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Title: Our Southern Highlanders
Author: Kephart, Horace
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Our Southern Highlanders" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

by The Kentuckiana Digital Library.)


[Illustration: Photo by U. S. Forest Service

Big Tom Wilson, the bear hunter, who discovered the body of Prof. Elisha
Mitchell where he perished near the summit of the Peak that afterward
was named in his honor]









  All rights reserved

  First Printing, November 1913
  Second Printing, December 1913
  Third Printing, January 1914
  Fourth Printing, April 1914


CHAPTER                                      PAGE


  II. "THE BACK OF BEYOND"                     28


  IV. A BEAR HUNT IN THE SMOKIES               75

   V. MOONSHINE LAND                          110

  VI. WAYS THAT ARE DARK                      126

 VII. A LEAF FROM THE PAST                    145



   X. THE PEOPLE OF THE HILLS                 212

  XI. THE LAND OF DO WITHOUT                  234


XIII. THE MOUNTAIN DIALECT                    276

 XIV. THE LAW OF THE WILDERNESS               305

  XV. THE BLOOD-FEUD                          327

 XVI. WHO ARE THE MOUNTAINEERS?               354

XVII. "WHEN THE SLEEPER WAKES"                378


Big Tom Wilson, the bear hunter              _Frontispiece_

                                                FACING PAGE

Map of Appalachia                                         8

A family of pioneers in the twentieth century            16

"The very cliffs are sheathed with trees and shrubs"     24

At the Post-Office                                       32

The author in camp in the Big Smokies                    40

"Bob"                                                    48

"There are few jutting crags"                            56

The bears' home--laurel and rhododendron                 64

The old copper mine                                      72

"What soldiers these fellows would make under
leadership of some backwoods Napoleon"                   80

"By and by up they came, carrying the bear on
the trimmed sapling"                                     88

Skinning a frozen bear                                   96

"... Powerful steep and laurely...."                    104

Mountain still-house hidden in the laurel               112

Moonshine still, side view                              120

Moonshine still in full operation                       128

Corn mill and blacksmith forge                          136

A tub-mill                                              152

Cabin on the Little Fork of Sugar Fork of Hazel
Creek in which the author lived alone for three years   160

A mountain home                                         176

Many of the homes have but one window                   192

The schoolhouse                                         208

"At thirty a mountain woman is apt to have a
worn and faded look"                                    216

The misty veil of falling water                         232

An average mountain cabin                               240

A bee-gum                                               248

Let the women do the work                               264

"Till the sky-line blends with the sky itself"          288

Whitewater Falls                                        312

The road follows the creek--there may be a dozen
fords in a mile                                         320

"Dense forest and luxuriant undergrowth"                336

[Illustration: APPALACHIA

The wavy black line shows the outer boundaries of Southern Appalachian
Region. The shaded portion shows the chief areas covered by high
mountains, 3,000 to 6,700 feet above sea-level.]





In one of Poe's minor tales, written in 1845, there is a vague allusion
to wild mountains in western Virginia "tenanted by fierce and uncouth
races of men." This, so far as I know, was the first reference in
literature to our Southern mountaineers, and it stood as their only
characterization until Miss Murfree ("Charles Egbert Craddock") began
her stories of the Cumberland hills.

Time and retouching have done little to soften our Highlander's
portrait. Among reading people generally, South as well as North, to
name him is to conjure up a tall, slouching figure in homespun, who
carries a rifle as habitually as he does his hat, and who may tilt its
muzzle toward a stranger before addressing him, the form of salutation

"Stop thar! Whut's you-unses name? Whar's you-uns a-goin' ter?"

Let us admit that there is just enough truth in this caricature to give
it a point that will stick. Our typical mountaineer is lank, he is
always unkempt, he is fond of toting a gun on his shoulder, and his
curiosity about a stranger's name and business is promptly, though
politely, outspoken. For the rest, he is a man of mystery. The great
world outside his mountains knows almost as little about him as he does
of it; and that is little indeed. News in order to reach him must be of
such widespread interest as fairly to fall from heaven; correspondingly,
scarce any incidents of mountain life will leak out unless they be of
sensational nature, such as the shooting of a revenue officer in
Carolina, the massacre of a Virginia court, or the outbreak of another
feud in "bloody Breathitt." And so, from the grim sameness of such
reports, the world infers that battle, murder, and sudden death are
commonplaces in Appalachia.

To be sure, in Miss Murfree's novels, as in those of John Fox, Jr., and
of Alice MacGowan, we do meet characters more genial than feudists and
illicit distillers; none the less, when we have closed the book, who is
it that stands out clearest as type and pattern of the mountaineer? Is
it not he of the long rifle and peremptory challenge? And whether this
be because he gets most of the limelight, or because we have a furtive
liking for that sort of thing (on paper), or whether the armed outlaw be
indeed a genuine protagonist--in any case, the Appalachian people remain
in public estimation to-day, as Poe judged them, an uncouth and fierce
race of men, inhabiting a wild mountain region little known.

The Southern highlands themselves are a mysterious realm. When I
prepared, eight years ago, for my first sojourn in the Great Smoky
Mountains, which form the master chain of the Appalachian system, I
could find in no library a guide to that region. The most diligent
research failed to discover so much as a magazine article, written
within this generation, that described the land and its people. Nay,
there was not even a novel or a story that showed intimate local
knowledge. Had I been going to Teneriffe or Timbuctu, the libraries
would have furnished information a-plenty; but about this housetop of
eastern America they were strangely silent; it was _terra incognita_.

On the map I could see that the Southern Appalachians cover an area much
larger than New England, and that they are nearer the center of our
population than any other mountains that deserve the name. Why, then, so
little known? Quaintly there came to mind those lines familiar to my
boyhood: "Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain;
and see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein,
whether they be strong or weak, few or many; and what the land is that
they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that
they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strongholds; and what the land
is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein or not."

In that dustiest room of a great library where "pub. docs." are stored,
I unearthed a government report on forestry that gave, at last, a clear
idea of the lay of the land. And here was news. We are wont to think of
the South as a low country with sultry climate; yet its mountain chains
stretch uninterruptedly southwestward from Virginia to Alabama, 650
miles in an air line. They spread over parts of eight contiguous States,
and cover an area somewhat larger than England and Scotland, or about
the same as that of the Alps. In short, the greatest mountain system of
eastern America is massed in our Southland. In its upper zone one sleeps
under blankets the year round.

In all the region north of Virginia and east of the Black Hills of
Dakota there is but one summit (Mount Washington, in New Hampshire) that
reaches 6,000 feet above sea level, and there are only a dozen others
that exceed 5,000 feet. By contrast, south of the Potomac there are
forty-six peaks, and forty-one miles of dividing ridges, that rise above
6,000 feet, besides 288 mountains and some 300 miles of divide that
stand more than 5,000 feet above the sea. In North Carolina alone the
mountains cover 6,000 square miles, with an _average_ elevation of 2,700
feet, and with twenty-one peaks that overtop Mount Washington.

I repeated to myself: "Why, then, so little known?" The Alps and the
Rockies, the Pyrennees and the Harz are more familiar to the American
people, in print and picture, if not by actual visit, than are the
Black, the Balsam, and the Great Smoky Mountains. It is true that summer
tourists flock to Asheville and Toxaway, Linville and Highlands, passing
their time at modern hotels and motoring along a few macadamed roads,
but what do they see of the billowy wilderness that conceals most of the
native homes? Glimpses from afar. What do they learn of the real
mountaineer? Hearsay. For, mark you, nine-tenths of the Appalachian
population are a sequestered folk. The typical, the average mountain
man prefers his native hills and his primitive ancient ways.

We read more and talk more about the Filipinos, see more of the Chinese
and the Syrians, than of these three million next-door Americans who are
of colonial ancestry and mostly of British stock. New York, we say, is a
cosmopolitan city; more Irish than in Dublin, more Germans than in
Munich, more Italians than in Rome, more Jews than in nine Jerusalems;
but how many New Yorkers ever saw a Southern mountaineer? I am sure that
a party of hillsmen fresh from the back settlements of the Unakas, if
dropped on the streets of any large city in the Union, and left to their
own guidance, would stir up more comment (and probably more trouble)
than would a similar body of whites from any other quarter of the earth;
and yet this same odd people is more purely bred from old American stock
than any other element of our population that occupies, by itself, so
great a territory.

The mountaineers of the South are marked apart from all other folks by
dialect, by customs, by character, by self-conscious isolation. So true
is this that they call all outsiders "furriners." It matters not whether
your descent be from Puritan or Cavalier, whether you come from
Boston or Chicago, Savannah or New Orleans, in the mountains you are a
"furriner." A traveler, puzzled and scandalized at this, asked a native
of the Cumberlands what he would call a "Dutchman or a Dago." The fellow
studied a bit and then replied: "Them's the outlandish."

[Illustration: A Family of Pioneers in the Twentieth Century]

Foreigner, outlander, it is all one; we are "different," we are "quar,"
to the mountaineer. He knows he is an American; but his conception of
the metes and bounds of America is vague to the vanishing point. As for
countries over-sea--well, when a celebrated Nebraskan returned from his
trip around the globe, one of my backwoods neighbors proudly informed
me: "I see they give Bryan a lot of receptions when he kem back from the
other world."

No one can understand the attitude of our highlanders toward the rest of
the earth until he realizes their amazing isolation from all that lies
beyond the blue, hazy skyline of their mountains. Conceive a shipload of
emigrants cast away on some unknown island, far from the regular track
of vessels, and left there for five or six generations, unaided and
untroubled by the growth of civilization. Among the descendants of such
a company we would expect to find customs and ideas unaltered from the
time of their forefathers. And that is just what we do find to-day among
our castaways in the sea of mountains. Time has lingered in Appalachia.
The mountain folk still live in the eighteenth century. The progress of
mankind from that age to this is no heritage of theirs.

Our backwoodsmen of the Blue Ridge and the Unakas, of their connecting
chains, and of the outlying Cumberlands, are still thinking essentially
the same thoughts, still living in much the same fashion, as did their
ancestors in the days of Daniel Boone. Nor is this their fault. They are
a people of keen intelligence and strong initiative when they can see
anything to win. But, as President Frost says, they have been
"beleaguered by nature." They are belated--ghettoed in the midst of a
civilization that is as aloof from them as if it existed only on another
planet. And so, in order to be fair and just with these, our backward
kinsmen, we must, for the time, decivilize ourselves to the extent of
_going back_ and getting an eighteenth century point of view.

But, first, how comes it that the mountain folk have been so long
detached from the life and movement of their times? Why are they so
foreign to present-day Americanism that they innocently call all the
rest of us foreigners?

The answer lies on the map. They are creatures of environment, enmeshed
in a labyrinth that has deflected and repelled the march of our nation
for three hundred years.

In 1728, when Colonel William Byrd, of Westover, was running the
boundary line between Virginia and North Carolina, he finally was
repulsed by parallel chains of savage, unpeopled mountains that rose
tier beyond tier to the westward, everywhere densely forested, and
matted into jungle by laurel and other undergrowth. In his _Journal_,
writing in the quaint, old-fashioned way, he said: "Our country has now
been inhabited more than 130 years by the English, and still we hardly
know anything of the Appalachian Mountains, that are nowhere above 250
miles from the sea. Whereas the French, who are later comers, have
rang'd from Quebec Southward as far as the Mouth of Mississippi, in the
bay of Mexico, and to the West almost as far as California, which is
either way above 2,000 miles."

A hundred and thirty years later, the same thing could have been said of
these same mountains; for the "fierce and uncouth races of men" that Poe
faintly heard of remained practically undiscovered until they startled
the nation on the scene of our Civil War, by sending 180,000 of their
riflemen into the Union Army.

If a corps of surveyors to-day should be engaged to run a line due west
from eastern Virginia to the Blue Grass of Kentucky, they would have an
arduous task. Let us suppose that they start from near Richmond and
proceed along the line of 37° 50'. The Blue Ridge is not especially
difficult: only eight transverse ridges to climb up and down in fourteen
miles, and none of them more than 2,000 feet high from bottom to top.
Then, thirteen miles across the lower end of The Valley, a curious
formation begins.

As a foretaste, in the three and a half miles crossing Little House and
Big House mountains, one ascends 2,200 feet, descends 1,400, climbs
again 1,600, and goes down 2,000 feet on the far side. Beyond lie steep
and narrow ridges athwart the way, paralleling each other like waves at
sea. Ten distinct mountain chains are scaled and descended in the next
forty miles. There are few "leads" rising gradually to their crests.
Each and every one of these ridges is a Chinese wall magnified to
altitudes of from a thousand to two thousand feet, and covered with
thicket. The hollows between them are merely deep troughs.

In the next thirty miles we come upon novel topography. Instead of wave
following wave in orderly procession, we find here a choppy sea of small
mountains, with hollows running toward all points of the compass.
Instead of Chinese walls, we now have Chinese puzzles. The innate
perversity of such configuration grows more and more exasperating as we
toil westward. In the two hundred miles from the Greenbrier to the
Kentucky River, the ridges are all but unscalable, and the streams
sprangle in every direction like branches of mountain laurel.

The only roads follow the beds of tortuous and rock-strewn water
courses, which may be nearly dry when you start out in the morning, but
within an hour may be raging torrents. There are no bridges. One may
ford a dozen times in a mile. A spring "tide" will stop all travel, even
from neighbor to neighbor, for a day or two at a time. Buggies and
carriages are unheard of. In many districts the only means of
transportation is with saddlebags on horseback, or with a "tow sack"
afoot. If the pedestrian tries a short-cut he will learn what the
natives mean when they say: "Goin' up, you can might' nigh stand up
straight and bite the ground; goin' down, a man wants hobnails in the
seat of his pants."

James Lane Allen was not writing fiction when he said of the far-famed
Wilderness Road into Kentucky: "Despite all that has been done to
civilize it since Boone traced its course in 1790, this honored historic
thoroughfare remains to-day as it was in the beginning, with all its
sloughs and sands, its mud and holes, and jutting ledges of rock and
loose boulders, and twists and turns, and general total depravity....
One such road was enough. They are said to have been notorious for
profanity, those who came into Kentucky from this side. Naturally. Many
were infidels--there are roads that make a man lose faith. It is known
that the more pious companies of them, as they traveled along, would now
and then give up in despair, sit down, raise a hymn, and have prayers
before they could go further. Perhaps one of the provocations to
homicide among the mountain people should be reckoned this road. I have
seen two of the mildest of men, after riding over it for a few hours,
lose their temper and begin to fight--fight their horses, fight the
flies, fight the cobwebs on their noses."

Such difficulties of intercommunication are enough to explain the
isolation of the mountaineers. In the more remote regions this
loneliness reaches a degree almost unbelievable. Miss Ellen Semple, in a
fine monograph published in the _Geographical Journal_, of London, in
1901, gave us some examples:

     "These Kentucky mountaineers are not only cut off from the outside
     world, but they are separated from each other. Each is confined to
     his own locality, and finds his little world within a radius of a
     few miles from his cabin. There are many men in these mountains who
     have never seen a town, or even the poor village that constitutes
     their county-seat.... The women ... are almost as rooted as the
     trees. We met one woman who, during the twelve years of her married
     life, had lived only ten miles across the mountain from her own
     home, but had never in this time been back home to visit her father
     and mother. Another back in Perry county told me she had never been
     farther from home than Hazard, the county-seat, which is only six
     miles distant. Another had never been to the post-office, four
     miles away; and another had never seen the ford of the Rockcastle
     River, only two miles from her home, and marked, moreover, by the
     country store of the district."

When I first went into the Smokies, I stopped one night in a single-room
log cabin, and soon had the good people absorbed in my tales of travel
beyond the seas. Finally the housewife said to me, with pathetic
resignation: "Bushnell's the furdest ever I've been." Bushnell, at that
time, was a hamlet of thirty people, only seven miles from where we sat.
When I lived alone on "the Little Fork of Sugar Fork of Hazel Creek,"
there were women in the neighborhood, young and old, who had never seen
a railroad, and men who had never boarded a train, although the Murphy
branch ran within sixteen miles of our post-office. The first time that
a party of these people went to the railroad, they were uneasy and
suspicious. Nearing the way-station, a girl in advance came upon the
first negro she ever saw in her life, and ran screaming back: "My
goddamighty, Mam, thar's the boogerman--I done seed him!"

But before discussing the mountain people and their problems, let us
take an imaginary balloon voyage over their vast domain. South of the
Potomac the Blue Ridge is a narrow rampart rising abruptly from the
east, one or two thousand feet above its base, and descending sharply to
the Shenandoah Valley on the west. Across the Valley begin the
Alleghanies. These mountains, from the Potomac through to the northern
Tennessee border, consist of a multitude of narrow ridges with steep
escarpment on both sides, running southwesterly in parallel chains, and
each chain separated from its neighbors by deep, slender dales. Wherever
one goes westward from the Valley he will encounter tier after tier of
these ridges, as I have already described.

[Illustration: Photo by U. S. Forest Service

"The very cliffs are sheathed with trees and shrubs"--Linville River and
Falls, N. C. The walls of one gorge are from 500 to 2,000 feet high.]

As a rule, the links in each chain can be passed by following small
gaps; but often one must make very wide detours. For example, Pine
Mountain (every link has its own distinct name) is practically
impassable for nearly 150 miles, except for two water gaps and five
difficult crossings. Although it averages only a mile thick, the people
on its north side, generally, know less about those on the south than a
Maine Yankee does about Pennsylvania Dutchmen.

The Alleghanies together have a width of from forty to sixty miles.
Westward of them, for a couple of hundred miles, are the labyrinthine
roughs of West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.

In southwestern Virginia the Blue Ridge and the Alleghanies coalesce,
but soon spread apart again, the Blue Ridge retaining its name, as well
as its general character, although much loftier and more massive than in
the north. The southeast front of the Blue Ridge is a steep escarpment,
rising abruptly from the Piedmont Plateau of Carolina. Not one river
cuts through the Ridge, notwithstanding that the mountains to the
westward are higher and much more massive. It is the watershed of this
whole mountain region. The streams rising on its northwestern front flow
down into central plateaus, and thence cut their way through the Unakas
in deep and precipitous gorges, draining finally into the Gulf of
Mexico, through the Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

The northwestern range, which corresponds to the Alleghanies of
Virginia, now assumes a character entirely different from them. Instead
of parallel chains of low ridges, we have here, on the border of North
Carolina and Tennessee, a single chain that dwarfs all others in the
Appalachian system. It is cut into segments by the rivers (Nolichucky,
French Broad, Pigeon, Little Tennessee, Hiwassee) that drain the
interior plateaus, and each segment has a distinct name of its own
(Iron, Northern Unaka, Bald, Great Smoky, Southern Unaka or Unicoi
mountains). The Carolina mountaineers still call this system
collectively the Alleghanies, but the U. S. Geological Survey has given
it a more distinctive name, the Unakas. While the Blue Ridge has only
seven peaks that rise above 5,000 feet, the Unakas have 125 summits
exceeding 5,000, and ten that are over 6,000 feet.

Connecting the Unaka chain with the Blue Ridge are several transverse
ranges, the Stone, Beech, Roan, Yellow, Black, Newfound, Pisgah, Balsam,
Cowee, Nantahala, Tusquitee, and a few minor mountains, which as a whole
are much higher than the Blue Ridge, 156 summits rising over 5,000
feet, and thirty-six over 6,000 feet above sea-level.

In northern Georgia the Unakas and the Blue Ridge gradually fade away
into straggling ridges and foothills, which extend into small parts of
South Carolina and Alabama.

The Cumberland Plateau is not attached to either of these mountain
systems, but is rather a prolongation of the roughs of eastern Kentucky.
It is separated from the Unakas by the broad valley of the Tennessee
River. The Plateau rises very abruptly from the surrounding plains. It
consists mainly of tableland gashed by streams that have cut their way
down in deep narrow gulches with precipitous sides.

Most of the literature about our Southern mountaineers refers only to
the inhabitants of the comparatively meagre hills of eastern Kentucky,
or to the Cumberlands of Tennessee. Little has been written about the
real mountaineers of southwestern Virginia, western North Carolina, and
the extreme north of Georgia. The great mountain masses still await
their annalist, their artist, and, in some places, even their explorer.



Of certain remote parts of Erin, Jane Barlow says: "In Bogland, if you
inquire the address of such or such person, you will hear not very
infrequently that he or she lives 'off away at the Back of Beyond.'... A
Traveler to the Back of Beyond may consider himself rather exceptionally
fortunate, should he find that he is able to arrive at his destination
by any mode of conveyance other than 'the two standin' feet of him.'
Often enough the last stage of his journey proceeds down some boggy
_boreen_, or up some craggy hill-track, inaccessible to any wheel or
hoof that ever was shod."

So in Appalachia, one steps shortly from the railway into the primitive.
Most of the river valleys are narrow. In their bottoms the soil is rich,
the farms well kept and generous, the owners comfortable and urbane. But
from the valleys directly spring the mountains, with slopes rising
twenty to forty degrees or more. These mountains cover nine-tenths of
western North Carolina, and among them dwell a majority of the native

The back country is rough. No boat nor canoe can stem its brawling
waters. No bicycle nor automobile can enter it. No coach can endure its
roads. Here is a land of lumber wagons, and saddle-bags, and shackly
little sleds that are dragged over the bare ground by harnessed steers.
This is the country that ordinary tourists shun. And well for such that
they do, since whoso cares more for bodily comfort than for freedom and
air and elbow-room should tarry by still waters and pleasant pastures.
To him the backwoods could be only what Burns called Argyleshire: "A
country where savage streams tumble over savage mountains, thinly
overspread with savage flocks, which starvingly support as savage

When I went south into the mountains I was seeking a Back of Beyond.
This for more reasons than one. With an inborn taste for the wild and
romantic, I yearned for a strange land and a people that had the charm
of originality. Again, I had a passion for early American history; and,
in Far Appalachia, it seemed that I might realize the past in the
present, seeing with my own eyes what life must have been to my pioneer
ancestors of a century or two ago. Besides, I wanted to enjoy a free
life in the open air, the thrill of exploring new ground, the joys of
the chase, and the man's game of matching my woodcraft against the
forces of nature, with no help from servants or hired guides.

So, casting about for a biding place that would fill such needs, I
picked out the upper settlement of Hazel Creek, far up under the lee of
those Smoky Mountains that I had learned so little about. On the edge of
this settlement, scant two miles from the post-office of Medlin, there
was a copper mine, long disused on account of litigation, and I got
permission to occupy one of its abandoned cabins.

A mountain settlement consists of all who get their mail at the same
place. Ours was made up of forty-two households (about two hundred
souls) scattered over an area eight miles long by two wide. These are
air-line measurements. All roads and trails "wiggled and wingled around"
so that some families were several miles from a neighbor. Fifteen homes
had no wagon road, and could be reached by no vehicle other than a
narrow sled. Quill Rose had not even a sledpath, but journeyed full five
miles by trail to the nearest wagon road.

Medlin itself comprised two little stores built of rough planks and
bearing no signs, a corn mill, and four dwellings. A mile and a half
away was the log schoolhouse, which, once or twice a month, served also
as church. Scattered about the settlement were seven tiny tub-mills for
grinding corn, some of them mere open sheds with a capacity of about a
bushel a day. Most of the dwellings were built of logs. Two or three,
only, were weatherboarded frame houses and attained the dignity of a
story and a half.

All about us was the forest primeval, where roamed some sparse herds of
cattle, razorback hogs, and the wild beasts. Speckled trout were in all
the streams. Bears sometimes raided the fields, and wildcats were a
common nuisance. Our settlement was a mere slash in the vast woodland
that encompassed it.

The post-office occupied a space about five feet square, in a corner of
one of the stores. There was a daily mail, by rider, serving four other
communities along the way. The contractor for this service had to
furnish two horses, working turnabout, pay the rider, and squeeze his
own profit, out of $499 a year. In Star Route days the mail was carried
afoot, two barefooted young men "toting the sacks on their own wethers"
over this thirty-two-mile round trip, for forty-eight cents a day; and
they boarded themselves!

In the group that gathered at mail time I often was solicited to "back"
envelopes, give out the news, or decipher letters for men who could not
read. Several times, in the postmaster's absence, I registered letters
for myself, or for someone else, the law of the nation being suspended
by general consent.

Our stores, as I have said, were small, yet many of their shelves were
empty. Oftentimes there was no flour to be had, no meat, cereals, canned
goods, coffee, sugar, or oil. It excited no comment at all when Old Pete
would lean across his bare counter and lament that "Thar's lots o' folks
a-hurtin' around hyur for lard, and I ain't got none."

I have seen the time when our neighborhood could get no salt nor tobacco
without making a twenty-four-mile trip over the mountain and back, in
the dead of winter. This was due, partly, to the state of the roads, and
to the fact that there would be no wagon available for weeks at a time.
Wagoning, by the way, was no sinecure. Often it meant to chop a fallen
tree out of the road, and then, with handspikes, "man-power the log
outen the way." Sometimes an axle would break (far upon the mountain,
of course); then a tree must be felled, and a new axle made on the spot
from the green wood, with no tools but axe and jackknife.

[Illustration: At the Post-Office]

Trade was mostly by barter, in which 'coon skins and ginseng had the
same rank as in the days of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. Long credits
were given on anticipated crops; but the risks were great and the market
limited by local consumption, as it did not pay to haul bulky
commodities to the railroad. Hence it was self-preservation for the
storekeepers to carry only a slender stock of essentials and take pains
to have little left through unproductive times.

As a rule, credit would not be asked so long as anything at all could be
offered in trade. When Bill took the last quart of meal from the house,
as rations for a bear hunt, his patient Marg walked five miles to the
store with a skinny old chicken, last of the flock, and offered to
barter it for "a dustin' o' salt." There was not a bite in her house
beyond potatoes, and "'taters don't go good 'thout salt."

In our primitive community there were no trades, no professions. Every
man was his own farmer, blacksmith, gunsmith, carpenter, cobbler,
miller, tinker. Someone in his family, or a near neighbor, served him as
barber and dentist, and would make him a coffin when he died. One
farmer was also the wagoner of the district, as well as storekeeper,
magistrate, veterinarian, and accoucheur. He also owned the only
"tooth-pullers" in the settlement: a pair of universal forceps that he
designed, forged, filed out, and wielded with barbaric grit. His wife
kept the only boarding-house for leagues around. Truly, an accomplished

About two-thirds of our householders owned their homes. Of the remainder
about three-fifths were renters and two-fifths were squatters, in the
sense that these last were permitted to occupy ground for the sake of
reporting trespass and putting out fires--or, maybe, to prevent them
doing both. Nearly all of the wild land belonged to Northern timber
companies who had not yet begun operations (they have done so within the
past three years).

Titles were confused, owing to careless surveys, or guesswork, in the
past. Many boundaries overlapped, and there were bits of no-man's land
here and there, covered by no deed and subject to entry by anyone who
discovered them. Our old frontier always was notorious for
happy-go-lucky surveys and neglect to make legal entry of claims. Thus
Boone lost the fairest parts of the Kentucky he founded, and was
ejected and sent adrift. In our own time, overlapping boundaries have
led to bitter litigation and murderous feuds.

As our territory was sparsely occupied, there were none of those
"perpendicular farms" so noticeable in older settlements near the river
valleys, where men plow fields as steep as their own house roofs and
till with the hoe many an acre that is steeper still. John Fox tells of
a Kentucky farmer who fell out of his own cornfield and broke his neck.
I have seen fields in Carolina where this might occur, as where a
forty-five degree slope is tilled to the brink of a precipice. A woman
told me: "I've hoed corn many a time on my knees--yes, I have;" and
another: "Many's the hill o' corn I've propped up with a rock to keep it
from fallin' down-hill."[1]

Even in our new region many of the fields suffered quickly from erosion.
When a forest is cleared there is a spongy humus on the ground surface
that is extremely rich, but this washes away in a single season. The
soil beneath is good, but thin on the hillsides, and its soluble,
fertile ingredients soon leach out and vanish. Without terracing, which
I have never seen practiced in the mountains of the South, no field with
a surface slope of more than ten degrees (about two feet in ten) will
last more than a few years. As one of my neighbors put it: "Thar, I've
cl'ared me a patch and grubbed hit out--now I can raise me two or three
severe craps!"

"Then what?" I asked.

"When corn won't grow no more I can turn the field into grass a couple
o' years."

"Then you'll rotate, and grow corn again?"

"La, no! By that time the land will be so poor hit wouldn't raise a

"But then you must move, and begin all over again. This continual moving
must be a great nuisance."

He rolled his quid and placidly answered: "Huk-uh; when I move, all I
haffter do is put out the fire and call the dog."

His apparent indifference was only philosophy expressed with sardonic
humor; just as another neighbor would say, "This is good, strong land,
or it wouldn't hold up all the rocks there is around hyur."

Right here is the basis for much of what strangers call shiftlessness
among the mountaineers. But of that, more anon in other chapters.

In clearing new ground, everyone followed the ancient custom of girdling
the tree trunks and letting them stand in spectral ugliness until they
rotted and fell. This is a quick and easy way to get rid of the shade
that otherwise would stunt the crops, and it prevents such trees as
chestnut, buckeye and basswood from sprouting from the stumps. In the
fields stood scores of gigantic hemlocks, deadened, that never would be
used even for fuel, save as their bark furnished the women with
quick-burning stove-wood in wet weather. No one dreamt that hemlock ever
would be marketable. And this was only five years ago!

The tillage was as rude and destructive as anything we read of in
pioneer history. The common plow was a "bull-tongue," which has aptly
been described as "hardly more than a sharpened stick with a metal rim."
The harrows were of wood, throughout, with locust teeth (a friend and I
made one from the green trees in half a day, and it lasted three seasons
on rocky ground). Sometimes no harrow was used at all, the plowed ground
being "drug" with a big evergreen bough. This needed only to be withed
directly to a pony's tail, as they used to do in ancient Ireland, and
the picture of prehistoric agriculture would have been complete. After
the corn was up, all cultivating was done with the hoe. For this the
entire family turned out, the toddlers being left to play in the furrows
while their mother toiled like a man.

Corn was the staple crop--in fact, the only crop of most farmers. Some
rye was raised along the creek, and a little oats, but our settlement
grew no wheat--there was no mill that could grind it. Wheat is raised,
to some extent, in the river bottoms, and on the plateaus of the
interior. I have seen it flailed out on the bare ground, and winnowed by
pouring the grain and chaff from basket to basket while the women
fluttered aprons or bed-sheets. Corn is topped for the blade-fodder, the
ears gathered from the stalk, and the main stalks afterwards used as
"roughness" (roughage). The cribs generally are ramshackle pens, and
there is much waste from mold and vermin.

The Carolina mountains are, by nature, one of the best fruit regions in
eastern America. Apples, grapes, and berries, especially, thrive
exceeding well. But our mountaineer is no horticulturist. He lets his
fruit trees take care of themselves, and so, everywhere except on select
farms near the towns, we see old apple and peach trees that never were
pruned, bristling with shoots, and often bearing wizened fruit, dry and
bitter, or half rotted on the stem.

So, too, the gardens are slighted. Late in the season our average garden
is a miniature jungle, chiefly of weeds that stand high as one's head.
Cabbage and field beans survive and figure mightily in the diet of the
mountaineer. Potatoes generally do well, but few farmers raise enough to
see them through the winter. Generally some tobacco is grown for family
consumption, the strong "twist" being smoked or chewed indifferently.

An interesting crop in our neighborhood was ginseng, of which there were
several patches in cultivation. This curious plant is native throughout
the Appalachians, but has been exterminated in all but the wildest
regions, on account of the high price that its dried root brings. It has
long since passed out of our pharmacopoeia, and is marketed only in
China, though our own people formerly esteemed it as a panacea for all
ills of the flesh. Colonel Byrd, in his "History of the Dividing Line,"
says of it:

     "Though Practice wilt soon make a man of tolerable Vigour an able
     Footman, yet, as a help to bear Fatigue I us'd to chew a Root of
     Ginseng as I Walk't along. This kept up my Spirits, and made me
     trip away as nimbly in my half Jack-Boots as younger men cou'd in
     their Shoes. This Plant is in high Esteem in China, where it sells
     for its Weight in Silver.... Its vertues are, that it gives an
     uncommon Warmth and Vigour to the Blood, and frisks the Spirits,
     beyond any other Cordial. It chears the Heart, even of a Man that
     has a bad Wife, and makes him look down with great Composure on the
     crosses of the World. It promotes insensible Perspiration,
     dissolves all Phlegmatick and Viscous Humours, that are apt to
     obstruct the Narrow channels of the Nerves. It helps the Memory and
     would quicken even Helvetian dullness. 'Tis friendly to the Lungs,
     much more than Scolding itself. It comforts the Stomach, and
     Strengthens the Bowels, preventing all Colicks and Fluxes. In one
     Word, it will make a Man live a great while, and very well while he
     does live. And what is more, it will even make Old Age amiable, by
     rendering it lively, chearful, and good-humour'd."

Alas that only Chinamen and eighteenth-century Cavaliers could absorb
the virtues of this sovereign herb!

A successful ginseng grower of our settlement told me that two acres of
the plant will bring an income of $2,500 to $5,000 a year, planting
100,000 to the acre. The roots take eight years to mature. They weigh
from one and a half to four ounces each, when fresh, and one-third of
this dried. Two acres produce 25,000 roots a year, by progression. The
dried root, at that time, brought five dollars a pound. At present, I
believe, it is higher. Another friend of mine, who is in this business
extensively, tried exporting for himself, but got only $6.50 a pound in
Amoy, when the U. S. consul at that port assured him that the real
market price was from $12.60 to $24.40. The local trader, knowing
American prices, pocketed the difference.

[Illustration: The Author in Camp in the Big Smokies]

In times of scarcity many of our people took to the woods and gathered
commoner medicinal roots, such as bloodroot and wild ginger (there are
scores of others growing wild in great profusion), but made only a
pittance at it, as synthetic drugs have mostly taken the place of herbal
simples in modern medicine. Women and children did better, in the days
before Christmas, by gathering galax, "hemlock" (_leucothoe_), and
mistletoe, selling to the dealers at the railroad, who ship them North
for holiday decorations. One bright lad from town informed me, with
evident pride of geography, that "Some of this goes to London, England."
Nearly everywhere in our woods the beautiful ruddy-bronze galax is
abundant. Along the water-courses, _leucothoe_, which similarly turns
bronze in autumn, and lasts throughout the winter, is so prolific as to
be a nuisance to travelers, being hard to push through.

Most of our farmers had neither horse nor mule. For the rough work of
cultivating the hillsides a single steer hitched to the "bull-tongue"
was better adapted, and the same steer patiently dragged a little sled
to the trading post. On steep declivities the sled is more practical
than a cart or wagon, because it can go where wheels cannot, it does not
require so wide a track, and it "brakes" automatically in going
downhill. Nearly all the farmer's hauling is downhill to his home, or
down farther to the village. A sled can be made quite easily by one man,
out of wood growing on the spot, and with few iron fittings, or none at
all. The runners are usually made of natural sourwood crooks, this
timber being chosen because it wears very smooth and does not fur up nor

The hinterland is naturally adapted to grazing, rather than to
agriculture. As it stands, the best pasturage is high up in the
mountains, where there are "balds" covered with succulent wild grass
that resembles Kentucky bluegrass. Clearing and sowing would extend such
areas indefinitely. The cattle forage for themselves through eight or
nine months of the year, running wild like the razorbacks, and the only
attention given them is when the herdsmen go out to salt them or to mark
the calves. Nearly all the beasts are scrub stock. Jerseys, and other
blooded cattle thrive in the valleys, where there are no free ranges,
but the backwoodsman does not want "critters that haffter be gentled and
hand-fed." The result is that many families go without milk a great part
of the year, and seldom indeed taste butter or beef.

The truth is that mountain beef, being fed nothing but grass and browse,
with barely enough corn and roughage to keep the animal alive through
winter, is blue-fleshed, watery, and tough. If properly reared, the
quality would be as good as any. Almost any of our farmers could have
had a pasture near home and could have grown hay, but not one in ten
would take the trouble. His cattle were only for export--let the buyer
fatten them! It should be understood that nobody had any provision for
taking care of fresh meat when the weather was not frosty.

On those rare occasions when somebody killed a beef, he had to travel
all over the neighborhood to dispose of it in small portions. The
carcass was cut up in the same way as a hog, and all parts except the
cheap "bilin' pieces" were sold at the same price: ten cents a pound, or
whatever they would bring on the spot. The butchering was done with an
axe and a jackknife. The meat was either sliced thin and fried to a
crackling, or cut in chunks and boiled furiously just long enough to fit
it for boot-heels. What the butcher mangled, the cook damned.

Few sheep were raised in our settlement, and these only for their wool.
The untamed Smokies were no place for such defenseless creatures. Sheep
will not, cannot, run wild. They are wholly dependent on the fostering
hand of man and perish without his shepherding. Curiously enough, our
mountaineer knows little or nothing about the goat--an animal perfectly
adapted to the free range of the Smokies. I am convinced that goats
would be more profitable to the small farmers of the wild mountains than
cattle. Goats do not graze, but browse upon the shrubbery, of which
there is a vast superfluity in all the Southern mountains. Unlike the
weak, timorous and stupid sheep, a flock of goats can fight their own
battles against wild animals. They are hardy in any weather, and thrive
from their own pickings where other foragers would starve.

A good milch goat gives more and richer milk than the average mountain
cow. And a kid yields excellent fresh meat in _manageable_ quantity, at
a time when no one would butcher a beef because it would spoil. I used
to shut my eyes and imagine the transformation that would be wrought in
these mountains by a colony of Swiss, who would turn the coves into
gardens, the moderate slopes into orchards, the steeper ones into
vineyards, by terracing, and who would export the finest of cheese made
from the surplus milk of their goats. But our native mountaineers--well,
a man who will not eat beef nor drink fresh cow's milk, and who despises
butter, cannot be interested in anything of the dairy order.

The chickens ran wild and scratched for a living; hence were thin,
tough, and poor layers. Eggs seldom were for sale. It was not of much
use to try to raise many chickens where they were unprotected from
hawks, minks, foxes, weasels and snakes.

Honey often was procured by spotting wild bees to their hoard and
chopping the tree, a mild form of sport in which most settlers are
expert. Our local preacher had a hundred hives of tame bees, producing
1,500 pounds of honey a year, for which he got ten cents a pound at the

The mainstay of every farmer, aside from his cornfield, was his litter
of razorback hogs. "Old cornbread and sowbelly" are a menu complete for
the mountaineer. The wild pig, roaming foot-loose and free over hill and
dale, picks up his own living at all seasons and requires no attention
at all. He is the cheapest possible source of meat and yields the
quickest return: "no other food animal can increase his own weight a
hundred and fifty fold in the first eight months of his life." And so he
is regarded by his owner with the same affection that Connemara Paddy
bestows upon "the gintleman that pays the rint."

In physique and mentality, the razorback differs even more from a
domestic hog than a wild goose does from a tame one. Shaped in front
like a thin wedge, he can go through laurel thickets like a bear.
Armored with tough hide cushioned by bristles, he despises thorns,
brambles, and rattlesnakes, alike. His extravagantly long snout can
scent like a cat's, and yet burrow, uproot, overturn, as if made of
metal. The long legs, thin flanks, pliant hoofs, fit him to run like a
deer and climb like a goat. In courage and sagacity he outranks all
other beasts. A warrior born, he is also a strategist of the first
order. Like man, he lives a communal life, and unites with others of his
kind for purposes of defense.

The pig is the only large mammal I know of, besides man, whose eyes
will not shine by reflected light--they are too bold and crafty, I wit.
The razorback has a mind of his own; not instinct, but _mind_--whatever
psychologists may say. He thinks. Anybody can see that when he is not
rooting or sleeping he is studying devilment. He shows remarkable
understanding of human speech, especially profane speech, and even an
uncanny gift of reading men's thoughts, whenever those thoughts are
directed against the peace and dignity of pigship. He bears grudges,
broods over indignities, and plans redresses for the morrow or the week
after. If he cannot get even with you, he will lay for your unsuspecting
friend. And at the last, when arrested in his crimes and lodged in the
pen, he is liable to attacks of mania from sheer helpless rage.

If you camp out in the mountains, nothing will molest you but razorback
hogs. Bears will flee and wildcats sneak to their dens, but the moment
incense of cooking arises from your camp every pig within two miles will
scent it and hasten to call. You may throw your arm out of joint: they
will laugh in your face. You may curse in five languages: it is music to
their titillating ears.

Throughout summer and autumn I cooked out of doors, on the woodsman's
range of forked stakes and a lug-pole spanning parallel beds of rock.
When the pigs came, I fed them red-pepper pie. Then all said good-bye to
my hospitality save one slab-sided, tusky old boar--and he planned a
campaign. At the first smell of smoke he would start for my premises.
Hiding securely in a nearby thicket, he would spy on the operations
until my stew got to simmering gently and I would retire to the cabin
and get my fists in the dough. Then, charging at speed, he would knock
down a stake, trip the lug-pole, and send my dinner flying. Every day he
would do this. It got so that I had to sit there facing the fire all
through my cooking, or that beast of a hog would ruin me. With this I
thought he was outgeneraled. Idle dream! He would slip off to my
favorite neighbor's, break through the garden fence, and raise Ned
instanter--all because he hated _me_, for that peppery fraud, and knew
that Bob and I were cronies.

I dubbed this pig Belial; a name that Bob promptly adapted to his own
notion by calling it Be-liar. "That Be-liar," swore he, "would cross
hell on a rotten rail to git into my 'tater patch!"

Finally I could stand it no longer, and took down my rifle. It was a
nail-driver, and I, through constant practice in beheading squirrels,
was in good form. However, in the mountains it is more heinous to kill
another man's pig than to shoot the owner. So I took craft for my guide,
and guile for my heart's counsel. I stalked Belial as stealthily as ever
hunter crept on an antelope against the wind. At last I had him dead
right: broadside to me and motionless as if in a daydream. I knew that
if I drilled his ear, or shot his tail clean off, it would only make him
meaner than ever. He sported an uncommonly fine tail, and was proud to
flaunt it. I drew down on that member, purposely a trifle scant, fired,
and--away scuttled that boar, with a _broken_ tail that would dangle and
cling to him disgracefully through life.

[Illustration: "Bob"]

Exit Belial! It was equivalent to a broken heart. He emigrated, or
committed suicide, I know not which, but the Smoky Mountains knew him no



For a long time my chief interest was not in human neighbors, but in the
mountains themselves--in that mysterious beckoning hinterland which rose
right back of my chimney and spread upward, outward, almost to three
cardinal points of the compass, mile after mile, hour after hour of
lusty climbing--an Eden still unpeopled and unspoiled.

I loved of a morning to slip on my haversack, pick up my rifle, or maybe
a mere staff, and stride forth alone over haphazard routes, to enjoy in
my own untutored way the infinite variety of form and color and shade,
of plant and tree and animal life, in that superb wilderness that
towered there far above all homes of men. (And I love it still, albeit
the charm of new discovery is gone from those heights and gulfs that are
now so intimate and full of memories).

