Like many Appalachian descendants, especially those from Southwest Virginia several generations back, we can generally find that at least a portion of our lineage came directly or indirectly through Scotland. Obviously there are many exceptions, particularly the Mediterranean and Eastern European immigrants that emigrated to the coalfields in droves during the early 1900s coal mining booms. Numerous scholars say that coalfield Appalachia was third only to New York City and San Francisco for the diversity of nationalities present at that time. The census in Wise County during that “black gold” boom of a nearly century ago documented over two dozen nationalities, with Hungarians being the predominant group from Eastern Europe. Similarly, West Virginia had, and still has, a big contingent of residents bearing Slavic surnames from those days. African Americans seeking an alternative to southern sharecropping also played a significant role in coalfield diversity.
by Frank Kilgore A recent visit to the most serene of mountain cemeteries brought into focus how improbable it must have seemed to our World War II generation of Appalachian young men just how drastically their lives would change. How could they have known that a life of cutting trees with axes and cross-cut saws; […]
If you were born and raised in far Southwest Virginia, you are very familiar with numerous people who claim that their grandmother or great-grandmother was a “full-blooded Cherokee.” I cannot speak about this rural legend in the rest of Central Appalachia, but I suspect the fable of this prolific woman is widespread.
A neighbor predicted the future of former Congressman of the Ninth District, William Creed Wampler, Sr., when he was just a wee lad in knickers. The year was 1931, and five-year-old “Billy” Wampler was visiting his grandparents in Big Stone Gap, VA, when he decided to cut the neighbor’s weeds with his little pen knife.