum total of the company’s workforce, lawmakers decided to sacrifice the natural beauty that underpins a gazillion-dollar tourism industry.

There is some hope for next year, but tragedy looms if the legislature doesn’t act soon:

Environmentalists say they’ll present their bill again next year, and the governor has indicated he might help this time. There’s a sense of urgency. Mountaintop mining is about to become more familiar to Tennessee. National Coal sold its operations in Kentucky this year to focus on mining in this state. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s coal-fired power plants are about to be fitted with newer pollution scrubbers, making this state’s high-sulfur, dirty-burning coal more marketable, according to Barger.

Via ACK (cross posted at Hillbilly Savants)

Muddy Pond Missionary Baptist Church

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Fentress County, TN

Podcast Appalachia: “Appalachian Music”

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

The latest episode of Podcast Appalachia is now available! In this episode I discuss the musical heritage of Appalachia, who influenced this heritage, and how numerous genres of music (including rock, country, blues, and others) owe a dept to Appalachian musicians. You may listen here or view a transcript here.

Sgt York Country

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Last month I visited Sgt. Alvin C. York Historic Park in Pall Mall, TN. I took many photos (as usual), the best of which I now share with you, in addition to a brief bio of a true Appalachian hero.

Sgt Alvin C. York was the most famous American World War I soldier. He famously killed 28 German soldiers and captured 132 others in the Argonne Forest in France. A recipient of the Medal of Honor and the French Croix de Guerre, he was the subject of a classic 1941 movie Sergeant York in which he was portrayed by Gary Cooper.

Ironically, York very nearly refused to serve in the war. Early in his life, he had been a bit of a hellion, enjoying hard drinking and hard living. This lifestyle was not without its dangers. One night his friend was killed in a bar fight, an event that so shook young Alvin York that he gave up drinking and joined his mother’s church, becoming a devout Christian.

York’s new church believed strongly in pacifism. York shared this belief that killing was a sin, which made it very difficult for him to join the war effort when he received a notice to register for the draft. York simply wrote “don’t want to fight” on his registration card. He struggled mightily over what to do next, spending much time in prayer before finally deciding he must enter service.

In spite of his decision, York remained a committed pacifist upon entry into the Army, which led to numerous theological discussions and debates among his fellow soldiers. These discussions would eventually convince him that war could be justified in some cases.
On October 8, 1918, York performed an amazing and heroic feat that would make him a legend. Seventeen men, including York, infiltrated German lines to take out machine guns. Unfortunately, the Americans were hit with machine gun fire, killing six Americans and wounding three others, including York’s superior, leaving York in charge of the seven remaining soldiers.

As his men remained under cover, York advanced toward the machine guns. German Lieutenant Paul Jürgen Vollmer fired repeatedly at York even as he dodged machine gun fire but failed to injure him. When Vollmer ran out of bullets, he surrendered to York. York and his men were able to capture 132 German prisoners. These deeds earned him the Medal of Honor and Croix de Guerre, among others.

Upon his return home, York remained humble and did not wish to be viewed as a hero. He decline numerous opportunities to sell his story, opting instead to marry his sweetheart and return to his home in Pall Mall. It was not until 1941 that he would authorize a film.

York’s experiences in Europe led him to conclude that education was needed in his community, and he went to work establishing schools. He started a Bible school in Pall Mall, as well as Alvin C. York Institute in 1926. The Institute would struggle during the early years, and York sometimes paid teacher’s salaries from his own pocket. The school was taken over by the state in 1937 and remains Jamestown’s primary high school.

Sgt York was a powerful symbol of the region from which he came: a simple, kind hearted man capable to great heroism and who believed strongly in the power of education. We are all well served to remember his example.


Historic marker in Jamestown, TN
Wolf River Post Office and store. The store is still owned by the York family.
Alvin York’s house.

Wolf River.


Alvin C. York’s grist mill.
Wolf River.


Grist mill from the down river.


Another shot of the Wolf River.


York’s former Bible school.


Alvin C. York Institute, Jamestown, TN.


Wolf Creek United Methodist Church, established 1840 (York is buried here).


York’s grave.


York and wife’s graves.

Cross posted at Hillbilly Savants

From the Ashes it Rose

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

An effort to ban mountaintop removal looked dead in the water less than two weeks ago. But now it has been revived:

A Senate committee today approved a bill to put new restrictions on surface coal mining in East Tennessee, even though a House subcommittee had killed the measure earlier.

Sponsor Sen. Raymond Finney, R-Maryville, said he now expects an effort to have the House Environment Subcommittee hold a special meeting and consider reversing its earlier vote to kill the bill.

The measure passed the Senate Environment and Conservation Committee today by a vote of 8-1. The lone no vote was my state senator, Tommy Kilby, who continues to be a major disappointment but who is happily not seeking reelection. Senator Finney deserves a lot of credit for keeping this effort alive.

Country Farm

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Muddy Pond Community of Fentress County, TN

Podcast Appalachia: “Appalachian Literature”

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

The latest episode of Podcast Appalachia is now available! In this episode, I examine the contributions Appalachian writers have made to American literature. You may listen here or view a transcript here.

Podcast Appalachia: “Mountain Religion”

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

The latest episode of Podcast Appalachia is now available! In this episode I discuss the role of religion in shaping Appalachian culture and examine some of the most prominent churches in Appalachia. You can listen here or view a transcript here.