The Carolina mountains have a character all their own. Rising abruptly
from a low base, and then rounding more gradually upward for 2,000 to
5,000 feet above their valleys, their apparent height is more impressive
than that of many a loftier summit in the West which forms only a
protuberance on an elevated plateau. Nearly all of them are clad to
their tops in dense forest and thick undergrowth. Here and there is a
grassy "bald": a natural meadow curiously perched on the very top of a
mountain. There are no bare, rocky summits rising above timber-line, few
jutting crags, no ribs and vertebræ of the earth exposed. Seldom does
one see even a naked ledge of rock. The very cliffs are sheathed with
trees and shrubs, so that one treading their edges has no fear of
falling into an abyss.

Pinnacles or serrated ridges are rare. There are few commanding peaks.
From almost any summit in Carolina one looks out upon a sea of flowing
curves and dome-shaped eminences undulating, with no great disparity of
height, unto the horizon. Almost everywhere the contours are similar:
steep sides gradually rounding to the tops, smooth-surfaced to the eye
because of the endless verdure. Every ridge is separated from its
sisters by deep and narrow ravines. Not one of the thousand water
courses shows a glint of its dashing stream, save where some far-off
river may reveal, through a gap in the mountain, one single shimmering
curve. In all this vast prospect, a keen eye, knowing where to look, may
detect an occasional farmer's clearing, but to the stranger there is
only mountain and forest, mountain and forest, as far as the eye can

Characteristic, too, is the dreamy blue haze, like that of Indian summer
intensified, that ever hovers over the mountains, unless they be swathed
in cloud, or, for a few minutes, after a sharp rain-storm has cleared
the atmosphere. Both the Blue Ridge and the Smoky Mountains owe their
names to this tenuous mist. It softens all outlines, and lends a
mirage-like effect of great distance to objects that are but a few miles
off, while those farther removed grow more and more intangible until
finally the sky-line blends with the sky itself.

The foreground of such a landscape, in summer, is warm, soft, dreamy,
caressing, habitable; beyond it are gentle and luring solitudes; the
remote ranges are inexpressibly lonesome, isolated and mysterious; but
everywhere the green forest mantle bespeaks a vital present; nowhere
does cold, bare granite stand as the sepulchre of an immemorial past.

And yet these very mountains of Carolina are among the ancients of the
earth. They were old, very old, before the Alps and the Andes, the
Rockies and the Himalayas were molded into their primal shapes. Upon
them, in after ages, were born the first hardwoods of America--perhaps
those of Europe, too--and upon them to-day the last great hardwood
forests of our country stand in primeval majesty, mutely awaiting their
imminent doom.

The richness of the Great Smoky forest has been the wonder and the
admiration of everyone who has traversed it. As one climbs from the
river to one of the main peaks, he passes successively through the same
floral zones he would encounter in traveling from mid-Georgia to
southern Canada.

Starting amid sycamores, elms, gums, willows, persimmons, chinquapins,
he soon enters a region of beech, birch, basswood, magnolia, cucumber,
butternut, holly, sourwood, box elder, ash, maple, buckeye, poplar,
hemlock, and a great number of other growths along the creeks and
branches. On the lower slopes are many species of oaks, with hickory,
hemlock, pitch pine, locust, dogwood, chestnut. In this region nearly
all trees attain their fullest development. On north fronts of hills the
oaks reach a diameter of five to six feet. In cool, rich coves, chestnut
trees grow from six to nine feet across the stump; and tulip poplars up
to ten or eleven feet, their straight trunks towering like gigantic
columns, with scarcely a noticeable taper, seventy or eighty feet to the
nearest limb.

Ascending above the zone of 3,000 feet, white oak is replaced by the no
less valuable "mountain oak." Beech, birch, buckeye, and chestnut
persist to 5,000 feet. Then, where the beeches dwindle until adult trees
are only knee-high, there begins a sub-arctic zone of black spruce,
balsam, striped maple, aspen and the "Peruvian" or red cherry.

I have named only a few of the prevailing growths. Nowhere else in the
temperate zone is there such a variety of merchantable timber as in
western Carolina and the Tennessee front of the Unaka system. About a
hundred and twenty species of native trees grow in the Smoky Forest
itself. When Asa Gray visited the North Carolina mountains he
identified, in a thirty-mile trip, a greater variety of indigenous trees
than could be observed in crossing Europe from England to Turkey, or in
a trip from Boston to the Rocky Mountain plateau. As John Muir has said,
our forests, "however slighted by man, must have been a great delight to
God; for they were the best He ever planted."

The undergrowth is of almost tropical luxuriance and variety. Botanists
say that this is the richest collecting ground in the United States.
Whether one be seeking ferns or fungi or orchids or almost anything else
vegetal, each hour will bring him some new delight. In summer the upper
mountains are one vast flower garden: the white and pink of
rhododendron, the blaze of azalea, conspicuous above all else, in
settings of every imaginable shade of green.

It was the botanist who discovered this Eden for us. Far back in the
eighteenth century, when this was still "Cherokee Country," inhabited by
no whites but a few Indian-traders, William Bartram of Philadelphia came
plant-hunting into the mountains of western Carolina, and spread their
fame to the world. One of his choicest finds was the fiery azalea, of
which he recorded: "The epithet fiery I annex to this most celebrated
species of azalea, as being expressive of the appearance of its flowers;
which are in general of the color of the finest red-lead, orange, and
bright gold, as well as yellow and cream-color. These various splendid
colors are not only in separate plants, but frequently all the varieties
and shades are seen in separate branches on the same plant; and the
clusters of the blossoms cover the shrubs in such incredible profusion
on the hillsides that, suddenly opening to view from dark shades, we
are alarmed with apprehension of the woods being set on fire. This is
certainly the most gay and brilliant flowering shrub yet known."

And we of a later age, seeing the same wild gardens still unspoiled, can
appreciate the almost religious fervor of those early botanists, as of
Michaux, for example, who, in 1794, ascending the peak of Grandfather,
broke out in song: "_Monté au sommet de la plus haut montagne de tout
l'Amérique Septentrionale, chante avec mon compagnon-guide l'hymn de
Marsellois, et crié, 'Vive la Liberté et la République Française!'_"

Of course Michaux was wildly mistaken in thinking Grandfather "the
highest mountain in all North America." It is far from being even the
highest of the Appalachians. Yet we scarcely know to-day, to a downright
certainty, which peak is supreme among our Southern highlands. The honor
is conceded to Mount Mitchell in the Black Mountains, northeast of
Asheville. Still, the heights of the Carolina peaks have been taken
(with but one exception, so far as I know) only by barometric
measurements, and these, even when official, may vary as much as a
hundred feet for the same mountain. Since the highest ten or a dozen of
our Carolina peaks differ in altitude only one or two hundred feet,
their actual rank has not yet been determined.

[Illustration: Photo by U. S. Forest Service

"There are few jutting crags"--Southeast profile of Whiteside Mountain,
N. C.]

For a long time there was controversy as to whether Mount Mitchell or
Clingman Dome was the crowning summit of eastern America. The Coast and
Geodetic Survey gave the height of Mount Mitchell as 6,688 feet; but
later figures of the U. S. Geological Survey are 6,711 and 6,712. In
1859 Buckley claimed for Clingman Dome of the Smokies an altitude of
6,941 feet. In recent government reports the Dome appears variously as
6,619 and 6,660. In 1911 I was told by Mr. H. M. Ramseur that when he
laid out the route of the railroad from Asheville to Murphy he ran a
line of levels from a known datum on this road to the top of Clingman,
and that the result was "four sixes" (6,666 feet above sea-level). It is
probable that second place among the peaks of Appalachia may belong
either to Clingman Dome or Guyot or LeConte, of the Smokies, or to
Balsam Cone of the Black Mountains.

In any case, the Great Smoky mountains are the master chain of the
Appalachian system, the greatest mass of highland east of the Rockies.
This segment of the Unakas forms the boundary between North Carolina
and Tennessee from the Big Pigeon River to the McDaniel Bald.

Although some parts of the Smokies are very rugged, with sharp changes
of elevation, yet the range as a whole has no one dominating peak. Mount
Guyot (pronounced _Gee_-o, with _g_ as in get), Mount LeConte, and
Clingman Dome all are over 6,600 feet and under 6,700, according to the
most trustworthy measurements. Many miles of the divide rise 6,000 feet
above sea-level, with only small undulations like ocean swells.

       *       *       *       *       *

The most rugged and difficult part of the Smokies (and of the United
States east of Colorado) is in the sawtooth mountains between Collins
and Guyot, at the headwaters of the Okona Lufty River. I know but few
men who have ever followed this part of the divide, although during the
present year trails have been cut from Clingman to Collins, or near it,
and possibly others beyond to the northeastward.

In August and September, 1900, Mr. James H. Ferriss and wife,
naturalists from Joliet, Illinois, explored the Smokies to the Lufty Gap
northeast of Clingman, collecting rare species of snails and ferns. No
doubt Mrs. Ferriss is the only white woman who ever went beyond
Clingman or even ascended the Dome itself. She stayed at the Lufty Gap
while her husband and a Carolina mountaineer of my acquaintance
struggled through to Guyot and returned. Of this trip Mr. Ferriss sent
me the following account:

"We bought another axe of a moonshiner, and, with a week's provisions on
our backs, one of the guides and I took the Consolidated American Black
Bear and Ruffed Grouse Line for Mount Guyot, twenty miles farther by map
measurement. The bears were in full possession of the property, and we
could get no information in the settlements, as the settlers do not
travel this line. They did not know the names of the peaks other than as
tops of the Great Smokies--knew nothing of the character of the country
except that it was rough. The Tennesseeans seem afraid of the mountains,
and the Cherokees of the North Carolina side equally so; for, two miles
from camp, all traces of man, except surveyors' marks, had disappeared.
In the first two days we routed eight bears out of their nests and mud
wallows, and they seemed to stay routed, for upon our return we found
the blackberry crop unharvested and had a bag pudding--'duff'--or what
you call it.

"A surveyor had run part of the line this year, which helped us
greatly, and the bears had made well-beaten trails part of the way. In
places they had mussed up the ground as much as a barnyard. We tried to
follow the boundary line between the two States, which is exactly upon
the top of the Smokies, but often missed it. The government [state]
surveyor many years ago made two hacks upon the trees, but sometimes the
linemen neglected to use their axes for half a mile or so. It took us
three and one-half days to go, and two and one-half to return, and we
arose with the morning star and worked hard all day. The last day and a
half, going, there was nothing to guide us but the old hacks.

"Equipped with government maps, a good compass, and a little conceit, I
thought I could follow the boundary-line. In fact, at one time we
intended to go through without a guide. A trail that runs through
blackberry bushes two miles out of three is hard to follow. Then there
was a huckleberry bush reaching to our waists growing thickly upon the
ground as tomato vines, curled hard, and stubborn; and laurel much like
a field of lilac bushes, crooked and strong as iron. In one place we
walked fully a quarter of a mile over the tops of laurel bushes and
these were ten or twelve feet in height, but blown over one way by the
wind. Much of the trail was along rocky edges, sometimes but six inches
or so wide, but almost straight down on both sides for hundreds of feet.
One night, delayed by lack of water, we did not camp till dark, and,
finding a smooth spot, lay down with a small log on each side to hold us
from rolling out of bed. When daylight came we found that, had we rolled
over the logs, my partner would have dropped 500 feet into Tennessee and
I would have dropped as far into North Carolina, unless some friendly
tree top had caught us. Sometimes the mountain forked, and these ridges,
concealed by the balsams, would not be seen. Then there were round
knobs--and who can tell where the highest ridge lies on a round mountain
or a ball? My woolen shirt was torn off to the shoulders, and my
partner, who had started out with corduroys, stayed in the brush until I
got him a pair of overalls from camp."

Even to the west of Clingman a stranger is likely to find some
desperately rough travel if he should stray from the trail that follows
the divide. It is easy going for anyone in fair weather, but when cloud
settles on the mountain, as it often does without warning, it may be so
thick that one cannot see a tree ten feet away. Under such circumstances
I have myself floundered from daylight till dark through heart-breaking
laurel thickets, and without a bite to eat, not knowing whither I was
going except that it was toward the Little Tennessee River.

In 1906 I spent the summer in a herders' hut on top of the divide, just
west of the Locust Ridge (miscalled Chestnut Ridge on the map), about
six miles east of Thunderhead. This time I had a partner, and we had a
glorious three months of it, nearly a mile above sea-level, and only
half a day's climb from the nearest settlement. One day I was alone,
Andy having gone down to Medlin for the mail. It had rained a good
deal--in fact, there was a shower nearly every day throughout the
summer, the only semblance of a dry season in the Smokies being the
autumn and early winter. The nights were cold enough for fires and
blankets, even in our well-chinked cabin.

Well, I had finished my lonesome dinner, and was washing up, when I saw
a man approaching. This was an event, for we seldom saw other men than
our two selves. He was a lame man, wearing an iron extension on one
foot, and he hobbled with a cane. He looked played-out and gaunt. I met
him outside. He smiled as though I looked good to him, and asked with
some eagerness, "Can I buy something to eat here?"

"No," I answered, "you can't buy anything here"--how his face
fell!--"but I'll give you the best we have, and you're welcome."

Then you should have seen that smile!

He seemed to have just enough strength left to drag himself into the
hut. I asked no questions, though wondering what a cripple, evidently a
gentleman, though in rather bad repair, was doing on top of the Smoky
Mountains. It was plain that he had spent more than one night
shelterless in the cold rain, and that he was quite famished. While I
was baking the biscuit and cooking some meat, he told his story. This is
the short of it:

"I am a Canadian, McGill University man, electrician. My company sent me
to Cincinnati. I got a vacation of a couple of weeks, and thought I'd
take a pedestrian tour. I can walk better than you'd think," and he
tapped the short leg.

I liked his grit.

"I knew no place to go," he continued; "so I took a map and looked for
what might be interesting country, not too far from Cincinnati. I picked
out these mountains, got a couple of government topographical sheets,
and, thinking they would serve like European ordnance maps, I had no
fear of going astray. It was my plan to walk through to the Balsam
Mountains, and so on to the Big Pigeon River. I went to Maryville,
Tennessee, and there I was told that I would find a cabin every five or
six miles along the summit from Thunderhead to the Balsams."

I broke in abruptly: "Whoever told you that was either an impostor or an
ignoramus. There are only four of these shacks on the whole Smoky range.
Two of them, the Russell cabin and the Spencer place, you have already
passed without knowing it. This is called the Hall cabin. None of these
three are occupied save for a week or so in the fall when the cattle are
being rounded up, or by chance, as my partner and I happen to be here
now. Beyond this there is just one shack, at Siler's Meadow. It is down
below the summit, hidden in timber, and you would never have seen it.
Even if you had, you would have found it as bare as a last year's mouse
nest, for nobody ever goes there except a few bear-hunters. From there
onward for forty miles is an uninhabited wilderness so rough that you
could not make seven miles a day in it to save your life, even if you
knew the course; and there is no trail at all. Those government maps
are good and reliable to show the _approaches_ to this wild country, but
where you need them most they are good for nothing."

[Illustration: The Bears' Home--Laurel and Rhododendron]

"Then," said he, "if I had missed your cabin I would have starved to
death, for I depended on finding a house to the eastward, and would have
followed the trail till I dropped. I have been out in the laurel
thickets, now, three days and two nights; so nothing could have induced
me to leave this trail, once I found it, or until I could see out to a
house on one side or other of the mountain."

"You would see no house on either side from here to beyond Guyot, about
forty miles. Had you no rations at all?"

"I traveled light, expecting to find entertainment among the natives.
Here is what I have left."

He showed me a crumpled buckwheat flapjack, a pinch of tea, and a couple
of ounces of brandy.

"I was saving them for the last extremity; have had nothing to eat since
yesterday morning. Drink the brandy, please; it came from Montreal."

"No, my boy, that liquor goes down your own throat instanter. You're the
chap that needs it. This coffee will boil now in a minute. I won't give
you all the food you want, for it wouldn't be prudent; but by and by you
shall have a bellyful."

Then, as well as he could, he sketched the route he had followed. Where
the trail from Tennessee crosses from Thunderhead to Haw Gap he had
swerved off from the divide, and he discovered his error somewhere in
the neighborhood of Blockhouse. There, instead of retracing his steps,
he sought a short-cut by plunging down to the headwaters of Haw Creek,
thus worming deeper and deeper into the devil's nest. One more day would
have finished him. When I told him that the trip from Clingman to Guyot
would be hard work for a party of experienced mountaineers, and that it
would probably take them a week, during which time they would have to
pack all supplies on their own backs, he agreed that his best course
would be down into Carolina and out to the railroad.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of animal life in the mountains I was most entertained by the raven.
This extraordinary bird was the first creature Noah liberated from the
ark--he must have known, even at that early period of nature study, that
it was the most sagacious of all winged things. Or perhaps Noah and the
raven did not get on well together and he rid himself of the pest at
first opportunity. Doubtless there could have been no peace aboard a
craft that harbored so inquisitive and talkative a fowl. Anyway, the
wild raven has been superlatively shy of man ever since the flood.

Probably there is no place south of Labrador where our raven (_Corvus
corax principalis_) is seen so often as in the Smokies; and yet, even
here, a man may haunt the tops for weeks without sight or sound of the
ebon mystery--then, for a few days, they will be common. On the
southeast side of the Locust Ridge, opposite Huggins's Hell, between
Bone Valley and the main fork of Hazel Creek, there is a "Raven's Cliff"
where they winter and breed, using the same nests year after year.
Occasionally one is trapped, with bloody groundhog for bait; but I have
yet to meet a man who has succeeded in shooting one.

If the raven's body be elusive his tongue assuredly is not. No other
animal save man has anything like his vocal range. The raven croaks,
clucks, caws, chuckles, squalls, pleads, "pooh-poohs," grunts, barks,
mimics small birds, hectors, cajoles--yes, pulls a cork, whets a scythe,
files a saw--with his throat. As is well known, ravens can be taught
human speech, like parrots; and I am told they show the same preference
for bad words--which, I think, is quite in character with their
reputation as thieves and butchers. However, I may be prejudiced, seeing
that the raven's favorite dainties for his menu are the eyes of living
fawns and lambs.

A stranger in these mountains will be surprised at the apparent scarcity
of game animals. It is not unusual for one to hunt all day in an
absolute wilderness, where he sees never a fresh track of man, and not
get a shot at anything fit to eat. The cover is so dense that one
still-hunting (going without dogs) has poor chance of spying the game
that lurks about him; and there really is little of it by comparison
with such huntings fields as the Adirondacks, Maine, Canada, where game
has been conserved for many years. It used to be the same up there. The
late W. J. Stillman, writing in 1877 of the Maine woods, said:

     "The most striking feature of the forest, after one has become
     habituated to the gloom, the pathlessness, and the apparent
     impenetrability of the screen it forms around him, is the absence
     of animal life. You may wander for hours without seeing a living
     creature.... One thinks of the woods and the wild beasts; yet in
     all the years of my wilderness living I can catalogue the wild
     creatures other than squirrels, grouse, and small birds (never
     plenty, generally very rare) which I have accidentally encountered
     and seen while wandering for hunting or mere pastime in the wild
     forest; one deer, one porcupine, one marten (commonly called
     sable), and maybe half a dozen hares. You may walk hours and not
     see a living creature larger than a fly, for days together and not
     see a grouse, a squirrel, or a bird larger than the Canada jay....
     Lands running with game are like those flowing with milk and honey;
     and when the sporting books tell you that game is abundant, don't
     imagine that you are assured from starvation thereby. I have been
     reduced, in a country where deer were swarming, to live several
     days together on corn meal."

It is much the same to-day in our Appalachian wilderness, where no
protection worthy the name has ever been afforded the game and fish
since Indian times. There is a class of woods-loafers, very common here,
that ranges the forest at all seasons with single-barrel shotguns or
"hog rifles," killing bearing females as well as legitimate game,
fishing at night, even using dynamite in the streams; and so, in spite
of the fact that there is no better game harborage granted by Nature on
our continent than the Carolina mountains, the deer are all but
exterminated in most districts, turkeys and even squirrels are rather
scarce, and good trout fishing is limited to stocked waters or streams
flowing through virgin forest. The only game animal that still holds his
own is the black bear, and he endures in few places other than the
roughest districts, such as that southwest of the Sugarland Mountains,
where laurel and cliffs daunt all but the hardiest of men.

The only venomous snakes in the mountains are rattlers and copperheads,
the former common, the latter rare. The chance of being bitten by one is
about as remote as that of being struck by lightning--either accident
_might_ happen, of course. The mountaineers have an absurd notion that
the little lizard so common in the hills is rank "pizen." Oddly enough,
they call it a "scorpion."

From those two pests of the North Woods, black-flies and mosquitoes, the
Smokies are mercifully exempt. At least there are no mosquitoes that
bite or sting, except down in the river valleys where they have been
introduced by railroad trains--and even there they are but a feeble
folk. The reason is that in the mountains there is almost no standing
water where they can breed.

On the other hand, the common house-fly is extraordinarily numerous and
persistent--a daily curse, even on top of Smoky. I imagine this is due
to the wet climate, as in Ireland. Minute gnats (the "punkies" or
"no-see-ums" of the North) are also offensively present in trout-fishing
time. And every cabin is alive with fleas. A hundred nights I have
anointed myself with citronella from head to foot, and outsmelt a cheap
barber-shop, to escape their plague. In a tent, and without dogs, one
can be immune.

In most years there are very few chiggers, except on pine ridges. They
are worse along rivers than in the mountains. The ticks of this country
are not numerous, and seldom fasten on man.

The climate of the Carolina mountains is pleasantly cool in summer. Even
at low altitudes (1,600 to 2,000 feet) the nights generally are
refreshing. It may be hot in the sun, but always cool in the shade. The
air is drier (less relative humidity) than in the lowlands,
notwithstanding that there is greater rainfall here than elsewhere in
the United States outside of Florida and the Puget Sound country. The
annual rainfall varies a great deal according to locality, being least
at Asheville (42 inches) and greatest on the southeastern slope of the
Blue Ridge, where as much as 105 inches has been recorded in a year. The
average rainfall of the whole region is 73 inches a year.[2]

In general the mornings are apt to be lowery, with fogs hanging low
until, say, 9 o'clock, so that one cannot predict weather for the day.
Heavy dews remain on the bushes until about the same hour.

The winters are short. What Northerners would call cold weather is not
expected until Christmas, and generally it is gone by the end of
February. Snow sometimes falls on the higher mountains by the first of
October, and the last snow may linger there until April (exceptionally
it falls in May). Tornadoes are unknown here, but sometimes a hurricane
will sweep the upper ranges. On April 19, 1900, a blizzard from the
northwest struck the Smokies. In twenty minutes everything was frozen.
At Siler's Meadow seventeen cattle climbed upon each other for warmth
and froze to death in a solid hecatomb. A herdsman who was out at the
time, and narrowly escaped a similar fate, assured me that "that was the
beatenest snowstorm ever I seen." In the valleys there may be a few days
in January and February when the mercury drops to zero or a few
degrees lower. On the high peaks, of course, the winter cold often is
intense, and on the sunless north side of Clingman there are overhangs
or crevices where a little ice may be found the year around.

[Illustration: The old copper mine]

Undoubtedly there is vast mineral wealth hidden in the Carolina
mountains. A greater variety of minerals has been found here than in any
other State save Colorado. But, for the present, it is a hard country to
prospect in, owing to the thick covering of the forest floor. Not only
is the underbrush very dense, but beneath it there generally is a thick
stratum of clay overlaying the rocks, even on steep slopes. Gold has
been found in numberless places, but finely disseminated. I do not know
a locality in the mountains proper where a working vein has been
discovered. At my cabin I did just enough panning to get a notion that
if I could stand working in icy water ten hours a day I might average a
dollar in yellow dust by it. The adjacent copper mine carries
considerable gold. Silver and lead are not common, so far as known, but
there are many good copper and iron properties. Gems are mined
profitably in several of the western counties. The corundum, mica, talc,
and monazite are, I believe, unexcelled in the United States. Building
stone is abundant, and there is fine marble in various places. Kaolin is
shipped out in considerable quantities. The rocks chiefly are gneisses,
granites, metamorphosed marbles, quartzites, and slates, all of them far
too old to bear fossils or coal.



"Git up, pup! you've scrouged right in hyur in front of the fire. You
Dred! what makes you so blamed contentious?"

Little John shoved both dogs into a corner, and strove to scrape some
coals from under a beech forestick that glowed almost hot enough to melt

"This is the wust coggled-up fire I ever seed, to fry by. Bill, hand me
some Old Ned from that suggin o' mine."

A bearded hunchback reached his long arm to a sack that hung under our
rifles, drew out a chuck of salt pork, and began slicing it with his
jackknife. On inquiry I learned that "Old Ned" is merely slang for fat
pork, but that "suggin" or "sujjit" (the _u_ pronounced like _oo_ in
look) is true mountain dialect for a pouch, valise, or carryall, its
etymology being something to puzzle over.

Four dogs growled at each other under a long bunk of poles and hay that
spanned one side of our cabin. The fire glared out upon the middle of an
unfloored and windowless room. Deep shadows clung to the walls and
benches, charitably concealing much dirt and disorder left by previous
occupants, much litter of our own contributing.

At last we were on a saddle of the divide, a mile above sea-level, in a
hut built years ago for temporary lodgment of cattle-men herding on the
grassy "balds" of the Smokies. A sagging clapboard roof covered its two
rooms and the open space between them that we called our "entry." The
State line between North Carolina and Tennessee ran through this
uninclosed hallway. The Carolina room had a puncheon floor and a
clapboard table, also better bunks than its mate; but there had risen a
stiff southerly gale that made the chimney smoke so abominably that we
were forced to take quarters in the neighbor State.

Granville lifted the lid from a big Dutch oven and reported "Bread's

There was a flash in the frying-pan, a curse and a puff from Little
John. The coffee-pot boiled over. We gathered about the hewn benches
that served for tables, and sat _à la Turc_ upon the ground. For some
time there was no sound but the gale without and the munching of
ravenous men.

"If this wind 'll only cease afore mornin', we'll git us a bear

A powerful gust struck the cabin, by way of answer; a great roaring
surged up from the gulf of Defeat, from Desolation, and from the other
forks of Bone Valley--clamor of ten thousand trees struggling with the

"Hit's gittin' wusser."

"Any danger of this roost being blown off the mountain?" I inquired.

"Hit's stood hyur twenty year through all the storms; I reckon it can
stand one more night of it."

"A man couldn't walk upright, outside the cabin," I asserted, thinking
of the St. Louis tornado, in which I had lain flat on my belly, clinging
to an iron post.

The hunchback turned to me with a grave face. "I've seed hit blow, here
on top o' Smoky, till a hoss couldn't stand up agin it. You'll spy,
to-morrow, whar several trees has been wind-throwed and busted to

I recalled that several, in the South, means many--"a good many," as our
own tongues phrase it.

"Oh, shucks! Bill Cope," put in "Doc" Jones, "whut do you-uns know about
windstorms? Now, _I've_ hed some experiencin' up hyur that 'll do to tell
about. You remember the big storm three year ago, come grass, when the
cattle all huddled up a-top o' each other and friz in one pile, solid."

Bill grunted an affirmative.

"Wal, sir, I was a-herdin', over at the Spencer Place, and was out on
Thunderhead when the wind sprung up. Thar come one turrible vyg'rous
blow that jest nacherally lifted the ground. I went up in the sky, my
coat ripped off, and I went a-sailin' end-over-end."


"Yes. About half an hour later, I lit _spang_ in the mud, way down
yander in Tuckaleechee Cove--yes, sir: ten mile as the crow flies, and a
mile deeper 'n trout-fish swim."

There was silence for a moment. Then Little John spoke up: "I mind about
that time, Doc; but I disremember which buryin'-ground they-all planted
ye in."

"Planted! _Me?_ Huh! But I had one tormentin' time findin' my hat!"

The cabin shook under a heavier blast, to match Bill's yarn.

"Old Wind-maker's blowin' liars out o' North Car'lina. Hang on to yer
hat, Doc! Whoop! hear 'em a-comin'!"

"Durn this blow, anyhow! No bear 'll cross the mountain sich a night as

"Can't we hunt down on the Carolina side?" I asked.

"That's whar we're goin' to drive; but hit's no use if the bear don't
come over."

"How is that? Do they sleep in one State and eat in the other?"

"Yes: you see, the Tennessee side of the mountain is powerful steep and
laurely, so 't man nor dog cain't git over it in lots o' places; that's
whar the bears den. But the mast, sich as acorns and beech and hickory
nuts, is mostly on the Car'lina side; that's whar they hafter come to
feed. So, when it blows like this, they stay at home and suck their paws
till the weather clars."

"So we'll have to do, at this rate."

"I'll go see whut the el-e-ments looks like."

We arose from our squatting postures. John opened the little clapboard
door, which swung violently backward as another gust boomed against the
cabin. Dust and hot ashes scattered in every direction. The dogs sprang
up, one encroached upon another, and they flew at each other's throats.
They were powerful beasts, dangerous to man as well as to the brutes
they were trained to fight; but John was their master, and he soon
booted them into surly subjection.

"The older dog don't ginerally raise no ruction; hit's the younger one
that's ill," by which he meant vicious. "You, Coaly, you'll git some o'
that meanness shuck outen you if you tackle an old she-bear to-morrow!"

"Has the young dog ever fought a bear?"

"No; he don't know nothin'; but I reckon he'll pick up some larnin' in
the next two, three days."

"Have these dogs got the Plott strain? I've been told that the Plott
hounds are the best bear dogs in the country."

"'Tain't so," snorted John. "The Plott curs are the best: that is, half
hound, half cur--though what we-uns calls the cur, in this case, raelly
comes from a big furrin dog that I don't rightly know the breed of.
Fellers, you can talk as you please about a streak o' the cur spilin' a
dog; but I know hit ain't so--not for bear fightin' in these mountains,
whar you cain't foller up on hossback, but hafter do your own runnin'."

"What is the reason, John?"

[Illustration: "What soldiers these fellows would make, under leadership
of some Backwoods Napoleon!"]

"Waal, hit's like this: a plumb cur, of course, cain't foller a cold
track--he just runs by sight; and he won't hang--he quits. But,
t'other way, no hound 'll raelly fight a bear--hit takes a big severe
dog to do that. Hounds has the best noses, and they'll run a bear all
day and night, and the next day, too; but they won't never tree--they're
afeared to close in. Now, look at them dogs o' mine. A cur ain't got no
dew-claws--them dogs has. My dogs can foller ary trail, same's a hound;
but they'll run right in on the varmint, snappin' and chawin' and
worryin' him till he gits so mad you can hear his tushes pop half a
mile. He cain't run away--he haster stop every bit, and fight. Finally
he gits so tired and het up that he trees to rest hisself. Then we-uns
ketches up and finishes him."

"Mebbe you-uns don't know that a dew-clawed dog is snake-proof----"

But somebody, thinking that dog-talk had gone far enough, produced a
bottle of soothing-syrup that was too new to have paid tax. Then we
discovered that there was musical talent, of a sort, in Little John. He
cut a pigeon-wing, twirled around with an imaginary banjo, and sang in a
quaint minor:

  Did you _ever_ see the devil,
  With his _pitchfork_ and ladle,
  And his _old_ iron shovel,
  And his old gourd head?
    O, I _will_ go to meetin',
    And I _will_ go to meetin',
    Yes, I _will_ go to meetin',
    In an old tin pan.

Other songs followed, with utter irrelevance--mere snatches from
"ballets" composed, mainly, by the mountaineers themselves, though some
dated back to a long-forgotten age when the British ancestors of these
Carolina woodsmen were battling with lance and long-bow. It was one of
modern and local origin that John was singing when there came a
diversion from without--

  La-a-ay down, boys,
    Le's take a nap:
  Thar's goin' to be trouble
    In the Cumberland Gap--

Our ears were stunned by one sudden thundering crash. The roof rose
visibly, as though pushed upward from within. In an instant we were
blinded by moss and dried mud--the chinking blown from between the logs
of our shabby cabin. Dred and Coaly cowered as though whipped, while
"Doc's" little hound slunk away in the keen misery of fear. We men
looked at each other with lowered eyelids and the grim smile that
denotes readiness, though no special eagerness, for dissolution. Beyond
the "gant-lot" we could hear trees and limbs popping like skirmishers in

Then that tidal wave of air swept by. The roof settled again with only a
few shingles missing. We went to "redding up." Squalls broke against the
mountainside, hither and yon, like the hammer of Thor testing the
foundations of the earth. But they were below us. Here, on top, there
was only the steady drive of a great surge of wind; and speech was
possible once more.

"Fellers, you want to mark whut you dream about, to-night: hit'll shore
come true to-morrow."

"Yes: but you mustn't tell whut yer dream was till the hunt's over, or
it'll spile the charm."

There ensued a grave discussion of dream-lore, in which the illiterates
of our party declared solemn faith. If one dreamt of blood, he would
surely see blood the next day. Another lucky sign for a hunter was to
dream of quarreling with a woman, for that meant a she-bear; it was
favorable to dream of clear water, but muddy water meant trouble.

The wind died away. When we went out for a last observation of the
weather we found the air so clear that the lights of Knoxville were
plainly visible, in the north-north west, thirty-two miles in an air
line. Not another light was to be seen on earth, although in some
directions we could scan for nearly a hundred miles. The moon shone
brightly. Things looked rather favorable for the morrow, after all.

       *       *       *       *       *


I awoke to a knowledge that somebody had built a roaring fire and was
stirring about. Between the cabin logs one looked out upon a starry sky
and an almost pitch-dark world. What did that pottering vagabond mean by
arousing us in the middle of the night? But I was hungry. Everybody half
arose on elbows and blinked about. Then we got up, each after his
fashion, except one scamp who resumed snoring.

"Whar's that brekfust you're yellin' about?"

"Hit's for you-uns to help _git_! I knowed I couldn't roust ye no other
way. Here, you, go down to the spring and fetch water. Rustle out, boys;
we've got to git a soon start if you want bear brains an' liver for

The "soon start" tickled me into good humor.

Our dogs were curled together under the long bunk, having popped indoors
as soon as the way was opened. Somebody trod on Coaly's tail. Coaly
snapped Dred. Instantly there was action between the four. It is
interesting to observe what two or three hundred pounds of dog can do to
a ramshackle berth with a man on top of it. Poles and hay and ragged
quilts flew in every direction. Sleepy Matt went down in the midst of
the mêlée, swearing valiantly. I went out and hammered ice out of the
wash-basin while Granville and John quelled the riot. Presently our
frying-pans sputtered and the huge coffee-pot began to get up steam.

"Waal, who dreamt him a good dream?"

"I did," affirmed the writer. "I dreamt that I had an old colored woman
by the throat and was choking dollars out of her mouth----"

"Good la!" exclaimed four men in chorus; "you hadn't orter a-told."

"Why? Wasn't that a lovely dream?"

"Hit means a she-bear, shore as a cap-shootin' gun; but you've done
spiled it all by tellin'. Mebbe somebody'll git her to-day, but _you_
won't--your chanct is ruined."

So the reader will understand why, in this veracious narrative, I cannot
relate any heroic exploits of my own in battling with Ursus Major. And
so you, ambitious one, when you go into the Smokies after that long-lost
bear, remember these two cardinal points of the Law:

     (1) Dream that you are fighting some poor old colored woman. (That
     is easy: the victuals you get will fix up your dream, all right.)

     (2) Keep your mouth shut about it.

There was still no sign of rose-color in the eastern sky when we sallied
forth. The ground, to use a mountaineer's expression, was "all spewed up
with frost." Rime crackled underfoot and our mustaches soon stiffened in
the icy wind.

It was settled that Little John Cable and the hunchback Cope should take
the dogs far down into Bone Valley and start the drive, leaving
Granville, "Doc," Matt, and myself to picket the mountain. I was given a
stand about half a mile east of the cabin, and had but a vague notion of
where the others went.

By jinks, it was cold! I built a little fire between the buttressing
roots of a big mountain oak, but still my toes and fingers were numb.
This was the 25th of November, and we were at an altitude where
sometimes frost forms in July. The other men were more thinly clad than
I, and with not a stitch of wool beyond their stockings; but they seemed
to revel in the keen air. I wasted some pity on Cope, who had no
underwear worthy of the name; but afterwards I learned that he would not
have worn more clothes if they had been given him. Many a night my
companions had slept out on the mountain without blanket or shelter,
when the ground froze and every twig in the forest was coated with rime
from the winter fog.

Away out yonder beyond the mighty bulk of Clingman Dome, which, black
with spruce and balsam, looked like a vast bear rising to contemplate
the northern world, there streaked the first faint, nebulous hint of
dawn. Presently the big bear's head was tipped with a golden crown
flashing against the scarlet fires of the firmament, and the earth

A rustling some hundred yards below me gave signal that the gray
squirrels were on their way to water. Out of a tree overhead hopped a
mountain "boomer" (red squirrel), and down he came, eyed me, and
stopped. Cocking his head to one side he challenged peremptorily: "Who
are you? Stump? Stump? Not a stump. What the deuce!"

I moved my hand.

"Lawk--the booger-man! Run, run, run!"

Somewhere from the sky came a strange, half-human note, as of someone
chiding: "_Wal_-lace, _Wal_-lace, _Wat_!" I could get no view for the
trees. Then the voice flexibly changed to a deep-toned "Co-_logne_,
Co-_logne_, Co-_logne_," that rang like a bell through the forest

Two names uttered distinctly from the air! Two scenes conjured in a
breath, vivid but unrelated as in dreams: Wallace--an iron-bound
Scottish coast; Cologne--tall spires, and cliffs along the Rhine! What
magic had flashed such pictures upon a remote summit of the Smoky

The weird speaker sailed into view--a raven. Forward it swept with great
speed of ebon wings, fairly within gunshot for one teasing moment. Then,
as if to mock my gaping stupor, it hurtled like a hawk far into the safe
distance, whence it flung back loud screams of defiance and chuckles of

As the morning drew on, I let the fire die to ashes and basked lazily in
the sun. Not a sound had I heard from the dogs. My hoodoo was working
malignly. Well, let it work. I was comfortable now, and that old bear
could go to any other doom she preferred. It was pleasant enough to
lie here alone in the forest and be free! Aye, it was good to be alive,
and to be far, far away from the broken bottles and old tin cans of

[Illustration: "By and by up they came, carrying the Bear on a trimmed

For many a league to the southward clouds covered all the valleys in
billows of white, from which rose a hundred mountain tops, like islands
in a tropic ocean. My fancy sailed among and beyond them, beyond the
horizon's rim, even unto those far seas that I had sailed in my youth,
to the old times and the old friends that I should never see again.

But a forenoon is long-drawn-out when one has breakfasted before dawn,
and has nothing to do but sit motionless in the woods and watch and
listen. I got to fingering my rifle trigger impatiently and wishing that
a wild Thanksgiving gobbler might blunder into view. Squirrels made
ceaseless chatter all around my stand. Large hawks shrilled by me within
tempting range, whistling like spent bullets. A groundhog sat up on a
log and whistled, too, after a manner of his own. He was so near that I
could see his nose wiggle. A skunk waddled around for twenty minutes,
and once came so close that I thought he would nibble my boot. I was
among old mossy beeches, scaled with polyphori, and twisted into
postures of torture by their battles with the storms. Below, among
chestnuts and birches, I could hear the _t-wee, t-wee_ of "joree-birds"
(towhees), which winter in the valleys. Incessantly came the
_chip-chip-cluck_ of ground squirrels, the saucy bark of the grays, and
great chirruping among the "boomers," which had ceased swearing and were
hard at work.

Far off on my left a rifle cracked. I pricked up and listened intently,
but there was never a yelp from a dog. Since it is a law of the chase to
fire at nothing smaller than turkeys, lest big game be scared away, this
shot might mean a gobbler. I knew that Matt Hyde could not, to save his
soul, sit ten minutes on a stand without calling turkeys (and he _could_
call them, with his unassisted mouth, better than anyone I ever heard
perform with leaf or wing-bone or any other contrivance).

Thus the slow hours dragged along. I yearned mightily to stretch my
legs. Finally, being certain that no drive would approach my stand that
day, I ambled back to the hut and did a turn at dinner-getting. Things
were smoking, and smelt good, by the time four of our men turned up, all
of them dog-tired and disappointed, but stoical.

"That pup Coaly chased off atter a wildcat," blurted John. "We held the
old dogs together and let him rip. Then Dred started a deer. It was that
old buck that everybody's shot at, and missed, this three year back. I'd
believe he's a hant if 't wasn't for his tracks--they're the biggest I
ever seen. He must weigh two hunderd and fifty. But he's a foxy cuss.
Tuk right down the bed o' Desolation, up the left prong of Roaring Fork,
right through the Devil's Race-path (how a deer can git through thar I
don't see!), crossed at the Meadow Gap, went down Eagle Creek, and by
now he's in the Little Tennessee. That buck, shorely to God, has wings!"

We were at table in the Carolina room when Matt Hyde appeared. Sure
enough, he bore a turkey hen.

"I was callin' a gobbler when this fool thing showed up. I fired a shoot
as she riz in the air, but only bruk her wing. She made off on her legs
like the devil whoppin' out fire. I run, an' she run. Guess I run her
half a mile through all-fired thickets. She piped '_Quit--quit_,' but I
said, 'I'll see you in hell afore I quit!' and the chase resumed.
Finally I knocked her over with a birch stob, and here we are."

Matt ruefully surveyed his almost denuded legs, evidence of his chase.
"Boys," said he, "I'm nigh breechless!"

       *       *       *       *       *

None but native-born mountaineers could have stood the strain of another
drive that day, for the country that Cope and Cable had been through was
fearful, especially the laurel up Roaring Fork and Killpeter Ridge. But
the stamina of these "withey" little men was even more remarkable than
their endurance of cold. After a small slice of fried pork, a chunk of
half-baked johnny-cake, and a pint or so of coffee, they were as fresh
as ever.

What soldiers these fellows would make, under leadership of some
backwoods Napoleon who could hold them together!--some man like Daniel
Morgan of the Revolution, who was one of them, yet greater!

I had made the coffee strong, and it was good stuff that I had brought
from home. After his first deep draught, Little John exclaimed:

"Hah! boys, that coffee hits whar ye hold it!"

I thought that a neat compliment from a sharpshooter.

We took new stands; but the afternoon passed without incident to those
of us on the mountain tops. I returned to camp about five o'clock, and
was surprised to see three of our men lugging across the "gant-lot"[3]
toward the cabin a small female bear.

"Hyur's yer old nigger woman," shouted John.

The hunters showed no elation--in fact, they looked sheepish--and I
suspected a nigger in the woodpile.

"How's this? I didn't hear any drive."

"There wa'n't none."

"Then where did you get your bear?"

"In one of Wit Hensley's traps, dum him! Boys, I wish t' we _hed_
roasted the temper outen them trap-springs, like we talked o' doin'."

"Was the bear alive?"

"Live as a hot coal. See the pup's head!"

I examined Coaly, who looked sick. The flesh was torn from his lower jaw
and hung down a couple of inches. Two holes in the top of his head
showed where the bear's tusks had tried to crack his skull.

"When the other dogs found her, he rushed right in. She hadn't been
trapped more'n a few hours, and she larned Coaly somethin' about the
bear business."

"Won't this spoil him for hunting hereafter?"

"Not if he has his daddy's and mammy's grit. We'll know by to-morrow
whether he's a shore-enough bear dog; for I've larned now whar they're
crossin'--seed sign a-plenty and it's spang fraish. Coaly, old boy!
you-uns won't be so feisty and brigaty after this, will ye!"

