Wednesday, July 4, 2012

This 4th of July, Thank an Overmountain Man

Until 1780, the American Revolution was not going so well, at least not for the American Patriots. In 1780, the British decided to start recruiting troops in the South, believing that many would gladly fight for the crown - mistaking the South's lack of involvement in the war for lack of support for the Patriot's cause.

What the British failed to take into consideration was the fact that the Appalachian Mountains served as more than a physical barrier between the colonies and the frontier - the Scots-Irish settlers of the Appalachian region were separated from the Cause by a fierce independence and a belief that the politics of the colonies had little bearing on their own lives and interests.

These Overmountain Men (as they would later be called), would likely have remained out of the war completely, had the British kept away from their homes and territory, but they didn't. And thanks to that decision, the outcome of the American Revolution was very different than it probably would've been otherwise.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Lumps of Coal Aren't Just for Christmas

Coal has been experiencing something of a comeback in recent history thanks to its improved image as a clean fuel. However, the use of coal as a fuel goes back centuries, as does the mining of this fossil fuel.

In fact, mining in Scotland began as early as 1210 A.D. The industry was controlled initially by monasteries, and remained so until 1560 A.D. That means that when Scots-Irish settlers arrived in the United States, many of them came with the type of knowledge and experience that would make them ideal employees in America's new coal mines.

Now when most of us think of coal mining in the United States, places like Pennsylvania and West Virginia probably immediately come to mind. However, according to the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy Division of Geology and Mineral Resources, for the "past twenty years, Virginia has consistently ranked among the top ten coal-producing states in the United States."

Their report goes on to state that within the Commonwealth, Southwest Virginia is "currently the source of all the State’s coal production. Virginia’s coal is produced from seven counties: Wise, Dickenson, Lee, Buchanan, Russell, Scott, and Tazewell."

This includes the town of Big Stone Gap which is a part of Wise County. Here are some views of this coal mining town -

Downtown, where these pictures were taken, I found Miner's Park, with its statue honoring the many men and women who have worked the coal mines in this area for over one hundred years.

After checking out the park, I headed to the Harry W. Meador, Jr. Coal Museum

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Big Stone Gap's Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come

John Fox, Jr. is one of the most famous residents - past or present - of Big Stone Gap, Virginia. One of his best-known works was The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, which was published in 1903. 

This gorgeous edition was illustrated by the illustrious (ha ha!) N. C. Wyeth in 1931. Later, in 1961, a movie by the same name was released. His other famous work was Trail of the Lonesome Pine, written in 1908. This  novel was also made into a movie - THREE TIMES! The most recent version, released in 1939, starred Henry Fonda.

The Trail of the Lonesome Pine was also turned into an outdoor drama in 1964 and has been running ever since. Performances take place Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from the end of June through August each year at the Trail of the Lonesome Pine Amphitheatre/June Tolliver Playhouse in Big Stone Gap.

The theater seats between 300-400 people.
Here are some pictures that I took of John Fox Jr.'s home the last time I was in Big Stone Gap. The house is now a museum, but only offers tours by reservation.