During the summer and fall of 1981 Appalachian State students Deborah Thompson and Randi Silnutzer traveled throughout southern West Virginia documenting the musical culture local to the area in and around Summers County. The project resulted in 23 hours of oral histories and music featuring musicians versed in the traditions of gospel, old time fiddle tunes, bluegrass, and country. Musicians recorded included Ralph and Rhodetta Jones, Ernie Davis, Elva Johnson, Eddie Cales, Joe Meadows, Mabel and Michelle McCoin, Jim Costa, Terry Upton, Josh Arnold, Kathleen Lilly, and Herman Lively. The collection also contains recordings of community events such as the Summers County Singing Convention and the Community Benefit Concert at Jumping Branch Elementary School. AC.202: Summers County, West Virginia Music Project presents a number of oral histories and performances which capture the musical heritage of the central and southern portions of the Appalachian region.
The idyllic image of the European country estate has been a recurring theme with popular literature and (more recently) in film for nearly two centuries. In the late nineteenth century the mountains of western North Carolina served as a backdrop for several envisionings of this romanticized lifestyle brought into reality by gentry lacking in ancient European lineage but rich in American industrial wealth. One such contrivance of manorial life belonged to the family of Moses and Bertha Lindau Cone. Moses, born to Jewish immigrants in the mountain town of Jonesborough, Tennessee, was raised in Baltimore, Maryland within a large family that included nine siblings. The Cones originally found financial success in the grocery business but later emerged at the head of a textile empire centered in the piedmont of North Carolina.
Although relatively dwarfish by comparison to Biltmore Estate, George Vanderbilt's 125,000 acre "mountain retreat" completed in the 1880s, the Cone's 3,500 acre Flat Top Manor channeled a rustic grandeur which hearkened back to the manors and villas of Europe. Throughout the early twentieth century the expansive property housed tenant workers engaged in tasks ranging from the raising of purebred Shropshire sheep to the maintenance of an estimated 10,000 apple trees contained within the estate's orchards. The manor house, completed in 1901, is now the centerpiece of Moses Cone Memorial Park located on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The Moses Cone Estate Collection (AC.132) located here in the archives contains correspondence and a ledger regarding the operations of the estate from 1905 until 1945. The correspondences between Bertha Cone (the estate's head after Moses' death in 1908) and A. C. Moody, the estate's manager, reveal much about the daily operations of the property. Many of the letters beginning "My Dear Mr. Moody..." address topics such as the sale of sheep and the pay of estate employees. The Moses Cone Estate Collection presents researchers with an opportunity to explore the history of a unique and opulent subculture within Appalachian life, one which settled visions of the Old World within the landscape of the Carolina mountains.
For any researcher interested in the social history of Appalachia AC.321: Smyth County Virginia Lifetime Collection provides an invaluable cross-sectional view of a southwest Virginia mountain community. From milltown life at Saltville to the streets of downtown Marion circa 1950 to family farm life in the early 1900s, materials within the collection cover the entire spectrum of vocations and cultures which informed and built lives within Smyth County. Researchers can follow the mountain ministry of Lutheran missionary Kenneth Killinger, view scenes of 1940s era student life at a junior college for women, take a tour of author Sherwood Anderson's Ripshin Manor, learn the daily "ins and outs" of a local feed mill from 1885 to 1914, peruse court records from the mid-1800s, or even jot down a recipe from the Marion Cookbook. The documents and photographs held within the Smyth County Virginia Lifetime Collection constitute an indispensible primary resource for researchers and display an altogether holistic and multi-layered history of an Appalachian county.
Established in 1868 by founder W. A. Lamons, the Lamons Wagon Company of Greenville, Tennessee produced quality wagons suited for "farm, freight, and lumber." The family business spanned nearly a century of production during which the company continued to innovate and expand, simulateously producing a modern rubber tire tractor alongside traditional wagons by the time of the company's close in 1961. The Lamons Wagon Company also played a vital role in the history of education. A 1916 contract with State of Tennessee commissioned the company to produce wagons used to carry children in rural areas to and from school, earning the Lamons wagon the moniker of "The Tennessee School Wagon."
You can find out more about the Lamons Wagon Company by visiting the Dougherty Reading Room and requesting AC.448: Lamons Wagon Company Collection which contains memorabilia from the company including photographs, advertisements, and a broadside announcing its auction in 1961.
Images taken from AC.448: Lamons Wagon Company Papers. Top: Lamons Standard One-Horse Wagon, Bottom: Lamon's Wagon's brochure.
The recently reprocessed Appalachian Oral History Project Records (AC.111) offer a wealth of primary source material for researchers focused on any period of Appalachian regional history. The collection includes nearly 500 interviews by Appalachian State students and faculty, predominantly with elderly western North Carolina residents in the 1970s. Subjects covered within the interviews range from Civil War stories to farm life during the Great Depression to highway construction in the early 20th Century. Religion, music, education, and family histories are all topics well represented within the collection. In addition to the interviews, visual materials such as portraits, family photographs, and scenes of rural landscapes are also included.
Photographs from AC.111: Appalachian Oral History Project Records;
Cratis D. Williams (1911-1985), widely recognized for his work The Southern Mountaineer in Fact and Fiction, a landmark study in literary representations of the Appalachian region, left a prodigious legacy of scholarship on southern mountain people and is remembered as the "Father of Appalachian Studies." Unfortunately, for those who want to delve further into the primary sources which informed Williams' work, a 1966 fire destroyed many of Williams' personal and professional papers. The largest collection of surviving documents and artifacts related to Cratis Williams, the Cratis D. Williams Papers (AC.102), are held within the W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection. The collection includes information valuable to understanding the career and personality behind the scholarship produced by Dr. Williams as a folklorist, a balladeer, and an educator.
In order to make the collection easier to navigate for researchers, the Cratis D. Williams Papers are currently closed for reprocessing. The collection should be available again within a few weeks. Check this site for updates on the collection as well as information on its contents and highlights.
Image from AC.102 Cratis Williams Papers: Cratis Williams, August 12, 1975;
The Special Collections team is pleased to welcome Trevor McKenzie as Project Archives Assistant. Trevor will be processing materials from the W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection and will be posting updates about the grant project and highlights from the collections to this blog.
Trevor holds a Bachelor of Sciences in Applied and Public History and Master of Arts in Appalachian Studies, both from Appalachian State University. He served as the Editorial Assistant for the Appalachian Journal for two years and worked as a student assistant in Special Collections during the summer of 2011. His extensive knowledge of the Appalachian region, its history, culture, and music traditions will be instrumental as he works with the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection.
Special Collections has received a $112,693 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for an ambitious two-year project that will eliminate the backlog of the W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection and provide students, faculty, staff, and outside researchers with access to these collections. Grant funds will primarily be used to fund the Project Archives Assistant position, which was filled by Trevor McKenzie in November 2012.
This blog will track the progress of this project as well as highlight items from the collections as they are processed and become available. Among the collections to be processed are the papers of Kelly Bennett, who was instrumental in the development of America’s national parks; the papers of social activist and documentarian John Gaventa; Appalachian photographer Jack Jeffers’ collection of prints and digital images; and the papers and musical scores of composer Tui St. George Tucker.