"John, what do those two words mean?"

"_Good_ la! whar was you fotch up? Them's common. They mean nigh about
the same thing, only there's a differ. When I say that Doc Jones thar is
brigaty among women-folks, hit means that he's stuck on hisself and
wants to show off----"

"And John Cable's sulkin' around with his nose out o' jint," interjected

"Feisty," proceeded the interpreter, "feisty means when a feller's
allers wigglin' about, wantin' ever'body to see him, like a kid when the
preacher comes. You know a feist is one o' them little bitty dogs that
ginerally runs on three legs and pretends a whole lot."

All of us were indignant at the setter of the trap. It had been hidden
in a trail, with no sign to warn a man from stepping into it. In
Tennessee, I was told, it is a penitentiary offense to set out a bear
trap. We agreed that a similar law ought to be passed as soon as
possible in North Carolina.

"It's only two years ago," said Granville to me, "that Jasper
Millington, an old man living on the Tennessee side, started acrost the
mountain to get work at the Everett mine, where you live. Not fur from
where we are now, he stepped into a bear trap that was hid in the
leaves, like this one. It broke his leg, and he starved to death in it."

Despite our indignation meeting, it was decided to carry the trapped
bear's hide to Hensley, and for us to use only the meat as recompense
for trouble, to say nothing of risk to life and limb. Such is the
mountaineers' regard for property rights!

The animal we had ingloriously won was undersized, weighing scant 175
pounds. The average weight of Smoky Mountain bears is not great, but
occasionally a very large beast is killed. Matt Hyde told us that he
killed one on the Welch Divide in 1901, the meat of which, dressed,
without the hide, weighed 434 pounds, and the hide "squared eight feet"
when stretched for drying. "Doc" Jones killed a bear that was "kivered
with fat, five inches thick."

Afterwards I took pains to ask the most famous bear hunters of our
region what were the largest bears they had personally killed. Uncle
Jimmy Crawford, of the Balsam Mountains, estimated his largest at 500
pounds gross, and the hide of another that he had killed weighed forty
pounds after three days' drying. Quill Rose, of Eagle Creek, said that,
after stripping the hide from one of his bears, he took the fresh skin
by the ears and raised it as high as he could reach above his head, and
that four inches of the butt end of the hide (not legs) trailed on the
ground. "And," he added severely, "thar's no lie about it." Quill is six
feet one and one-half inches tall. Black Bill Walker, of the middle
prong of Little River (Tennessee side), told me "The biggest one I ever
saw killed had a hide that measured ten feet from nose to rump,
stretched for drying. The biggest I ever killed myself measured nine and
a half feet, same way, and weighed a good four hundred net, which,
allowin' for hide, blood, and entrails, would run full five hunderd live

[Illustration: Skinning a frozen bear]

Within the past two years two bears of about 500 pounds each have been
killed in Swain and Graham counties, the Cables getting one of them.
The veteran hunters that I have named have killed their hundreds of
bears and are men superior to silly exaggeration. In the Smoky Mountains
the black bear, like most of the trees, attains its fullest development,
and that it occasionally reaches a weight of 500 pounds when "hog fat"
is beyond reasonable doubt, though the average would not be more than
half that weight.

       *       *       *       *       *

We spent the evening in debate as to where the next drive should be
made. Some favored moving six miles eastward, to the old mining shack at
Siler's Meadow, and trying the headwaters of Forney's Creek, around Rip
Shin Thicket and the Gunstick Laurel, driving towards Clingman Dome and
over into the bleak gulf, southwest of the Sugarland Mountains, that I
had named Godforsaken--a title that stuck. We knew there were bears in
that region, though it was a desperately rough country to hunt in.

But John and the hunchback had found "sign" in the opposite direction.
Bears were crossing from Little River in the neighborhood of Thunderhead
and Briar Knob, coming up just west of the Devil's Court House and
"using" around Block House, Woolly Ridge, Bear Pen, and thereabouts.
The motion carried, and we adjourned to bed.

We breakfasted on bear meat, the remains of our Thanksgiving turkey, and
wheat bread shortened with bear's grease until it was light as a
feather; and I made tea. It was the first time that Little John ever saw
"store tea." He swallowed some of it as if it had been boneset, under
the impression that it was some sort of "yerb" that would be good for
his insides. Without praising its flavor, he asked what it had cost,
and, when I told him "a dollar a pound," reckoned that it was "rich
man's medicine"; said he preferred dittany or sassafras or goldenrod.
"Doc" Jones opined that it "looked yaller," and he even affirmed that it
"tasted yaller."

"Waal, people," exclaimed Matt, "I 'low I've done growed a bit, atter
that mess o' meat. Le's be movin'."

It was a hard pull for me, climbing up the rocky approach to Briar Knob.
This was my first trip to the main divide, and my heart was not yet used
to mountain climbing.

The boys were anxious for me to get a shot. I was paying them nothing;
it was share-and-share alike; but their neighborly kindness moved them
to do their best for the outlander.

So they put me on what was probably the best stand for the day. It was
above the Fire-scald, a brulé or burnt-over space on the steep southern
side of the ridge between Briar Knob and Laurel Top, overlooking the
grisly slope of Killpeter. Here I could both see and hear an uncommonly
long distance, and if the bear went either east or west I would have
timely warning.

This Fire-scald, by the way, is a famous place for wildcats. Once in a
blue moon a lynx is killed in the highest zone of the Smokies, up among
the balsams and spruces, where both the flora and fauna, as well as the
climate, resemble those of the Canadian woods. Our native hunters never
heard the word lynx, but call the animal a "catamount." Wolves and
panthers used to be common here, but it is a long time since either has
been killed in this region, albeit impressionable people see wolf tracks
or hear a "pant'er" scream every now and then.

I had shivered on the mountain top for a couple of hours, hearing only
an occasional yelp from the dogs, which had been working in the thickets
a mile or so below me, when suddenly there burst forth the devil of a

On came the chase, right in my direction. Presently I could distinguish
the different notes: the deep bellow of old Dred, the hound-like baying
of Rock and Coaly, and little Towse's feisty yelp.

I thought that the bear might chance the comparatively open space of the
Fire-scald, because there were still some ashes on the ground that would
dust the dogs' nostrils and throw them off the scent. And such, I
believe, was his intention. But the dogs caught up with him. They nipped
him fore and aft. Time after time he shook them off; but they were true
bear dogs, and, like Matt Hyde after the turkey, they knew no such word
as quit.

I took a last squint at my rifle sights, made sure there was a cartridge
in the chamber, and then felt my ears grow as I listened. Suddenly the
chase swerved at a right angle and took straight up the side of
Saddle-back. Either the bear would tree, or he would try to smash on
through to the low rhododendron of the Devil's Court House, where dogs
who followed might break their legs. I girded myself and ran, "wiggling
and wingling" along the main divide, and then came the steep pull up
Briar Knob. As I was grading around the summit with all the lope that
was left in me, I heard a rifle crack, half a mile down Saddle-back. Old
"Doc" was somewhere in that vicinity. I halted to listen. Creation,
what a rumpus! Then another shot. Then the warwhoop of the South, that
we read about.

By and by, up they came, John and Cope and "Doc," two at a time,
carrying the bear on a trimmed sapling. Presently Hyde joined us, then
came Granville, and we filed back to camp, where "Doc" told his story:

"Boys, them dogs' eyes shined like new money. Coaly fit agin, all right,
and got his tail bit. The bear div down into a sink-hole with the dogs
a-top o' him. Soon's I could shoot without hittin' a dog, I let him have
it. Thought I'd shot him through the head, but he fit on. Then I jumped
down into the sink and kicked him loose from the dogs, or he'd a-killed
Coaly. Waal, sir, he wa'n't hurt a bit--the ball jest glanced off his
head. He riz an' knocked me down with his left paw, an' walked right
over me, an' lit up the ridge. The dogs treed him in a minute. I went to
shoot up at him, but my new hulls [cartridges] fit loose in this old
chamber and this one drap [dropped] out, so the gun stuck. Had to git my
knife out and fix hit. Then the dad-burned gun wouldn't stand roostered
[cocked]; the feather-spring had jumped out o' place. But I held back
with my thumb, and killed him anyhow.

"Fellers," he added feelingly, "I wish t' my legs growed

"_What_ fer?"

"So 's 't I wouldn't bark my shins!"

"Bears," remarked John, "is all left-handed. Ever note that? Hit's the
left paw you wanter look out fer. He'd a-knocked somethin' out o' yer
head if there'd been much in it, Doc."

"Funny thing, but hit's true," declared Bill, "that a bear allers dies
flat on his back, onless he's trapped."

"So do men," said "Doc" grimly; "men who've been shot in battle. You go
along a battlefield, right atter the action, and you'll find most o' the
dead faces pintin' to the sky."

"Bears is almost human, anyhow. A skinned bear looks like a great
big-bodied man with long arms and stumpy legs."

I did not relish this turn of the conversation, for we had two bears to
skin immediately. The one that had been hung up over night was frozen
solid, so I photographed her standing on her legs, as in life. When it
came to skinning this beast the job was a mean one; a fellow had to drop
out now and then to warm his fingers.

The mountaineers have an odd way of sharing the spoils of the chase.
They call it "stoking the meat," a use of the word _stoke_ that I have
never heard elsewhere. The hide is sold, and the proceeds divided
equally among the hunters, but the meat is cut up into as many pieces as
there are partners in the chase; then one man goes indoors or behind a
tree, and somebody at the carcass, laying his hand on a portion, calls
out: "Whose piece is this?"

"Granville Calhoun's," cries the hidden man, who cannot see it.

"Whose is this?"

"Bill Cope's."

And so on down the line. Everybody gets what chance determines for him,
and there can be no charges of unfairness.

       *       *       *       *       *

It turned very cold that night. The last thing I heard was Matt Hyde
protesting to the hunchback:

"Durn you, Bill Cope, you're so cussed crooked a man cain't lay cluss
enough to you to keep warm!"

Once when I awoke in the night the beech trees were cracking like
rifle-shots from the intense frost.

Next morning John announced that we were going to get another bear.

"Night afore last," he said, "Bill dremp that he seed a lot o' fat meat
layin' on the table; an' it done come true. Last night I dremp me one
that never was knowed to fail yet. Now you see!"

It did not look like it by evening. We all worked hard and endured
much--standers as well as drivers--but not a rifle had spoken up to the
time when, from my far-off stand, I yearned for a hot supper.

Away down in the rear I heard the snort of a locomotive, one of those
cog-wheel affairs that are specially built for mountain climbing. With a
steam-loader and three camps of a hundred men each, it was despoiling
the Tennessee forest. Slowly, but inexorably, a leviathan was crawling
into the wilderness and was soon to consume it.

[Illustration: "....Powerful steep and Laurely...."]

"All this," I apostrophized, "shall be swept away, tree and plant, beast
and fish. Fire will blacken the earth; flood will swallow and spew forth
the soil. The simple-hearted native men and women will scatter and
disappear. In their stead will come slaves speaking strange tongues, to
toil in the darkness under the rocks. Soot will arise, and foul gases;
the streams will run murky death. Let me not see it! No; I will

  "'... Get me to some far-off land
    Where higher mountains under heaven stand ...
    Where other thunders roll amid the hills,
    Some mightier wind a mightier forest fills
  With other strains through other-shapen boughs.'"

Wearily I plodded back to camp. No one had arrived but "Doc." The old
man had been thumped rather severely in yesterday's scrimmage, but
complained only of "a touch o' rheumatiz." Just how this disease had
left his clothes in tatters he did not explain.

It was late when Matt and Granville came in. The crimson and yellow of
sunset had turned to a faultless turquoise, and this to a violet
afterglow; then suddenly night rose from the valleys and enveloped us.

About nine o'clock I went out on the Little Chestnut Bald and fired
signals, but there was no answer. The last we had known of the drivers
was that they had been beyond Thunderhead, six miles of hard travel to
the westward. There was fog on the mountain. We did some uneasy
speculating. Then Granville and Matt took the lantern and set out for
Briar Knob. "Doc" was too stiff for travel, and I, being at that time a
stranger in the Smokies, would be of no use hunting amid clouds and
darkness. "Doc" and I passed a dreary three hours. Finally, at midnight,
my shots were answered, and soon the dogs came limping in. Dred had been
severely bitten in the shoulders and Rock in the head. Coaly was bloody
about the mouth, where his first day's wound had reopened. Then came the
four men, empty-handed, it seemed, until John slapped a bear's "melt"
(spleen) upon the table. He limped from a bruised hip.

"That bear outsharped us and went around all o' you-uns. We follered him
clar over to the Spencer Place, and then he doubled and come back on the
fur side o' the ridge. He crossed through the laurel on the Devil's
Court House and tuk down an almighty steep place. It was plumb night by
that time. I fell over a rock clift twenty feet down, and if 't hadn't
been for the laurel I'd a-bruk some bones. I landed right in the middle
of them, bear and dogs, fightin' like gamecocks. The bear clim a tree.
Bill sung out 'Is it fur down thar?' and I said 'Purty fur.' 'Waal, I'm
a-comin',' says he; and with that he grabbed a laurel to swing hisself
down by, but the stem bruk, and down he come suddent, to jine the music.
Hit was so dark I couldn't see my gun barrel, and we wuz all tangled up
in greenbriers as thick as ploughlines. I had to fire twiste afore he
tumbled. Then Matt an' Granville come. The four of us tuk turn-about
crawlin' up out o' thar with the bear on our back. Only one man could
handle him at a time--and he'll go a good two hunderd, that bear. We
gutted him, and left him near the top, to fotch in the mornin'. Fellers,
I'm bodaciously tired out. This is the time I'd give half what I'm worth
for a gallon o' liquor--and I'd promise the rest!"

"You'd orter see what Coaly did to that varmint," said Bill. "He bit a
hole under the fore leg, through hide and ha'r, clar into the holler, so
t' you can stick your hand in and seize the bear's heart."

"John, what was that dream of yours?"

"I dremp I stole a feller's overcoat. Now d'ye see? That means a bear's

Coaly, three days ago, had been an inconsequential pup; but now he
looked up into my eyes with the calm dignity that no fool or braggart
can assume. He had been knighted. As he licked his wounds he was proud
of them. "Scars of battle, sir. You may have your swagger ribbons and
prize collars in the New York dog show, but _this_ for me!"

Poor Coaly! after two more years of valiant service, he was to meet an
evil fortune. In connection with it I will relate a queer coincidence:

Two years after this hunt, a friend and I spent three summer months in
this same old cabin on top of Smoky. When Andy had to return North he
left with me, for sale, a .30-30 carbine, as he had more guns than he
needed. I showed this carbine to Quill Rose, and the old hunter said: "I
don't like them power-guns; you could shoot clar through a bear and kill
your dog on the other side." The next day I sold the weapon to Granville
Calhoun. Within a short time, word came from Granville's father that
"Old Reelfoot" was despoiling his orchard. This Reelfoot was a large
bear whose cunning had defied our best hunters for five or six years. He
got his name from the fact that he "reeled" or twisted his hind feet in
walking, as some horses do, leaving a peculiar track. This seems rather
common among old bears, for I have known of several "reelfoots" in
other, and widely separated, regions.

Cable and his dogs were sent for. A drive was made, and the bear was
actually caught within a few rods of old Mr. Calhoun's stable. His teeth
were worn to the gums, and, as he could no longer kill hogs, he had come
down to an apple diet. He was large-framed, but very poor. The only
hunters on the spot were Granville, with the .30-30, and a northern
lumberman named Hastings, with a Luger carbine. After two or three shots
had wounded the bear, he rose on his hind feet and made for Granville. A
.30-30 bullet went clear through the beast at the very instant that
Coaly, who was unseen, jumped up on the log behind it, and the missile
gave both animals their death wound.



I was hunting alone in the mountains, and exploring ground that was new
to me. About noon, while descending from a high ridge into a creek
valley, to get some water, I became enmeshed in a rhododendron "slick,"
and, to some extent, lost my bearings.

After floundering about for an hour or two, I suddenly came out upon a
little clearing. Giant hemlocks, girdled and gaunt, rose from a steep
cornfield of five acres, beyond which loomed the primeval forest of the
Great Smoky Mountains. Squat in the foreground sat one of the rudest log
huts I had ever seen, a tiny one-room shack, without window, cellar, or
loft, and without a sawed board showing in its construction. A thin curl
of smoke rose from one end of the cabin, not from a chimney, but from a
mere semi-circle of stones piled four feet high around a hole cut
through the log wall. The stones of this fireplace were not even
plastered together with mud, nor had the builder ever intended to raise
the pile as high as the roof to guard his premises against the imminent
risk of fire. Two low doors of riven boards stood wide open, opposite
each other. These, helped by wide crevices between the unchinked logs,
served to let in some sunlight, and quite too much of the raw November
air. The surroundings were squalid and filthy beyond anything I had
hitherto witnessed in the mountains. As I approached, wading ankle-deep
in muck that reached to the doorsill, two pigs scampered out through the
opposite door.

Within the hut I found only a slip of a girl, rocking a baby almost as
big as herself, and trying to knit a sock at the same time. She was
toasting her bare toes before the fire, and crooning in a weird minor
some mountain ditty that may have been centuries old.

I shivered as I looked at this midget, comparing her only garment, a
torn calico dress, with my own stout hunter's garb that seemed none too
warm for such a day as this.

Knowing that the sudden appearance of a stranger would startle the girl,
I chose the quickest way to reassure her by saluting in the vernacular:


"Howdy?" she gasped.

"Who lives here?"

"Tom Kirby."

"Kirby? Oh! yes, I know him--we've been hunting together. Is your father
at home?"

"No, he's out somewheres."

"Where is your mother?"

"She's in the field, up yan, gittin' roughness."

I took some pride in not being stumped by this answer. "Roughness," in
mountain lingo, is any kind of rough fodder, specifically corn fodder.

"How far is it to the next house?"

"I don't know; maw, she knows."

"All right; I'll find her."

I went up to the field. No one was in sight; but a shock of fodder was
walking away from me, and I conjectured that "maw's" feet were under it;
so I hailed:


The shock turned around, then tumbled over, and there stood revealed a
bare-headed, bare-footed woman, coarse featured but of superb
physique--one of those mountain giantesses who think nothing of
shouldering a two-bushel sack of corn and carrying it a mile or two
without letting it down.

[Illustration: Moonshine Still-House Hidden in the Laurel]

She flushed, then paled, staring at me round-eyed--frightened, I
thought, by this apparition of a stranger whose approach she had not
detected. To these people of the far backwoods everyone from outside
their mountains is a doubtful character at best.

However, Mistress Kirby quickly recovered her aplomb. Her mouth
straightened to a thin slit. She planted herself squarely across my
path, now regarding me with contracted lids and a hard glint, till I
felt fairly bayoneted by those steel-gray eyes.

"Good-morning. Is Mr. Kirby about?" I inquired.

There was no answer. Instead, the thin slit opened and let out a yell of
almost yodel quality, penetrating as a warwhoop--a yell that would carry
near half a mile. I wondered what she meant by this; but she did not
enlighten me by so much as a single word. It was puzzling, not to say
disconcerting; but, charging it to the custom of a country that still
was new to me, I found my tongue again, and started to give credentials.

"My name is Kephart. I am staying at the Everett Mine on Sugar Fork----"

Another yell that set the wild echoes flying.

"I am acquainted with your husband; we've hunted together. Perhaps he
has told you----"

Yell number three, same pitch and vigor as before.

By this time I was quite nonplussed. I waited for her to speak; but
never a word did the woman deign. So there we stood and stared at each
other in silence--I leaning on my rifle, she with red arms akimbo--till
I grew embarrassed, half wondering, too, if the creature were demented.

Suddenly a light flashed upon my groping wits. This amazon was on
picket. Her three shrieks had been a signal to someone up the branch.
Her attitude showed that there was no thoroughfare in that direction at
present. Circumstances, whatever they were, forbade explanation.
Clearly, the woman thought that I could not help seeing how matters
stood. Not for a moment did she suspect but that her yells, her
belligerent attitude, and her refusal to speak, were the conventional
way, this world over, of intimating that there was a _contretemps_. She
considered that if I was what I claimed to be, an acquaintance of her
husband and on friendly footing, I would be gentleman enough to retire.
If I was something else--an officer, a spy--well, she was there to stop
me until the captain of the guard arrived.

For one silly moment I was tempted to advance and see what this martial
spouse would do if I tried to pass her on the trail. But a hunter's
instinct made me glance forward to the upper corner of the field. There
was thick cover beyond the fence, with a clear range of a hundred and
fifty yards between it and me--too far for Tom to recognize me, I
thought, but deadly range for his Winchester, I knew. One forward step
of mine would put me in the status of an armed intruder. So I concluded
that common sense would better become me at this juncture than a bit of
fooling that surely would be misinterpreted, and that might end

"Ah, well!" I remarked, "when your husband gets back, tell him, please,
that I was sorry to miss him; though I did not call on any special
business--just wanted to say 'Howdy?' you know. Good day!"

I turned and went down the valley.

All the way home I speculated on this queer adventure. What was going on
"up yan"?

A month before, when I had started for this wildest nook of the Smokies,
a friend had intimated that I was venturing into a dubious
district--Moonshine Land. It is but frank to confess that this prospect
was not unpleasant. My only fear had been that I might not find any
moonshiners, or that, having found them, I might not succeed in winning
their confidence to the extent of learning their own side of an
interesting story. As to how I could do this without getting tarred with
the same stick, I was by no means clear; but I hoped that good luck
might find a way. And now it seemed as if luck had indeed favored me
with an excuse for broaching the topic to some friendly mountaineer, so
I could at least see how he would take it.

And it chanced (or was it chance?) that I had no more than finished
supper, that evening, when a man called at my lonely cabin. He was the
one that I knew best among my scattered neighbors. I gave him a rather
humorous account of my reception by Madame Kirby, and asked him what he
thought she was yelling about.

There was no answering smile on my visitor's face. He pondered in
silence, weighing many contingencies, it seemed, and ventured no more
than a helpless "Waal, now I wonder!"

It did not suit me to let the matter go at that; so, on a sudden
impulse, I fired the question point-blank at him: "Do you suppose that
Tom is running a still up there at the head of that little cove?"

The man's face hardened, and there came a glint into his eyes such as I
had noticed in Mistress Kirby's.

"Jedgmatically, I don't know."

"Excuse me! I don't want to know, either. But let me explain just what I
am driving at. People up North, and in the lowlands of the South as
well, have a notion that there is little or nothing going on in these
mountains except feuds and moonshining. They think that a stranger
traveling here alone is in danger of being potted by a bullet from
almost any laurel thicket that he passes, on mere suspicion that he may
be a revenue officer or a spy. Of course, that is nonsense;[4] but there
is one thing that I'm as ignorant about as any novel-reader of them all.
You know my habits; I like to explore--I never take a guide--and when I
come to a place that's particularly wild and primitive, that's just the
place I want to peer into. Now the dubious point is this: Suppose that,
one of these days when I'm out hunting, or looking for rare plants, I
should stumble upon a moonshine still in full operation--what would
happen? What would they do?"

"Waal, sir, I'll tell you whut they'd do. They'd fust-place ask you some
questions about yourself, and whut you-uns was doin' in that thar neck
o' the woods. Then they'd git you to do some triflin' work about the
still--feed the furnace, or stir the mash--jest so 's 't they could
prove that you took a hand in it your own self."

"What good would that do?"

"Hit would make you one o' them in the eyes of the law."

"I see. But, really, doesn't that seem rather childish? I could easily
convince any court that I did it under compulsion; for that's what it
would amount to."

"I reckon you-uns would find a United States court purty hard to
convince. The judge 'd right up and want to know why you let grass go to
seed afore you came and informed on them."

He paused, watched my expression, and then continued quizzically: "I
reckon you wouldn't be in no great hurry to do _that_."

"No! Then, if I stirred the mash and sampled their liquor, nobody would
be likely to mistreat me?"

"Shucks! Why, man, whut could they gain by hurtin' you? At the wust,
s'posin' they was convicted by your own evidence, they'd only git a
month or two in the pen. So why should they murder you and get hung for
it? Hit's all 'tarnal foolishness, the notions some folks has!"

"I thought so. Now, here! the public has been fed all sorts of nonsense
about this moonshining business. I'd like to learn the plain truth about
it, without bias one way or the other. I have no curiosity about
personal affairs, and don't want to learn incriminating details; but I
would like to know how the business is conducted, and especially how it
is regarded from the mountain people's own point of view. I have already
learned that a stranger's life and property are safer here than they
would be on the streets of Chicago or of St. Louis. It will do your
country good to have that known. But I can't say that there is no
moonshining going on here; for a man with a wooden nose could smell it.
Now what is your excuse for defying the law? You don't seem ashamed of

The man's face turned an angry red.

"Mister, we-uns hain't no call to be ashamed of ourselves, nor of ary
thing we do. We're poor; but we don't ax no favors. We stay 'way up hyar
in these coves, and mind our own business. When a stranger comes along,
he's welcome to the best we've got, such as 'tis; but if he imposes on
us, he gits his medicine purty damned quick!"

"And you think the Government tax on whiskey is an imposition."

"Hit is, under some sarcumstances."

My guest stretched his legs, and "jedgmatically" proceeded to enlighten

"Thar's plenty o' men and women grown, in these mountains, who don't
know that the Government is ary thing but a president in a biled shirt
who commands two-three judges and a gang o' revenue officers. They know
thar's a president, because the men folks's voted for him, and the women
folks's seed his pictur. They've heered tell about the judges; and
they've seed the revenuers in flesh and blood. They believe in
supportin' the Government, because hit's the law. Nobody refuses to pay
his taxes, for taxes is fair and squar'. Taxes cost mebbe three cents on
the dollar; and that's all right. But revenue costs a dollar and ten
cents on twenty cents' worth o' liquor; and that's robbin' the people
with a gun to their faces.

"Of course, I ain't so ignorant as all that--I've traveled about the
country, been to Asheville wunst, and to Waynesville a heap o'
times--and I know the theory. Theory says 't revenue is a tax on luxury.
Waal, that's all right--anything in reason. The big fellers that
makes lots of money out o' stillin', and lives in luxury, ought to pay
handsome for it. But who ever seen luxury cavortin' around in these
Smoky Mountains?"


The trails that lead hither are blind and rough. Behind the mill rises
an almost precipitous mountain-side. Much of the corn is brought in on
men's backs at the dead of night.]

He paused for a reply. Even then, with my limited experience in the
mountains, I could not help wincing at the idea. Often, in later times,
this man's question came back to me with peculiar force. Luxury! in a
land where the little stores were often out of coffee, sugar, kerosene,
and even salt; where, in dead of winter, there was no meal, much less
flour, to be had for love or money. Luxury! where I had to live on
bear-meat (tough old sow bear) for six weeks, because the only side of
pork that I could find for sale was full of maggots.

My friend continued: "Whiskey means more to us mountain folks than hit
does to folks in town, whar thar's drug-stores and doctors. Let ary
thing go wrong in the fam'ly--fever, or snake bite, or somethin'--and we
can't git a doctor up hyar less'n three days; and it costs scand'lous.
The only medicines we-uns has is yerbs, which customarily ain't no good
'thout a leetle grain o' whiskey. Now, th'r ain't no saloons allowed in
all these western counties. The nighest State dispensary, even, is sixty
miles away.[5] The law wunt let us have liquor shipped to us from
anywhars in the State. If we git it sent to us from outside the State it
has to come by express--and reg-lar old pop-skull it is, too. So, to be
good law-abiding citizens, we-uns must travel back and forth at a heap
of expense, or pay express rates on pizened liquor--and we are too
durned poor to do ary one or t'other.

"Now, yan's my field o' corn. I gather the corn, and shuck hit and grind
hit my own self, and the woman she bakes us a pone o' bread to eat--and
I don't pay no tax, do I? Then why can't I make some o' my corn into
pure whiskey to drink, without payin' tax? I tell you, _'taint fair_,
this way the Government does! But, when all's said and done, the main
reason for this 'moonshining,' as you-uns calls it, is bad roads."

"Bad roads?" I exclaimed. "What the----"

"Jest thisaway: From hyar to the railroad is seventeen miles, with two
mountains to cross; and you've seed that road! I recollect you-uns said
every one o' them miles was a thousand rods long. Nobody's ever measured
them, except by mountain man's foot-rule--big feet, and a long stride
between 'em. Seven hundred pounds is all the load a good team can haul
over that road, when the weather's good. Hit takes three days to make
the round trip, less'n you break an axle, and then hit takes four. When
you do git to the railroad, th'r ain't no town of a thousand people
within fifty mile. Now us folks ain't even got wagons. Thar's only one
sarviceable wagon in this whole settlement, and you can't hire it
without team and driver, which is two dollars and a half a day. Whar one
o' our leetle sleds can't go, we haffter pack on mule-back or tussle it
on our own wethers. Look, then! The only farm produce we-uns can sell is
corn. You see for yourself that corn can't be shipped outen hyar. We can
trade hit for store credit--that's all. Corn _juice_ is about all we can
tote around over the country and git cash money for. Why, man, that's
the only way some folks has o' payin' their taxes!"

"But, aside from the work and the worry," I remarked, "there is the
danger of being shot, in this business."

"Oh, we-uns don't lay _that_ up agin the Government! Hit's as fair for
one as 'tis for t'other. When a revenuer comes sneakin' around, why,
whut he gits, or whut we-uns gits, that's a 'fortune of war,' as the old
sayin' is."

There is no telegraph, wired or wireless, in the mountains, but there is
an efficient substitute. It seemed as though, in one night, the news
traveled from valley to cove, and from cove to nook, that I was
investigating the moonshining business, and that I was apparently
"safe." Each individual interpreted that word to suit himself. Some
regarded me askance, others were so confiding that their very frankness
threatened at times to become embarrassing.

Thereafter I had many talks and adventures with men who, at one time or
other, had been engaged in the moonshining industry. Some of these men
had known the inside of the penitentiary; some were not without
blood-guilt. I doubt not that more than one of them could, even now,
find his way through night and fog and laurel thicket to some "beautiful
piece of copper" that has not yet been punched full of holes. They knew
that I was on friendly terms with revenue agents. What was worse, they
knew that I was a scribbler. More than once I took notes in their
presence while interviewing them, and we had the frankest understanding
as to what would become of those notes.

My immunity was not due to any promises made or hostages given, for
there were none. I did not even pose as an apologist, but merely
volunteered to give a fair report of what I heard and saw. They took me
at my word. Had I used such representations as a mask and secretly
played the spy or informer--well, I would have deserved whatever might
have befallen me. As it was, I never met with any but respectful
treatment from these gentry, nor, to the best of my belief, did they
ever tell me a lie.



Our terms moonshiner and moonshining are not used in the mountains. Here
an illicit distiller is called a blockader, his business is blockading,
and the product is blockade liquor. Just as the smugglers of old Britain
called themselves free-traders, thereby proclaiming that they risked and
fought for a principle, so the moonshiner considers himself simply a
blockade-runner dealing in contraband. His offense is only _malum
prohibitum_, not _malum in se_.

There are two kinds of blockaders, big and little. The big blockader
makes unlicensed whiskey on a fairly large scale. He may have several
stills, operating alternately in different places, so as to avert
suspicion. In any case, the still is large and the output is quite
profitable. The owner himself may not actively engage in the work, but
may furnish the capital and hire confederates to do the distilling for
him, so that personally he shuns the appearance of evil. These big
fellows are rare. They are the ones who seek collusion with the
small-fry of Government officialdom, or, failing in that, instruct their
minions to "kill on sight."

The little moonshiner is a more interesting character, if for no other
reason than that he fights fair, according to his code, and
single-handed against tremendous odds. He is innocent of graft. There is
nothing between him and the whole power of the Federal Government,
except his own wits and a well-worn Winchester or muzzleloader. He is
very poor; he is very ignorant; he has no friends at court; his
apparatus is crude in the extreme, and his output is miserably small.
This man is usually a good enough citizen in other ways, of decent
standing in his own community, and a right good fellow toward all the
world, save revenue officers. Although a criminal in the eyes of the
law, he is soundly convinced that the law is unjust, and that he is only
exercising his natural rights. Such a man, as President Frost has
pointed out, suffers none of the moral degradation that comes from
violating his conscience; his self-respect is whole.

In describing the process of making whiskey in the mountain stills, I
shall confine myself to the operations of the little moonshiner,
because they illustrate the surprising shiftiness of our backwoodsmen.
Every man in the big woods is a jack-of-all-trades. His skill in
extemporizing utensils, and even crude machines, out of the trees that
grow around him, is of no mean order. As good cider as ever I drank was
made in a hollowed log fitted with a press-block and operated by a
handspike. It took but half a day's work to make this cider press, and
the only tools used in its construction were an ax, a mattock in lieu of
adze, an auger, and a jackknife.

It takes two or three men to run a still. It is possible for one man to
do the work, on so small a scale as is usually practiced, but it would
be a hard task for him; then, too, there are few mountaineers who could
individually furnish the capital, small though it be. So three men, let
us say, will "chip in" five or ten dollars apiece, and purchase a
second-hand still, if such is procurable, otherwise a new one, and that
is all the apparatus they have to pay money for. If they should be too
poor even to go to this expense, they will make a retort by inverting a
half-barrel or an old wooden churn over a soap-kettle, and then all they
have to buy is a piece of copper tubing for the worm.

[Illustration: Moonshine Still in Full Operation]

In choosing a location for their clandestine work, the first
essential is running water. This can be found in almost any gulch; yet,
out of a hundred known spring-branches, only one or two may be suitable
for the business, most of them being too public. In a country where
cattle and hogs run wild, and where a good part of every farmer's time
is taken in keeping track of his stock, there is no place so secret but
that it is liable to be visited at any time, even though it be in the
depths of the great forest, several miles from any human habitation.
Moreover, cattle, and especially hogs, are passionately fond of
still-slop, and can scent it a great distance, so that no still can long
remain unknown to them.[6] Consequently the still must be placed several
miles away from the residence of anyone who might be liable to turn
informer. Although nearly all the mountain people are indulgent in the
matter of blockading, yet personal rivalries and family jealousies are
rife among them, and it is not uncommon for them to inform against
their enemies in the neighborhood.

Of course, it would not do to set up a still near a common trail--at
least in the far-back settlements. Our mountaineers habitually notice
every track they pass, whether of beast or man, and "read the sign" with
Indian-like facility. Often one of my companions would stop, as though
shot, and point with his toe to the fresh imprint of a human foot in the
dust or mud of a public road, exclaiming: "Now, I wonder who _that_
feller was! 'Twa'n't (so-and-so), for he hain't got no squar'-headed
bob-nails; 'twa'n't (such-a-one), 'cause he wouldn't be hyar at this
time o' day"; and so he would go on, figuring by a process of
elimination that is extremely cunning, until some such conclusion as
this was reached, "That's some stranger goin' over to Little River
[across the line in Tennessee], and he's footin' hit as if the devil was
atter him--I'll bet he's stobbed somebody and is runnin' from the
sheriff!" Nor is the incident closed with that; our mountaineer will
inquire of neighbors and passersby until he gets a description of the
wayfarer, and then he will pass the word along.

Some little side-branch is chosen that runs through a gully so choked
with laurel and briers and rhododendron as to be quite impassable, save
by such worming and crawling as must make a great noise. Doubtless a
faint cattle-trail follows the backbone of the ridge above it, and this
is the workers' ordinary highway in going to and fro; but the descent
from ridge to gully is seldom made twice over the same course, lest a
trail be printed direct to the still-house.

This house is sometimes inclosed with logs, but oftener it is no more
than a shed, built low, so as to be well screened by the undergrowth. A
great hemlock tree may be felled in such position as to help the
masking, so long as its top stays green, which will be about a year.
Back far enough from the still-house to remain in dark shadow when the
furnace is going, there is built a sort of nest for the workmen, barely
high enough to sit up in, roofed with bark and thatched all over with
browse. Here many a dismal hour of night is passed when there is nothing
to do but to wait on the "cooking." Now and then a man crawls on all
fours to the furnace and pitches in a few billets of wood, keeping low
at the time, so as to offer as small a target as possible in the flare
of the fire. Such precaution is especially needed when the number of
confederates is too small for efficient picketing. Around the little
plot where the still-shed and lair are hidden, laurel may be cut in such
way as to make a _cheval-de-frise_, sharp stubs being entangled with
branches, so that a quick charge through them would be out of the
question. Two or three days' work, at most, will build the still-house
and equip it ready for business, without so much as a shingle being
brought from outside.

After the blockaders have established their still, the next thing is to
make arrangements with some miller who will jeopardize himself by
grinding the sprouted corn; for be it known that corn which has been
forced to sprout is a prime essential in the making of moonshine
whiskey, and that the unlicensed grinding of such corn is an offense
against the law of the United States no less than its distillation. Now,
to any one living in a well-settled country, where there is, perhaps,
only one mill to every hundred farms, and it is visited daily by men
from all over the township, the finding of an accessory in the person of
a miller would seem a most hopeless project. But when you travel in our
southern mountains, one of the first things that will strike you is that
about every fourth or fifth farmer has a tiny tub-mill of his own. Tiny
is indeed the word, for there are few of these mills that can grind
more than a bushel or two of corn in a day; some have a capacity of only
half a bushel in ten hours of steady grinding. Red grains of corn being
harder than white ones, it is a humorous saying in the mountains that "a
red grain in the gryste [grist] will stop the mill." The appurtenances
of such a mill, even to the very buhr-stones themselves, are fashioned
on the spot. How primitive such a meal-grinder may be is shown by the
fact that a neighbor of mine recently offered a new mill, complete, for
sale at six dollars. A few nails, and a country-made iron rynd and
spindle, were the only things in it that he had not made himself, from
the raw materials.

In making spirits from corn, the first step is to convert the starch of
the grain into sugar. Regular distillers do this in a few hours by using
malt, but at the little blockade still a slower process is used, for
malt is hard to get. The unground corn is placed in a vessel that has a
small hole in the bottom, warm water is poured over the corn and a hot
cloth is placed over the top. As water percolates out through the hole,
the vessel is replenished with more of the warm fluid. This is continued
for two or three days and nights until the corn has put forth sprouts a
couple of inches long. The diastase in the germinating seeds has the
same chemical effect as malt--the starch is changed to sugar.

The sprouted corn is then dried and ground into meal. This sweet meal is
then made into a mush with boiling water, and is let stand two or three
days. The "sweet mash" thus made is then broken up, and a little rye
malt, similarly prepared in the meantime, is added to it, if rye is
procurable. Fermentation begins at once. In large distilleries, yeast is
added to hasten fermentation, and the mash can then be used in three or
four days; the blockader, however, having no yeast, must let his mash stand
for eight or ten days, keeping it all that time at a proper temperature
for fermentation. This requires not only constant attention, but some
skill as well, for there is no thermometer nor saccharometer in our
mountain still-house. When done, the sugar of what is now "sour mash"
has been converted into carbonic acid and alcohol. The resulting liquid
is technically called the "wash," but blockaders call it "beer." It is
intoxicating, of course, but "sour enough to make a pig squeal."

This beer is then placed in the still, a vessel with a closed head,
connected with a spiral tube, the worm. The latter is surrounded by a
closed jacket through which cold water is constantly passing. A wood
fire is built in the rude furnace under the still; the spirit rises in
vapor, along with more or less steam; these vapors are condensed in the
cold worm and trickle down into the receiver. The product of this first
distillation (the "low wines" of the trade, the "singlings" of the
blockader) is a weak and impure liquid, which must be redistilled at a
lower temperature to rid it of water and rank oils.

In moonshiners' parlance, the liquor of second distillation is called
the "doublings." It is in watching and testing the doublings that an
accomplished blockader shows his skill, for if distillation be not
carried far enough, the resulting spirits will be rank, though weak, and
if carried too far, nothing but pure alcohol will result. Regular
distillers are assisted at this stage by scientific instruments by which
the "proof" is tested; but the maker of "mountain dew" has no other
instrument than a small vial, and his testing is done entirely by the
"bead" of the liquor, the little iridescent bubbles that rise when the
vial is tilted. When a mountain man is shown any brand of whiskey,
whether a regular distillery product or not, he invariably tilts the
bottle and levels it again, before tasting; if the bead rises and is
persistent, well and good; if not, he is prepared to condemn the liquor
at once.

It is possible to make an inferior whiskey at one distillation, by
running the singlings through a steam-chest, commonly known as a
"thumpin'-chist." The advantage claimed is that "Hit allows you to make
your whiskey afore the revenue gits it; that's all."

The final process is to run the liquor through a rude charcoal filter,
to rid it of most of its fusel oil. This having been done, we have
moonshine whiskey, uncolored, limpid as water, and ready for _immediate

I fancy that some gentlemen will stare at the words here italicised; but
I am stating facts.

It is quite impracticable for a blockader to age his whiskey. In the
first place, he is too poor to wait; in the second place, his product is
very small, and the local demand is urgent; in the third place, he has
enough trouble to conceal, or run away with, a mere copper still, to say
nothing of barrels of stored whiskey. Cheerfully he might "waive the
quantum o' the sin," but he is quite alive to "the hazard o'
concealin'." So, while the stuff is yet warm from the still, it is taken
by confederates and quickly disposed of. There is no exaggeration in the
answer a moonshiner once made to me when I asked him how old the best
blockade liquor ever got to be: "If it 'd git to be a month old, it 'd
fool me!"

[Illustration: Photo by F. B. Laney

Cornmill and Blacksmith Forge]

They tell a story on a whilom neighbor of mine, the redoubtable Quill
Rose, which, to those who know him, sounds like one of his own: "A
slick-faced dude from Knoxville," said Quill, "told me once that all
good red-liquor was aged, and that if I'd age my blockade it would bring
a fancy price. Well, sir, I tried it; I kept some for three months--and,
by godlings, _it aint so_."

As for purity, all of the moonshine whiskey used to be pure, and much of
it still is; but every blockader knows how to adulterate, and when one
of them does stoop to such tricks he will stop at no halfway measures.
Some add washing lye, both to increase the yield and to give the liquor
an artificial bead, then prime this abominable fluid with pepper,
ginger, tobacco, or anything else that will make it sting. Even
buckeyes, which are poisonous themselves, are sometimes used to give the
drink a soapy bead. Such decoctions are known in the mountains by the
expressive terms "pop-skull," "bust head," "bumblings" ("they make a
bumbly noise in a feller's head"). Some of them are so toxic that their
continued use might be fatal to the drinker. A few drams may turn a
normally good-hearted fellow into a raging fiend who will shoot or stab
without provocation.

As a rule, the mountain people have no compunctions about drinking,
their ideas on this, as on other matters of conduct, being those current
everywhere in the eighteenth century. Men, women and children drink
whiskey in family concert. I have seen undiluted spirits drunk, a
spoonful at a time, by a babe that was still at the breast, and she
never batted an eye (when I protested that raw whiskey would ruin the
infant's stomach, the mother replied, with widened eyes: "Why, if
there's liquor about, and she don't git none, _she jist raars_!"). In
spite of this, taking the mountain people by and large, they are an
abstemious race. In drinking, as in everything else, this is the Land of
Do Without. Comparatively few highlanders see liquor oftener than once
or twice a month. The lumberjacks and townspeople get most of the
output; for they can pay the price.

