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A History of Appalachia

Richard Drake

Publication Year: 2003

" Richard Drake has skillfully woven together the various strands of the Appalachian experience into a sweeping whole. Touching upon folk traditions, health care, the environment, higher education, the role of blacks and women, and much more, Drake offers a compelling social history of a unique American region. The Appalachian region, extending from Alabama in the South up to the Allegheny highlands of Pennsylvania, has historically been characterized by its largely rural populations, rich natural resources that have fueled industry in other parts of the country, and the strong and wild, undeveloped land. The rugged geography of the region allowed Native American societies, especially the Cherokee, to flourish. Early white settlers tended to favor a self-sufficient approach to farming, contrary to the land grabbing and plantation building going on elsewhere in the South. The growth of a market economy and competition from other agricultural areas of the country sparked an economic decline of the region’s rural population at least as early as 1830. The Civil War and the sometimes hostile legislation of Reconstruction made life even more difficult for rural Appalachians. Recent history of the region is marked by the corporate exploitation of resources. Regional oil, gas, and coal had attracted some industry even before the Civil War, but the postwar years saw an immense expansion of American industry, nearly all of which relied heavily on Appalachian fossil fuels, particularly coal. What was initially a boon to the region eventually brought financial disaster to many mountain people as unsafe working conditions and strip mining ravaged the land and its inhabitants. A History of Appalachia also examines pockets of urbanization in Appalachia. Chemical, textile, and other industries have encouraged the development of urban areas. At the same time, radio, television, and the internet provide residents direct links to cultures from all over the world. The author looks at the process of urbanization as it belies commonly held notions about the region’s rural character.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky


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List of Maps

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pp. vi

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pp. vii-xi

MANY ARE THOSE WHO CONSIDER Appalachia a mysterious region. Even in the seventeenth century, when the French Huguenot developer Charles Rochefort promoted a colony he called "Apalache" in the Georgia uplands, and even before, when the high country behind the Apalache Indians of northern Florida appeared on maps as...

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Part 1: The Contest for Appalachia

The mountainous area of eastern North America was fought over, first by numerous Indian nations. Then came the Spanish, Dutch, French and English from across the Atlantic Ocean, to establish settlement in the coastal areas, then to spread slowly into the Appalachian Mountains. Finally the European-derived United States, largely with...

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1. The Indian Era

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pp. 3-13

THE APPALACHIAN MOUNTAINS are located entirely within the temperate zone, from about 33 to 48 degrees north latitude. The significant climatic difference between the valley floors, some at less than one thousand feet and the peaks at six thousand feet and more, assures a great variety of natural life. All the area enjoys adequate...

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2. The Old World Backgrounds

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pp. 14-24

THE EUROPEAN WORLD that came into contact with the North American Indian world during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was a vibrant, confident one. This was the Europe that produced the Commercial Revolution, early capitalism, the dramatic discoveries of Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama, the...

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3. The Coming of the Europeans

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pp. 25-39

THE FIRST EUROPEANS to come into the Indian-dominated world in North America were the Spanish. The initial center of Spanish concern was the Caribbean, where the island of Santo Domingo fell under Spanish control soon after Columbus' voyages of the 1490s. Spanish interest then reached to Mexico in the 1520s, where the fabled...

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4. The Wars for Appalachia

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pp. 40-55

THE FRENCH AND THE BRITISH were continuously at war, or in preparation for it, from 1689 until well into the nineteenth century. Fought partly in North America between 1689 and 1764, this series of wars is known collectively by American historians as the French and Indian Wars. The separate wars in America generally took the...

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Part 2: The New Nation and the Appalachian Backwoods

After the United States gained control of almost all of the Appalachian Mountain area, a somewhat different and frequently discriminated- against society emerged in the nation's backwoods. When a divisive Civil War came to the United States, this mountainous area was much fought over and tragically divided. In the War's...

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5. Backwoods-Cohee Society

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pp. 59-79

THE COASTAL AREAS of the British colonies were settled by English migrants, who often came as rather well-positioned individuals and groups, but who happened to be out-of-favor during England's revolutionary period, 1640-1688. After the so-called Settlement of 1688, those who migrated from England, and from...

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6. The Challenge to Cohee Society, 1820-1860

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pp. 80-92

IN RECENT YEARS, a substantial literature has emerged exploring the nature of antebellum Southern society that particularly probes the question of why the relatively poorer, non-slaveholding whites largely supported secession. In the early 1940s, Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker even suggested the question of why what he called...

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7. The Civil War Era, 1860-1877

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pp. 93-115

SO THE WAR CAME! During the Civil War in Appalachia, most small farmers in East Tennessee, northern Georgia, West Virginia, and eastern Kentucky usually identified more strongly with the Federal Union than they did with the seceding state governments. In southwestern Virginia and western North Carolina, however, most people were...

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Part 3: Modern Appalachia

The triumph of modem corporate capitalism was apparent by the late nineteenth century. The Appalachian region fit into corporate America's plans mainly as a producer of fossil fuels. However, significant non-capitalist attitudes persisted in Appalachia, and the region's experience seemed to question much of the morality and...

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8. The "Discovery" of Appalachia

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pp. 119-130

APPALACHIA HAS ALWAYS BEEN a complex area. From the first settlement of the region, elite speculators and a few merchants mixed with the larger number of pioneer settlers who were seeking to build yeoman farms. As transportation corridors developed, strips of commerce and mainline culture emerged in the region's...

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9. The Coming of the Machine Age

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pp. 131-152

THE STORY OF THE Euro-American conquest of Appalachia since 1750 exactly parallels in time the emergence of the Industrial Revolution in England. At the very time of the Newcomen and Watt inventions in steam-engine technology, the first permanent European settlers were moving into the Shenandoah Valley. The earliest...

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10. From Plutocracy to Welfare State and Back

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pp. 153-182

WILLIAM G. FROST'S Atlantic Monthly article on Appalachia in 1899 referred to the southern mountain area as the "Republican backyards" of nine solidly Democratic states. This political evaluation is essentially accurate if we accept the characterization of the South from 1880 to 1928 as "solidly Democratic." There were exceptions, of...

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11. Regional Society and Social Change

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pp. 183-193

IT HAS BEEN MENTIONED previously that Cratis Williams, for years recognized as the "Dean of Appalachian Studies" and himself a native of the region, observed that there are three quite distinctive groups among Appalachian mountaineers. The first he termed the town-oriented elite and city folk, who are little different, he said, from...

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12. "The New Appalachia," 1930-2000

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pp. 194-216

THE 1930S BROUGHT important changes to the Appalachian economy. But while the American market economy floundered, yeomanry made something of a comeback in Appalachia's rural areas as thousands retreated from the nation's cities and returned home. The Great Depression placed immense strains on the nation's...

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13. The Appalachian Mind

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pp. 217-236

TO ATTEMPT TO IDENTIFY any "Appalachian Mind" is disarmingly difficult. Yet as early as the mid-1920s, Baltimore's famous journalist H.L. Mencken, following the lead of "an amiable newspaperwoman of Chattanooga," attempted just that. He was led into an East Tennessee valley, which was, he said, "a place where the old-time...

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14. The Appalachian Future

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pp. 237-246

IN LOOKING AT THE FUTURE of the people of the Appalachian region, we first need to recognize that there are at least two quite different worlds in the region. Regional scholars have long recognized this Appalachian duality. From the time of John C. Campbell and William G. Frost at the tum of the century, through the radical...


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pp. 247-273


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pp. 275-292

Image Plates

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813171166
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813121697

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2003