Blockade whiskey, until recently, sold to the consumer at from $2.50 to
$3.00 a gallon. The average yield is only two gallons to the bushel of
corn. Two and a half gallons is all that can be got out of a bushel by
blockaders' methods, even with the aid of a "thumpin'-chist," unless
lye be added. With corn selling at seventy-five cents to a dollar a
bushel, as it did in our settlement, and taking into account that the
average sales of a little moonshiner's still probably did not exceed a
gallon a day, and that a bootlegger must be rewarded liberally for
marketing the stuff, it will be seen that there was no fortune in this
mysterious trade, before prohibition raised the price. Let me give you a
picture in a few words.--

Here in the laurel-thicketed forest, miles from any wagon road, is a
little still, without so much as a roof over it. Hard by is a little
mill. There is not a sawed board in that mill--even the hopper is made
of clapboards riven on the spot.

Three or four men, haggard from sleepless vigils, strike out into
pathless forest through driving rain. Within five minutes the wet
underbrush has drenched them to the skin. They climb, climb, climb.
There is no trail for a long way; then they reach a faint one that
winds, winds, climbs, climbs. Hour after hour the men climb. Then they
begin to descend.

They have crossed the divide, a mile above sea-level, and are in another
State. Hour after hour they "climb down," as they would say. They visit
farmers' homes at dead of night. Each man shoulders two bushels of
shelled corn and starts back again over the highest mountain range in
eastern America. It is twenty miles to the little mill. They carry the
corn thither on their own backs. They sprout it, grind it, distill it.
Two of them then carry the whiskey twenty miles in the opposite
direction, and, at the risk of capture and imprisonment, or of death if
they resist, peddle it out by dodging, secret methods.

This is no fancy sketch; it is literal truth. It is no story of the
olden time, but of our own day. Do you wonder that one of these men
should say, with a sigh--should say this? "Blockadin' is the hardest
work a man ever done. And hit's wearin' on a feller's narves. Fust
chance I git, I'm a-goin' ter quit!"

And it is a fact that nine out of ten of those who try the moonshining
game do quit before long, of their own accord.

       *       *       *       *       *

One day there came a ripple of excitement in our settlement. A blockader
had shot at Jack Coburn, and a posse had arrested the would-be
assassin--so flew the rumor, and it proved to be true.

Coburn was a northern man who, years ago, opened a little store on the
edge of the wilderness, bought timber land, and finally rose to
affluence. With ready wit he adapted himself to the ways of the
mountaineers and gained ascendancy among them. Once in a while an
emergency would arise in which it was necessary either to fight or to
back down, and in these contests a certain art that Jack had acquired in
Michigan lumber camps proved the undoing of more than one mountain
tough, at the same time winning the respect of the spectators. He was
what a mountaineer described to me as "a practiced knocker." This
phrase, far from meaning what it would on the Bowery, was interpreted to
me as denoting "a master hand in a knock-fight." Pugilism, as
distinguished from shooting or stabbing, was an unknown art in the
mountains until Jack introduced it.

Coburn had several tenants, among whom was a character whom we will call
Edwards. In leasing a farm to Edwards, Jack had expressly stipulated
that there was to be no moonshining on the premises. But, by and by,
there was reason to suspect that Edwards was violating this part of the
contract. Coburn did not send for a revenue officer; he merely set forth
on a little still-hunt of his own. Before starting, he picked up a
revolver and was about to stick it in his pocket, but, on second
thought, he concluded that no red-headed man should be trusted with a
loaded gun, even in such a case as this; so he thrust the weapon back
into its drawer, and strode away, with nothing but his two big fists to
enforce a seizure.

Coburn searched long and diligently, but could find no sign of a still.
Finally, when he was about to give it up, his curiosity was aroused by
the particularly dense browse in the top of an enormous hemlock that had
recently been felled. Pushing his way forward, he discovered a neat
little copper still installed in the treetop itself. He picked up the
contraband utensil, and marched away with it.

Meantime, Edwards had not been asleep. When Jack came in sight of the
farmhouse, humped under his bulky burden, the enraged moonshiner seized
a shotgun and ran toward him, breathing death and destruction. Jack,
however, trudged along about his business. Edwards, seeing that no bluff
would work, fired; but the range was too great for his birdshot even to
pepper holes through the copper still.

Edwards made a mistake in firing that shot. It did not hurt Coburn's
skin, but it ruffled his dignity. In this case it was out of the
question to pommel the blackguard, for he had swiftly reloaded his gun.
So Jack ran off with the still, carried it home, sought out our
magistrate, Brooks, and forthwith swore out a warrant.

Brooks did not fuss over any law books. Moonshining in itself may be
only a peccadillo, a venial sin--let the Government skin its own
skunks--but when a man has promised not to moonshine, and then goes and
does it, why that, by Jeremy, is a breach of contract! Straightway the
magistrate hastened to the post-office, and swore in, as a posse
comitatus, the first four men that he met.

Now, when four men are picked up at random in our township, it is safe
to assume that at least three of them have been moonshiners themselves,
and know how this sort of thing should be done. At any rate, the posse
wasted no time in discussion. They went straight after that malefactor,
got him, and, within an hour after the shot was fired, he was drummed
out of the county for good and forever.

But Edwards had a son who was a trifle brash. This son armed himself,
and offered show of battle. He fired two or three shots with his
Winchester (wisely over the posse's heads) and then took to the tall
timber. Dodging from tree to tree he led the impromptu officers such a
dance up the mountainside that by the time they had corralled him they
were "plumb overhet."

They set that impetuous young man on a sharp-spined little jackass,
strapped his feet under the animal's belly, and their chief (my hunting
partner, he was) drove him, that same night, twenty-five miles over a
horrible mountain trail, and lodged him in the county jail, on a charge
more serious than that of moonshining.

In due time, a United States deputy arrived in our midst, bearing a
funny-looking hatchet with a pick at one end, which he called a "devil."
With the pick end of this instrument he punched numerous holes through
the offending copper vessel, until the still looked somewhat like a
gigantic horseradish-grater turned inside out. Then he straightened out
the worm by ramming a long stick through it, and triumphantly carried
away with him the copper-sheathed staff, as legal proof, trophy, and
burgeon of office.

The sorry old still itself reposes to this day in old Brooks's backyard,
where it is regarded by passersby as an emblem, not so much of Federal
omnipotence, as of local efficiency in administering the law with
promptitude, and without a pennyworth of cost to anybody, save to the



In the United States, moonshining is seldom practiced outside the
mountains and foothills of the southern Appalachians, and those parts of
the southwest (namely, in southern Missouri, Arkansas and Texas), into
which the mountaineers have immigrated in considerable numbers.

Here, then, is a conundrum: How does it happen that moonshining is
distinctly a foible of the southern mountaineer?

To get to the truth, we must hark back into that eighteenth century
wherein, as I have already remarked, our mountain people are lingering
to this day. We must leave the South; going, first, to Ireland of 150 or
175 years ago, and then to western Pennsylvania shortly after the

The people of Great Britain, irrespective of race, have always been
ardent haters of excise laws. As Blackstone has curtly said, "From its
original to the present time, the very name of excise has been odious
to the people of England." Dr. Johnson, in his dictionary, defined
excise as "A hateful tax levied upon commodities, and adjudged not by
the common judges of property, but by wretches hired by those to whom
excise is paid." In 1659, when the town of Edinburgh placed an
additional impost on ale, the Convenanter Nicoll proclaimed it an act so
impious that immediately "God frae the heavens declared his anger by
sending thunder and unheard tempests and storms." And we still recall
Burns' fiery invective:

    Thae curst horse-leeches o' the Excise
    Wha mak the whisky stills their prize!
  Haud up thy han', Deil! ance, twice, thrice!
      There, seize the blinkers! [wretches]
  An bake them up in brunstane pies
      For poor d--n'd drinkers.

Perhaps the chief reason, in England, for this outspoken detestation of
the exciseman lay in the fact that the law empowered him to enter
private houses and to search at his own discretion. In Scotland and
Ireland there was another objection, even more valid in the eyes of the
common people; excise struck heaviest at their national drink.
Englishmen, at the time of which we are speaking, were content with
their ale, not yet having contracted the habit of drinking gin; but
Scotchmen and Irishmen preferred distilled spirits, manufactured, as a
rule, out of their own barley, in small pot-stills (_poteen_ means,
literally, a little pot), the process being a common household art
frequently practiced "every man for himself and his neighbor." A tax,
then, upon whiskey was as odious as a tax upon bread baked on the
domestic hearth--if not, indeed, more so.

Now, there came a time when the taxes laid upon spirituous liquors had
increased almost to the point of prohibition. This was done, not so much
for the sake of revenue, as for the sake of the public health and
morals. Englishmen had suddenly taken to drinking gin, and the immediate
effect was similar to that of introducing firewater among a race of
savages. There was hue and cry (apparently with good reason), that the
gin habit, spreading like a plague, among a people unused to strong
liquors, would soon exterminate the English race. Parliament, alarmed at
the outlook, then passed an excise law of extreme severity. As always
happens in such cases, the law promptly defeated its own purpose by
breeding a spirit of defiance and resistance among the great body of the

The heavier the tax, the more widespread became the custom of illicit
distilling. The law was evaded in two different ways, the method
depending somewhat upon the relative loyalty of the people toward the
Crown, and somewhat upon the character of the country, as to whether it
was thickly or thinly settled.

In rich and populous districts, as around London and Edinburgh and
Dublin, the common practice was to bribe government officials. A
historian of that time declares that "Not infrequently the gauger could
have laid his hands upon a dozen stills within as many hours; but he had
cogent reasons for avoiding discoveries unless absolutely forced to make
them. Where informations were laid, it was by no means uncommon for a
trusty messenger to be dispatched from the residence of the gauger to
give due notice, so that by daybreak next morning 'the boys,' with all
their utensils, might disappear. Now and then they were required to
leave an old and worn-out still in place of that which they were to
remove, so that a report of actual seizure might be made. A good
understanding was thus often kept up between the gaugers and the
distillers; the former not infrequently received a 'duty' upon every
still within his jurisdiction, and his cellars were never without 'a sup
of the best.'... The commerce was carried on to a very great extent,
and openly. Poteen was usually preferred, even by the gentry, to
'Parliament' or 'King's' whiskey. It was known to be free from
adulteration, and had a smoky flavor (arising from the peat fires) which
many liked." Another writer says that "The amount of spirits produced by
distillation avowedly illicit vastly exceeded that produced by the
licensed distilleries. According to Wakefield, stills were erected even
in the kitchens of baronets and in the stables of clergymen."

However, this sort of thing was not moonshining. It was only the
beginning of that system of wholesale collusion which, in later times,
was perfected in our own country by the "Whiskey Ring."

Moonshining proper was confined to the poorer class of people,
especially in Ireland, who lived in wild and sparsely settled regions,
who were governed by a clan feeling stronger than their loyalty to the
central Government, and who either could not afford to share their
profits with the gaugers, or disdained to do so. Such people hid their
little pot-stills in inaccessible places, as in the savage mountains and
glens of Connemara, where it was impossible, or at least hazardous, for
the law to reach them. With arms in hand they defied the officers. "The
hatred of the people toward the gauger was for a very long period
intense. The very name invariably aroused the worst passions. To kill a
gauger was considered anything but a crime; wherever it could be done
with comparative safety, he was hunted to the death."

Thus we see that the townsman's weapon against the government was graft,
and the mountaineer's weapon was his gun--a hundred and fifty years ago,
in Ireland, as they are in America to-day. Whether racial character had
much to do with this is a debatable question. But, having spoken of
race, a new factor, and a curious one, steps into our story. Let it be
noted closely, for it bears directly on a problem that has puzzled many
of our own people, namely: What was the origin of our southern

The north of Ireland, at the time of which we have been speaking, was
not settled by Irishmen, but by Scotchmen, who had been imported by
James I. to take the place of native Hibernians whom he had dispossessed
from the three northern counties. These immigrants came to be known as
the Scotch-Irish. They learned how to make poteen in little stills,
after the Irish fashion, and to defend their stills from intrusive
foreigners, also after the Irish fashion. By and by these Scotch-Irish
fell out with the British Government, and large bodies of them emigrated
to America, settling, for the most part, in western Pennsylvania.

They were a fighting race. Accustomed to plenty of hard knocks at home,
they took to the rough fare and Indian wars of our border as naturally
as ducks take to water. They brought with them, too, an undying hatred
of excise laws, and a spirit of unhesitating resistance to any authority
that sought to enforce such laws.

It was these Scotchmen, in the main, assisted by a good sprinkling of
native Irish, and by the wilder blades among the Pennsylvania-Dutch, who
drove out the Indians from the Alleghany border, formed our rear-guard
in the Revolution, won that rough mountain region for civilization, left
it when the game became scarce and neighbors' houses too frequent,
followed the mountains southward, settled western Virginia and Carolina,
and formed the vanguard westward into Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and
so onward till there was no longer a West to conquer. Some of their
descendants remained behind in the fastnesses of the Alleghanies, the
Blue Ridge, and the Unakas, and became, in turn, the progenitors of that
singular race which, by an absurd pleonasm, is now commonly known as
the "mountain whites," but properly southern highlanders.

The first generation of Pennsylvania frontiersmen knew no laws but those
of their own making. They were too far away, too scattered, and too
poor, for the Crown to bother with them. Then came the Revolution. The
backwoodsmen were loyal to the new American Government--loyal to a man.
They not only fought off the Indians from the rear, but sent many of
their incomparable riflemen to fight at the front as well.

They were the first English-speaking people to use weapons of precision
(the rifle, introduced by the Pennsylvania-Dutch about 1700, was used by
our backwoodsmen exclusively throughout the war). They were the first to
employ open-order formation in civilized warfare. They were the first
outside colonists to assist their New England brethren at the siege of
Boston. They were mustered in as the First Regiment of Foot of the
Continental Army (being the first troops enrolled by our Congress, and
the first to serve under a Federal banner). They carried the day at
Saratoga, the Cowpens, and King's Mountain. From the beginning to the
end of the war, they were Washington's favorite troops.

[Illustration: A Tub Mill]

And yet these same men were the first rebels against the authority of
the United States Government! And it was their old commander-in-chief,
Washington himself, who had the ungrateful task of bringing them to
order by a show of Federal bayonets.

It happened in this wise:

Up to the year 1791 there had been no excise tax in the United Colonies
or the United States. (One that had been tried in Pennsylvania was
utterly abortive). Then the country fell upon hard times. A larger
revenue had to be raised, and Hamilton suggested an excise. The measure
was bitterly opposed by many public men, notably by Jefferson; but it
passed. Immediately there was trouble in the tall timber.

Western Pennsylvania, and the mountains southward, had been settled, as
we have seen, by the Scotch-Irish; men who had brought with them a
certain fondness for whiskey, a certain knack in making it, and an
intense hatred of excise, on general as well as special principles.
There were few roads across the mountains, and these few were
execrable--so bad, indeed, that it was impossible for the backwoodsmen
to bring their corn and rye to market, except in a concentrated form.
The farmers of the seaboard had grown rich, from the high prices that
prevailed during the French Revolution; but the mountain farmers had
remained poor, owing partly to difficulties of tillage, but chiefly to
difficulties of transportation. As Albert Gallatin said, in defending
the western people, "We have no means of bringing the produce of our
lands to sale either in grain or in meal. We are therefore distillers
through necessity, not choice, that we may comprehend the greatest value
in the smallest size and weight. The inhabitants of the eastern side of
the mountains can dispose of their grain without the additional labor of
distillation at a higher price than we can after we have disposed that
labor upon it."

Again, as in all frontier communities, there was a scarcity of cash in
the mountains. Commerce was carried on by barter; but there had to be
some means of raising enough cash to pay taxes, and to purchase such
necessities as sugar, calico, gun powder, etc., from the peddlers who
brought them by pack train across the Alleghanies. Consequently a still
had been set up on nearly every farm. A horse could carry about sixteen
gallons of liquor, which represented eight bushels of grain, in weight
and bulk, and double that amount in value. This whiskey, even after it
had been transported across the mountains, could undersell even so
cheap a beverage as New England rum--so long as no tax was laid upon it.

But when the newly created Congress passed an excise law, it virtually
placed a heavy tax on the poor mountaineers' grain, and let the grain of
the wealthy eastern farmers pass on to market without a cent of charge.
Naturally enough, the excitable people of the border regarded such a law
as aimed exclusively at themselves. They remonstrated, petitioned,
stormed. "From the passing of the law in January, 1791, there appeared a
marked dissatisfaction in the western parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland,
Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. The legislatures of North
Carolina, Virginia and Maryland passed resolutions against the law, and
that of Pennsylvania manifested a strong spirit of opposition to it. As
early as 1791, Washington was informed that throughout this whole region
the people were ready for revolt." "To tax their stills seemed a blow at
the only thing which obdurate nature had given them--a lot hard indeed,
in comparison with that of the people of the sea-board."

Our western mountains (we call most of them southern mountains now)
resembled somewhat those wild highlands of Connemara to which reference
has been made--only they were far wilder, far less populous, and
inhabited by a people still prouder, more independent, more used to
being a law unto themselves than were their ancestors in old Hibernia.
When the Federal exciseman came among this border people and sought to
levy tribute, they blackened or otherwise disguised themselves and
treated him to a coat of tar and feathers, at the same time threatening
to burn his house. He resigned. Indignation meetings were held,
resolutions were passed calling on all good citizens to _disobey_ the
law, and whenever anyone ventured to express a contrary opinion, or
rented a house to a collector, he, too, was tarred and feathered. If a
prudent or ultra-conscientious individual took out a license and sought
to observe the law, he was visited by a gang of "Whiskey Boys" who
smashed the still and inflicted corporal punishment upon its owner.

Finally, warrants were issued against the lawbreakers. The attempt to
serve these writs produced an uprising. On July 16, 1794, a company of
mountain militia marched to the house of the inspector, General Neville,
to force him to give up his commission. Neville fired upon them, and, in
the skirmish that ensued, five of the attacking force were wounded and
one was killed. The next day, a regiment of 500 mountaineers, led by
one "Tom the Tinker," burned Neville's house, and forced him to flee for
his life. His guard of eleven U. S. soldiers surrendered, after losing
one killed and several wounded.

A call was then issued for a meeting of the mountain militia at the
historic Braddock's Field. On Aug. 1, a large body assembled, of whom
2,000 were armed. They marched on Pittsburgh, then a village of 1,200
souls. The townsmen, eager to conciliate and to ward off pillage,
appointed a committee to meet the mob half way. The committee, finding
that it could not induce the mountain men to go home, made a virtue of
necessity by escorting 5,400 of them into Pittsburgh town. As Fisher
says, "The town was warned by messengers, and every preparation was
made, not for defense, but to extinguish the fire of the Whiskey Boys'
thirst, which would prevent the necessity of having to extinguish the
fire they might apply to houses.... Then the work began. Every citizen
worked like a slave to carry provisions and buckets of whiskey to that
camp." Judge Brackenridge tells us that it was an expensive as well as
laborious day, and cost him personally four barrels of prime old
whiskey. The day ended in a bloodless, but probably uproarious,

On this same day (the Governor of Pennsylvania having declined to
interfere) Washington issued a proclamation against the rioters, and
called for 15,000 militia to quell the insurrection. Meantime he had
appointed commissioners to go into the disaffected region and try to
persuade the people to submit peacefully before the troops should
arrive. Peace was offered on condition that the leaders of the
disturbance should submit to arrest.

While negotiations were proceeding, the army advanced. Eighteen
ringleaders of the mob were arrested, and the "insurrection" faded away
like smoke. When the troops arrived, there was nothing for them to do.
The insurgent leaders were tried for treason, and two of them were
convicted, but Washington pardoned both of them. The cost of this
expedition was more than one-third of the total expenditures of the
Government, for that year, for all other purposes. The moral effect upon
the nation at large was wholesome, for the Federal Government had
demonstrated, on this its first test, that it could enforce its own laws
and maintain domestic tranquility. The result upon the mountain people
themselves was dubious. Thomas Jefferson wrote to Madison in December:
"The information of our [Virginia's] militia, returned from the
westward, is uniform, that though the people there let them pass
quietly, they were objects of their laughter, not of their fear; that
one thousand men could have cut off their whole force in a thousand
places of the Alleghany; that their detestation of the excise law was
universal, and has now associated with it a detestation of the
Government; and that a separation which was perhaps a very distant and
problematical event, is now near and certain, and determined in the mind
of every man."

But Jefferson himself came to the presidency within six years, and the
excise tax was promptly repealed, never again to be instituted, save as
a war measure, until within a time so recent that it is now remembered
by men whom we would not call very old.

The moonshiners of our own day know nothing of the story that has here
been written. Only once, within my knowledge, has it been told in the
mountains, and then the result was so unexpected, that I append the
incident as a color contrast to this rather sombre narrative.--

I was calling on a white-bearded patriarch who was a trifle vain of his
historical learning. He could not read, but one of his daughters read
to him, and he had learned by heart nearly all that lay between the two
lids of a "Universal History" such as book agents peddle about. Like one
of John Fox's characters, he was fond of the expression "hist'ry says"
so-and-so, and he considered it a clincher in all matters of debate.

Our conversation drifted to the topic of moonshining.

"Down to the time of the Civil War," declared the old settler, "nobody
paid tax on the whiskey he made. Hit was thataway in my Pa's time, and
in Gran'sir's, too. And so 'way back to the time of George Washington.
Now, hist'ry says that Washington was the Father of his Country; and I
reckon he was the _greatest_ man that ever lived--don't you?"

I murmured a complaisant assent.

"Waal, sir, if 't was right to make free whiskey in Washington's day,
hit's right _now_!" and the old man brought his fist down on the table.

"But that is where you make a mistake," I replied. "Washington did
enforce a whiskey tax." Then I told about the Whiskey Insurrection of

This was news to Grandpa. He listened with deep attention, his brows
lowering as the narrative proceeded. When it was finished he offered
no comment, but brooded to himself in silence. My own thoughts wandered
far afield, until recalled to the topic by a blunt demand:

[Illustration: Cabin on the Little Fork of Sugar Fork of Hazel Creek in
which the author lived alone for three years]

"You say Washington done that?"

"He did."

"George Washington?"

"Yes, sir: the Father of his Country."

"Waal, I'm satisfied now that Washington was a leetle-grain cracked."

       *       *       *       *       *

The law of 1791, although it imposed a tax on whiskey of only 9 to 11
cents per proof gallon, came near bringing on a civil war, which was
only averted by the leniency of the Federal Government in granting
wholesale amnesty. The most stubborn malcontents in the mountains moved
southward along the Alleghanies into western Virginia and the Carolinas,
where no serious attempt was made to collect the excise; so they could
practice moonshining to their heart's content, and there their
descendants remain to-day.

On the accession of Jefferson, in 1800, the tax on spirits was repealed.
The war of 1812 compelled the Government to tax whiskey again, but as
this was a war tax, shared by commodities generally, it aroused no
opposition. In 1817 the excise was again repealed; and from that time
until 1862 no specific tax was levied on liquors. During this period of
thirty-five years the average market price of whiskey was 24 cents a
gallon, sometimes dropping as low as 14 cents. Spirits were so cheap
that a "burning fluid," consisting of one part spirits of turpentine to
four or five parts alcohol was used in the lamps of nearly every
household. Moonshining, of course, had ceased to exist.

Then came the Civil War. In 1862 a tax of 20 cents a gallon was levied.
Early in 1864 it rose to 60 cents. This cut off the industrial use of
spirits, but did not affect its use as a beverage. In the latter part of
1864 the tax leaped to $1.50 a gallon, and the next year it reached the
prohibitive figure of $2. The result of such excessive taxation was just
what it had been in the old times, in Great Britain. In and around the
centers of population there was wholesale fraud and collusion. "Efforts
made to repress and punish frauds were of absolutely no account
whatever.... The current price at which distilled spirits were sold in
the markets was everywhere recognized and commented on by the press as
less than the amount of the tax, allowing nothing whatever for the cost
of manufacture."

Seeing that the outcome was disastrous from a fiscal point of view--the
revenue from this source was falling to the vanishing point--Congress,
in 1868, cut down the tax to 50 cents a gallon. "Illicit distillation
practically ceased the very hour that the new law came into operation;
... the Government collected during the second year of the continuance
of the act $3 for every one that was obtained during the last year of
the $2 rate."

In 1869 there came a new administration, with frequent removals of
revenue officials for political purposes. The revenue fell off. In 1872
the rate was raised to 70 cents, and in 1875 to 90 cents. The result is
thus summarized by David A. Wells:

"Investigation carefully conducted showed that on the average the
product of illicit distillation costs, through deficient yields, the
necessary bribery of attendants, and the expenses of secret and unusual
methods of transportation, from two to three times as much as the
product of legitimate and legal distillation. So that, calling the
average cost of spirits in the United States 20 cents per gallon, the
product of the illicit distiller would cost 40 to 60 cents, leaving but
10 cents per gallon as the maximum profit to be realized from fraud
under the most favorable conditions--an amount not sufficient to offset
the possibility of severe penalties of fine, imprisonment, and
confiscation of property.... The rate of 70 cents ... constituted a
moderate temptation to fraud. Its increase to 90 cents constituted a
temptation altogether too great for human nature, as employed in
manufacturing and selling whiskey, to resist.... During 1875-6,
highwines sold openly in the Chicago and Cincinnati markets at prices
less than the average cost of production plus the Government tax.
Investigations showed that the persons mainly concerned in the work of
fraud were the Government officials rather than the distillers; and that
a so-called 'Whiskey Ring' ... extended to Washington, and embraced
within its sphere of influence and participation, not merely local
supervisors, collectors, inspectors, and storekeepers of the revenue,
but even officers of the Internal Revenue Bureau, and probably, also,
persons occupying confidential relations with the Executive of the

       *       *       *       *       *

Such being the condition of affairs in the centers of civilization in
the latter part of the nineteenth century, let us now turn to the
mountains, and see how matters stood among those primitive people who
were still tarrying in the eighteenth. Their situation at that time is
thus briefly sketched by a southern historian[7]:

"Before the war these simple folks made their apples and peaches into
brandy, and their corn into whiskey, and these products, with a few
cattle, some dried fruits, honey, beeswax, nuts, wool, hides, fur,
herbs, ginseng and other roots, and woolen socks knitted by the women in
their long winter evenings, formed the stock in trade which they
bartered for their plain necessaries and few luxuries, their homespun
and cotton cloths, sugar, coffee, snuff, and fiddles.... The raising of
a crop of corn in summer, and the getting out of tan-bark and lumber in
winter, were almost their only resources.... The burden of taxation
rested lightly on them. For near two generations no excise duties had
been levied.... The war came on. They were mostly loyal to the Union.
They paid the first moderate tax without a murmur.

"They were willing to pay any tax that they were able to pay. But
suddenly the tax jumped to $1.50, and then to $2, a gallon. The people
were goaded to open rebellion. Their corn at that time brought only from
25 to 40 cents a bushel; apples and peaches, rarely more than 10 cents
at the stills. These were the only crops that could be grown in their
deep and narrow valleys. Transportation was so difficult, and markets so
remote, that there was no way to utilize the surplus except to distill
it. Their stills were too small to bear the cost of government
supervision. The superior officers of the Revenue Department
(collectors, marshals, and district-attorneys or commissioners) were
paid only by commissions on collections and by fees. Their subordinate
agents, whose income depended upon the number of stills they cut up and
upon the arrests made, were, as a class, brutal and desperate
characters. Guerrilla warfare was the natural sequence."



Little or no attention seems to have been paid to the moonshining that
was going on in the mountains until about 1876, owing, no doubt, to the
larger game in registered distilleries. In his report for 1876-7, the
new Commissioner of Internal Revenue called attention to the illicit
manufacture of whiskey in the mountain counties of the South, and urged
vigorous measures for its immediate suppression.

"The extent of these frauds," said he, "would startle belief. I can
safely say that during the past year not less than 3,000 illicit stills
have been operated in the districts named. Those stills are of a
producing capacity of 10 to 50 gallons a day. They are usually located
at inaccessible points in the mountains, away from the ordinary lines of
travel, and are generally owned by unlettered men of desperate
character, armed and ready to resist the officers of the law. Where
occasion requires, they come together in companies of from ten to fifty
persons, gun in hand, to drive the officers out of the country. They
resist as long as resistance is possible, and when their stills are
seized, and they themselves are arrested, they plead ignorance and
poverty, and at once crave the pardon of the Government.

"These frauds had become so open and notorious ... that I became
satisfied extraordinary measures would be required to break them up.
Collectors were ... each authorized to employ from five to ten
additional deputies.... Experienced revenue agents of perseverance and
courage were assigned to duty to co-operate with the collectors. United
States marshals were called upon to co-operate with the collectors and
to arrest all persons known to have violated the laws, and
district-attorneys were enjoined to prosecute all offenders.

"In certain portions of the country many citizens not guilty of
violating the law themselves were in strong sympathy with those who did
violate, and the officers in many instances found themselves unsupported
in the execution of the laws by a healthy state of public opinion. The
distillers--ever ready to forcibly resist the officers--were, I have no
doubt, at times treated with harshness. This occasioned much
indignation on the part of those who sympathized with the

The Commissioner recommended, in his report, the passage of a law
"expressly providing that where a person is caught in the act of
operating an illicit still, he may be arrested without warrant." In
conclusion, he said: "At this time not only is the United States
defrauded of its revenues, and its officers openly resisted, but when
arrests are made it often occurs that prisoners are rescued by mob
violence, and officers and witnesses are often at night dragged from
their homes and cruelly beaten, or waylaid and assassinated."

       *       *       *       *       *

One day I asked a mountain man, "How about the revenue officers? What
sort of men are they?"

"Torn down scoundrels, every one."

"Oh, come, now!"

"Yes, they are; plumb onery--lock, stock, barrel and gun-stick."

"Consider what they have to go through," I remarked. "Like other
detectives, they cannot secure evidence without practicing deception.
Their occupation is hard and dangerous. Here in the mountains, every
man's hand is against them."

"Why is it agin them? We ain't all blockaders; yet you can search these
mountains through with a fine-tooth comb and you wunt find ary critter
as has a good word to say for the revenue. The reason is 't we know them
men from 'way back; we know whut they uster do afore they jined the
sarvice, and why they did it. Most of them were blockaders their own
selves, till they saw how they could make more money turncoatin'. They
use their authority to abuse people who ain't never done nothin' nohow.
Dangerous business? Shucks! There's Jim Cody, for a sample [I suppress
the real name]; he was principally raised in this county, and I've
knowed him from a boy. He's been eight years in the Government sarvice,
and hain't never been shot at once. But he's killed a blockader--oh,
yes! He arrested Tom Hayward, a chunk of a boy, that was scared most
fitified and never resisted more'n a mouse. Cody, who was half drunk
his-self, handcuffed Tom, quarreled with him, and shot the boy dead
while the handcuffs was on him! Tom's relations sued Cody in the County
Court, but he carried the case to the Federal Court, and they were too
poor to follow it up. I tell you, though, thar's a settlement less 'n a
thousand mile from the river whar Jim Cody ain't never showed his nose
sence. He knows there'd be another revenue 'murdered.'"

"It must be ticklish business for an officer to prowl about the
headwaters of these mountain streams, looking for 'sign.'"

"Hell's banjer! they don't go prodjectin' around looking for stills.
They set at home on their hunkers till some feller comes and informs."

"What class of people does the informing?"

"Oh, sometimes hit's some pizen old bum who's been refused credit.
Sometimes hit's the wife or mother of some feller who's drinkin' too
much. Then, agin, hit may be some rival blockader who aims to cut off
the other feller's trade, and, same time, divert suspicion from his own
self. But ginerally hit's jest somebody who has a gredge agin the
blockader fer family reasons, or business reasons, and turns informer to
git even."

It is only fair to present this side of the case, because there is much
truth in it, and because it goes far to explain the bitter feeling
against revenue agents personally that is almost universal in the
mountains, and is shared even by the mountain preachers. It should be
understood, too, in this connection, that the southern highlander has a
long memory. Slights and injuries suffered by one generation have their
scars transmitted to sons and grandsons. There is no denying that there
have been officers in the revenue service who, stung by the contempt in
which they were held as renegades from their own people, have used their
authority in settling private scores, and have inflicted grievous wrongs
upon innocent people. This is matter of official record. In his report
for 1882, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue himself declared that
"Instances have been brought to my attention where numerous prosecutions
have been instituted for the most trivial violations of law, and the
arrested parties taken long distances and subjected to great
inconveniences and expense, not in the interest of the Government, but
apparently for no other reason than to make costs."

An ex-United States Commissioner told me that, in the darkest days of
this struggle, when he himself was obliged to buckle on a revolver every
time he put his head out of doors, he had more trouble with his own
deputies than with the moonshiners. "As a rule, none but desperadoes
could be hired for the service," he declared. "For example, one time my
deputy in your county wanted some liquor for himself. He and two of his
cronies crossed the line into South Carolina, raided a still, and got
beastly drunk. The blockaders bushwhacked them, riddled a mule and its
rider with buckshot, and shot my deputy through the brain with a
squirrel rifle. We went over there and buried the victims a few days
later, during a snow storm, working with our holster flaps unbuttoned. I
had all that work and worry simply because that rascal was bent on
getting drunk without paying for it. However, it cost him his life.

"They were not all like that, though," continued the Judge. "Now and
then there would turn up in the service a man who had entered it from
honorable motives, and whose conduct, at all times, was chivalric and
clean. There was Hersh Harkins, for example, now United States Collector
at Asheville. I had many cases in which Harkins figured."

"Tell me of one," I urged.

"Well, one time there was a man named Jenks [that was not the real name,
but it will serve], who was too rich to be suspected of blockading.
Jenks had a license to make brandy, but not whiskey. One day Harkins was
visiting his still-house, and he noticed something dubious. Thrusting
his arm down through the peach pomace, he found mash underneath. It is a
penitentiary offense to mix the two. Harkins procured more evidence
from Jenk's distiller, and hauled the offender before me. The trial was
conducted in a hotel room, full of people. We were not very formal in
those days--kept our hats on. There was no thought of Jenks trying to
run away, for he was well-to-do; so he was given the freedom of the
room. He paced nervously back and forth between my desk and the door,
growing more restless as the trial proceeded. A clerk sat near me,
writing a bond, and Harkins stood behind him dictating its terms.
Suddenly Jenks wheeled around, near the door, jerked out a navy
revolver, fired and bolted. It is hard to say whom he shot at, for the
bullet went through Harkins's coat, through the clerk's hat, and through
my hat, too. I ducked under the desk to get my revolver, and Harkins,
thinking that I was killed, sprang to pick me up; but I came up firing.
It was wonderful how soon that room was emptied! Harkins took after the
fugitive, and had a wild chase; but he got him."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was my good fortune, a few evenings later, to have a long talk with
Mr. Harkins himself. He was a fine giant of a man, standing six feet
three, and symmetrically proportioned. No one looking into his kindly
gray eyes would suspect that they belonged to one who had seen as hard
and dangerous service in the Revenue Department as any man then living.
In an easy, unassuming way he told me many stories of his own adventures
among moonshiners and counterfeiters in the old days when these southern
Appalachians fairly swarmed with desperate characters. One grim affair
will suffice to give an impression of the man, and of the times in which
his spurs were won.

There was a man on South Mountain, South Carolina, whom, for the sake of
relatives who may still be living, we will call Lafonte. There was
information that Lafonte was running a blind tiger. He got his whiskey
from four brothers who were blockading near his father's house, just
within the North Carolina line. The Government had sent an officer named
Merrill to capture Lafonte, but the latter drove Merrill away with a
shotgun. Harkins then received orders to make the arrest. Taking Merrill
with him as guide, Harkins rode to the father's house, and found Lafonte
himself working near a high fence. As soon as the criminal saw the
officers approaching, he ran for the house to get his gun. Harkins
galloped along the other side of the fence, and, after a
rough-and-tumble fight, captured his man. The officers then carried
their prisoner to the house of a man whose name I have forgotten--call
him White--who lived about two miles away. Meantime they had heard
Lafonte's sister give three piercing screams as a signal to his
confederates in the neighborhood, and they knew that trouble would
quickly brew.

Breakfast was ready in White's home when the mob arrived. Harkins sent
Merrill in to breakfast, and himself went out on the porch, carbine in
hand, to stand off the thoroughly angry gang. White also went out,
beseeching the mob to disperse. Matters looked squally for a time, but
it was finally agreed that Lafonte should give bond, whereupon he was
promptly released.

The two officers then finished their breakfast, and shortly set out for
the Blue House, an abandoned schoolhouse about forty miles distant,
where the trial was to be conducted. They were followed at a distance by
Lafonte's half-drunken champions, who were by no means placated, owing
to the fact that the Blue House was in a neighborhood friendly to the
Government. Harkins and Merrill soon dodged to one side in the forest,
until the rioters had passed them, and then proceeded leisurely in the
rear. On their way to the Blue House they cut up four stills,
destroyed a furnace, and made several arrests.

[Illustration: A Mountain Home]

The next day three United States commissioners opened court in the old
schoolhouse. The room was crowded by curious spectators. The trial had
not proceeded beyond preliminaries when shots and shouts from the
pursuing mob were heard in the distance. Immediately the room was
emptied of both crowd and commissioners, who fled in all directions,
leaving Harkins and Merrill to fight their battle alone.

There were thirteen men in the moonshiners' mob. They surrounded the
house, and immediately began shooting in through the windows. The
officers returned the fire, but a hard-pine ceiling in the room caused
the bullets of the attacking party to ricochet in all directions and
made the place untenable. Harkins and his comrade sprang out through the
windows, but from opposite sides of the house. Merrill ran, but Harkins
grappled with the men nearest to him, and in a moment the whole force of
desperadoes was upon him like a swarm of bees. Unfortunately, the brave
fellow had left his carbine at the house where he had spent the night.
His only weapon was a revolver that had only three cartridges in the
cylinder. Each of these shots dropped a man; but there were ten men
left. Nothing but Harkins's gigantic strength saved him, that day, from
immediate death. His long arms tackled three or four men at once, and
all went down in a bunch. Others fell on top, as in a college cane-rush.
There had been swift shooting, hitherto, but now it was mostly knife and
pistol-butt. It is almost incredible, but it is true, that this
extraordinary battle waged for three-quarters of an hour. At its end
only one man faced the now thoroughly exhausted and badly wounded, but
indomitable officer. At this fellow, Harkins hurled his pistol; it
struck him in the forehead, and the battle was won.

A thick overcoat that Mr. Harkins wore was pierced by twenty-one
bullets, seven of which penetrated his body. He received, besides, three
or four bad knife-wounds in his back, and he was literally dripping
blood from head to foot.

This tragedy had an almost comic sequel. After all danger had passed, a
sheriff appeared on the scene, who placed, not the mob-leader, but the
Federal officer under arrest. Harkins left a guard over the three men
whom he had shot, and submitted to arrest, but demanded that he be taken
to the farmhouse where he had left his horse. This the sheriff actually
refused to permit, although Harkins was evidently past all possibility
of continuing far afoot. Disgusted at such imbecility, the deputy
stalked away from the sheriff, leaving the latter with his mouth open,
and utterly obsessed.

A short distance up the road, Harkins met a countryman mounted on a
sorry old mule. "Loan me that mule for half an hour," he requested; "you
see, I can walk no further." But the fellow, scared out of his wits by
the spectacle of a man in such desperate plight, refused to accommodate

"Get down off that mule, or I'll break your neck!"

The mule changed riders.

When the story was finished, I asked Mr. Harkins if it was true, as the
reading public generally believes, that moonshiners prefer death to
capture. "Do they shoot a revenue officer at sight?"

The answer was terse:

"They used to shoot; nowadays they run."

       *       *       *       *       *

We have come to the time when our Government began in dead earnest to
fight the moonshiners and endeavor to suppress their traffic. It was in
1877. To give a fair picture, from the official standpoint, of the state
of affairs at that time, I will quote from the report of the
Commissioner of Internal Revenue for the year 1877-78:

"It is with extreme regret," he said, "I find it my duty to report the
great difficulties that have been and still are encountered in many of
the Southern States in the enforcement of the laws. In the mountain
regions of West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina,
Georgia and Alabama, and in some portions of Missouri, Arkansas and
Texas, the illicit manufacture of spirits has been carried on for a
number of years, and I am satisfied that the annual loss to the
Government from this source has been very nearly, if not quite, equal to
the annual appropriation for the collection of the internal revenue tax
throughout the whole country. In the regions of country named there are
known to exist about 5,000 copper stills, many of which at certain times
are lawfully used in the production of brandy from apples and peaches,
but I am convinced that a large portion of these stills have been and
are used in the illicit manufacture of spirits. Part of the spirits thus
produced has been consumed in the immediate neighborhood; the balance
has been distributed and sold throughout the adjacent districts.

"This nefarious business has been carried on, as a rule, by a
determined set of men, who in their various neighborhoods league
together for defense against the officers of the law, and at a given
signal are ready to come together with arms in their hands to drive the
officers of internal revenue out of the country.

"As illustrating the extraordinary resistance which the officers have
had on some occasions to encounter, I refer to occurrences in Overton
County, Tennessee, in August last, where a posse of eleven internal
revenue officers, who had stopped at a farmer's house for the night,
were attacked by a band of armed illicit distillers, who kept up a
constant fusillade during the whole night, and whose force was augmented
during the following day till it numbered nearly two hundred men. The
officers took shelter in a log house, which served them as a fort,
returning the fire as best they could, and were there besieged for
forty-two hours, three of their party being shot--one through the body,
one through the arm, and one in the face. I directed a strong force to
go to their relief, but in the meantime, through the intervention of
citizens, the besieged officers were permitted to retire, taking their
wounded with them, and without surrendering their arms.

"So formidable has been the resistance to the enforcement of the laws
that in the districts of 5th Virginia, 6th North Carolina, South
Carolina, 2d and 5th Tennessee, 2d West Virginia, Arkansas, and
Kentucky, I have found it necessary to supply the collectors with
breech-loading carbines. In these districts, and also in the States of
Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, in the 4th district of North Carolina,
and in the 2d and 5th districts of Missouri, I have authorized the
organization of posses ranging from five to sixty in number, to aid in
making seizures and arrests, the object being to have a force
sufficiently strong to deter resistance if possible, and, if need be, to
overcome it."

The intention of the Revenue Department was certainly not to inflame the
mountain people, but to treat them as considerately as possible. And
yet, the policy of "be to their faults a little blind" had borne no
other fruit than to strengthen the combinations of moonshiners and their
sympathizers to such a degree that they could set the ordinary force of
officers at defiance, and things had come to such a pass that men of
wide experience in the revenue service had reached the conclusion that
"the fraud of illicit distilling was an evil too firmly established to
be uprooted, and that it must be endured."

The real trouble was that public sentiment in the mountains was almost
unanimously in the moonshiners' favor. Leading citizens were either
directly interested in the traffic, or were in active sympathy with the
distillers. "In some cases," said the Commissioner, "State officers,
including judges on the bench, have sided with the illicit distillers
and have encouraged the use of the State courts for the prosecution of
the officers of the United States upon all sorts of charges, with the
evident purpose of obstructing the enforcement of the laws of the United
States.... I regret to have to record the fact that when the officers of
the United States have been shot down from ambuscade, in cold blood, as
a rule no efforts have been made on the part of the State officers to
arrest the murderers; but in cases where the officers of the United
States have been engaged in enforcement of the laws, and have
unfortunately come in conflict with the violators of the law, and
homicides have occurred, active steps have been at once taken for the
arrest of such officers, and nothing would be left undone by the State
authorities to bring them to trial and punishment."

There is no question but that this statement of the Commissioner was a
fair presentation of facts; but when he went on to expose the root of
the evil, the underlying sentiment that made, and still makes, illicit
distilling popular among our mountaineers, I think that he was
singularly at fault. This was his explanation--the only one that I have
found in all the reports of the Department from 1870 to 1904:

"Much of the opposition to the enforcement of the internal revenue laws
[he does not say _all_, but offers no other theory] is properly
attributable to a latent feeling of hostility to the government and laws
of the United States still prevailing in the breasts of a portion of the
people of these districts, and in consequence of this condition of
things the officers of the United States have often been treated very
much as though they were emissaries from some foreign country quartered
upon the people for the collection of tribute."

This shows an out-and-out misunderstanding of the character of the
mountain people, their history, their proclivities, and the
circumstances of their lives. The southern mountaineers, as a class,
have been remarkably loyal to the Union ever since it was formed. Far
more of them fought for the Union than for the Confederacy in our Civil
War. And, anyway, politics has never had anything to do with the
moonshining question. The reason for illicit distilling is purely an
economic one, as I have shown. If officers of the Federal Government
have been treated as foreigners they have met the same reception that
_all_ outsiders meet from the mountaineers. A native of the Carolina
tidewater is a "furriner" in the Carolina mountains, and so is a native
of the "bluegrass" when he enters the eastern hills of his own State.
The highlander's word "furriner" means to him what +barbaros+ did
to an ancient Greek. Ordinarily he is courteous to the unfortunate
alien, though never deferential; in his heart of hearts he regards the
queer fellow with lofty superiority. This trait is characteristic of all
primitive peoples, of all isolated peoples. It is provincialism, pure
and simple--a provincialism more crudely expressed in Appalachia than in
Gotham or The Hub, but no cruder in essence for all that.

The vigorous campaign of 1877 bore such fruit that, in the following
year, the Commissioner was able to report: "We virtually have peaceable
possession of the districts of 4th and 5th North Carolina, Georgia, West
Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and Arkansas, in many of which formidable
resistance to the enforcement of the law has prevailed.... In the
western portion of the 5th Virginia district, in part of West Virginia,
in the 6th North Carolina district, in part of South Carolina, and in
the 2d and 5th districts of Tennessee, I apprehend further serious
difficulties.... It is very desirable, in order to prevent bloodshed,
that the internal revenue forces sent into these infected regions to
make seizures and arrests shall be so strong as to deter armed

In January, 1880, a combined movement by armed bodies of internal
revenue officers was made from West Virginia southwestward through the
mountains and foothills infested with illicit distillers. "The effect of
this movement was to convince violators of the law that it was the
determination of the Government to put an end to frauds and resistance
of authority, and since that time it has been manifest to all
well-meaning men in those regions of the country that the day of the
illicit distiller is past." In his report for 1881-82 the Commissioner
declared that "The supremacy of the laws ... has been established in all
parts of the country."

As a matter of fact, the number of arrests per annum, which hitherto had
ranged from 1,000 to 3,000, now dropped off considerably, and the
casualties in the service became few and far between. But, in 1894,
Congress increased the tax on spirits from the old 90 cents figure to
$1.10 a gallon. The effect was almost instantaneous. We have no means
of learning how many new moonshine stills were set up, but we do know
that the number of seizures doubled and trebled, and that bloodshed
proportionally increased. Again the complaint went out that "justice was
frequently defeated," even in cases of conviction, by failure to visit
adequate punishment upon the offenders. It is, to-day, a notorious fact
that our blockaders dread their own State courts far more than they do
the Federal courts, because the punishment for selling liquor in the
mountain counties is surer to follow conviction than is the penalty for
violating Federal law. The latter is severe enough, if it were enforced;
for defrauding, or attempting to defraud, the United States of the tax
on spirits, the law prescribes forfeiture of the distillery and
apparatus, and of all spirits and raw materials, besides a fine of not
less than $500 nor more than $5,000, _and_ imprisonment for not less
than six months nor longer than three years. I am not able to say what
percentage of arrests is followed by conviction, nor how many convicted
persons suffer the full penalty of the law. I only know that public
opinion in the mountains did not consider an arrest, or even a
conviction, by the Federal authorities, as a very serious matter during
the period from 1880 up to the past two or three years, and little
resistance was offered by blockaders when captured.

Recently, however, a new factor has entered the moonshining problem and
profoundly altered it: the South has gone "dry."

One might have expected that prohibition would be bitterly opposed in
Appalachia, in view of the fact that here the old-fashioned principle
still prevails, in practice, that moderate drinking is neither a sin nor
a disgrace, and that a man has the same right to make his own whiskey as
his own soup, if he chooses. Undoubtedly those who fight the liquor
traffic on purely moral grounds are a small minority in the mountains.
But the blockaders themselves are glad to see prohibitory laws enforced
to the letter, so far as saloons and registered distilleries are
concerned, and the drinking public prefer their native product from both
patriotic and gustatory motives. Such a combination is irresistible.

When pure "blockade" of normal strength sold as cheaply as it did before
prohibition there was no great profit in it, all risks and expenses
considered. But to-day, even with interstate shipments of liquors to
consumers, a gallon of "blockade" will be watered to half-strength, then
fortified with cologne spirits or other abominations, and peddled out
by bootleggers, at $1.50 a quart, in villages and lumber camps where
somebody always is thirsty and can find the coin to assuage it. Thus,
amid a poverty-stricken class of mountaineers, the temptation to run a
secret still, and adulterate the output, inflames and spreads.

In any case, the fact is that blockading as a business conducted in
armed defiance of the law is increasing by leaps and bounds since the
mountain region went "dry." The profits to-day are much greater than
before, because liquor is harder to get, in country districts, and
consumers will pay higher prices without question.

Correspondingly, the risks are greater than ever. Arrests have increased
rapidly, and so have mortal combats between officers and outlaws.
Blockading has returned to much the same status described (as previously
quoted) by our Commissioner of Internal Revenue in 1876. I have not seen
recent revenue reports, but I do not need to; for the war between
officers and moonshiners is so close to us that we almost live within
gun-crack of it. If Mr. Harkins were alive to-day, he would say: "They
used to shoot--and they have taken it up again."

Observe, please, that this is no argument for or against prohibition.
That is not my business. As a descriptive writer it is my duty to
collect facts, whether pleasant or unpleasant, regardless of my own or
anyone else's bias, and present them in orderly sequence. It is for the
reader to deduce his own conclusions, and with them I have nothing at
all to do.

I have given in brief the history of illicit distilling because we must
consider it before we can grasp firmly the basic fact that this is not
so much a moral as an economic problem. Men do not make whiskey in
secret, at the peril of imprisonment or death, because they are outlaws
by nature nor from any other kind of depravity, but simply and solely
because it looks like "easy money to poor folks."

If I may voice my own opinion of a working remedy, it is this: Give the
mountaineers a lawful chance to make decent livings where they are. This
means, first of all, decent roads whereby to market their farm produce
without losing all profit in cost of transportation. The first problem
of Appalachia to-day is the very same problem as that of western
Pennsylvania in 1784.



Among the many letters that come to me from men who think of touring or
camping in Highland Dixie there are few but ask, "How are strangers

This question, natural and prudent though it be, never fails to make me
smile, for I know so well the thoughts that lie back of it: "Suppose one
should blunder innocently upon a moonshine still--what would happen? If
a feud were raging in the land, how would a stranger fare? If one goes
alone into the mountains, does he run any risk of being robbed?"

Before I left the tame West and came into this wild East, I would have
asked a few questions myself, if I had known anyone to answer them. As
it was, I turned up rather abruptly in a backwoods settlement where the
"furriner" was more than a nine-days wonder. I bore no credentials; and
it was quite as well. If I had presented a letter from some clergyman or
from the President of the United States it would have been--just what I
was myself--a curiosity: as when the puppy discovers some weird and
marvelous new bug.

Everyone greeted me politely but with unfeigned interest. I was welcome
to sup and bed wherever I went. Moonshiners and man-slayers were as
affable as common folks. I dwelt alone for a long time, first in open
camp, afterwards in a secluded hut. Then I boarded with a native family.
Often I left my belongings to look out for themselves whilst I went away
on expeditions of days or weeks at a time. And nobody ever stole from me
so much as a fish-hook or a brass cartridge. So, in the retrospect, I

Does this mean, then, that Poe's characterization of the mountaineers is
out of date? Not at all. They are the same "fierce and uncouth race of
men" to-day that they were in his time. Homicide is so prevalent in the
districts that I personally am acquainted with that nearly every adult
citizen has been directly interested in some murder case, either as
principal, officer, witness, kinsman, or friend.

This grewsome subject I shall treat elsewhere, in detail. It is
introduced here only to emphasize a fact pertinent to the present topic,
namely: that the private wars of the highlanders are limited to their
own people. In our corner of North Carolina no traveler from the
outside ever has been a victim, nor do I know of any such case in the
whole Appalachian region.

[Illustration: Many of the homes have but one window]

And here is another significant fact: as regards personal property I do
not know any race in the world that is more honest than our backwoodsmen
of the southern mountains. As soon as you leave the railroad you enter a
land where sneak-thieves are rare and burglars almost unheard of. In my
own county and all those adjoining it there has been only one case of
highway robbery and only one of murder for money, so far as I can learn,
in the past _forty_ years.

The mountain code of conduct is a curious mixture of savagery and
civility. One man will kill another over a pig or a panel of fence (not
for the property's sake, but because of hot words ensuing) and he will
"come clear" in court because every fellow on the jury feels he would
have done the same thing himself under similar provocation; yet these
very men, vengeful and cruel though they are, regard hospitality as a
sacred duty toward wayfarers of any degree, and the bare idea of
stealing from a stranger would excite their instant loathing or
white-hot scorn.

Anyone of tact and common sense can go as he pleases through the darkest
corner of Appalachia without being molested. Tact, however, implies the
will and the insight to put yourself truly in the other man's place.
Imagine yourself born, bred, circumstanced like him. It implies, also,
the courtesy of doing as you would be done by if you were in that
fellow's shoes. No arrogance, no condescension, but man to man on a
footing of equal manliness.

And there are "manners" in the rudest community: customs and rules of
conduct that it is well to learn before one goes far afield. For
example, when you stop at a mountain cabin, if no dogs sound an alarm,
do not walk up to the door and knock. You are expected to call out
_Hello!_ until someone comes to inspect you. None but the most intimate
neighbors neglect this usage and there is mighty good reason back of it
in a land where the path to one's door may be a warpath.

If you are armed, as a hunter, do not fail to remove the cartridges from
the gun, in your host's presence, before you set foot on his porch. Then
give him the weapon or stand it in a corner or hang it up in plain view.
Even our sheriff, when he stopped with us, would lay his revolver on the
mantel-shelf and leave it there until he went his way. If you think a
moment you can see the courtesy of such an act. It proves that the
guest puts implicit trust in the honor of his host and in his ability to
protect all within his house. There never has been a case in which such
trust was violated.

I knew a traveler who, spending the night in a one-room cabin, was fool
enough (I can use no milder term) to thrust a loaded revolver under his
pillow when he went to bed. In the morning his weapon was still there,
but empty, and its cartridges lay conspicuously on a table across the
room. Nobody said a word about the incident: the hint was left to soak

The only real danger that one may encounter from the native people, so
long as he behaves himself, is when he comes upon a man who is wild with
liquor and cannot sidestep him. In such case, give him the glad word and
move on at once. I have had a drunken "ball-hooter" (log-roller) from
the lumber camps fire five shots around my head as a _feu-de-joie_, and
then stand tantalizingly, with hammer cocked over the sixth cartridge,
to see what I would do about it. As it chanced, I did not mind his
fireworks, for my head was a-swim with the rising fever of erysipelas
and I had come dragging my heels many an irk mile down from the
mountains to find a doctor. So I merely smiled at the fellow and asked
if he was having a good time. He grinned sheepishly and let me pass

The chief drawback to travel in this region, aside from the roads, is
not the character of the people, but the quality of bed and board. Of
course there are good hotels at most of the summer resorts, but these
are few and scattering, at present, for a territory so immense. In most
regions where there is noble scenery, unspoiled forest, and good
fishing, the accommodations are extremely rude. Many of the village inns
are dirty, and their tables a shock and a despair to the hungry pilgrim.
There are blessed exceptions, to be sure, but on the other hand the
traveler sometimes will encounter a cuisine that is neither edible nor
speakable, and will be shown to a bed wherein it needs no Sherlock
Holmes to detect that the previous biped retired with his boots on, or
at least with much realty attached to his person. Such places often are
like that unpronounceable town in Russia of which Paragot said: "The
bugs are the most companionable creatures in it, and they are the

If one be of the same mind as the plain-spoken Dr. Samuel Johnson, that
"the finest landscape in the world is not worth a damn without a cozy
inn in the foreground," he should keep to the stock show-places of our
highlands or seek other playgrounds.

By far the most comfortable way to stay in the back country at present
is in a camp of one's own where he can keep things tidy and have food to
suit him. If you be, though, of stout stomach and wishful to get true
insight into mountain ways and character you can find some sort of
boarding-place almost anywhere. In such case go first to the sheriff of
the county (in person, not by letter). This officer is a walking bureau
of information and dispenses it freely to any stranger. He knows almost
every man in the county, his character and his circumstances. He may be
depended upon to direct you to the best stopping-places, will tell you
how to get hunting and fishing privileges, and will recommend a good
packer or teamster if such help is wanted.

Along the railways and main county roads the farmers show a
well-justified mistrust about admitting company for the night. But in
the back districts the latch-string generally is out to all comers. "If
you-uns can stand what we-uns has ter, w'y come right in and set you a

If the man of the house has misgivings as to the state of the larder, he
will say: "I'll ax the woman gin she can git ye a bite." Seldom does
the wife demur, though sometimes her patience is sorely tried.

A stranger whose calked boots betrayed his calling stopped at Uncle
Mark's to inquire, "Can I git to stay all night?" Aunt Nance, peeping
through a crack, warned her man in a whisper: "Them loggers jest louzes
up folkses houses." Whereat Mark answered the lumberjack: "We don't
ginerally foller takin' in strangers."

Jack glanced significantly at the lowering clouds, and grunted:
"Uh--looks like I could stand hitched all night!"

This was too much for Mark. "Well!" he exclaimed, "mebbe we-uns can find
ye a pallet--I'll try to enjoy ye somehow." Which, being interpreted,
means, "I'll entertain you as best I can."

The hospitality of the backwoods knows no bounds short of sickness in
the family or downright destitution. Travelers often innocently impose
on poor people, and even criticise the scanty fare, when they may be
getting a lion's share of the last loaf in the house. And few of them
realize the actual cost of entertaining company in a home that is long
mountain miles from any market. Fancy yourself making a twenty-mile
round trip over awful roads to carry back a sack of flour on your
shoulder and a can of oil in your hand; then figure what the
transportation is worth.

Once when I was trying a short-cut through the forest by following vague
directions I swerved to the wrong trail. Sunset found me on the summit
of an unfamiliar mountain, with cold rain setting in, and below me lay
the impenetrable laurel of Huggins's Hell. I turned back to the head of
the nearest water course, not knowing whither it led, fought my way
through thicket and darkness to the nearest house, and asked for
lodging. The man was just coming in from work. He betrayed some anxiety
but admitted me with grave politeness. Then he departed on an errand,
leaving his wife to hear the story of my wanderings.

I was eager for supper; but madame made no move toward the kitchen. An
hour passed. A little child whimpered with hunger. The mother, flushing,
soothed it on her breast.

It was well on in the night when her husband returned, bearing a little
"poke" of cornmeal. Then the woman flew to her post. Soon we had hot
bread, three or four slices of pork, and black coffee unsweetened--all
there was in the house.

It developed that when I arrived there was barely enough meal for the
family's supper and breakfast. My host had to shell some corn, go in
almost pitch darkness, without a lantern, to a tub-mill far down the
branch, wait while it ground out a few spoonfuls to the minute and bring
the meal back.

Next morning, when I offered pay for my entertainment, he waved it
aside. "I ain't never tuk money from company," he said, "and this ain't
no time to begin."

Laughing, I slipped some silver into the hand of the eldest child. "This
is not pay; it's a present." The girl was awed into speechlessness at
sight of money of her own, and the parents did not know how to thank me
for her, but bade me "Stay on, stranger; pore folks has a pore way, but
you're welcome to what we got."

This incident is a little out of the common, nowadays; but it is typical
of what was customary until lumbering and other industrial works began
to invade the solitudes. To-day it is the rule to charge twenty-five
cents a meal and the same for lodging, regardless of what the fare and
the bed may be. When you think of it, this is right, for "the porer
folks is the harder it is to _git_ things."

The mountaineers always are eager for news. In the drab monotony of
their shut-in lives the coming of an unknown traveler is an event that
will set the whole neighborhood gossiping. Every word and action of his
will be discussed for weeks after he has gone his way. This, of course,
is a trait of rural people everywhere; but imagine, if you can, how it
may be intensified where there are no newspapers, few visitors, and
where the average man gets maybe two or three letters a year!

Riding up a branch road, you come upon a white-bearded patriarch who
halts you with a wave of the hand.

"Stranger--meanin' no harm--_whar_ are you gwine?"

You tell him.

"What did you say your name was?"

You had not mentioned it; but you do so now.

"What mought you-uns foller for a living?"

It is wise to humor the old man, and tell him frankly what is your
business "up this 'way-off branch."

Half a mile farther you espy a girl coming toward you. She stops like a
startled fawn, wide-eyed with amazement. Then, at a bound, she dodges
into a thicket, doubles on her course and runs back as fast as her
nimble bare legs can carry her to report that "Some-_body_ 's comin'!"

At the next house, stopping for a drink of water, you chat a few
moments. High up the opposite hill is a half-hidden cabin from which
keen eyes scrutinize your every move, and a woman cries to her boy:
"Run, Kit, down to Mederses, and ax who _is_ he!"

As you approach a cross-roads store every idler pricks up to instant
attention. Your presence is detected from every neighboring cabin and
cornfield. Long John quits his plowing, Red John drops his axe, Sick
John ("who's allers ailin', to hear _him_ tell") pops out of bed, and
Lyin' John (whose "mouth ain't no praar-book, if it _does_ open and
shet") grabs his hat, with "I jes' got ter know who that feller is!"
Then all Johns descend their several paths, to congregate at the store
and estimate the stranger as though he were so many board-feet of lumber
in the tree or so many pounds of beef on the hoof.

In every settlement there is somebody who makes a pleasure of gathering
and spreading news. Such a one we had--a happy-go-lucky fellow from
whom, they said, "you can hear the news jinglin' afore he comes within
gunshot." It amused me to record the many ways he had of announcing his
mission by indirection. Here is the list:

"I'm jes' broguin' about."

"Yes, I'm jest cooterin' around."

"I'm santerin' about."

"Oh, I'm jes' prodjectin' around."

"Jist traffickin' about."

"No, I ain't workin' none--jest spuddin' around."

"Me? I'm jes' shacklin' around."

"Yea, la! I'm jist loaferin' about."

And yet one hears that our mountaineers have a limited vocabulary!

Although this is no place to discuss the mountain dialect, I must
explain that to "brogue" means to go about in brogues (brogans
nowadays). A "cooter" is a box-tortoise, and the noun is turned into a
verb with an ease characteristic of the mountaineers. "Spuddin' around"
means toddling or jolting along. To "shummick" (also "shammick") is to
shuffle about, idly nosing into things, as a bear does when there is
nothing serious in view. And "shacklin' around" pictures a shackly,
loose-jointed way of walking, expressive of the idle vagabond.

A stranger takes the mountaineers for simple characters that can be
gauged at a glance. This illusion--for it is an illusion--comes from
the childlike directness with which they ask him the most intimate
questions about himself, from the genuine good-will with which they
admit him to their homes, and from the stark openness of their domestic
affairs in houses where no privacy can possibly exist.

In so far as simplicity means only a shrewd regard for essentials, a
rigid exclusion of whatever can be done without, perhaps no white race
is nearer a state of nature than these highlanders of ours. Yet this
relates only to the externals of life. Diogenes sat in a tub, but his
thoughts were deep as the sea. And whoever estimates our mountaineers as
a shallow-minded or open-minded people has much to learn.

When Long John asks, "What you aimin' to do up hyur? How much money do
you make? Whar's your old woman?" he does not really expect sincere
answers. Certainly he will take them with more than a grain of salt.
Conversation, with him, is a game. In quizzing you, the interests that
he is actually curious about lie hidden in the back of his head, and he
will proceed toward them by cunning circumventions, seeking to entrap
you into telling the truth by accident. Being himself born to intrigue
and skilled in dodging the leading question, he assumes that you have
had equal advantages. When you discuss with him any business of serious
concern, if you should go straight to the point, and open your mind
frankly, he would be nonplussed.

The fact is that our highlanders are a sly, suspicious, and secretive
folk. That, too, is a state of nature. Primitive society is by no means
a Utopia or a Garden of Eden. In wilderness life the feral arts of
concealment, spying, false "leads," and doubling on trails, are the arts
self-preservative. The native backwoodsman practices them as
instinctively and with as little compunction upon his own species as
upon the deer and the wolf from whom he learned them.

As a friend, no one will spring quicker to your aid, reckless of
consequences, and fight with you to the last ditch; but fear of betrayal
lies at the very bottom of his nature. His sleepless suspicion of
ulterior motives is no more, no less, than a feral trait, inherited from
a long line of forebears whose isolated lives were preserved only by
incessant vigilance against enemies that stalked by night and struck
without warning.

Casual visitors learn nothing about the true character of the
mountaineers. I am not speaking of personal but of race character--type.
No outsider can discern and measure those powerful but obscure motives,
those rooted prejudices, that constitute their real difference from
other men, until he has lived with the people a long time on terms of
intimacy. Nor can anyone be trusted to portray them if he holds a brief
either for or against this people. The fluttering tourist marks only the
oddities he sees, without knowing the reason for them. On the other
hand, a misguided champion flies to arms at first mention of an
unpleasant fact, and either denies it, clamoring for legal proof, or
tries to befog the whole subject and run it on the rocks of altercation.

The mountaineers are high-strung and sensitive to criticism. No one has
less use for "that worst scourge of avenging heaven, the candid friend."
Of late years they are growing conscious of their own belatedness, and
that touches a tender spot. "Hit don't take a big seed to hurt a sore
tooth." Since they do not see how anyone can find beauty or historic
interest in ways of life that the rest of the world has cast aside, so
they resent every exposure of their peculiarities as if that were
holding them up to ridicule or blame.

Strange to say, it provokes them to be called mountaineers, that being a
"furrin word" which they take as a term of reproach. They call
themselves mountain people, or citizens; sometimes humorously "mountain
boomers," the word boomer being their name for the common red squirrel
which is found here only in the upper zones of the mountains.
Backwoodsman is another term that they deem opprobrious. Among
themselves the backwoods are called "the sticks." Hillsman and
highlander are strange words to them--and anything that is strange is
suspicious. Hence it is next to impossible for anyone to write much
about these people without offending them or else falling into singsong
repetition of the same old terms.

I have found it beyond me to convince anyone here that my studies of the
mountain dialect are made from any better motive than vulgar curiosity.
It has been my habit to jot down, on the spot, every dialectical word or
variant or idiom that I hear, along with the phrase or sentence in which
it occurred; for I never trust memory in such matters. And although I
tell frankly what I am about, and why, yet all that the folks can or
will see is that--

  A chiel 's amang ye, takin' notes,
  And, faith, he'll prent 'em.

Nothing worse than dour looks has yet befallen me, but other scribes
have not got off so easy. On more than one occasion newspaper men who
went into eastern Kentucky to report feuds were escorted forcibly to the
railroad and warned never to return. The feudists are scarce to blame,
for the average news story of their wars is neither sacred nor profane
history. It is bad enough to be shown up as an assassin; but when one is
posed as "cocking the _trigger_" of a gun, or shooting a "forty-four"
bullet from a thirty-caliber "automatic _revolver_," who in Kentucky
could be expected to stand it?

The novelists have their troubles, too. President Frost relates that
when John Fox gave a reading from his Cumberland tales at Berea College
"the mountain boys were ready to mob him. They had no comprehension of
the nature of fiction. Mr. Fox's stories were either true or false. If
they were true, then he was 'no gentleman' for telling all the family
affairs of people who had entertained him with their best. If they were
not true, then, of course, they were libellous upon the mountain people.
Such an attitude may remind us of the general condemnation of fiction by
the 'unco gude' a generation ago."

[Illustration: The Schoolhouse]

As for settlement workers, let them teach more by example than by
precept. Bishop Wilson has given them some advice that cannot be
bettered: "It must be said with emphasis that our problem is an
exceedingly delicate one. The Highlanders are Scotch-Irish in their
high-spiritedness and proud independence. Those who would help them must
do so in a perfectly frank and kindly way, showing always genuine
interest in them but never a trace of patronizing condescension. As
quick as a flash the mountaineer will recognize and resent the intrusion
of any such spirit, and will refuse even what he sorely needs if he
detects in the accents or the demeanor of the giver any indication of an
air of superiority."

"The worker among the mountaineers," he continues, "must 'meet with them
on the level and part on the square' and conquer their oftentimes
unreasonable suspicion by genuine brotherly friendship. The less he has
to say about the superiority of other sections or of the deficiencies of
the mountains, the better for his cause. The fact is that comparatively
few workers are at first able to pass muster in this regard under the
searching and silent scrutiny of the mountain people."

Allow me to add that this is no place for the "unco gude" to exercise
their talents, but rather for those whose studies and travels have
taught them both tolerance and hopefulness. Some well-meaning
missionaries are shocked and scandalized at what seems to them incurable
perversity and race degeneration. It is nothing of the sort. There are
reasons, good reasons, for the worst that we find in any Hell-fer-Sartin
or Loafer's Glory. All that is the inevitable result of isolation and
lack of opportunity. It is no more hopeless than the same features of
life were in the Scotch highlands two centuries ago.

But it must be known that the future of this really fine race is, at
bottom, an economic problem, which must be studied hand-in-hand with the
educational one. Civilization only repels the mountaineer until you show
him something to gain by it--he knows by instinct what he is bound to
lose. There is no use in teaching cleanliness and thrift to serfs or
outcasts. The _independence_ of the mountain farm must be preserved, or
the fine spirit of the race will vanish and all that is manly in the
Highlander will wither to the core.

It is far from my own purpose to preach or advise. "Portray the
struggle, and you need write no tract." Still farther is it from my
thought to let characterization degenerate into caricature. Wherever I
tell anything that is unusual or below the average of backwoods life, I
give fair warning that it is admitted only for spice or contrast, and
let it go at that. But even in writing with severe restraint it will be
necessary at times to show conditions so rude and antiquated that
professional apologists will growl, and many others may find my
statements hard to credit as typical of anything at all in our modern

So, let me remind the reader again that full three-fourths of our
mountaineers still live in the eighteenth century, and that in their
far-flung wilderness, away from large rivers and railways, the habits,
customs, morals of the people have changed but little from those of our
old colonial frontier; in essentials they are closely analogous to what
we read of lower-class English and Scottish life in Covenanter and
Jacobite times.



In delineating a strange race we are prone to disregard what is common
in our own experience and observe sharply what is odd. The oddities we
sketch and remember and tell about. But there is little danger of
misrepresenting the physical features and mental traits of the hill
people, because among them there is one definite type that greatly
predominates. This is not to be wondered at when we remember that fully
three-fourths of our highlanders are practically of the same descent,
have lived the same kind of life for generations, and have intermarried
to a degree unknown in other parts of America.

Our average mountaineer is lean, inquisitive, shrewd. If that be what
constitutes a Yankee, as is popularly supposed outside of New England,
then this Yankee of the South is as true to type as the conventional
Uncle Sam himself.

A fat mountaineer is a curiosity. The hill folk even seem to affect a
slender type of comeliness. In Alice MacGowan's _Judith of the
Cumberlands_, old Jepthah Turrentine says of one of his sons: "I named
that boy after the finest man that ever walked God's green earth--and
then the fool had to go and git fat on me! Think of me with a _fat_ son!
I allers did hold that a fat woman was bad enough, but a fat man ort
p'intedly to be led out and killed!"

Spartan diet does not put on flesh. Still, it should be noted that long
legs, baggy clothing, and scantiness or lack of underwear make people
seem thinner than they really are. Our highlanders are conspicuously a
tall race. Out of seventy-six men that I have listed just as they
occurred to me, but four are below average American height and only two
are fat. About two-thirds of them are brawny or sinewy fellows of great
endurance. The others generally are slab-sided, stoop-shouldered, but
withey. The townsfolk and the valley farmers, being better nourished and
more observant of the prime laws of wholesome living, are noticeably
superior in appearance but not in stamina.

Nearly all males of the back country have a grave and deliberate
bearing. They travel with the long, sure-footed stride of the born
woodsman, not graceful and lithe like a moccasined Indian (their coarse
brogans forbid it), but shambling as if every joint had too much play.
There is nothing about them to suggest the Swiss or Tyrolean
mountaineers; rather they resemble the gillies of the Scotch Highlands.
Generally they are lean-faced, sallow, level-browed, with rather high
cheek-bones. Gray eyes predominate, sometimes vacuous, but oftener hard,
searching, crafty--the feral eye of primitive man.

From infancy these people have been schooled to dissimulate and hide
emotion, and ordinarily their faces are as opaque as those of veteran
poker players. Many wear habitually a sullen scowl, hateful and
suspicious, which in men of combative age, and often in the old women,
is sinister and vindictive. The smile of comfortable assurance, the
frank eye of good-fellowship, are rare indeed. Nearly all of the young
people and many of the adults plant themselves before a stranger and
regard him with a fixed stare, peculiarly annoying until one realizes
that they have no thought of impertinence.

Many of the women are pretty in youth; but hard toil in house and field,
early marriage, frequent child-bearing with shockingly poor attention,
and ignorance or defiance of the plainest necessities of hygiene, soon
warp and age them. At thirty or thirty-five a mountain woman is apt to
have a worn and faded look, with form prematurely bent--and what wonder?
Always bending over the hoe in the cornfield, or bending over the hearth
as she cooks by an open fire, or bending over her baby, or bending to
pick up, for the thousandth time, the wet duds that her lord flings on
the floor as he enters from the woods--what wonder that she soon grows
short-waisted and round-shouldered?

The voices of the highland women, low toned by habit, often are
singularly sweet, being pitched in a sad, musical, minor key. With
strangers, the women are wont to be shy, but speculative rather than
timid, as they glance betimes with "a slow, long look of mild inquiry,
or of general listlessness, or of unconscious and unaccountable
melancholy." Many, however, scrutinize a visitor calmly for minutes at a
time or frankly measure him with the gipsy eye of Carmen.

Outsiders, judging from the fruits of labor in more favored lands, have
charged the mountaineers with indolence. It is the wrong word. Shiftless
many of them are--afflicted with that malady which Barrie calls "acute
disinclination to work"--but that is not so much in their physical
nature as in their economic outlook. Rarely do we find mountaineers who
loaf all day on the floor or the doorstep like so many of the poor
whites of the lowlands. If not laboring, they at least must be doing
something, be it no more than walking ten miles to shoot a squirrel or
visit a crony.

As a class, they have great and restless physical energy. Considering
the quantity and quality of what they eat there is no people who can
beat them in endurance of strain and privation. They are great walkers
and carriers of burdens. Before there was a tub-mill in our settlement
one of my neighbors used to go, every other week, thirteen miles to
mill, carrying a two-bushel sack of corn (112 pounds) and returning with
his meal on the following day. This was done without any pack-strap but
simply shifting the load from one shoulder to the other, betimes.

One of our women, known as "Long Goody" (I measured her; six feet three
inches she stood) walked eighteen miles across the Smokies into
Tennessee, crossing at an elevation of 5,000 feet, merely to shop more
advantageously than she could at home. The next day she shouldered fifty
pounds of flour and some other groceries, and bore them home before
nightfall. Uncle Jimmy Crawford, in his seventy-second year came to
join a party of us on a bear hunt. He walked twelve miles across the
mountain, carrying his equipment and four days' rations for himself _and
dogs_. Finding that we had gone on ahead of him he followed to our camp
on Siler's Bald, twelve more miles, climbing another 3,000 feet, much of
it by bad trail, finished the twenty-four-mile trip in seven hours--and
then wanted to turn in and help cut the night-wood. Young mountaineers
afoot easily outstrip a horse on a day's journey by road and trail.

[Illustration: "At thirty a mountain woman is apt to have a worn and
faded look"]

In a climate where it showers about two days out of three through spring
and summer the women go about, like the men, unshielded from the wet. If
you expostulate, one will laugh and reply: "I ain't sugar, nor salt, nor
nobody's honey." Slickers are worn only on horseback--and two-thirds of
our people had no horses. A man who was so eccentric as to carry an
umbrella is known to this day as "Umbrell'" John Walker.

In winter, one sometimes may see adults and children going barefoot in
snow that is ankle deep. It used to be customary in our settlement to do
the morning chores barefooted in the snow. "Then," said one, "our feet
'd tingle and burn, so 't they wouldn't git a bit cold all day when we
put our shoes on." I knew a family whose children had no shoes all one
winter, and occasionally we had zero weather.

It seems to have been common, in earlier times, to go barefooted all the
year. Frederick Law Olmsted, a noted writer of the Civil War period, was
told by a squire of the Tennessee hills that "a majority of the folks
went barefoot all winter, though they had snow much of the time four or
five inches deep; and the man said he didn't think most of the men about
here had more than one coat, and they never wore one in winter except on
holidays. 'That was the healthiest way,' he reckoned, 'just to toughen
yourself and not wear no coat.' No matter how cold it was, he 'didn't
wear no coat.'" One of my own neighbors in the Smokies never owned a
coat until after his marriage, when a friend of mine gave him one.

It is the usual thing for men and boys to wade cold trout streams all
day, come in at sunset, disrobe to shirt and trousers, and then sit in
the piercing drafts of an open cabin drying out before the fire, though
the night be so cool that a stranger beside them shivers in his dry
flannels. After supper, the women, if they have been wearing shoes, will
remove them to ease their feet, no matter if it be freezing cold--and
the cracks in the floor may be an inch wide.

In bear hunting, our parties usually camped at about 5,000 feet above
sea level. At this elevation, in the long nights before Christmas, the
cold often was bitter and the wind might blow a gale. Sometimes the
native hunters would lie out in the open all night without a sign of a
blanket or an axe. They would say: "La! many's the night I've been out
when the frost was spewed up so high [measuring three or four inches
with the hand], and that right around the fire, too." Cattle hunters in
the mountains never carry a blanket or a shelter-cloth, and they sleep
out wherever night finds them, often in pouring rain or flying snow. On
their arduous trips they find it burden enough to carry the salt for
their cattle, with a frying-pan, cup, corn pone, coffee, and
"sow-belly," all in a grain sack strapped to the man's back.

Such nurture, from childhood, makes white men as indifferent to the
elements as Fuegians. And it makes them anything but comfortable
companions for one who has been differently reared. During "court week"
when the hotels at the county-seat are overcrowded with countrymen, the
luckless drummers who happen to be there have continuous exercise in
closing doors. No mountaineer closes a door behind him. Winter or
summer, doors are to be shut only when folks go to bed. That is what
they are for. After close study of mountain speech I have failed to
discern that the word draft is understood, except in parts of the
Virginia and Kentucky mountains, where it means a brook. One is reminded
of the colonial, who, visiting England, remarked of the British people:
"It is a survival of the fittest--the fittest to exist in fog." Here, it
is the fittest to survive cold, and wet, and drafts.

Running barefooted in the snow is exceptional nowadays; but it is by no
means the limit of hardiness or callosity that some of these people
display. It is not so long ago that I passed an open lean-to of chestnut
bark far back in the wilderness, wherein a family of Tennesseans was
spending the year. There were three children, the eldest a lad of
twelve. The entire worldly possessions of this family could easily be
packed around on their backs. Poverty, however, does not account for
such manner of living. There is none so poor in the mountains that he
need rear his children in a bark shed. It is all a matter of taste.

There is a wealthy man known to everyone around Waynesville, who, being
asked where he resided, as a witness in court, answered: "Three, four
miles up and down Jonathan Creek." The judge was about to fine him for
contempt, when it developed that the witness spoke literal truth. He
lives neither in house nor camp, but perambulates his large estate and
when night comes lies down wherever he may happen to be. In winter he
has been known to go where some of his pigs bedded in the woods, usurp
the middle for himself, and borrow comfort from their bodily heat.

This man is worth over a hundred thousand dollars. He visited the
world's fairs at Chicago and St. Louis, wearing the old long coat that
serves him also as blanket, and carrying his rations in a sack. Far from
being demented, he is notoriously so shrewd on the stand and so learned
in the law that he is formidable to every attorney who cross-questions

I cite these last two instances not merely as eccentricities of
character, but as really typical of the bodily stamina that most of the
mountaineers can display if they want to. Their smiling endurance of
cold and wet and privation would have endeared them to the first
Napoleon, who declared that those soldiers were the best who bivouacked
shelterless throughout the year.

In spite of such apparent "toughness," the mountaineers are not a
notably healthy people. The man who exposes himself wantonly year after
year must pay the piper. Sooner or later he "adopts a rheumatiz," and
the adoption lasts till he dies. So also in dietary matters. The
backwoodsmen through ruthless weeding-out of the normally sensitive have
acquired a wonderful tolerance of swimming grease, doughy bread and
half-fried cabbage; but, even so, they are gnawed by dyspepsia. This
accounts in great measure for the "glunch o' sour disdain" that mars so
many countenances. A neighbor said to me of another: "He has a gredge
agin all creation, and glories in human misery." So would anyone else
who ate at the same table. Many a homicide in the mountains can be
traced directly to bad food and the raw whiskey taken to appease a
soured stomach.

Every stranger in Appalachia is quick to note the high percentage of
defectives among the people. However, we should bear in mind that in the
mountains proper there are few, if any, public refuges for this class,
and that home ties are so powerful that mountaineers never send their
"fitified folks" or "half-wits," or other unfortunates, to any
institution in the lowlands, so long as it is bearable to have them
around. Such poor creatures as would be segregated in more advanced
communities, far from the public eye, here go at large and reproduce
their kind.

Extremely early marriages are tolerated, as among all primitive people.
I knew a hobbledehoy of sixteen who married a frail, tuberculous girl of
twelve, and in the same small settlement another lad of sixteen who
wedded a girl of thirteen. In both cases the result was wretched beyond

The evil consequences of inbreeding of persons closely akin are well
known to the mountaineers; but here knowledge is no deterrent, since
whole districts are interrelated to start with. Owing to the isolation
of the clans, and their extremely limited travels, there are abundant
cases like those caustically mentioned in _King Spruce_: "All Skeets and
Bushees, and married back and forth and crossways and upside down till
ev'ry man is his own grandmother, if he only knew enough to figger

The mountaineers are touchy on these topics and it is but natural that
they should be so. Nevertheless it is the plain duty of society to study
such conditions and apply the remedy. There was a time when the Scotch
people (to cite only one instance out of many) were in still worse
case, threatened with race degeneration; but improved economic
conditions, followed by education, made them over into one of the most
vigorous of modern peoples.

When I lived up in the Smokies there was no doctor within sixteen miles
(and then, none who ever had attended a medical school). It was
inevitable that my first-aid kit and limited knowledge of medicine
should be requisitioned until I became a sort of "doctor to the
settle_ment_."[8] My services, being free, at once became popular, and
there was no escape; for, if I treated the Smiths, let us say, and
ignored a call from the Robinsons, the slight would be resented by all
Robinson connections throughout the land. So my normal occupations often
were interrupted by such calls as these:

"John's Lize Ann she ain't much; cain't you-uns give her some
easin'-powder for that hurtin' in her chist?"

"Old Uncle Bobby Tuttle's got a pone come up on his side; looks like he
mought drap off, him bein' weak and right narvish and sick with a

"Ike Morgan Pringle's a-been horse-throwed down the clift, and he's in a
manner stone dead."

"Right sensibly atween the shoulders I've got a pain; somethin' 's gone
wrong with my stummick; I don't 'pear to have no stren'th left; and
sometimes I'm nigh sifflicated. Whut you reckon ails me?"

"Come right over to Mis' Fullwiler's, quick; she's fell down and busted
a rib inside o' her!"

On these errands of mercy I soon picked up some rules of practice that
are not laid down in the books. I learned to carry not only my own
bandages but my own towels and utensils for washing and sterilizing. I
kept my mouth shut about germ theories of disease, having no troops to
enforce orders and finding that mere advice incited downright
perversity. I administered potent drugs in person and left nothing to be
taken according to direction except placebos.

Once, in forgetfulness, I left a tablet of corrosive sublimate on the
mantel after dressing a wound, and the man of the house told me next day
that he had "'lowed to swaller it' and see if it wouldn't ease his
headache!" A geologist and I, exploring the hills with a mountaineer,
fell into discussion of filth diseases and germs, not realizing that we
were overheard. Happening to pass an ant-hill, Frank remarked to me
that formic acid was supposed to be antagonistic to the germ of
laziness. Instantly we heard a growl from our woodsman: "By God, I was
_expectin'_ to hear the like o' that!"

Ordinarily wounds are stanched with dusty cobwebs and bound up in any
old rag. If infection ensues, Providence has to take the blame. A woman
gashed her foot badly with an axe; I asked her what she did for it;
disdainfully she answered, "Tied it up in sut and a rag, and went to
hoein' corn."

An injured person gets scant sympathy, if any. So far as outward
demeanor goes, and public comment, the witnesses are utterly callous.
The same indifference is shown in the face of impending death. People
crowd around with no other motive, seemingly, than morbid curiosity to
see a person die. I asked our local preacher what the folks would do if
a man broke his thigh so that the bone protruded. He merely elevated his
eyebrows and replied: "We'd set around and sing until he died."

The mountaineers' fortitude under severe pain is heroic, though often
needless. For all minor operations and frequently for major ones they
obstinately refuse to take an anesthetic, being perversely suspicious
of everything that they do not understand. Their own minor surgery and
obstetric practice is barbarous. A large proportion of the mountain
doctors know less about human anatomy than a butcher does about a pig's.
Sometimes this ignorance passes below ordinary common sense. There is a
"doctor" still practicing who, after a case of confinement, sits beside
the patient and presses hard upon the hips for half an hour, explaining
that it is to "push the bones back into place; don't you know they
allers comes uncoupled in the socket?" This, I suppose, is the limit;
but there are very many practicing physicians in the back country who
could not name or locate the arteries of either foot or hand to save
their lives.

It was here I first heard of "tooth-jumping." Let one of my old
neighbors tell it in his own way:

"You take a cut nail (not one o' those round wire nails) and place its
squar p'int agin the ridge of the tooth, jest under the edge of the gum.
Then jump the tooth out with a hammer. A man who knows how can jump a
tooth without it hurtin' half as bad as pullin'. But old Uncle Neddy
Cyarter went to jump one of his own teeth out, one time, and missed the
nail and mashed his nose with the hammer. He had the weak trembles."

"I have heard of tooth-jumping," said I, "and reported it to dentists
back home, but they laughed at me."

"Well, they needn't laugh; for it's so. Some men git to be as
experienced at it as tooth-dentists are at pullin'. They cut around the
gum, and then put the nail at jest sich an angle, slantin' downward for
an upper tooth, or upwards for a lower one, and hit one lick."

"Will the tooth come at the first lick?"

"Ginerally. If it didn't, you might as well stick your head in a swarm
o' bees and fergit who you are."

"Are back teeth extracted in that way?"

"Yes, sir; any kind of a tooth. I've burnt my holler teeth out with a
red-hot wire."

"Good God!"

"Hit's so. The wire'd sizzle like fryin'."

"Kill the nerve?"

"No; but it'd sear the mar so it wouldn't be so sensitive."

"Didn't hurt, eh?"

"Hurt like hell for a moment. I held the wire one time for Jim Bob
Jimwright, who couldn't reach the spot for hisself. I _told_ him to hold
his tongue back; but when I touched the holler he jumped and wropped
his tongue agin the wire. The words that man used ain't fitty to tell."

Some of the ailments common in the mountains were new to me. For
instance, "dew pizen," presumably the poison of some weed, which,
dissolved in dew, enters the blood through a scratch or abrasion. As a
woman described it, "Dew pizen comes like a risin', and laws-a-marcy how
it does hurt! I stove a brier in my heel wunst, and then had to hunt
cows every morning in the dew. My leg swelled up black to clar above the
knee, and Dr. Stinchcomb lanced the place seven times. I lay on a pallet
on the floor for over a month. My leg like to killed me. I've seed
persons jest a lot o' sores all over, as big as my hand, from dew

A more mysterious disease is "milk-sick," which prevails in certain
restricted districts, chiefly where the cattle graze in rich and deeply
shaded coves. If not properly treated it is fatal both to the cow and to
any human being who drinks her fresh milk or eats her butter. It is not
transmitted by sour milk or by buttermilk. There is a characteristic
fetor of the breath. It is said that milk from an infected cow will not
foam and that silver is turned black by it. Mountaineers are divided in
opinion as to whether this disease is of vegetable or of mineral origin;
some think it is an efflorescence from gas that settles on plants. This
much is certain: that it disappears from "milk-sick coves" when they are
cleared of timber and the sunlight let in. The prevalent treatment is an
emetic, followed by large doses of apple brandy and honey; then oil to
open the bowels. Perhaps the extraordinary distaste for fresh milk and
butter, or the universal suspicion of these foods that mountaineers
evince in so many localities, may have sprung up from experience with
"milk-sick" cows. I have not found this malady mentioned in any treatise
on medicine; yet it has been known from our earliest frontier times.
Abraham Lincoln's mother died of it.

That the hill folk remain a rugged and hardy people in spite of
unsanitary conditions so gross that I can barely hint at them, is due
chiefly to their love of pure air and pure water. No mountain cabin
needs a window to ventilate it: there are cracks and cat-holes
everywhere, and, as I have said, the doors are always open except at
night. "Tight houses," sheathed or plastered, are universally despised,
partly from inherited shiftlessness, partly for less obvious reasons.

One of Miss MacGowan's characters fairly insulted the neighborhood by
building a modern house. "Why lordy! Lookee hyer, Creed," remonstrated
Doss Provine over a question of matching boards and battening joints,
"ef you git yo' pen so almighty tight as that you won't git no fresh
air. Man's bound to have ventilation. Course you can leave the do' open
all the time like we-all do; but when you're a-holdin' co't and
sech-like maybe you'll want to shet the do' sometimes--and then whar'll
ye git breath to breathe?... All these here glass winders is blame
foolishness to _me_. Ef ye need light, open the do'. Ef somebody comes
that ye don't want in, you can shet it and put up a bar. But saw the
walls full o' holes an' set in glass winders, an' any feller that's got
a mind to can pick ye off with a rifle ball as easy as not whilst ye set
by the fire of an evenin'."

When mountain people move to the lowlands and go to living in
tight-framed houses, they soon deteriorate like Indians. It is of no use
to teach them to ventilate by lowering windows from the top. That is
some more "blame foolishness"--their adherence to old ways is stubborn,
sullen, and perverse to a degree that others cannot comprehend. Then,
too, in the lowlands, they simply cannot stand the water. As Emma Miles
says: "No other advantages will ever make up for the lack of good water.
There is a strong prejudice against pumps; if a well must be dug, it is
usually left open to the air, and the water is reached by means of a
hooked pole which requires some skillful manipulation to prevent losing
the bucket. Cisterns are considered filthy; water that has stood
overnight is 'dead water,' hardly fit to wash one's face in. The
mountaineer takes the same pride in his water supply as the rich man in
his wine cellar, and is in this respect a connoisseur. None but the
purest and coldest of freestone will satisfy him."

Once when I was staying in a lumber camp on the Tennessee side, near the
top of Smoky, my friend Bob and I tramped down to the nearest town, ten
miles, for supplies. We did not start until after dinner and intended to
spend the night at a hotel. It was a sultry day and we arrived very
thirsty. Bob took some ice-water into his mouth, and instantly spat it
out, exclaiming: "Be damned if I'll stay here; that ain't fit to drink;
I'm goin' back." And back he would have gone, ten miles up a hard grade,
at night, if someone had not shown us a spring.

[Illustration: Photo by Arthur Keith

A misty veil of falling water]

A little colony of our Hazel Creek people took a notion to try the
Georgia cotton mills. They nearly died there from homesickness, tight
houses, and "bad water." All but one family returned as soon as they
possibly could. While trying to save enough money to get away one old
man said; "I lied to my God when I left the mountains and kem to these
devilish cotton mills. Ef only He'd turn me into a varmint I'd run back
to-night! Boys, I dream I'm in torment; an' when I wake up I lay thar
an' think o' the spring branch runnin' over the root o' that thar
poplar; an' I say, could I git me one drink o' that water I'd be content
to lay me down and die!"

Poor old John! In his country there are a hundred spring branches
running over poplar roots; but "_that thar_ poplar": we knew the very
one he meant. It was by the roadside. The brooklet came from a disused
still-house hidden in laurel and hemlock so dense that direct sunlight
never penetrated the glen. Cold and sparkling and crystal clear, the
gushing water enticed every wayfarer to bend and drink, whether he was
thirsty or no. John is back in his own land now, and doubtless often
goes to drink of that veritable fountain of youth.



Homespun jeans and linsey used to be the universal garb of the mountain
people. Nowadays you will seldom find them, except in far-back places.
Shoddy "store clothes" are cheaper and easier to get. And this is a
sorry change, for the old-time material was sound and enduring, the
direct product of hard personal toil, and so it was prized and taken
care of; whereas such stuff as a backwoodsman can buy in his crossroads
store is flimsy, soon loses shape and breaks down his own pride of
personal appearance. Our average hillsman now goes about in a dirty blue
shirt, wapsy and ragged trousers toggled up with a nail or two, thick
socks sagging untidily over rusty brogans, and a huge, black, floppy hat
that desecrates the landscape. Presently his hatband disappears, to be
replaced with a groundhog thong, woven in and out of knife slits, like a

When he comes home he "hangs his hat on the floor" until his wife picks
it up. He never brushes it. In time that battered old headpiece becomes
as pliant to its owner's whim, as expressive of his mood, as a clown's
cap in the circus. Commonly it is a symbol of shiftlessness and
unconcern. A touch, and it becomes a banner of defiance to law and
order. To meet on some lonesome road at night a horseman enveloped to
the heels in a black slicker and topped with one of those prodigious
funnels that conceals his features like a cowl, is to face the Ku Klux
or the Spanish Inquisition.

When your young mountaineer is properly filled up on corn liquor and
feels like challenging the world, the flesh, and the devil, he pins up
the front of his hat with a thorn, sticks a sprig of balsam or cedar in
the thong for an aigrette, and then gallops forth with bottle and pistol
to tilt against whatsoever may dare oppose him. And on the gray dawn of
the morning after you may find _that hat_ lying wilted in a corner, as
crumpled, spiritless and forlorn as--its owner, upon whom we charitably
drop the curtain.

I doubt, though, if anywhere in this wide world mere personal appearance
is more deceitful than among our mountaineers. The slovenly lout whom
you shrink from approaching against the wind is one of the most
independent and self-satisfied fellows on earth, as quick to resent alms
as to return a blow. And it is wonderful what soap and clean clothes
will do! About the worst specimen of tatter-demalion that I ever saw
outside of trampdom used to come into town every week, always with a
loaded Winchester on his shoulder. He may have washed his face now and
then, but there was no sign that he ever combed his mane. I took him for
one of those defectives alluded to in a previous chapter; but no, I was
told he was "nobody's fool." The rifle, it was explained, never left his
hand when he was abroad: they said that a feud was brewing "over on
'Larky," and that this man was "in the bilin'." Well, it boiled over,
and the person in question killed two men in front of his own door.

When the prisoner was brought into court I could not recognize him. A
bath, the barber, and a new store suit had transformed him into a right
good-looking fellow--anything but a tramp, anything but a desperado. He
bore himself throughout that grilling ordeal like the downright man he
was, made out a clear case of self-defense, was set at liberty
and--promptly reverted to a condition in which he is recognizable once

The women of the back country usually go bareheaded around home and
often barefooted, too, as did the daughters of Highland chiefs a century
or two ago, and for the same reason: simply that they feel better so.
When "visit-in" or expecting visitors their extremities are clad. They
make their own dresses and the style seems never to change. When
traveling horseback they use a man's saddle and ride astride in their
ordinary skirts with an ingenuity of "tucking up" that is beyond my
understanding (as no doubt it should be). Often one sees a man and a
woman riding a-pillion, in which case the lady perches sidewise, of

If I were disposed to startle the reader, after the manner of
impressionistic writers who strive after effect at any cost, I could
fill a book with oddities observed in the mountains, and that without
exaggeration by commission or omission. Let one or two anecdotes
suffice; and then we will get back to our averages again. I took down
the following incident verbatim (save for proper names) from lips that I
know to be truthful. It is introduced here as a specimen of vivid
offhand description in few words:

"There was a fam'ly on Pick-Yer-Flint that was named Higgins, and
another named the McBees. They married through and through till the
whole gineration nigh run out; though what helped was that they'd fly
mad sometimes and kill one another like fools. They had great big heads
and mottly faces--ears as big as sheepskins. Well, when they dressed up
to come to church the men--grown men--'d have shirts made of this common
domestic, with the letters _AAA_ on their backs; and them barefooted,
and some without hats, but with three yards of red ribbon around their
necks. The sleeves of their shirts looked like a whole web of cloth jest
sewed up together; and them sleeves'd git full o' wind, and that red
ribbon a-flyin'--O my la!

"There was lots o' leetle boys of 'em that kem only in their
shirt-tails. There was cracks between the logs that a dog could jump
through, and them leetle fellers 'd git 'em a crack and grin in at us
all through the sarmon. 'T ain't no manner o' use to ax me what the tex'
was that day!"

I may explain that it still is common in many districts of the mountain
country for small boys to go about through the summer in a single
abbreviated garment and that they are called "shirt-tail boys."

Some of the expedients that mountain girls invent to make themselves
attractive are bizarre in the extreme. Without invading the sanctities
of toilet, I will cite one instance that is interesting from a
scientific viewpoint. They told me that a certain blue-eyed girl thought
that black eyes were "purtier" and that she actually changed her eyes to
jet black whenever she went to "meetin'" or other public gathering.
While I could see how the trick might be worked, it seemed utterly
absurd that an unschooled maid of the wilderness could acquire either
the knowledge or the means to accomplish such change. Well, one day I
was called to treat a sick baby. While waiting for the medicine to react
I chanced to mention this tale as it had been told me. The father, who
had blue eyes, solemnly assured me that there was "no lie about it," and
said he would convince me in a few minutes.

He stepped to the garden and plucked a leaf of jimson weed. His wife
crushed the leaf and instilled a drop of its juice into one of his eyes.
I took out my watch. One side of the eyeball reddened slightly. The man
said "hit smarts a leetle--not much." Within fifteen minutes the pupil
had expanded like a cat's eye in the dark, leaving a rim of blue iris so
thin as to be quite unnoticeable without close inspection. The eye
consequently was jet black and its expression utterly changed. My host
said it did not affect his vision materially, save that "things glimmer
a bit." I met him again the next day and he still was an odd-looking
creature indeed, with one eye a light blue and the other an absolute
black. The thing puzzled me until I recalled that the Latin name of
jimson weed is _Datura stramonium_; then, in a flash, it came to me that
stramonium is a powerful mydriatic.

If our man killer, hitherto mentioned, had had blue or gray eyes and had
not chosen to stand trial, then, with a cake of soap and a new suit and
a jimson leaf he might have made himself over so that his own mother
would not have known him. These simple facts are offered gratis to
writers of detective tales, whose stock of disguises nowadays is so
threadbare and (pardon me) so absurd.

The mountain home of to-day is the log cabin of the American
pioneer--not such a lodge as well-to-do people affect in Adirondack
"camps" (which cost more than framed structures of similar size), but a
pen that can be erected by four "corner men" in one day and is finished
by the owner at his leisure. The commonest type is a single large room,
with maybe a narrow porch in front and a plank door, a big stone
chimney at one end, a single sash for a window at the other, and a seven
or eight-foot lean-to at the rear for kitchen.

[Illustration: An Average Mountain Cabin]

Some of the early settlers, who had first choice of land, took pains in
building their houses, squaring the logs like bridge timbers, joining
them closely, smoothing their puncheons with an adze almost as truly as
if they were planed, and using mortar instead of clay in laying chimney
and hearth. But such houses nowadays are rare. If a man can afford so
much effort as all that he will build a framed dwelling. If not, he will
content himself with such a cabin as I have described. If he prospers he
may add a duplicate of it alongside and cover the whole with one roof,
leaving a ten or twelve-foot entry between.

In Carolina they seldom build a house of round logs, but rather hew the
inner and outer faces flat, out of a curious notion that this adds an
appearance of finish to the structure. If only they would turn the logs
over, so that the flat faces joined, leaving at least the outside in the
natural round, the house would need hardly any chinking and the effect
would be far more pleasing to good taste. As it is they merely notch the
logs at the corners, leaving wide spaces to be filled up with splits,
rocks, mud--anything to keep out the weather. As a matter of fact, few
houses ever are thoroughly chinked and he who would take pains to make a
workmanlike job of chinking would be ridiculed as "fussin' around like
an old granny-woman." Nobody but a tenderfoot feels drafts, you know.

It is hard to keep such a dwelling clean, even if the family be small.
The whole structure being built of green timber throughout, soon
shrinks, checks, warps and sags, so that there cannot be a square joint,
a neat fit, a perpendicular face, or a level place anywhere about it.
The roof droops in a season or two, the shingles curl and leaky places
open. Flooring shrinks apart, leaving wide and irregular cracks through
which the winter winds are sucked upward as through so many flues (no
mountain home has a cellar under it). Everywhere there are crannies and
rough surfaces to hold dust and soot, there being probably not a single
planed board in the whole house.

But, for all that, there is something very attractive and picturesque
about the little old log cabin. In its setting of ancient forests and
mighty hills it fits, it harmonizes, where the prim and precise product
of modern carpentry would shock an artistic eye. The very roughness of
the honest logs and the home-made furniture gives texture to the
picture. Having no mathematically straight lines nor uniform curves, the
cabin's outlines conform to its surroundings. Without artificial stain,
or varnish, or veneer, it _is_ what it seems, a genuine thing, a jewel
in the rough. And it is a home. When wind whistles through the cracks
and snow sifts into the corners of the room one draws his stumpy little
split-bottomed chair close to the wide hearth and really knows the
comfort of fire leaping and sap singing from big birch logs.

Every room except the kitchen (if there be a kitchen) has a couple of
beds in it: enough all told for the family and, generally, one spare
bed. If much company comes, some pallets are made on the floor for the
women and children of the household. In a single-room cabin there
usually is a cockloft, reached by a ladder, for storage, and maybe a
bunk or two. Closets and pantries there are none, for they would only
furnish good harborage for woods-rats and other vermin.

Everything must be in sight and accessible to the housewife's little
sedge broom. Linen and small articles of apparel are stored in a chest
or a cheap little tin trunk or two. Most of the family wardrobe hangs
from pegs in the walls or nails in the loft beams, along with strings
of dried apples, peppers, bunches of herbs, twists of tobacco, gourds
full of seeds, the hunter's pouch, and other odd bric-a-brac interesting
to "furrin" eyes. The narrow mantel-shelf holds pipes and snuff and
various other articles of frequent use, among them a twig or two of
sweet birch that has been chewed to shreds at one end and is queerly
discolored with something brown (this is what the mountain woman calls
her "tooth brush"--a snuff stick, understand).

For wall decorations there may be a few gaudy advertisements
lithographed in colors, perhaps some halftones from magazines that
travelers have left (a magazine is always called a "book" in this
region, as, I think, throughout the South). Of late years the agents for
photo-enlarging companies have invaded the mountains and have reaped a
harvest; for if there be one curse of civilization that our hillsman
craves, it is a huge _tinted_ "family group" in an abominable rococo

There is an almanac in the cabin, but no clock. "What does man need of a
clock when he has a good-crowin' rooster?" Strange as it may seem, in
this roughest of backwoods countries I have never seen candles, unless
they were brought in by outsiders like myself. Beef, you must remember,
is exported, not eaten, by our farmers, and hence there is no tallow to
make candles with. Instead of these, every home is provided with a
kerosene lamp of narrow wick, and seldom do you find a chimney for it.
This is partly because lamp chimneys are hard to carry safely over the
mountain roads and partly because "man can do without sich like,
anyhow." But kerosene, also, is hard to transport, and so one sometimes
will find pine knots used for illumination; but oftener the woman will
pour hog's grease into a tin or saucer, twist up a bit of rag for the
wick and so make a "slut" that, believe me, deserves the name. In fact,
the supply of pine knots within convenient distance of home is soon
exhausted, and anyway, as the mountaineer disdains to be forehanded, he
would burn up the knots for kindling rather than save any for

Very few cabins have carpet on the floor. It would hold too much mud
from the feet of the men who would not use a scraper if there was one.
Beds generally are bought, nowadays, at the stores, but some are
home-made, with bedcords of bast rope. Tables and chairs mostly are made
on the spot or obtained by barter from some handy neighbor. In many
homes you will still find the ancient spinning-wheel, with a hand-loom
on the porch and in the loft there will be a set of quilting frames for
making "kivers."

Out in the yard you see an ash hopper for running the lye to make soap,
maybe a few bee gums sawed from hollow logs, and a crude but effective
cider press. At the spring there is a box for cold storage in summer.
Near by stands the great iron kettle for boiling clothes, making soap,
scalding pigs, and a variety of other uses. Alongside of it is the
"battlin' block" on which the family wash is hammered with a beetle
("battlin' stick") if the woman has no washboard, which very often is
the case.

Naturally there can be no privacy and hence no delicacy, in such a home.
I never will forget my embarrassment about getting to bed the first
night I ever spent in a one-room cabin where there was a good-sized
family. I did not know what was expected of me. When everybody looked
sleepy I went outdoors and strolled around in the moonlight until the
women had time to retire. On returning to the house I found them still
bolt upright around the hearth. Then the hostess pointed to the bed I
was to occupy and said it was ready whenever I was. Well, I "shucked off
my clothes," tumbled in, turned my face to the wall, and immediately
everybody else did the same. That is the way to do: just _go_ to bed! I
lay there awake for a long time. Finally I had to roll over. A ruddy
glow from the embers showed the family in all postures of deep, healthy
slumber. It also showed something glittering on the nipple of the long,
muzzle-loading rifle that hung over the father's bed. It was a bright,
new percussion cap, where a greased rag had been when I went out for my
moonlight stroll. There was no need of a curtain in that house. They
could do without.

I have been describing an average mountain home. In valleys and coves
there are better ones, of course. Along the railroads, and on fertile
plateaus between the Blue Ridge and the Unakas, are hundreds of fine
farms, cultivated by machinery, and here dwell a class of farmers that
are scarcely to be distinguished from people of similar station in the
West. But a prosperous and educated few are not the people. When
speaking of southern mountaineers I mean the mass, or the average, and
the pictures here given are typical of that mass. It is not the
well-to-do valley people, but the real mountaineers, who are especially
interesting to the reading public; and they are interesting _chiefly_
because they preserve traits and manners that have been transmitted
almost unchanged from ancient times--because, as John Fox puts it, they
are "a distinct remnant of an Anglo-Saxon past."

Almost everywhere in the backwoods of Appalachia we have with us to-day,
in flesh and blood, the Indian-fighter of our colonial border--aye, back
of him, the half-wild clansman of elder Britain--adapted to other
conditions, but still virtually the same in character, in ideas, in
attitude toward the outer world. Here, in great part, is spoken to-day
the language of Piers the Ploughman, a speech long dead elsewhere, save
as fragments survive in some dialects of rural England.

No picture of mountain life would be complete or just if it omitted a
class lower than the average hillsman I have been describing. As this is
not a pleasant topic, I shall be terse. Hundreds of backwoods families,
large ones at that, exist in "blind" cabins that remind one somewhat of
Irish hovels, Norwegian saeters, the "black houses" of the Hebrides, the
windowless rock piles inhabited by Corsican shepherds and by Basques of
the Pyrenees. Such a cabin has but one room for all purposes. In rainy
or gusty weather, when the two doors must be closed, no light enters the
room save through cracks in the wall and down the chimney. In the
damp climate of western Carolina such an interior is fusty, or even wet.
In many cases the chimney is no more than a semi-circular pile of rough
rocks and rises no higher than a man's shoulder, hence the common
saying, "You can set by the fire and spit out through the chimbly." When
the wind blows "contrary" one's lungs choke and his eyes stream from the

[Illustration: A Bee-Gum]

In some of these places you will find a "pet pig" harbored in the house.
I know of two cases where the pig was kept in a box directly under the
table, so that scraps could be chucked to him without rising from

Hastening from this extreme, we still shall find dire poverty the rule
rather than the exception among the multitude of "branch-water people."
One house will have only an earthen floor; another will be so small that
"you cain't cuss a cat in it 'thout gittin' ha'r in yer teeth." Utensils
are limited to a frying-pan, an iron pot, a coffee-pot, a bucket, and
some gourds. There is not enough tableware to go around, and children
eat out of their parents' plates, or all "soup-in together" around one
bowl of stew or porridge.

Even to families that are fairly well-to-do there will come periods of
famine, such as Lincoln, speaking of his boyhood, called "pretty
pinching times." Hickory ashes then are used as a substitute for soda in
biscuits, and the empty salt-gourd will be soaked for brine to cook
with. Once, when I was boarding with a good family, our stores ran out
of everything, and none of our neighbors had the least to spare. We had
no meat of any kind for two weeks (the game had migrated) and no lard or
other grease for nearly a week. Then the meal and salt played out. One
day we were reduced to potatoes "straight," which were parboiled in
fresh water, and then burnt a little on the surface as substitute for
salt. Another day we had not a bite but string beans boiled in unsalted

It is not uncommon in the far backwoods for a traveler, asking for a
match, to be told there is none in the house, nor even the pioneer's
flint and steel. Should the embers on the hearth go out, someone must
tramp to a neighbor's and fetch fire on a torch. Hence the saying: "Have
you come to borry fire, that you're in sich a hurry you can't chat?"

The shifts and expedients to which some of the mountain women are put,
from lack of utensils and vessels, are simply pathetic. John Fox tells
of a young preacher who stopped at a cabin in Georgia to pass the night.
"His hostess, as a mark of unusual distinction, killed a chicken, and
dressed it in a pan. She rinsed the pan and made up her dough in it. She
rinsed it again and went out and used it for a milk-pail. She came in,
rinsed it again, and went to the spring and brought it back full of
water. She filled up the glasses on the table, and gave him the pan with
the rest of the water in which to wash his hands. The woman was not a
slattern; it was the only utensil she had."

Such poverty is exceptional; yet it is an all but universal rule that
anything that cannot be cooked in a pot or fried in a pan must go
begging in the mountains. Once I helped my hostess to make kraut. We
chopped up a hundred pounds of cabbage with no cutter but a tin
coffee-can, holding this in the two hands and chopping downward with the
edge. Many times I stopped to hammer the edge smooth on a round stick.
Verily this is the land of make-it-yourself-or-do-without!

Yet, however destitute the mountain people may be, they are never
abject. The mordant misery of hunger is borne with a sardonic grin.
After a course of such diet as described above, a woman laughingly said
to me: "I'm gittin' the dropsy--the meat is all droppin' off my bones."
During the campaign of 1904 a brother Democrat confided to me that "The
people around hyur is so pore that if free silver war shipped in by the
carload, we-uns couldn't pay the freight." So, when a settlement is
dubbed Poverty, it is with no suggestion of whining lament, but with the
stoical good-humor that shows in Needmore, Poor Fork, Long Hungry, No
Pone, and No Fat--all of them real names.

Occasionally, as at "hog-killin' time," the poorest live in abundance;
occasionally, as at Christmas, they will go on sprees. But, taking them
the year through, the Highlanders are a notably abstemious race. When a
family is reduced to dry corn bread and black coffee unsweetened--so
much and no more--it will joke about the lack of meat and vegetables.
And, when there is meat, two mountaineers engaged in hard outdoor work
will consume less of it than a northern office-man would eat. Indeed,
the heartiness with which "furriners" stuff themselves is a wonder and a
merriment to the people of the hills. When a friend came to visit me,
the landlady giggled an aside to her husband: "Git the almanick and see
when that feller 'll full!" (as though she were bidding him look to see
when the moon would be full).

In truth, it is not so bad to be poor where everyone else is in the same
fix. One does not lose caste nor self-respect. He is not tempted by a
display of good things all around him, nor is he embittered by the
haughtiness and extravagance of the rich. And, socially, the mountaineer
is a democrat by nature: equal to any man, as all men are equal before
him. Even though hunger be eating like a slow acid into his vitals, he
still will preserve a high spirit, a proud independence, that accepts no
favor unless it be offered in a neighborly way, as man to man. I have
never seen a mountain beggar; never heard of one.

Charity, or anything that smells to him like charity, is declined with
patrician dignity or open scorn. In the last house up Hazel Creek dwelt
"old man" Stiles. He had a large family, and was on the verge of
destitution. His eldest son, a veteran from the Philippines, had been
invalided home, and died there. Jack Coburn, in the kindness of his
heart, sent away and got a blank form of application to the Government
for funeral expenses, to which the family was entitled by law. He filled
it out, all but the signature, and rode away up to Stiles's to have the
old man sign it. But Stiles peremptorily refused to accept from the
nation what was due his dead son. "I ain't that hard pushed yit," was
his first and last word on the subject. This might seem to be the very
perversity of ignorance; but it was, in fact, renunciation on a point of
honor, and native pride refused to see the matter in any other light.

The mountaineer, born and bred to Spartan self-denial, has a scorn of
luxury, regarding its effeminacies with the same contempt as does the
nomadic Arab. And any assumption of superiority he will resent with blow
or sarcasm. A ragged hobbledehoy stood on the Vanderbilt grounds at
Biltmore, mouth open but silent, watching a gardener at work. The
latter, annoyed by the boy's vacuous stare, spoke up sharply: "What do
you want?" Like a flash the lad retorted: "Oh, dad sent me down hyur to
look at the place--said if I liked it, he mought buy it for me."

Once, as an experiment, I took a backwoodsman from the Smokies to
Knoxville, and put him up at a good hotel. Was he self-conscious,
bashful? Not a bit of it. When the waiter brought him a juicy
tenderloin, he snapped: "I don't eat my meat raw!" It was hard to find
anything on the long menu that he would eat. On the street he held his
head proudly erect, and regarded the crowd with an expression of "Tetch
me gin ye dar!" Although the surroundings were as strange to him as a
city of Mars would be to us, he showed neither concern nor approval,
but rather a fine disdain, like that of Diogenes at the country fair:
"Lord, how many things there be in this world of which Diogenes hath no

The poverty of the mountain people is naked, but high-minded and
unashamed. To comment on it, as I have done, is taken as an
impertinence. This is a fine trait, in its way, though rather hard on a
descriptive writer whose motives are ascribed to mere vulgarity and a
taste for scandal-mongering. The people, of course, have no ghost of an
idea that poverty may be more picturesque than luxury; and they are
quite as far from conceiving that a plain and friendly statement of
their actual condition, published to the world, is the surest way to
awaken the nation to consciousness of its duties toward a region that it
has so long and so singularly neglected.

The worst enemies of the mountain people are those public men who,
knowing the true state of things, yet conceal or deny the facts in order
to salve a sore local pride, encourage the supine fatalism of "what must
be will be," and so drug the highlanders back into their Rip Van Winkle



Despite the low standard of living that prevails in the backwoods, the
average mountain home is a happy one, as homes go. There is little worry
and less fret. Nobody's nerves are on edge. Our highlander views all
exigencies of life with the calm fortitude and tolerant good-humor of
Bret Harte's southwesterner, "to whom cyclones, famine, drought, floods,
pestilence and savages were things to be accepted, and whom disaster, if
it did not stimulate, certainly did not appall."

It is a patriarchal existence. The man of the house is lord. He takes no
orders from anybody at home or abroad. Whether he shall work or visit or
roam the woods with dog and gun is nobody's affair but his own. About
family matters he consults with his wife, but in the end his word is
law. If Madame be a bit shrewish he is likely to tolerate it as natural
to the weaker vessel; but if she should go too far he checks her with a
curt "Shet up!" and the incident is closed.

"The woman," as every wife is called, has her kingdom within the house,
and her man seldom meddles with its administration. Now and then he may
grumble "A woman's allers findin' somethin' to do that a man can't see
no sense in;" but, then, the Lord made women fussy over trifles--His
ways are inscrutable--so why bother about it?

The mountain farmer's wife is not only a household drudge, but a
field-hand as well. She helps to plant, hoes corn, gathers fodder,
sometimes even plows or splits rails. It is the commonest of sights for
a woman to be awkwardly hacking up firewood with a dull axe. When her
man leaves home on a journey he is not likely to have laid in wood for
the stove or hearth: so she and the children must drag from the
hillsides whatever dead timber they can find.

Outside the towns no hat is lifted to maid or wife. A swain would
consider it belittled his dignity. At table, if women be seated at all,
the dishes are passed first to the men; but generally the wife stands by
and serves. There is no conscious discourtesy in such customs; but they
betoken an indifference to woman's weakness, a disregard for her finer
nature, a denial of her proper rank, that are real and deep-seated in
the mountaineer. To him she is little more than a sort of superior
domestic animal. The chivalric regard for women that characterized our
pioneers of the Far West is altogether lacking in the habits of the
backwoodsman of Appalachia.

And yet it is seldom that a highland woman complains of her lot. She
knows no other. From aboriginal times the men of her race have been
warriors, hunters, herdsmen, clearers of forests, and their women have
toiled in the fields. Indeed she would scarce respect her husband if he
did not lord it over her and cast upon her the menial tasks. It is
"manners" for a woman to drudge and obey. All respectable wives do that.
And they stay at home where they belong, never visiting or going
anywhere without first asking their husband's consent.

I am satisfied that there is less bickering in mountain households than
in the most advanced society of Christendom. Certainly there are fewer
divorces in proportion to the marriages. This is not by grace of any
uncommon regard for the seventh commandment, but rather from a more
tolerant attitude of mind.

Mountain women marry early, many of them at fourteen or fifteen, and
nearly all before they are twenty. Large families are the rule, seven
to ten children being considered normal, and fifteen is not an uncommon
number; but the infant mortality is high.

The children have few toys other than rag dolls, broken bits of crockery
for "play-purties," and such "ridey-hosses" and so forth as they make
for themselves. They play few games, but rather frisk about like young
colts without aim or method. Every mountain child has at least one dog
for a playfellow, and sometimes a pet pig is equally familiar. In many
districts there is not enough level land for a ballground. A prime
amusement of the small boys is "rocking" (throwing stones at marks or at
each other), in which rather doubtful pastime they become singularly

To encourage a child to do chores about the house and stable, he may be
promised a pig of his own the next time a sow litters. To know when to
look for the pigs an expedient is practiced that I never heard of
elsewhere: the child bores a small hole at the base of his thumbnail. I
was assured by a mountain preacher that the hole "will grow out to the
edge of the nail in three months and twenty-four days"--the period, he
said, of a sow's gestation (in reality the average term is about three

Most mountaineers are indulgent, super-indulgent parents. The oft-heard
threat "I'll w'ar ye out with a hick'ry!" is seldom carried out. The
boys, especially, grow up with little restraint beyond their own natural
sense of filial duty. Little children are allowed to eat and drink
anything they want--green fruit, adulterated candy, fresh cider, no
matter what--to the limit of repletion; and fatal consequences are not
rare. I have observed the very perversity of license allowed children,
similar to what Julian Ralph tells of a man on Bullskin Creek, who,
explaining why his child died, said that "No one couldn't make her take
no medicine; she just wouldn't take it; she was a Baker through and
through, and you never could make a Baker do nothin' he didn't want to!"

The saddest spectacle in the mountains is the tiny burial-ground,
without a headstone or headboard in it, all overgrown with weeds, and
perhaps unfenced, with cattle grazing over the low mounds or sunken
graves. The spot seems never to be visited between interments. I have
remarked elsewhere that most mountaineers are singularly callous in the
presence of serious injury or death. They show a no less remarkable lack
of reverence for the dead. Nothing on earth can be more poignantly
lonesome than one of these mountain burial-places, nothing so mutely
evident of neglect.

Funeral services are extremely simple. In the backwoods, where lumber is
scarce, a coffin will be knocked together from rough planks taken from
someone's loft, or out of puncheons hewn from the green trees. It is
slung on poles and carried like a litter. The only exercises at the
grave are singing and praying; and sometimes even those are omitted, as
in case no preacher can be summoned in time.

In all back settlements that I have visited, from Kentucky southward,
there is a strange custom as to the funeral sermon, that seems to have
no analogue elsewhere. It is not preached until long after the
interment, maybe a year or several years. In some districts the practice
is to hold joint services, at the same time and place, for all in the
neighborhood who died within the year. The time chosen will be after the
crops are gathered, so that everybody can attend. In other places a
husband's funeral sermon is postponed until his wife dies, or _vice
versa_, though the interval may be many years. These collective funeral
services last two or three days, and are attended by hundreds of people,
like a camp-meeting.

Strange scenes sometimes are witnessed at the graveside, prompted
perhaps by weird superstitions. At one of our burials, which was
attended by more than the usual retinue of kinsfolk, there were present
two mothers who bore each other the deadliest hate that women know. Each
had a child at her breast. When the clods fell, they silently exchanged
babies long enough for each to suckle her rival's child. Was it a
reconciliation cemented by the very life of their blood? Or was it a
charm to keep off evil spirits? No one could (or would) explain it to

Weddings never are celebrated in church, but at the home of the bride,
and are jolly occasions, of course. Often the young men, stimulated with
more or less "moonshine," add the literally stunning compliment of a

The mountaineers have a native fondness for music and dancing, which,
with the shouting-spells of their revivals, are the only outlets for
those powerful emotions which otherwise they studiously conceal. The
harmony of "part singing" is unknown in the back districts, where men
and women both sing in a jerky treble. Most of their music is in the
weird, plaintive minor key that seems spontaneous with primitive people
throughout the world. Not only the tone, but the sentiment of their
hymns and ballads is usually of a melancholy nature, expressing the
wrath of God and the doom of sinners, or the luckless adventures of wild
blades and of maidens all forlorn. A Highlander might well say, with the
clown in _A Winter's Tale_, "I love a ballad but even too well; if it be
doleful matter, merrily set down, or a very pleasant thing indeed, and
sung lamentably."

But where banjo and fiddle enter, the vapors vanish. Up strike The Fox
Chase, Shady Grove, Gamblin' man, Sourwood Mountain, and knees are
limbered, and merry voices rise.--

  Call up your dog, O call up your dog!
    Call up your dog!
    Call up your dog!
  Let 's a-go huntin' to ketch a groundhog.
    Rang tang a-whaddle linky day!

Wherever the church has not put its ban on "twistifications" the country
dance is the chief amusement of young and old. I have never succeeded in
memorizing the queer "calls" at these dances, in proper order, and so
take the liberty of quoting from Mr. Haney's _Mountain People of

     "Eight hands up and go to the left; half and back; corners turn;
     partners sash-i-ate. First four, forwards and back; forward again
     and cross over; forward and back and home you go. Gents stand and
     ladies swing in the center; own partners and half sash-i-ate.

     "Eight hands and gone again; half and back; partners by the right
     and opposite by the left--sash-i-ate. Right hands across and howdy
     do? Left and back and how are you? Opposite partners, half
     sash-i-ate and go to the next (and so on for each couple).

     "All hands up and go to the left. Hit the floor. Corners turn and
     sash-i-ate. First couple cage the bird with three arms around. Bird
     hop out and hoot-owl in; three arms around and hootin' agin. Swing
     and circle four, ladies change and gents the same; right and left;
     the shoo-fly swing (and so on for each couple)."

In homes where dancing is not permitted, and often in others,
"play-parties" are held, at which social games are practiced with
childlike abandon: Roll the Platter, Weavilly Wheat, Needle's Eye, We
Fish Who Bite, Grin an' Go 'Foot, Swing the Cymblin, Skip t' m' Lou
(pronounced "Skip-tum a-loo") and many others of a rollicking,
half-dancing nature.

  Round the house; skip t' m' Lou, my darlin'.
  Steal my partner and I'll steal again; skip (etc.).
  Take her and go with her--I don't care; skip (etc.).
  I can get another as pretty as you; skip (etc.).
  Pretty as a red-bird, and prettier too; skip (etc.).

A substitute for the church fair is the "poke-supper," at which dainty
pokes (bags) of cake and other home-made delicacies are auctioned off
to the highest bidder. Whoever bids-in a poke is entitled to eat with
the girl who prepared it, and escort her home. The rivalry excited among
the mountain swains by such artful lures may be judged from the fact
that, in a neighborhood where a man's work brings only a dollar a day, a
pretty girl's poke may be bid up to ten, twenty, or even fifty dollars.

[Illustration: Let the women do the work]

As a rule, the only holidays observed in the mountains, outside the
towns, are Christmas and New Year's. Christmas is celebrated after the
southern fashion, which seems bizarre indeed to one witnessing it for
the first time. The boys and men, having no firecrackers (which they
would disdain, anyway), go about shooting revolvers and drinking to the
limit of capacity or supply. Blank cartridges are never used in this
uproarious jollification, and the courses of the bullets are left to
chance, so that discreet people keep their noses indoors. Christmas is a
day of license, of general indulgence, it being tacitly assumed that
punishment is remitted for any ordinary sins of the flesh that may be
committed on that day. There is no church festivity, nor are Christmas
trees ever set up. Few mountain children hang up their stockings, and
many have never heard of Santa Claus.

New Year's Day is celebrated with whatever effervescence remains from
Christmas, and in the same manner; but generally it is a feeble
reminder, as the liquid stimulus has run short and there are many sore
heads in the neighborhood.

Most of the mountain preachers nowadays denounce dances and
"play-parties" as sinful diversions, though their real objection seems
to be that such gatherings are counter-attractions that thin out the
religious ones. Be that as it may, they certainly have put a damper on
frolics, so that in very many mountain settlements "goin' to meetin'" is
recognized primarily as a social function and affords almost the only
chance for recreation in which family can join family without restraint.

Meetings are held in the log schoolhouse. The congregation ranges
itself, men on one side, women on the other, on rude benches that
sometimes have no backs. Everybody goes. If one judged from attendance
he would rate our highlanders as the most religious people in America.
This impression is strengthened, in a stranger, by the grave and
astoundingly patient attention that is given an illiterate or nearly
illiterate minister while he holds forth for two or three mortal hours
on the beauties of predestination, free-will, foreordination,
immersion, foot-washing, or on the delinquencies of "them acorn-fed
critters that has gone New Light over in Cope's Cove."

After an _al fresco_ lunch, everybody doggedly returns to hear another
circuit-rider expound and denounce at the top of his voice until late
afternoon--as long as "the spirit lasts" and he has "good wind." When he
warms up, he throws in a gasping _ah_ or _uh_ at short intervals, which
constitutes the "holy tone." Doctor MacClintock gives this example: "Oh,
brethren, repent ye, and repent ye of your sins, ah; fer if ye don't ah,
the Lord, ah, he will grab yer by the seat of yer pants, ah, and held
yer over hell fire till ye holler like a coon!"

During these services there is a good deal of running in and out by the
men and boys, most of whom gradually congregate on the outside to
whittle, gossip, drive bargains, and debate among themselves some point
of dogma that is too good to keep still about.

Nearly all of our highlanders, from youth upward, show an amazing
fondness for theological dispute. This consists mainly in capping texts,
instead of reasoning, with the single-minded purpose of confusing or
downing an opponent. Into this battle of memories rather than of wits
the most worthless scapegrace will enter with keen gusto and perfect
seriousness. I have known two or three hundred mountain lumber-jacks,
hard-swearing and hard-drinking tough-as-they-make-'ems, to be whetted
to a fighting edge over the rocky problem "Was Saul damned?" (Can a
suicide enter the kingdom of heaven?)

The mountaineers are intensely, universally Protestant. You will seldom
find a backwoodsman who knows what a Roman Catholic is. As John Fox
says, "He is the only man in the world whom the Catholic Church has made
little or no effort to proselyte. Dislike of Episcopalianism is still
strong among people who do not know, or pretend not to know, what the
word means. 'Any Episcopalians around here?' asked a clergyman at a
mountain cabin. 'I don't know,' said the old woman. 'Jim's got the skins
of a lot o' varmints up in the loft. Mebbe you can find one up thar.'"

The first settlers of Appalachia mainly were Presbyterians, as became
Scotch-Irishmen, but they fell away from that faith, partly because the
wilderness was too poor to support a regular ministry, and partly
because it was too democratic for Calvinism with its supreme authority
of the clergy. This much of seventeenth century Calvinism the
mountaineer retains: a passion for hair-splitting argument over points
of doctrine, and the cocksure intolerance of John Knox; but the
ancestral creed itself has been forgotten.

The circuit-rider, whether Methodist or Baptist, found here a field ripe
for his harvest. Being himself self-supporting and unassuming, he won
easily the confidence of the people. He preached a highly emotional
religion that worked his audience into the ecstasy that all primitive
people love. And he introduced a mighty agent of evangelization among
outdoor folk when he started the camp-meeting.

The season for camp-meetings is from mid-August to October. The festival
may last a week in one place. It is a jubilee-week to the work-worn and
home-chained women, their only diversion from a year of unspeakably
monotonous toil. And for the young folks, it is their theater, their
circus, their county fair. (I say this with no disrespect: "big-meetin'
time" is a gala week, if there be any such thing at all in the
mountains--its attractiveness is full as much secular as spiritual to
the great body of the people.)

It is a camp by day only, or up to closing time. No mountaineer owns a
tent. Preachers and exhorters are housed nearby, and visitors from all
the country scatter about with their friends, or sleep in the open,
cooking their meals by the wayside.

In these backwoods revival meetings we can witness to-day the weird
phenomena of ungovernable shouting, ecstasy, bodily contortions, trance,
catalepsy, and other results of hypnotic suggestion and the contagious
one-mindedness of an overwrought crowd. This is called "taking a big
through," and is regarded as the madness of supernatural joy. It is a
mild form of that extraordinary frenzy which swept the Kentucky
settlements in 1800, when thousands of men and women at the
camp-meetings fell victims to "the jerks," "barking exercises," erotic
vagaries, physical wreckage, or insanity, to which the frenzy led.

Many mountaineers are easily carried away by new doctrines extravagantly
presented. Religious mania is taken for inspiration by the superstitious
who are looking for "signs and wonders." At one time Mormon prophets
lured women from the backwoods of western Carolina and eastern
Tennessee. Later there was a similar exodus of people to the
Castellites, a sect of whom it was commonly remarked that "everybody who
joins the Castellites goes crazy." In our day the same may be said of
the Holy Rollers and Holiness People.

In a feud town of eastern Kentucky, not long ago, I saw two Holiness
exhorters prancing before a solemnly attentive crowd in the court-house
square, one of them shouting and exhibiting the "holy laugh," while the
other pointed to the Cumberland River and cried, "I don't say _if_ I had
the faith, I say I _have_ the faith, to walk over that river dry-shod!"
I scanned the crowd, and saw nothing but belief, or willingness to
believe, on any countenance. Of course, most mountaineers are more
intelligent than that; but few of them are free from superstitions of
one kind or other. There are to-day many believers in witchcraft among
them (though none own it to any but their intimates) and nearly
everybody in the hills has faith in portents.

The mountain clergy, as a general rule, are hostile to "book larnin',"
for "there ain't no Holy Ghost in it." One of them who had spent three
months at a theological school told President Frost, "Yes, the seminary
is a good place ter go and git rested up, but 'tain't worth while fer me
ter go thar no more 's long as I've got good wind."

It used to amuse me to explain how I knew that the earth was a sphere;
but one day, when I was busy, a tiresome old preacher put the
everlasting question to me: "Do you believe the yearth is round?" An
impish perversity seized me and I answered, "No--all blamed humbug!"
"Amen!" cried my delighted catechist, "I knowed in reason you had more

In general the religion of the mountaineers has little influence on
every-day behavior, little to do with the moral law. Salvation is by
faith alone, and not by works. Sometimes a man is "churched" for
breaking the Sabbath, "cussin'," "tale-bearin'"; but sins of the flesh
are rarely punished, being regarded as amiable frailties of mankind. It
should be understood that the mountaineer's morals are "all tail-first,"
like those of Alan Breck in Stevenson's _Kidnapped_.

One of our old-timers nonchalantly admitted in court that he and a
preacher had marked a false corner-tree which figured in an important
land suit. On cross-examination he was asked:

"You admit that you and Preacher X---- forged that corner-tree? Didn't
you give Preacher X---- a good character, in your testimony? Do you
consider it consistent with his profession as a minister of the Gospel
to forge corner-trees?"

"Aw," replied the witness, "religion ain't got nothin' to do with

John Fox relates that, "A feud leader who had about exterminated the
opposing faction, and had made a good fortune for a mountaineer while
doing it, for he kept his men busy getting out timber when they weren't
fighting, said to me in all seriousness:

"'I have triumphed agin my enemies time and time agin. The Lord's on my
side, and I gits a better and better Christian ever' year.'

"A preacher, riding down a ravine, came upon an old mountaineer hiding
in the bushes with his rifle.

"'What are you doing there, my friend?'

"'Ride on, stranger,' was the easy answer. 'I'm a-waitin' fer Jim
Johnson, and with the help of the Lawd I'm goin' to blow his damn head

But let us never lose sight of the fact that these people,
intellectually, are not living in our age. To judge them fairly we must
go back and get a medieval point of view, which, by the way, persisted
in Europe and America until well into the Georgian period. If history be
too dry, read Stevenson's _Kidnapped_, and especially its sequel _David
Balfour_, to learn what that viewpoint was. The parallel is so
close--eighteenth century Britain and twentieth century
Appalachia--that here we walk the same paths with Alan and David, the
Edinboro' law-sharks, Katriona and Lady Allardyce. The only difference
of moment is that we have no aristocracy.

As for the morals of our highlanders, they are precisely what any
well-read person would expect after taking their belatedness into
consideration. In speech and conduct, when at ease among themselves,
they are frank, old-fashioned Englishmen and Scots, such as Fielding and
Smollet and Pepys and Burns have shown us to the life. Their manners are
boorish, of course, judged by a feminized modern standard, and their
home conversation is as coarse as the mixed-company speeches in
Shakespeare's comedies or the offhand pleasantries of Good Queen Bess.

But what is refinement? What is morality?

"I don't mind," said the Belovéd Vagabond, "I don't mind the frank
dungheap outside a German peasant's kitchen window; but what I loathe
and abominate is the dungheap hidden beneath Hedwige's draper papa's
parlor floor." And we do well to consider that fine remark by Sir Oliver
Lodge: "Vice is reversion to a lower type _after perception of a

I have seen the worst as well as the best of Appalachia. There _are_
"places on Sand Mountain"--scores of them--where unspeakable orgies
prevail at times. But I know that between these two extremes the great
mass of the mountain people are very like persons of similar station
elsewhere, just human, with human frailties, only a little more honest,
I think, in owning them. And even in the tenebra of far-back coves,
where conditions exist as gross as anything to be found in the wynds and
closes of our great cities, there is this blessed difference: that these
half-wild creatures have not been hopelessly submerged, have not been
driven into desperate war against society. The worst of them still have
good traits, strong characters, something responsive to decent
treatment. They are kind-hearted, loyal to their friends, quick to help
anyone in distress. They know nothing of civilization. They are simply
_the unstarted_--and their thews are sound.



One day I handed a volume of John Fox's stories to a neighbor and asked
him to read it, being curious to learn how those vivid pictures of
mountain life would impress one who was born and bred in the same
atmosphere. He scanned a few lines of the dialogue, then suddenly stared
at me in amazement.

"What's the matter with it?" I asked, wondering what he could have found
to startle him at the very beginning of a story.

"Why, that feller _don't know how to spell_!"

Gravely I explained that dialect must be spelled as it is pronounced, so
far as possible, or the life and savor of it would be lost. But it was
of no use. My friend was outraged. "That tale-teller then is jest makin'
fun of the mountain people by misspellin' our talk. You educated folks
don't spell your own words the way you say them."

A most palpable hit; and it gave me a new point of view.

To the mountaineers themselves their speech is natural and proper, of
course, and when they see it bared to the spotlight, all eyes drawn
toward it by an orthography that is as odd to them as it is to us, they
are stirred to wrath, just as we would be if our conversation were
reported by some Josh Billings or Artemas Ward.

The curse of dialect writing is elision. Still, no one can write it
without using the apostrophe more than he likes to; for our highland
speech is excessively clipped. "I'm comin' d'reck'ly" has a quaintness
that should not be lost. We cannot visualize the shambling but eager
mountaineer with a sample of ore in his hand unless the writer reports
him faithfully: "Wisht you'd 'zamine this rock fer me--I heern tell you
was one o' them 'sperts."

Although the hillsmen save some breath in this way, they waste a good
deal by inserting sounds where they do not belong. Sometimes it is only
an added consonant: gyarden, acrost, corkus (caucus); sometimes a
syllable: loaferer, musicianer, suddenty. Occasionally a word is both
added to and clipped from, as cyarn (carrion). They are fond of grace
syllables: "I gotta me a deck o' cyards." "There ain't nary bitty sense
in it."

More interesting are substitutions of one sound for another. In mountain
dialect all vowels may be interchanged with others. Various sounds of
_a_ are confused with _e_, as hed (had), kem (came), keerful; or with
_i_, grit (grate), rifle (raffle); with _o_, pomper, toper (taper),
wrop; or with _u_, fur, ruther. So any other vowel may serve in place of
_e_: sarve, chist, upsot, tumble. Any other may displace _i_: arn
(iron), eetch, hender, whope or whup. The _o_ sounds are more stable,
but we have crap (crop), yan, clus, and many similar variants. Any other
vowel may do for _u_: braysh or bresh (brush), shet, sich, shore (sure).

Mountaineers have peculiar difficulty with diphthongs: haar (hair),
cheer (chair), brile, and a host of others. The word coil is variously
pronounced quile, querl or quorl.

Substitution of consonants is not so common as of vowels, but most
hillsmen say nabel (navel), ballet (ballad), Babtis', rench or rinch,
brickie (brittle), and many say atter or arter, jue (due), tejus,
vascinator (fascinator--a woman's scarf). They never drop _h_, nor
substitute anything for it.

The word woman has suffered some strange sea-changes. Most mountaineers
pronounce it correctly, but some drop the _w_ ('oman), others add an
_r_ (womern and wimmern), while in Michell County, North Carolina, we
hear the extraordinary forms ummern and dummern ("La, look at all the
dummerunses a-comin'!")

On the other hand, some words that most Americans mispronounce are
always sounded correctly in the southern highlands, as dew and new
(never doo, noo). Creek is always given its true _ee_ sound, never
crick. Nare (as we spell it in dialect stories) is simply the right
pronunciation of ne'er, and nary is ne'er a, with the _a_ turned into a
short _i_ sound.

It should be understood that the dialect varies a good deal from place
to place, and, even in the same neighborhood, we rarely hear all
families speaking it alike. Outlanders who essay to write it are prone
to err by making their characters speak it too consistently. It is only
in the backwoods, or among old people and the penned-at-home women, that
the dialect is used with any integrity. In railroad towns we hear little
of it, and farmers who trade in those towns adapt their speech somewhat
to the company they may be in. The same man, at different times, may say
can't and cain't, set and sot, jest and jes' and jist, atter and arter
or after, seed and seen, here and hyur and hyar, heerd and heern or
heard, sich and sech, took and tuk--there is no uniformity about it. An
unconscious sense of euphony seems to govern the choice of hit or it,
there or thar.

Since the Appalachian people have a marked Scotch-Irish strain, we would
expect their speech to show a strong Scotch influence. So far as
vocabulary is concerned, there is really little of it. A few words,
caigy (cadgy), coggled, fernent, gin for if, needcessity, trollop,
almost exhaust the list of distinct Scotticisms. The Scotch-Irish, as we
call them, were mainly Ulstermen, and the Ulster dialect of to-day bears
little analogy to that of Appalachia.

Scotch influence does appear, however, in one vital characteristic of
the pronunciation: with few exceptions our highlanders sound _r_
distinctly wherever it occurs, though they never trill it. In the
British Isles this constant sounding of _r_ in all positions is
peculiar, I think, to Scotland, Ireland, and a few small districts in
the northern border counties of England. With us it is general practice
outside of New England and those parts of the southern lowlands that had
no flood of Celtic immigration in the eighteenth century. I have never
heard a Carolina mountaineer say niggah or No'th Ca'lina, though in the
last word the syllable _ro_ is often elided.

In some mountain districts we hear do' (door), flo', mo', yo', co'te,
sca'ce (long _a_), pusson; but such skipping of the _r_ is common only
where lowland influence has crept in. Much oftener the _r_ is dropped
from dare, first, girl, horse, nurse, parcel, worth (dast, fust, gal,
hoss, nuss, passel, wuth). By way of compensation the hillsmen sometimes
insert a euphonic _r_ where it has no business; just as many New
Englanders say, "The idear of it!"

Throughout Appalachia such words as last, past, advantage, are
pronounced with the same vowel sound as is heard in man. This helps to
delimit the people, classifying them with Pennsylvanians and Westerners:
a linguistic grouping that will prove significant when we come to study
the origin and history of this isolated race.

An editor who had made one or two short trips into the mountains once
wrote me that he thought the average mountaineer's vocabulary did not
exceed three hundred words. This may be a natural inference if one
spends but a few weeks among these people and sees them only under the
prosaic conditions of workaday life. But gain their intimacy and you
shall find that even the illiterates among them have a range of
expression that is truly remarkable. I have myself taken down from the
lips of Carolina mountaineers some eight hundred dialectical or
obsolete words, to say nothing of the much greater number of standard
English terms that they command.

Seldom is a "hill-billy" at a loss for a word. Lacking other means of
expression, there will come "spang" from his mouth a coinage of his own.
Instantly he will create (always from English roots, of course) new
words by combination, or by turning nouns into verbs or otherwise
interchanging the parts of speech.

Crudity or deficiency of the verb characterizes the speech of all
primitive peoples. In mountain vernacular many words that serve as verbs
are only nouns of action, or adjectives, or even adverbs. "That bear 'll
meat me a month." "They churched Pitt for tale-bearin'." "Granny kept
faultin' us all day." "Are ye fixin' to go squirrelin'?" "Sis blouses
her waist a-purpose to carry a pistol." "My boy Jesse book-kept for the
camp." "I disgust bad liquor." "This poke salat eats good." "I ain't
goin' to bed it no longer" (lie abed). "We can muscle this log up." "I
wouldn't pleasure them enough to say it." "Josh ain't much on
sweet-heartin'." "I don't confidence them dogs much." "The creek away up
thar turkey-tails out into numerous leetle forks."

A verb will be coined from an adverb: "We better git some wood, bettern
we?" Or from an adjective: "Much that dog and see won't he come along"
(pet him, make much of him). "I didn't do nary thing to contrary her."
"Baby, that onion 'll strong ye!" "Little Jimmy fell down and benastied
himself to beat the devil."

Conversely, nouns are created from verbs. "Hit don't make no differ." "I
didn't hear no give-out at meetin'" (announcement). "You can git ye one
more gittin' o' wood up thar." "That Nantahala is a master shut-in, jest
a plumb gorge." Or from an adjective: "Them bugs--the little old
hatefuls!" "If anybody wanted a history of this county for fifty years
he'd git a lavish of it by reading that mine-suit testimony." Or from an
adverb: "Nance tuk the biggest through at meetin'!" (shouting spell). An
old lady quoted to me in a plaintive quaver:

  "It matters not, so I've been told,
  Where the body goes when the heart grows cold;

"But," she added, "a person has a rather about where he'd be put."

In mountain vernacular the Old English strong past tense still lives in
begun, drunk, holped, rung, shrunk, sprung, stunk, sung, sunk, swum.
Holp is used both as preterite and as infinitive: the _o_ is long, and
the _l_ distinctly sounded by most of the people, but elided by such as
drop it from almost, already, self (the _l_ is elided from help by many
who use that form of the verb).

Examples of a strong preterite with dialectical change of the vowel are
bruk, brung, drap or drapped, drug, friz, roke or ruck (raked), saunt
(sent), shet, shuck (shook), whoped (long _o_). The variant whupped is a
Scotticism. Whope is sometimes used in the present tense, but whup is
more common. By some the vowel of whup is sounded like _oo_ in book (Mr.
Fox writes "whoop," which, I presume, he intends for that sound).

In many cases a weak preterite supplants the proper strong one: div,
driv, fit, gi'n or give, rid, riv, riz, writ, done, run, seen or seed,
blowed, crowed, drawed, growed, knowed, throwed.

There are many corrupt forms of the verb, such as gwine for gone or
going, mought (mowt) for might, dim, het, ort or orter, wed (weeded),
war (was or were--the _a_ as in far), shun (shone), cotch (in all
tenses) or cotched, fotch or fotched, borned, hurted, dremp.

Peculiar adjectives are formed from verbs. "Chair-bottoming is easy
settin'-down work." "When my youngest was a leetle set-along child"
(interpreted as "settin' along the floor"). "That Thunderhead is the
torndowndest place!" "Them's the travellinest hosses ever I seed."
"She's the workinest woman!" "Jim is the disablest one o' the fam'ly."
"Damn this fotch-on kraut that comes in tin cans!"

A verb may serve as an adverb: "If I'd a-been thoughted enough." An
adverb may be used as an adjective: "I hope the folks with you is gaily"
(well). An adjective can serve as an adverb: "He laughed master."
Sometimes a conjunction is employed as a preposition: "We have oblige to
take care on him."

These are not mere blunders of individual illiterates, but usages common
throughout the mountains, and hence real dialect.

The ancient syllabic plural is preserved in beasties (horses), nesties,
posties, trousies (these are not diminutives), and in that strange word
dummerunses that I cited before.

Pleonasms are abundant. "I done done it" (have done it or did do it).
"Durin' the while." "In this day and time." "I thought it would surely,
undoubtedly turn cold." "A small, little bitty hole." "Jane's a
tol'able big, large, fleshy woman." "I ginerally, usually take a dram
mornin's." "These ridges is might' nigh straight up and down, and, as
the feller said, perpendic'lar."

Everywhere in the mountains we hear of biscuit-bread, ham-meat,
rifle-gun, rock-clift, ridin'-critter, cow-brute, man-person,
women-folks, preacher-man, granny-woman and neighbor-people. In this
category belong the famous double-barreled pronouns: we-all and you-all
in Kentucky, we-uns and you-uns in Carolina and Tennessee. (I have even
heard such locution as this: "Let's we-uns all go over to youerunses
house.") Such usages are regarded generally as mere barbarisms, and so
they are in English, but Miss Murfree cites correlatives in the Romance
languages: French _nous autres_, Italian _noi altri_, Spanish

The mountaineers have some queer ways of intensifying expression. "I'd
_tell_ a man," with the stress as here indicated, is simply a strong
affirmative. "We had one more _time_" means a rousing good time.
"P'int-blank" is a superlative or an epithet: "We jist p'int-blank got
it to do." "Well, p'int-blank, if they ever come back again, I'll move!"

A double negative is so common that it may be crowded into a single
word: "I did it the unthoughtless of anything I ever done in my life."
Triple negatives are easy: "I ain't got nary none." A mountaineer can
accomplish the quadruple: "That boy ain't never done nothin' nohow."
Yea, even the quintuple: "I ain't never seen no men-folks of no kind do
no washin'."

On the other hand, the veriest illiterates often startle a stranger by
glib use of some word that most of us picked up in school or seldom use
informally. "I can make a hunderd pound o' pork outen that hog--tutor it
jist right." "Them clouds denote rain." "She's so dilitary!" "They stood
thar and caviled about it." "That exceeds the measure." "Old Tom is
blind, but he can discern when the sun is shinin'." "Jerry proffered to
fix the gun for me." I had supposed that the words cuckold and moon-calf
had none but literary usage in America, but we often hear them in the
mountains, cuckold being employed both as verb and as noun, and
moon-calf in its baldly literal sense that would make Prospero's taunt
to Caliban a superlative insult.

Our highlander often speaks in Elizabethan or Chaucerian or even
pre-Chaucerian terms. His pronoun hit antedates English itself, being
the Anglo-Saxon neuter of he. Ey God, a favorite expletive, is the
original of egad, and goes back of Chaucer. Ax for ask and kag for keg
were the primitive and legitimate forms, which we trace as far as the
time of Layamon. When the mountain boy challenges his mate: "I dar ye--I
ain't afeared!" his verb and participle are of the same ancient and
sterling rank. Afore, atwixt, awar, heap o' folks, peart, up and done
it, usen for used, all these everyday expressions of the backwoods were
contemporary with the _Canterbury Tales_.

A man said to me of three of our acquaintances: "There's been a fray on
the river--I don't know how the fraction begun, but Os feathered into
Dan and Phil, feedin' them lead." He meant fray in its original sense of
deadly combat, as was fitting where two men were killed. Fraction for
rupture is an archaic word, rare in literature, though we find it in
_Troilus and Cressida_. "Feathered into them!" Where else can we hear
to-day a phrase that passed out of standard English when "villainous
saltpetre" supplanted the long-bow? It means to bury an arrow up to the
feather, as when the old chronicler Harrison says, "An other arrow
should haue beene fethered in his bowels."

[Illustration: Photo by Arthur Keith

"Till the skyline blends with the sky itself."--Great Smokies. N. C.
from Mt. Collins.]

Our schoolmaster, composing a form of oath for the new mail-carrier,
remarked: "Let me study this thing over; then I can edzact it"--a verb
so rare and obsolete that we find it in no American dictionary, but only
in Murray.

A remarkable word, common in the Smokies, is dauncy, defined for me as
"mincy about eating," which is to say fastidious, over-nice. Dauncy
probably is a variant of daunch, of which the _Oxford New English
Dictionary_ cites but one example, from the _Townley Mysteries_ of
_circa_ 1460.

A queer term used by Carolina mountaineers, without the faintest notion
of its origin, is doney (long _o_) or doney-gal, meaning a sweetheart.
Its history is unique. British sailors of the olden time brought it to
England from Spanish or Italian ports. Doney is simply _doña_ or _donna_
a trifle anglicized in pronunciation. Odd, though, that it should be
preserved in America by none but backwoodsmen whose ancestors for two
centuries never saw the tides!

In the vocabulary of the mountaineers I have detected only three words
of directly foreign origin. Doney is one. Another is kraut, which is the
sole contribution to highland speech of those numerous Germans (mostly
Pennsylvania Dutch) who joined the first settlers in this region, and
whose descendants, under wondrously anglicized names, form to-day a
considerable element of the highland population. The third is sashiate
(French _chassé_), used in calling figures at the country dances.

There is something intrinsically, stubbornly English in the nature of
the mountaineer: he will assimilate nothing foreign. In the Smokies the
Eastern Band of Cherokees still holds its ancient capital on the Okona
Lufty River, and the whites mingle freely with these redskins, bearing
them no such despite as they do negroes, but eating at the same table
and admitting Indians to the white compartment of a Jim Crow car. Yet
the mountain dialect contains not one word of Cherokee origin, albeit
many of the whites can speak a little Cherokee.

In our county some Indians always appear at each term of court, and an
interpreter must be engaged. He never goes by that name, but by the
obsolete title linkister or link'ster, by some lin-gis-ter.

Many other old-fashioned terms are preserved in Appalachia that sound
delightfully quaint to strangers who never met them outside of books. A
married woman is not addressed as Missis by the mountaineers, but as
Mistress when they speak formally, and as Mis' or Miz' for a
contraction. We will hear an aged man referred to as "old Grandsir'"
So-and-So. "Back this letter for me" is a phrase unchanged from the days
before envelopes, when an address had to be written on the back of the
letter itself. "Can I borry a race of ginger?" means the unground
root--you will find the word in _A Winter's Tale_. "Them sorry fellers"
denotes scabby knaves, good-for-nothings. Sorry has no etymological
connection with sorrow, but literally means sore-y, covered with sores,
and the highlander sticks to its original import.

We have in the mountains many home-born words to fit the circumstances
of backwoods life. When maize has passed from the soft and milky stage
of roasting-ears, but is not yet hard enough for grinding, the ears are
grated into a soft meal and baked into delectable pones called

In some places to-day we still find the ancient quern or hand-mill,
jocularly called an armstrong-machine. Someone who irked from turning it
invented the extraordinary improvement that goes by the name of
pounding-mill. This consists of a pole pivoted horizontally on top of a
post and free to move up and down like the walking-beam of an
old-fashioned engine. To one end of this pole is attached a heavy
pestle that works in a mortar underneath. At the other end is a box
from which water flows from an elevated spout. When the box fills it
will go down, lifting the pestle; then the water spills out and the
pestle's weight lifts the box back again.

Who knows what a toddick or taddle is? I did not until my friend Dargan
reported it from the Nantahala. "Ben didn't git a full turn o' meal, but
jest a toddick." When a farmer goes to one of our little tub-mills,
mentioned in previous chapters, he leaves a portion of the meal as toll.
This he measures out in a toll-dish or toddick or taddle (the name
varies with the locality) which the mill-owner left for that purpose.
Toddick, then, is a small measure. A turn of meal is so called because
"each man's corn is ground in turn--he waits his turn."

When one dines in a cabin back in the hills he will taste some strange
dishes that go by still stranger names. Beans dried in the pod, then
boiled "hull and all," are called leather-breeches (this is not slang,
but the regular name). Green beans in the pod are called snaps; when
shelled they are shuck-beans. The old Germans taught their Scotch and
English neighbors the merits of scrapple, but here it is known as
poor-do. Lath-open bread is made from biscuit dough, with soda and
buttermilk, in the usual way, except that the shortening is worked in
last. It is then baked in flat cakes, and has the peculiar property of
parting readily into thin flakes when broken edgewise. I suppose that
poor-do was originally poor-doin's, and lath-open bread denotes that it
opens into lath-like strips. But etymology cannot be pushed recklessly
in the mountains, and I offer these clews as a mere surmise.

Your hostess, proffering apple sauce, will ask, "Do you love sass?" I
had to kick my chum Andy's shins the first time he faced this question.
It is well for a traveler to be forewarned that the word love is
commonly used here in the sense of like or relish.

If one is especially fond of a certain dish he declares that he is a
fool about it. "I'm a plumb fool about pickle-beans." Conversely, "I
ain't much of a fool about liver" is rather more than a hint of
distaste. "I et me a bait" literally means a mere snack, but jocosely it
may admit a hearty meal. If the provender be scant the hostess may say,
"That's right at a smidgen," meaning little more than a mite; but if
plenteous, then there are rimptions.

To "grabble 'taters" is to pick from a hill of new potatoes a few of
the best, then smooth back the soil without disturbing the immature

If the house be in disorder it is said to be all gormed or gaumed up, or
things are just in a mommick.

When a man is tired he likely will call it worried; if in a hurry, he is
in a swivvet; if nervous, he has the all-overs; if declining in health,
he is on the down-go. If he and his neighbor dislike each other, there
is a hardness between them; if they quarrel, it is a ruction, a rippit,
a jower, or an upscuddle--so be it there are no fatalities which would
amount to a real fray.

A choleric or fretful person is tetchious. Survigrous (ser-_vi_-grus) is
a superlative of vigorous (here pronounced _vi_-grus, with long _i_): as
"a survigrous baby," "a most survigrous cusser." Bodaciously means
bodily or entirely: "I'm bodaciously ruint" (seriously injured). "Sim
greened him out bodaciously" (to green out or sap is to outwit in
trade). To disfurnish or discon_fit_ means to incommode: "I hope it has
not disconfit you very bad."

To shamp means to shingle or trim one's hair. A bastard is a woods-colt
or an outsider. Slaunchways denotes slanting, and si-godlin or
si-antigodlin is out of plumb or out of square (factitious words, of
course--mere nonsense terms, like catawampus).

Critter and beast are usually restricted to horse and mule, and brute to
a bovine. A bull or boar is not to be mentioned as such in mixed
company, but male-brute and male-hog are used as euphemisms.[9]

A female shoat is called a gilt. A spotted animal is said to be pieded
(pied), and a striped one is listed. In the Smokies a toad is called a
frog or a toad-frog, and a toadstool is a frog-stool. The woodpecker is
turned around into a peckerwood, except that the giant woodpecker (here
still a common bird) is known as a woodcock or woodhen.

What the mountaineers call hemlock is the shrub leucothoe. The hemlock
tree is named spruce-pine, while spruce is he-balsam, balsam itself is
she-balsam, laurel is ivy, and rhododendron is laurel. In some places
pine needles are called twinkles, and the locust insect is known as a
ferro (Pharaoh?). A treetop left on the ground after logging is called
the lap. Sobby wood means soggy or sodden, and the verb is to sob.

Evening, in the mountains, begins at noon instead of at sunset. Spell is
used in the sense of while ("a good spell atterward") and soon for early
("a soon start in the morning"). The hillsmen say "a year come June,"
"Thursday 'twas a week ago," and "the year nineteen and eight."

Many common English words are used in peculiar senses by the mountain
folk, as call for name or mention or occasion, clever for obliging,
mimic or mock for resemble, a power or a sight for much, risin' for
exceeding (also for inflammation), ruin for injure, scout for elude,
stove for jabbed, surround for go around, word for phrase, take off for
help yourself. Tale always means an idle or malicious report.

Some highland usages that sound odd to us are really no more than the
original and literal meanings, as budget for bag or parcel, hampered for
shackled or jailed. When a mountain swain "carries his gal to meetin'"
he is not performing so great an athletic feat as was reported by
Benjamin Franklin, who said, "My father carried his wife with three
children to New England" (from Pennsylvania).

A mountaineer does not throw a stone; he "flings a rock." He sharpens
tools on a grindin'-rock or whet-rock. Tomato, cabbage, molasses and
baking powder are used always as plural nouns. "Pass me them molasses."
"I'll have a few more of them cabbage." "How many bakin'-powders has you

Many other peculiar words and phrases are explained in their proper
place elsewhere in this volume.

The speech of the southern highlanders is alive with quaint idioms. "I
swapped hosses, and I'll tell you fer why." "Your name ain't much
common." "Who got to beat?" "You think me of it in the mornin'." "I 'low
to go to town to-morrow." "The woman's aimin' to go to meetin'." "I had
in head to plow to-day, but hit's come on to rain." "I've laid off and
laid off to fix that fence." "Reckon Pete was knowin' to the
sarcumstance?" "I'll name it to Newt, if so be he's thar." "I knowed in
reason she'd have the mullygrubs over them doin's." "You cain't handily
blame her."

"Air ye plumb bereft?" "How come it was this: he done me dirt." "I ain't
carin' which nor whether about it." "Sam went to Andrews or to Murphy,
one." "I tuk my fut in my hand and lit out." "He lit a rag fer home."
"Don't much believe the wagon 'll come to-day." "Tain't powerful long
to dinner, I don't reckon." "Phil's Ann give it out to each and every
that Walt and Layunie 'd orter wed."

"Howdy, Tom: light and hitch."

"Reckon I'd better git on."

"Come in and set."

"Cain't stop long."

"Oh, set down and eat you some supper!"

"I've been."

"Won't ye stay the night? Looks like to me we'll have a rainin', windin'

"No: I'll haffter go down."

"Well, come agin, and fix to stay a week."

"You-uns come down with me."

"Won't go now, I guess, Tom."

"Giddep! I'll be back by in the mornin'."


Rather laconic. Yet, on occasion, when the mountaineer is drawn out of
his natural reserve and allows his emotions free rein, there are few
educated people who can match his picturesque and pungent diction. His
trick of apt phrasing is intuitive. Like an artist striking off a
portrait or a caricature with a few swift strokes his characterization
is quick and vivid. Whether he use quaint obsolete English or equally
delightful perversions, what he says will go straight to the mark with
epigrammatic force.

I cannot quit this topic without reference to the bizarre and original
place-names that sprinkle the map of Appalachia.

Many readers of John Fox's novels take for granted that the author
coined such piquant titles as Lonesome, Troublesome, Hell fer Sartin,
and Kingdom Come. But all of these are real names in the Kentucky
mountains. They denote rough country, and the country _is_ rough, so
that to a traveler it is plain enough why travel and travail were used
interchangeably in old editions of Shakespeare. There is nothing like
first-hand knowledge of mountain roads to revive sixteenth-century
habits of thought and speech. The most scrupulous visitor will fain
admit the aptness of mountain nomenclature.

Kentucky has no monopoly of grotesque and whimsical local names. The
whole Appalachian region, from the Virginias to Alabama, is peppered
with them. Whatever else the southern mountaineer may be, he is
original. Elsewhere throughout America we have place-names imported from
the Old World as thick as weeds; but the pioneers of the southern hills
either forgot that there was an Old World or they disdained to borrow
from it.

Personal names applied to localities are common enough, but they are
those of actual settlers, not of notables honored from afar (Mitchell,
LeConte, Guyot, were not the highlanders' names for those peaks). Often
a surname is put to such use, as Jake's Creek, Old Nell Knob, and Big
Jonathan Run. We even have Granny's Branch, and Daddy and Mammy creeks.

In the main it is characteristic of our Appalachian place-names that
they are descriptive or commemorate some incident. The Shut-in is a
gorge; the Suck is a whirlpool; Pinch-gut is a narrow passage between
the cliffs. Calf-killer Run is "whar a meat-eatin' bear was usin'," and
Barren She Mountain was the death-ground of a she-bear that had no cubs.
Kemmer's Old Stand was a certain hunter's favorite ambush on a runway.
Meat-scaffold Branch is where venison was hung up for "jerking."
Graining-block Creek was a trappers' rendezvous, and Honey Camp Run is
where the bee hunters stayed. Lick-log denotes a notched log used for
salting cattle. Still-house Branch was a moonshiners' retreat. Skin-linn
Fork is where the bast was peeled from young lindens. Big Butt is what
Westerners call a butte. Ball-play Bottom was a lacrosse field of the
Indians. Pizen Gulch was infested with poison ivy or sumach. Keerless
Knob is "a joyful place for wild salat" (_amaranthus_). A "hell" or
"slick" or "woolly-head" or "yaller patch" is a thicket of laurel or
rhododendron, impassable save where the bears have bored out trails.

The qualities of the raw backwoodsmen are printed from untouched
negatives in the names he has left upon the map. His literalness shows
in Black Rock, Standing Stone, Sharp Top, Twenty Mile, Naked Place, The
Pocket, Tumbling Creek, and in the endless designations taken from
trees, plants, minerals, or animals noted on the spot. Incidents of his
lonely life are signalized in Dusk Camp Run, Mad Sheep Mountain, Dog
Slaughter Creek, Drowning Creek, Burnt Cabin Branch, Broken Leg, Raw
Dough, Burnt Pone, Sandy Mush, and a hundred others. His contentious
spirit blazes forth in Fighting Creek, Shooting Creek, Gouge-eye,
Vengeance, Four Killer, and Disputanta.

Sometimes even his superstitions are commemorated. In Owesley County,
Kentucky, is a range of hills bearing the singular name of Whoop fer
Larrie. A party of hunters, so the legend goes, had encamped for the
night in the shelter of a bluff. They were startled from sleep by a
loud rumble, as of some wagon hurrying along the pathless ridge, and
they heard a voice shouting "Whoop fer Larrie! Whoop fer Larrie!" The
hills would return no echo, for the cry came from a riotous "ha'nt."

A sardonic humor, sometimes smudged with "that touch of grossness in our
English race," characterizes many of the backwoods place-names. In the
mountains of Old Virginia we have Dry Tripe settlement and Jerk 'em
Tight. In West Virginia are Take In Creek, Get In Run, Seldom Seen
Hollow, Odd, Buster Knob, Shabby Room, and Stretch Yer Neck. North
Carolina has its Shoo Bird Mountain, Big Bugaboo Creek, Weary Hut, Frog
Level, Shake a Rag, and the Chunky Gal. In eastern Tennessee are No Time
settlement and No Business Knob, with creeks known as Big Soak, Suee, Go
Forth, and How Come You. Georgia has produced Scataway, Too Nigh, Long
Nose, Dug Down, Silly Cook, Turkey Trot, Broke Jug Creek, and Tear
Breeches Ridge.

Allowing some license for the mountaineer's irreverence, his whimsical
fancies, and his scorn of sentimentalism, it must be said that his
descriptive terms are usually apposite and sometimes felicitous. Often
he is poetically imaginative, occasionally romantic, and generally
picturesque. Roan Mountain, Grandfather, the Lone Bald, Craggy Dome,
the Black Brothers, Hairy Bear, the Balsam Cone, Sunset Mountain, the
Little Snowbird, are names that linger lovingly in one's memory.

The writer recalls with pleasure not only the features but the mere
titles of that superb landscape that he shared with the wild creatures
and a few woodsmen when living far up on the divide of the Great Smoky
Mountains. Immediately below his cabin were the Defeat and Desolation
branches of Bone Valley, with Hazel Creek meandering to the Little
Tennessee. Cheoah, Tululah, Santeetlah, the Tuckaseegee, and the
Nantahala (Valley of the Noonday Sun) flowed through gorges overlooked
by the Wauchecha, the Yalaka and the Cowee ranges, Tellico, Wahyah, the
Standing Indian and the Tusquitee.[10] Sonorous names, these, which our
pioneers had the good sense to adopt from the aborigines.

To the east were Cold Spring Knob, the Miry Ridge, Siler's Bald,
Clingman's Dome, and the great peaks at the head of Okona Lufty. On the
west rose Brier Knob, Laurel Top, Thunderhead, Blockhouse, the
Fodder-stack, and various "balds" of the Unakas guarding Hiwassee. To
the northward were Cade's Cove and the vale of Tuckaleechee, with
Chilhowee in the near distance, and the Appalachian Valley stretching
beyond our ramparts to where the far Cumberlands marked an ever-blue

What matter that the plenteous roughs about us were branded with rude or
opprobrious names? Rip Shin Thicket, Dog-hobble Ridge, the Rough Arm,
Bear-wallow, Woolly Ridge, Roaring Fork, Huggins's Hell, the Devil's
Racepath, his Den, his Courthouse, and other playgrounds of Old
Nick--they, too, were well and fitly named.



It is only a town-dreamed allegory that represents Nature as a fond
mother suckling her young upon her breast. Those who have lived
literally close to wild Nature know her for a tyrant, void of pity and
of mercy, from whom nothing can be wrung without toil and the risk of

To all pioneer men--to their women and children, too--life has been one
long, hard, cruel war against elemental powers. Nothing else than
warlike arts, nothing short of warlike hazards, could have subdued the
beasts and savages, felled the forests and made our land habitable for
those teeming millions who can exist only in a state of mutual
dependence and cultivation. The first lesson of pioneering was
self-reliance. "Provide with thine own arm," said the Wilderness,
"against frost and famine and skulking foes, or thou shalt surely die!"

But there were compensations. As the school of the woods was harsh and
stern, so it brought up sons and daughters of lion heart. And its
reward to those who endured was the most outright independence to be had
on earth. No king was so irresponsible as the pioneer, no czar so
absolute as he. It needed no martyr spirit in him to sing:

  "I am the master of my fate,
  I am the captain of my soul."

We have seen that the Appalachian region was peculiar in this: that good
bottom lands were few and far between. So our mountain farmers were cut
off more from the world and from each other, were thrown still more upon
their individual resources, than other pioneers. By compulsion their
self-reliance was more complete; hence their independence grew more
haughty, their individualism more intense. And these traits, exaggerated
as they were by force of environment, remain unweakened among their
descendants to the present day.

Here, then, is a key to much that is puzzling in highland character. In
the beginning isolation was forced upon the mountaineers; they accepted
it as inevitable and bore it with stoical fortitude until in time they
came to love solitude for its own sake and to find compensations in it
for lack of society.

Says a native writer, Miss Emma Miles, in a clever and illuminating book
on _The Spirit of the Mountains_: "We who live so far apart that we
rarely see more of one another than the blue smoke of each other's
chimneys are never at ease without the feel of the forest on every
side--room to breathe, to expand, to develop, as well as to hunt and to
wander at will. The nature of the mountaineer demands that he have
solitude for the unhampered growth of his personality, wing-room for his
eagle heart."

Such feeling, such longing, most of us have experienced in passing
moods; but in the highlander it is a permanent state of mind, sustaining
him from the cradle to the grave. To enjoy freedom and air and
elbow-room he cheerfully puts aside all that society can offer, and
stints himself and bears adversity with a calm and steadfast soul. To be
free, unbeholden, lord of himself and his surroundings--that is the wine
of life to a mountaineer.

Such a man cannot stand it to be bossed around. If he works for another,
it must be on a footing of equality. Poverty may oblige him to take a
turn on some "public works" (by which he means any job where many men
work together, such as lumbering or railroad building), but he must be
handled with more respect than is shown common laborers elsewhere. At a
sharp order or a curse from the foreman he will flare back: "That's
enough out o' you!" and immediately he will drop his tools. Generally he
will stay on a job just long enough to earn money for immediate needs;
then back to the farm he goes.

Bear in mind that in the mountains every person is accorded the
consideration that his own qualities entitle him to, and no whit more.
It has always been so. Our Highlanders have neither memory nor tradition
of ever having been herded together, lorded over, persecuted or denied
the privileges of free-men. So, even within their clans, there is no
servility nor any headship by right of birth. Leaders arise, when
needed, only by virtue of acknowledged ability and efficiency. In this
respect there is no analogy whatever to the clan system of ancient
Scotland, to which the loose social structure of our own highlanders has
been compared.

We might expect such fiery individualism to cool gradually as population
grew denser; but, oddly enough, crowding only intensifies it in the shy
backwoodsman. Neighborliness has not grown in the mountains--it is on
the wane. There are to-day fewer log-rollings and house-raisings, fewer
husking bees and quilting parties than in former times; _and no new
social gatherings have taken their place_. Our mountain farmer, seeing
all arable land taken up, and the free range ever narrowing, has grown
jealous and distrustful, resenting the encroachment of too many sharers
in what once he felt was his own unfenced domain. And so it has come
about that the very quality that is his strength and charm as a man--his
staunch individualism--is proving his weakness and reproach as a
neighbor and citizen. The virtue of a time out-worn has become the vice
of an age new-born.

The mountaineers are non-social. As they stand to-day, each man
"fighting for his own hand, with his back against the wall," they
recognize no social compact. Each one is suspicious of the other. Except
as kinsmen or partisans they cannot pull together. Speak to them of
community of interests, try to show them the advantages of co-operation,
and you might as well be proffering advice to the North Star. They will
not work together zealously even to improve their neighborhood roads,
each mistrusting that the other may gain some trifling advantage over
himself or turn fewer shovelfuls of earth. Labor chiefs fail to organize
unions or granges among them because they simply will not stick

Miss Miles says of her people (the italics are my own): "There is no
such thing as a community of mountaineers. They are knit together, man
to man, as friends, but not as a body of men.... Our men are almost
incapable of concerted action unless they are needed by the
Government.... Between blood-relationship and the Federal Government no
relations of master and servant, rich and poor, learned and ignorant,
employer and employee, are interposed to bind society into a whole....
_The mountaineers must awake to a consciousness of themselves as a
people._ For although throughout the highlands of Kentucky, Tennessee
and the Carolinas our nature is one, our hopes, our loves, our daily
life the same, we are yet a people asleep, _a race without knowledge of
its own existence_. This condition is due ... to the isolation that
separates the mountaineer from all the world but his own blood and kin,
and to the consequent utter simplicity of social relations. When they
shall have established a unity of thought corresponding to their
homogeneity of character, then their love of country will assume a
practical form, and then, indeed, America, with all her peoples, can
boast no stronger sons than these same mountaineers."

To the Highlanders of four States here mentioned should be added all
those of Old Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia, and Alabama, making an
aggregate to-day of close on four million souls. Together they
constitute a distinct people. Not only are they all closely akin in
blood, in speech, in ideas, in manners, in ways of living; but their
needs, their problems are identical throughout this vast domain. There
is no other ethnic group in America so unmixed as these mountaineers and
so segregated from all others.

And the strange thing is that they do not know it. Their isolation is so
complete that they have no race consciousness at all. In this respect I
can think of no other people on the face of the earth to which they may
be likened.

As compensation for the peculiar weakness of their social structure, the
Highlanders display an undying devotion to family and kindred.
Mountaineers everywhere are passionately attached to their homes. Tear
away from his native rock your Switzer, your Tyrolean, your Basque, your
Montenegrin, and all alike are stricken with homesickness beyond speech
or cure. At the first chance they will return, and thenceforth will
cling to their patrimonies, however poor these be.

So, too, our man of the Appalachians.--"I went down into the valley,
wunst, and I declar I nigh sultered! 'Pears like there ain't breath
enough to go round, with all them people. And the water don't do a body
no good; an' you cain't eat hearty, nor sleep good o' nights. Course
they pay big money down thar; but I'd a heap-sight ruther ketch me a big
old 'coon fer his hide. Boys, I did hone fer my dog Fiddler, an' the
times we'd have a-huntin', and the trout-fishin', an' the smell o' the
woods, and nobody bossin' and jowerin' at all. I'm a hill-billy, all
right, and they needn't to glory their old flat lands to me!"

Domestic affection is seldom expressed by the mountaineers--not even by
motherly or sisterly kisses--but it is very deep and real for all that.
In fact, the ties of kinship are stronger with them, and extend to
remoter degrees of consanguinity, than with any other Americans that I
know. Here again we see working the old feudal idea, an anachronism, but
often a beautiful one, in this bustling commercial age. Our hived and
promiscuous life in cities is breaking down the old fealty of kith and
kin. "God gives us our relatives," sighs the modern, "but, thank God, we
can choose our friends!" Such words would strike a mountaineer deep
with horror. Rather would he go the limit of Stevenson's Saint Ives:
"If it is a question of going to hell, go to hell like a gentleman, with
your ancestors!"

[Illustration: Photo by U. S. Forest Service

Whitewater Falls]

When the wilderness came to be settled by white men, courts were feeble
to puerility, and every man was a law unto himself. Many hard characters
came in with the pioneers--bad neighbors, arrogant, thievish, bold. As
society was not organized for mutual protection, it was inevitable that
cousin should look to cousin for help in time of trouble. So arose the
clan, the family league, and, as things change very slowly in the
mountains, we still have clan loyalty outside of and superior to the
law. "My family _right or wrong_!" is a slogan to which every highlander
will rise, with money or arms in hand, and for it he will lay down his
last dollar, the last drop of his blood. There is scarce any limit to
which this fealty will not go. Your brother or cousin may have committed
a crime that shocks you as it does all other decent citizens; but will
you give him up to the officers and testify against him? Not if you are
a mountaineer. You will hide him out in the laurel, carry him food, keep
him posted, help him to break jail, perjure yourself for him in
court--anything, everything, to get him clear.

We see here a survival, very real and widespread, in this
twentieth-century Appalachia, of a condition that was general throughout
the Scotch Highlands in the far past. "The great virtue of the
Highlander," says Lecky, "was his fidelity to his chief and to his clan.
It took the place of patriotism and of loyalty to his sovereign.... In
the reign of James V., an insurrection of Clan Chattan having been
suppressed by Murray, two hundred of the insurgents were condemned to
death. Each one as he was led to the gallows was offered a pardon if he
would reveal the hiding-place of his chief, but they all answered that,
were they acquainted with it, no sort of punishment could induce them to
be guilty of treachery to their leader.... In 1745 the house of
Macpherson of Cluny was burnt to the ground by the King's troops. A
reward of £1,000 was offered for his apprehension. A large body of
soldiers was stationed in the district and a step of promotion was
promised to any officer who should secure him. Yet for nine years the
chief was able to live concealed on his own property in a cave which his
clansmen dug for him during the night, and, though upwards of one
hundred persons knew of his place of retreat, no bribe or menace could
extort the secret."

The same chivalrous, self-sacrificing fidelity to family and to clan
leader is still shown by our own highlanders, as scores of feuds and
hundreds of criminal trials attest. All this is openly and unblushingly
"above the law"; but let us remember that the law itself, in many of
these localities, is but a feeble, dilatory thing that offers
practically no protection to those who would obey its letter. So, in an
imperfectly organized society, it is good to have blood-ties that are
faithful unto death. And none knows it better than he who has missed
it--he who has lived strange and alone in some wild, lawless region
where everyone else had a clan to back him.

So far as primitive society is concerned, we may admit with the Scotch
historian Henderson that "the clan system of government was in its way
an ideally perfect one--probably the only perfect one that has ever
existed.... The clansman was not the subject--a term implying some sort
of conquest--but the kinsman of his chief.... Obedience became rather a
privilege than a task, and no possible bribery or menace could shake his
fidelity. Towards the Sassenach or the members of clans at feud with him
he might act meanly, treacherously, and cruelly without check and
without compunction, for there he recognized no moral obligations
whatever. But as a clansman to his clan he was courteous, truthful,
virtuous, benevolent, with notions of honor as punctilious as those of
the ancient knight."

The trouble with clan government was, as this same writer has pointed
out, that "it was the very thoroughness of its adaptation to early needs
that made it so hard to adjust to new necessities. In its principles and
motives it was essentially opposed to the bent of modern influences. Its
appeal was to sentiment rather than to law or even reason: it was a
system not of the letter but of the spirit.... The clan system was
efficient only within a narrow area; it gave rise to interminable feuds;
and it was inapplicable to the circumstances created by the rise of
modern industry and trade."

Everywhere throughout Highland Dixie to-day we can observe how clan
loyalty interferes with the administration of justice. When a case
involving some strong family comes up in the courts, immediately a cloud
of false witnesses arises, men who should testify on the other side are
bribed or run out of the country before subpoenas can be served, and
every juror knows that his peace and prosperity in future depend largely
upon which side he espouses.

To what lengths the hostility of a clan may go in defying justice was
shown recently in the massacre of almost a whole court by the Allen clan
at Hillsville, Virginia. The news of that atrocity swept like wildfire
throughout all Appalachia, its history is being reviewed to-day in
thousands of mountain cabins, and it is deeply significant that, away
out here in western Carolina, where no Allen blood relationship
prejudices men's minds, the prevailing judgment of our backwoodsmen is
that the State of Virginia did wrong in executing any of the offenders.
"There was something back of it--you mark my words," say the country
folk. And the drummers, cattle-buyers, and others who pass this way from
southwestern Virginia tell us, "Everybody up our way sympathizes with
the Allens."

In some measure this morbid sentiment is due to the spectacular features
of the Hillsville tragedy. If there be one human quality that the
mountaineer admires above all others, it is "nerve." And what greater
display of nerve has been made in this generation than for a few
clansmen to shoot down a judge at the bench, the public prosecutor, the
sheriff, the clerk of the court, and two jurymen, then take to the
mountain laurel like Corsicans to the _maquis_, and defy the armed
power of the country? The cause does not matter, to a mountaineer. Our
Highlanders are anything but robbers, for instance, and yet the only
outsider who has ballads sung in his memory throughout Appalachia is
Jesse James!--unless Jack Donohue was one--I do not know.--

  Come all ye bold undaunted men
    And outlaws of the day,
  Who'd rather wear the ball and chain
    Than work in slavery!

     *       *       *       *

  Said Donohue to his comrades,
    "If you'll prove true to me,
  This day I'll fight with all my might,
    I'll fight for liberty;
  Be of good courage, be bold and strong,
    Be galliant and be true;
  This day I'll fight with all my might,"
    Says bold Jack Donohue.

     *       *       *       *

  Six policemen he shot down
    Before the fatal ball
  Pierced the heart of Donohue
    And 'casioned him to fall;
  And then he closed his struggling eyes,
  And bid this world adieu.
    Come all ye boys that fear no noise,
    And pray for Donohue!

No doubt the mountain minstrels are already composing ballads in honor
of the Allens; for it is a fact we cannot blink at that the outlaw is
the popular hero of Appalachia to-day, as Rob Roy and Robin Hood were in
the Britain of long ago. This is not due to any ingrained hostility to
law and order as such, but simply to admiration for any men who fight
desperately against overwhelming odds. There is a glamour about bold and
lawless adventure that fascinates mature men and women who have never
outgrown youthful habits of mind. Whoever has the reputation of being a
dangerous man to cross--the "marked" man, who carries his life upon his
sleeve, but bears himself as a smiling cavalier--he is the only true
aristocrat among a valorous but primitive people.

But this is only half an explanation. The statement that our highlanders
are not hostile to law and order must be qualified to this extent: they
have a profound distrust of the courts. The mountaineer is not only a
born fighter but he is also litigious by nature and tradition. A
stranger will be surprised to find how deeply the average backwoodsman
is versed in the petty subtleties of legal practice. It comes from
experience. "Court-week" draws bigger crowds than a circus. The
mountaineer who has never served as juror, witness, or principal in a
lawsuit is a curiosity. And this familiarity has bred secret contempt. I
violate no confidence in saying that many a mountaineer would hold up
one hand to testify his respect for the law while the other hand hovered
over his pistol.

Why so?

Just because his experience has taught him (rightly or wrongly--but he
firmly believes it) that courts are swayed by sinister influences when
important matters are at stake. Those influences are clan money and clan
votes. Hence, if he or a kinsman be involved in "lawin'" with a member
of some rival tribe, he does not look for impartial treatment, but
prepares to fight cunning with cunning, local influence with local
influence. There are no moral obligations here. "All's fair in love and
war"--and this is one form of war.

If the reader will take down his _David Balfour_ and read the intrigues,
plots, and counterplots of David's attorneys and those of the Crown, he
will grasp our own highlanders' viewpoint.

[Illustration: Photo by Arthur Keith

The road follows the Creek.--There may be a dozen fords in a mile.]

That mountain courts are often impotent is due in part to the
limitations under which their officers are obliged to serve. For
example, in the judicial district where I reside, the solicitor
(State's attorney) receives nothing but fees, and then only _in case
of conviction_. It might seem that this would stir him to extra zeal,
and perhaps it does; but he has a large circuit, there are no local
officials specially interested in securing evidence for him while the
case is white-hot, everything spurs the defendant to get rid of
dangerous witnesses before the solicitor can get at them, public opinion
is extremely lenient toward homicides, and man-slayers so often get off
scot-free after the most faithful and laborious efforts of the
solicitor, that he becomes discouraged.

The sheriff, too, serves without salary, getting only fees and a
percentage of tax collections. How this works, in securing witnesses,
may be shown by an anecdote.--

I looked up from my work, one day, to see a neighbor striding swiftly
along the trail that passed my cabin.

"You seem in a hurry, John. Woods afire?"

"No: I'm dodgin' the sheriff."

"Whose pig was it?"

"Aw! He wants me as witness in a concealed weepon case."

"One of your boys?"

"Huk-uh: nobody as I'm keerin' fer."

"Then why don't you go?"

"I cain't afford to. I'd haffter walk nineteen miles out to the
railroad, pay seventy cents the round-trip to the county-site, pay my
board thar fer mebbe a week, and then a witness don't git no fee at all
onless they convict."

"What does the sheriff get for coming away up here?"

"Thirty cents for each witness he cotches. He won't git me, Mister Man;
not if I know these woods since yistiddy."

Verily the law of Swain is hard on the solicitor, hard on the sheriff,
and hard on the witness, too!

Mountaineers place a low valuation on human life. I need not go outside
my own habitat for illustrations. In our judicial district, which
comprises the westernmost seven counties of North Carolina, the present
yearly toll of homicides varies, according to counties, from about one
in 1,000 to one in 2,500 of the population. And ours is not a feud
district, nor are there any negroes to speak of. Compare these figures
with the rate of homicide in the United States at large, about one to
8,300 population; of Italy, one to 66,000; Great Britain, one to
111,000; Germany, one to 200,000.

And the worst of it is that no Black Hand conspirators or ward gun-men
or other professional criminals figure in these killings. Practically
all of them are committed by representative citizens, mostly farmers.
Take that fact home, and think what it means. Remember, too, that most
of these murderers either escape with light penal sentences or none at
all. The only capital sentence imposed in our district within the past
ten years was upon an Indian who had assaulted and murdered a white girl
(there was no red tape or procrastination about _that_ trial, the
court-house being filled with men who were ready to lynch him under the
judge's nose if the sentence were not satisfactory).

I said at the very outset of this book that "Our mountain folk still
live in the eighteenth century. The progress of mankind from that age to
this is no heritage of theirs.... And so, in order to be fair and just
with these our backward kinsmen, we must, for the time, decivilize
ourselves to the extent of _going back_ and getting an eighteenth
century point of view."

As regards the valuation of human life, what was that point of view?

The late Professor Shaler of Harvard, himself a Southerner, one time
explained the prevalence of manslaughter among southern gentlemen. His
remarks apply with equal truth to our mountaineers, for they, however
poor they may be in worldly goods, are by no means "poor white trash,"
but rather patricians, like the ragged but lofty chiefs and clansmen of
old Scotland.--

     "Nothing so surprises the northern people as the fact that southern
     men of good estate will, for what seems to the distant onlooker
     trifling matters of dispute, proceed to slay each other. Nothing so
     gravely offends the characteristic southern man as the incapacity
     of his brethren of northern societies to perceive that such action
     is natural and consistent with the rules of gentlemanly behavior.
     The only way to understand these differences of opinion is by a
     proper consideration of the history of the moral growth of these
     diverse peoples.

     "The Southerner has retained and fostered--in a certain way
     reinstated--the medieval estimate as to the value of life. In the
     opinion of those ages it was but lightly esteemed; it was not a
     supreme good for which almost all else was to be sacrificed, but
     something to be taken in hand and put in risk in the pursuit of
     manly ideals.

     "Modernism has worked to intensify the passion for existence until
     those who are the most under its dominion cannot well conceive how
     a man, except for some supreme duty to which he is pledged by
     altruistic motives, can give up his own life or take that of his
     neighbor. If these people of to-day will but perceive that the
     characteristic Southerner has preserved the motives of two
     centuries ago, if they will but inform themselves as to the state
     of mind on this subject which prevailed in the epoch when those
     motives were shaped in men, they will see that their judgment is
     harsh and unreasonable. It is much as if they judged the actions of
     Englishmen of the seventeenth century by the changed standards of

     "Nor will it be altogether reasonable to condemn the lack of regard
     of life which we find in the southern gentleman as compared with
     his northern contemporary. We must, of course, reprobate in every
     way the evil consequences of this state of mind; but the question
     as to the propriety of that extreme devotion to continued mundane
     existence which is so manifest in our modern civilization is
     certainly open to debate. Irrational and brutal as are the ways in
     which the old-fashioned gentleman of the South shows that his
     regard for his own honor or that of his household outweighs his
     love of life, it must be remembered that the same condition existed
     in the richest ages of our race--those which gave proportionally
     the largest share of ability and nobility to its history.

     "As long as men are more keenly sensitive to the opinions of their
     fellows than they are to the other goods which existence brings
     them, as long as this opinion makes personal valor and truthfulness
     the jewels of their lives, we must expect now and then to have
     degradation of the essentially noble motives. It is, undoubtedly, a
     dangerous state of mind, but not one that is degraded."--(_North
     American Review_, October, 1890.)

"The motives of two centuries ago" are the motives of present-day
Appalachia. Here the right of private war is not questioned, outside of
a judge's charge from the bench, which everybody takes as a mere
formality, a convention that is not to be taken seriously. The argument
is this: that when Society, as represented by the State, cannot protect
a man or secure him his dues, then he is not only justified but in duty
bound to defend himself or seize what is his own. And in the mountains
Society with the big _S_ is often powerless against the Clan with a
bigger _C_.



In Corsica, when a man is wronged by another, public sentiment requires
that he redress his own grievance, and that his family and friends shall
share the consequences.

"Before the law made us citizens, great Nature made us men."

"When one has an enemy, one must choose between the three
S's--_schiopetto, stiletto, strada_: the rifle, the dagger, or

"There are two presents to be made to an enemy--_palla calda o ferro
freddo_: hot shot or cold steel."

The Corsican code of honor does not require that vengeance be taken in
fair fight. Rather should there be a sudden thrust of the knife, or a
pistol fired point-blank into the enemy's breast, or a rifle-shot from
some ambush picked in advance.

The assassin is not conscious of any cowardice in such act. If the
trouble between him and his foe had been strictly a personal matter, to
be settled forever by one man's fall, then he might have welcomed a
duel with all the punctilios. But his blood is not his alone--it belongs
to his clan. Whenever a Corsican is slain his family takes up the feud.
A vendetta ensues--a war of extermination by clan against clan.

Now, the chief object of war, as all strategists agree, is to inflict
the greatest loss upon the enemy with the least loss to one's own side.
Hence we have hostilities without declaration of war; we have the
ambush, the night attack, masked batteries, mines and submarines. Thus
we murder hundreds asleep or unshriven. This is war.

Moreover, while a soldier must be brave in any extremity, it is no less
his duty to save himself unharmed as long as he can, so that he may help
his own side and kill more and more of the enemy. Therefore it is proper
and military for him to "snipe" his foes by deliberate sharpshooting
from behind any lurking-place that he can find. This is war.

And the vendetta, says our Corsican, is nothing else than war.

When Matteo has been slain by an enemy, his friends carry his body home
and swear vengeance over the corpse, while his wife soaks her
handkerchief in his wounds to keep as a token whereby she will incite
her children, as they grow up, to war against all kinsmen of their
father's murderer.

Then a son or brother of Matteo slips forth into the night, full-armed
to slay like a dog any member of the rival faction whom he may find at a
disadvantage. The deed done, he flies to the _maquis_, the mountain
thicket, and there he will hide, dodging the gendarmes, fighting off his
enemies--an outlaw with a price upon his head, but pitied or admired by
all Corsicans outside the feud, and succored by his clan.

It is a far cry from the Mediterranean to our own Appalachia: so why
this prelude? Our mountaineers never heard of Corsica. Not a drop of
South European blood flows in their veins. Few of them ever heard one
word of a foreign tongue. True. And yet we shall mark some strange
analogies between Corsican vendettas and Appalachian feuds, Corsican
clannishness and Appalachian clannishness, Corsican women and our
mountain women--before this chapter ends.

Long, long ago, in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, Dr. Abner Baker
married a Miss White. Daniel Bates married Baker's sister, but separated
from her in 1844. Baker charged Bates with undue intimacy with his wife,
and killed him. The Whites, defending their kinswoman, prosecuted the
Doctor, but he was acquitted, and moved to Cuba.

Afterwards Baker returned. In flat violation of the Constitution of the
United States, he was tried a second time for the murder of Bates, was
convicted, and was hanged. Thenceforth there was "bad blood" between the
Bakers and the Whites, involving the Garrards on one side and the
Howards on the other, as allies to the respective clans.

In 1898, Tom Baker, reputed to be the best shot in the Kentucky
mountains, bought a note given by A. B. Howard, for whom he was cutting
timber. Howard became furious, a fight ensued, one of the Howard boys
and Burt Stores were killed from ambush, and the elder Howard was

Thereupon Jim Howard, son of the clan chief, sought out Tom Baker's
father, who was county attorney, compelled the unarmed old man to fall
upon his knees, shot him twenty-five times with careful aim to avoid a
vital spot, and so killed him by inches. Howard was tried and convicted
of murder, but it is said that a pardon was offered him if he would go
to the State Capitol at Frankfort and assassinate Governor Goebel, which
he is charged with having done.

In Clay County, where this feud waged, the judge, clerk, sheriff, and
jailer were of the White clan. Tom Baker killed a brother of the sheriff
and took to the hills rather than give himself up to a court ruled by
his foemen. Then Albert Garrard was fired upon from ambush while riding
with his wife to a religious meeting. He removed to Pineville, in
another county, under guard of two armed men, both of whom were shot
dead "from the bresh."

Governor Bradley sent State troops into Clay County, and Tom Baker
surrendered to them. Baker was tried in the Knox Circuit Court, on a
change of venue, and was sentenced to the penitentiary for life. On
appeal his attorneys secured a reversal of the verdict, and Baker was
released on bail. The new trial was set for June, 1899. Governor Bradley
again sent a company of State militia, with a Gatling gun, to Manchester
where the trial was to be held. Baker was put in a guard-tent surrounded
by a squad of soldiers. A hundred yards or so from this tent stood the
unoccupied residence of the sheriff, at the foot of a wooded mountain.
An assassin hidden in this house spied upon the guard-tent, and, when
Baker appeared, shot him dead with a rifle, then took to the woods and

I quote now from a history of this feud published in _Munsey's Magazine_
of November, 1903.--

     "Captain John Bryan, of the 2d Kentucky, said to the widow of the
     murdered Tom Baker, after they returned from the funeral:

     "'Mrs. Baker, why don't you leave this miserable country and escape
     from these terrible feuds? Move away, and teach your children to

     "'Captain Bryan,' said the widow, and she spoke evenly and quietly,
     'I have twelve sons. It will be the chief aim of my life to bring
     them up to avenge their father's death. Each day I shall show my
     boys _the handkerchief stained with his blood_, and tell them who
     murdered him.'"

Corsican vendetta or Kentucky feud--what are language and race against
age-long isolation and an environment that keeps humanity feral to the

Shortly after Baker's death, four Griffins, of the White-Howard faction,
ambushed Big John Philpotts and his cousin, wounding the former severely
and the latter mortally. Big John fought them from behind a log and
killed all four.

On July 17, 1899, four of the Philpotts were attacked by four Morrises,
of the Howard side. Three men were killed, three mortally wounded, and
the other two were severely injured. No arrests were made.

Finally, in 1901, the two clans fought a pitched battle in front of the
court-house in Manchester. At its conclusion they formally signed a

This is a mere scenario of a feud in the wealthiest and best-schooled
county of eastern Kentucky. Two of the families involved were of
distinguished lineage, counting in their ranks a governor, three
generals, a member of Congress, and a prohibition candidate for the

In reviewing this feud, Governor Bradley stated:

     "The whole fault in Clay County is a vitiated public sentiment and
     a failure of the civil authorities to do their duty. The laws are
     insufficient for the Governor to apply a remedy. Such feuds have
     been in progress more or less for years, and no Governor of the
     State has ever been able to quell them. They have terminated only
     when their force was spent by one side or the other being killed or
     moving out of the country."

"The laws are insufficient for the Governor to apply a remedy." One
naturally asks, "How so?" The answer is that the Governor cannot send
troops into a county except upon request of the civil authorities, and
they must go as a posse to civil officers. In most feuds these officers
are partisans (in fact, it is a favorite ruse for one clan to win or
usurp the county offices before making war). Hence the State troops
would only serve as a reinforcement to one of the contending factions.
To show how this works out, we will sketch briefly the course of another

In Rowan County, Kentucky, in 1884, there was an election quarrel
between two members of the Martin and Toliver families. The Logans sided
with the Martins and the Youngs with the Tolivers. The Logan-Martin
faction elected their candidate for sheriff by a margin of twelve votes.
Then there was an affray in which one Logan was killed and three were

As usual, in feuds, no immediate redress was attempted, but the injured
clan plotted its vengeance with deadly deliberation. After five months,
Dick Martin killed Floyd Toliver. His own people worked the trick of
arresting him themselves and sent him to Winchester for safe-keeping.
The Tolivers succeeded in having him brought back on a forged order and
killed him when he was bound and helpless.

The leader of the Young-Toliver faction was a notorious bravo named
Craig Toliver. To strengthen his power he became candidate for town
marshal of Morehead, and he won the office by intimidation at the polls.
Then, for two years, a bushwhacking war went on. Three times the
Governor sent troops into Rowan County, but each time they found nothing
but creeks and thickets to fight. Then he prevailed upon the clans to
sign a truce and expatriate their chiefs for one year in distant States.
Craig Toliver obeyed the order by going to Missouri, but returned
several months before the expiration of his term, _resumed office_, and
renewed his atrocities. In the warfare that ensued all the county
officers were involved, from the judge down.

In 1887, Proctor Knott, Governor of Kentucky, said in his message, of
the Logan-Toliver feud:

     "Though composed of only a small portion of the community, these
     factions have succeeded by their violence in overawing and
     silencing the voice of the peaceful element, and in intimidating
     the officers of the law. Having their origin partly in party
     rancor, they have ceased to have any political significance, and
     have become contests of personal ambition and revenge; each party
     seeking apparently to possess itself of the machinery of justice in
     order that it may, under the forms of law, seek the gratification
     of personal animosities.

     "During the present year the local leader of one of these factions
     came in possession of the office of police judge of the town of
     Morehead. Under color of the authority of that office, and
     sustained by an armed band of adherents, he exercised despotic sway
     over the town and its vicinage. He banished citizens who were
     obnoxious to him; and, in one instance, after arresting two
     citizens who seem to have been guilty of no offense, he and his
     party, attended by a deputy sheriff of the county, murdered them in
     cold blood.

     "This act of atrocity fully aroused the community. A posse acting
     under the authority of a warrant from the county judge attacked the
     police judge and his adherents on the 22d of June last, killed
     several of their number, and put the rest to flight, and
     temporarily restored something like tranquility to the community.

     "The proceedings of the Circuit Court, which was held in August,
     were not calculated to inspire the citizens with confidence in
     securing justice. The report of the Adjutant General on this
     subject shows, from information derived 'from representative men
     without reference to party affiliations,' that the judge of the
     Circuit Court seems so far under the influence of the reputed
     leader of one of the factions as to permit such an organization of
     the grand juries as will effectually prevent the indictment of
     members of that faction for the most flagrant crimes."

The posse here mentioned was organized by Daniel Boone Logan, a cousin
of the two young men who had been murdered, a college graduate, and a
lawyer of good standing. With the assent of the Governor, he gathered
fifty to seventy-five picked men and armed them with the best modern
rifles and revolvers. Some of the men were of his own clan; others he
hired. His plan was to end the war by exterminating the Tolivers.

[Illustration: Photo by U. S. Forest Service

"Dense forest luxuriant undergrowth."--Mixed hardwoods, Jackson Co., N. C.]

The posse, led by Logan and the sheriff, suddenly surrounded the town of
Morehead. Everybody gave in except Craig Toliver, Jay Toliver, Bud
Toliver, and Hiram Cook, who barricaded themselves in the railroad
station, where all of them were shot dead by the posse.

Boone Logan was indicted for murder. At the trial he admitted the
killings; but he showed that the feud had cost the lives of not less
than twenty-three men, that not one person had been legally punished for
these murders, and that he had acted for the good of the public in
ending this infamous struggle. The court accepted this view of the case,
the community sustained it, and the "war" was closed.

A feud, in the restricted sense here used, is an armed conflict between
families, each endeavoring to exterminate or drive out the other. It
spreads swiftly not only to blood-kin and relatives by marriage, but to
friends and retainers as well. It may lie dormant for a time, perhaps
for a generation, and then burst forth with recruited strength long
after its original cause has ceased to interest anyone, or maybe after
it has been forgotten.

Such feuds are by no means prevalent throughout the length and breadth
of Appalachia, but are restricted mostly to certain well defined
districts, of which the chief, in extent of territory as well as in the
number and ferocity of its "wars," is the country round the upper waters
of the Kentucky, Licking, Big Sandy, Tug, and Cumberland rivers,
embracing many of the mountain counties of eastern Kentucky and
adjoining parts of West Virginia, Old Virginia, and Tennessee. In this
thinly settled region probably five hundred men have been slain in feuds
since our centennial year, and only three of the murderers, so far as I
know, have been executed by law.

The active feudists, as a rule, include only a small part of the
community; but public sentiment, in feud districts, approves or at least
tolerates the vendetta, just as it does in Corsica or the Balkans. Those
citizens who are not directly implicated take pains to hear little and
see less. They keep their mouths shut. They can neither be persuaded,
bribed, nor coerced into informing or testifying against either side,
but, on the contrary, will throw dust in the eyes of an investigator or
try to stare him down. A jury composed of such men will not convict

When a feud is raging, nobody outside the warring clans is in any danger
at all. A stranger is safer in the heart of Feuddom than he would be in
Chicago or New York, so long as he attends strictly to his own business,
asks no questions, and tells no "tales." If, on the contrary, he should
express horror or curiosity, he is regarded as a busybody or suspected
as a spy, and is likely to be run out of the country or even "laywayed"
and silenced forever.

What causes feuds?

Some of them start in mere drunken rows or in a dispute over a game of
cards; others in quarrels over land boundaries or other property. The
Hatfield-McCoy feud started because Randolph McCoy penned up two wild
hogs that were claimed by Floyd Hatfield. The spite over these hogs
broke out two years later, and one partisan was killed from ambush. The
feud itself began in 1882 over a debt of $1.75, with the hogs and the
bushwhacking brought up in recrimination. Love of women is the primary
cause, or the secondary aggravation, of many a feud. Some of the most
widespread and deadliest vendettas have originated in political strifes.

It should be understood that national and state politics cut little or
no figure in these "wars." Local politics in most of the mountain
counties is merely a factional fight, in which family matters and
business interests are involved, and the contest becomes bitterly
personal on that account. This explains most of the collusion or
partisanship of county officers and their remissness in enforcing the
law in murder cases. Family ties or political alliances override even
the oath of office.

Within the past year I have heard a deputy sheriff admit nonchalantly,
on the stand, that when a homicide was committed near him, and he was
the only officer in the vicinity, he advised the slayer to take to the
mountains and "hide out." The judge questioned him sharply on this
point, was reassured by the witness that it was so, and then--offered no
comment at all. Within the same period, in another but not distant
court, a desperado from the Shelton Laurel, on trial for murder,
admitted that he had shot six men since he moved over from Tennessee to
North Carolina, and swore that while he was being held in jail pending
trial for this last offense the sheriff permitted him to "keep a gun in
his cell, drink whiskey in the jail, and eat at table with the family of
the sheriff."

Feuds spread not only through clan fealty but also because they offer
excellent chances to pay off old scores. The mountaineer has a long
memory. The average highlander is fiery and combative by nature, but at
the same time cunning and vindictive. If publicly insulted he will
strike at once, but if he feels wronged by some act that does not demand
instant retaliation he will brood over it and plot patiently to get his
enemy at a disadvantage. Some mountaineers always fight fair; but many
of them prefer to wait and watch quietly until the foe gets drunk and
unwary, or until he is engaged in some illegal or scandalous act, or
until he is known to be carrying a concealed weapon, whereupon he can be
shot down unexpectedly and his assailant can "prove" by friendly
witnesses that he acted in self-defense. So, if a man be involved in
feud, he may be assassinated from ambush by someone who is not concerned
in the clan trouble, but who has hated him for years on another account,
and who knows that his death now will be charged up to the opposing

From the earliest times it has been customary for our highlanders to go
armed most of the time. This was a necessity in the old Indian-fighting
days, and throughout the kukluxing and white-capping era following the
Civil War. Such a habit, once formed, is hard to eradicate. Even to-day,
in all parts of Appalachia that I am familiar with, most of the young
men, I judge, and many of the older ones, carry concealed weapons.

Among them I have never seen a stand-up and knock-down fight according
to the rules of the ring. They have many rough-and-tumble brawls, in
which they slug, wrestle, kick, bite, strangle, until one gets the other
down, whereat the one on top continues to maul his victim until he cries
"Enough!" Oftener a club or stone will be used in mad endeavor to knock
the opponent senseless at a blow. There is no compunction about striking
foul and very little about "double-teaming." Let us pause long enough to
admit that this was the British and American way of man-handling,
universal among the common people, until well into the nineteenth
century--and the mountaineers are still ignorant of any other, except
fighting with weapons.

Many of the young men carry home-made billies or "brass knucks." Every
man and boy has at least a pocket-knife with serviceable blade. Fights
with such crude weapons are frequent. There are few spectacles more
sickening than two powerful but awkward men slashing each other with
common jack-knives, though the fatalities are much less frequent than in
gun-fighting. I have known two old mountain preachers to draw knives on
each other at the close of a sermon.

The typical highland bravo always carries a revolver or an automatic
pistol. This is likely to be a weapon of large bore and good
stopping-power that is worn in a shoulder-holster concealed under the
coat or vest or shirt. Most mountaineers are good shots with such arms,
though not so deadly quick as the frontiersmen of our old-time West--in
fact, they cannot be so quick without wearing the weapon exposed. When a
highlander has time, he prefers to hold his pistol in both hands (left
clasped over right) and aims it as he would a rifle. To a Westerner such
gun practice looks absurd; but it is accurate, beyond question. Few
mountain gun-fights fail to score at least one victim.

The average mountain woman is as combative in spirit as her menfolk. She
would despise any man who took insult or injury without showing fight.
In fact, the woman, in many cases, deliberately stirs up trouble out of
vanity, or for the sheer excitement of it. Some of the older women
display the ferocity of she-wolves. The mother of a large family said in
my presence, with the calm earnestness of one fully experienced: "If a
feller 'd treated me the way ------ did ------ I'd git me a
forty-some-odd and shoot enough meat off o' his bones to feed a
hound-dog a week." Three of this woman's brothers had been shot dead in
frays. One of them killed the first husband of her sister, who married
again, and whose second husband was killed by a man with whom she then
tried a third matrimonial venture. Such matters may not be interesting
in themselves, but they give one pause when he learns, in addition, that
these people are received as friends and on a footing of equality by
everybody in their community.

That the mountaineers are fierce and relentless in their feuds is beyond
denial. A warfare of bushwhacking and assassination knows no
refinements. Quarter is neither given nor expected. Property, however,
is not violated, and women are not often injured. There have been some
atrocious exceptions. In the Hatfield-McCoy feud, Cap Hatfield and Tom
Wallace attacked the latter's wife and her mother at night, dragged both
women from bed, and Cap beat the old woman with a cow's tail that he had
clipped off "jes' to see 'er jump." He broke two of the woman's ribs,
leaving her injured for life, while Tom beat his wife. Later, on New
Year's night, 1888, a gang of the Hatfields surrounded the home of
Randolph McCoy, killed the eldest daughter, Allaphare, broke her
mother's ribs and knocked her senseless with their guns, and killed a
son, Calvin. In several instances women who fought in defense of their
homes have been killed, as in the case of Mrs. Charles Daniels and her
16-year-old daughter, in Pike County, Kentucky, in November, 1909.

The mountain women do not shrink from feuds, but on the contrary excite
and cheer their men to desperate deeds, and sometimes fight by their
side. In the French-Eversole feud, a woman, learning that her unarmed
husband was besieged by his foes, seized his rifle, filled her apron
with cartridges, rushed past the firing-line, and stood by her "old man"
until he beat his assailants off. When men are "hiding out" in the
laurel, it is the women's part, which they never shirk, to carry them
food and information.

In every feud each clan has a leader, a man of prominence either on
account of his wealth or his political influence or his shrewdness or
his physical prowess. This leader's orders are obeyed, while hostilities
last, with the same unquestioning loyalty that the old Scotch retainer
showed to his chieftain. Either the leader or someone acting for him
supplies the men with food, with weapons if they need them, with
ammunition, and with money. Sometimes mercenaries are hired. Mr. Fox
says that "In one local war, I remember, four dollars per day were the
wages of the fighting man, and the leader on one occasion, while
besieging his enemies--in the county court-house--tried to purchase a
cannon, and from no other place than the State arsenal, and from no
other personage than the Governor himself." In some of the feuds
professional bravos have been employed who would assassinate, for a few
dollars, anybody who was pointed out to them, provided he was alien to
their own clans.

The character of the highland bravo is precisely that of the western
"bad man" as pictured by Jed Parker in Stewart Edward White's _Arizona

     "'There's a good deal of romance been written about the "bad man,"
     and there's about the same amount of nonsense. The bad man is just
     a plain murderer, neither more nor less. He never does get into a
     real, good, plain, stand-up gun-fight if he can possibly help it.
     His killin's are done from behind a door, or when he's got his man
     dead to rights. There's Sam Cook. You've all heard of him. He had
     nerve, of course, and when he was backed into a corner he made
     good; and he was sure sudden death with a gun. But when he went out
     for a man deliberate, he didn't take no special chances....

     "'The point is that these yere bad men are a low-down, miserable
     proposition, and plain, cold-blooded murderers, willin' to wait for
     a sure thing, and without no compunctions whatever. The bad man
     takes you unawares, when you're sleepin', or talkin', or drinkin',
     or lookin' to see what for a day it's goin' to be, anyway. He don't
     give you no show, and sooner or later he's goin' to get you in the
     safest and easiest way for himself. There ain't no romance about

And there is no romance about a real mountain feud. It is marked by
suave treachery, "double-teaming," "laywaying," "blind-shooting," and
general heartlessness and brutality. If one side refuses to assassinate
but seeks open, honorable combat, as has happened in several feuds, it
is sure to be beaten. Whoever appeals to the law is sure to be beaten.
In either case he is considered a fool or a coward by most of the
countryside. Our highlander, untouched by the culture of the world about
him, has never been taught the meaning of fair play. Magnanimity to a
fallen foe he would regard as sure proof of an addled brain. The motive
of one who forgives his enemy is utterly beyond his comprehension. As
for bushwhacking, "Hit's as fa'r for one as 'tis for t'other. You can't
fight a man fa'r and squar who'll shoot you in the back. A pore man
can't fight money in the courts." In this he is simply his ancient
Scotch or English ancestor born over again. Such was the code of
Jacobite Scotland and Tudor England. And _back there_ is where our
mountaineer belongs in the scale of human evolution.

The feud, as Miss Miles puts it, is an outbreak of _perverted_ family
affection. Its mainspring is an honorable clan loyalty. It is a direct
consequence of the clan organization that our mountaineers preserve as
it was handed down to them by their forefathers. The implacability of
their vengeance, the treacheries they practice, the murders from ambush,
are invariable features of clan warfare wherever and by whomsoever it is
waged. They are not vices or crimes peculiar to the Kentuckian or the
Corsican or the Sicilian or the Albanian or the Arab, but natural
results of clan government, which in turn is a result of isolation, of
physical environment, of geographical position unfavorable to free
intercourse and commerce with the world at large.

The most hideous feature of the feud is the shooting down of unarmed or
unwarned men. Assassination, in our modern eyes, is the last and lowest
infamy of a coward. Such it truly is, when committed in the civilized
society of our day. But in studying primitive races, or in going back
along the line of our own ancestry to the civilized society of two
centuries ago, we must face and acknowledge the strange paradox of a
valorous and honorable people (according to their lights) who, in
certain cases, practiced assassination without compunction and, in fact,
with pride. History is red with it in those very "richest ages of our
race" that Professor Shaler cited. Until a century or two ago,
throughout Christendom, the secret murder of enemies was committed
unblushingly by nobles and kings and prelates, often with a pious "Thus
sayeth the Lord!" It was practiced by men valiant in open battle, and by
those wise in the counsels of the realm. Take Scotland, for example, as
pictured by a native writer.--

     "No tenet nor practice, no influence nor power nor principality in
     the Scotland of the past has outvied assassination in ascendancy or
     in moment. Not theoretically, indeed, but practically, it occupied
     for centuries a distinct, almost a supreme, place in her political
     constitution--was, in fact, the understood if not recognized
     expedient always in reserve should other milder and more hallowed
     methods fail of accomplishing the desired political or, it might
     be, religious consummation....

     "For centuries such justice as was exercised was haphazard and
     rude, and practically there was no law but the will of the
     stronger. Few, if any, of the great families but had their special
     feud; and feuds once originated survived for ages; to forget them
     would have been treason to the dead, and wild purposes of revenge
     were handed down from generation to generation as a sacred legacy.

     "To take an enemy at a disadvantage was not deemed mean and
     contemptible, but--

       'Of all the arts in which the wise excel
       Nature's chief masterpiece.'

     To do it boldly and adroitly was to win a peculiar halo of renown;
     and thus assassination ceased to be the weapon of the avowed
     desperado, and came to be wielded unblushingly not only by
     so-called men of honor, but by the so-called religious as well. A
     noble did not scruple to use it against his king, and the king
     himself felt no dishonor in resorting to it against a dangerous
     noble. James I. was hacked to death in the night by Sir Robert
     Graham; and James I. rid himself of the imperious and intriguing
     Douglas by suddenly stabbing him while within his own royal palace
     under protection of a safe conduct.

     "The leaders of the Reformation discerned in assassination (that of
     their enemies) the special 'work and judgment of God.'... When the
     assassination of Cardinal Beaton took place in 1546, all the savage
     details of it were set down by Knox with unbridled gusto. 'These
     things we wreat mearlie,' is his own ingenuous comment on his

     "The burden of George Buchanan's _De Jure Regni apud Scotos_ is the
     lawfulness or righteousness of the removal--by assassination or any
     other fitting or convenient means--of incompetent kings, whether
     heinously wicked and tyrannical or merely unwise and weak of
     purpose; and he cites as a case in point and an 'example in time
     coming,' the murder of James III., which, if it were only on
     account of the assassin's hideous travesty of the last offices of
     the Church, would deserve to be held in unique and everlasting
     detestation."--(Henderson, _Old-world Scotland_, 182-186.)

Yet the Scots have always been a notably warlike and fearless race. So,
too, are our southern mountaineers: in the Civil War and the Spanish War
they sent a larger proportion of their men into the service than almost
any other section of our country.

Let us not overlook the fact that it demands courage of a high order for
one to stay in a feud-infested district, conscious of being marked for
slaughter--stay there month in and month out, year in and year out, not
knowing at what moment he may be beset by overpowering numbers, from
what laurel thicket he may be shot, or at what hour of the night he may
be called to his door and struck dead before his family. On the credit
side of their valor, then, be it entered that few mountaineers will
shrink from such ordeal when, even from no fault of their own, it is
thrust upon them.

The blood-feud is simply a horrible survival of medievalism. It is the
highlander's misfortune to be stranded far out of the course of
civilization. He is no worse than that bygone age that he really belongs
to. In some ways he is better. He is far less cruel than his ancestors
were--than our ancestors were. He does not torture with the tumbril,
the stocks, the ducking-stool, the pillory, the branding-irons, the
ear-pruners and nostril-shears and tongue-branks that were in everyday
use under the old criminal code. He does not tie a woman to the cart's
tail and publicly lash her bare back until it streams with blood, nor
does he hang a man for picking somebody's pocket of twelve pence and a
farthing. He does not go slumming in bedlam, paying tuppence for the
sport of mocking the maniacs until they rattle their chains in rage or
horror. He does not turn executions of criminals into public festivals.
He never has been known to burn a condemned one at the stake. If he
hangs a man, he does not first draw his entrails and burn them before
his eyes, with a mob crowding about to jeer the poor devil's flinching
or to compliment him on his "nerve." Yet all these pleasantries were
proper and legal in Christian Britain two centuries ago.

This isolated and belated people who still carry on the blood-feud are
not half so much to blame for such a savage survival as the rich,
powerful, educated, twentieth-century nation that abandons them as if
they were hopelessly derelict or wrecked. It took but a few decades to
civilize Scotland. How much swifter and surer and easier are our means
of enlightenment to-day! Let us not forget that these highlanders are
blood of our blood and bone of our bone; for they are old-time Americans
to a man, proud of their nationality, and passionately loyal to the flag
that they, more than any other of us, according to their strength, have
fought and suffered for.



The Southern Appalachian Mountains happen to be parceled out among eight
different States, and for that reason they are seldom considered as a
geographical unit. In the same way their inhabitants are thought of as
Kentucky mountaineers or Carolina mountaineers, and so on, but not often
as a body of Appalachian mountaineers. And yet these inhabitants are as
distinct an ethnographic group as the mountains themselves are a
geographic group.

The mountaineers are homogeneous so far as speech and manners and
experiences and ideals can make them. In the aggregate they are nearly
twice as numerous and cover twice as much territory as any one of the
States among which they have been distributed; but in each of these
States they occupy only the backyard, and generally take back seats in
the councils of the commonwealth. They have been fenced off from each
other by political boundaries, and have no such coherence among
themselves as would come from common leadership or a sense of common
origin and mutual dependence.

And they are a people without annals. Back of their grandfathers they
have neither screed nor hearsay. "Borned in the kentry and ain't never
been out o' hit" is all that most of them can say for themselves. Here
and there one will assert, "My foreparents war principally Scotch," or
"Us Bumgyarners [Baumgartners] was Dutch," but such traditions of a
far-back foreign origin are uncommon.

Who are these southern mountaineers? Whence came they? What is the
secret of their belatedness and isolation?

Before the Civil War they were seldom heard of in the outside world.
Vaguely it was understood that the Appalachian highlands were occupied
by a peculiar people called "mountain whites." This odd name was given
them not to distinguish them from mountain negroes, for there were,
practically, no mountain negroes; but to indicate their similarity, in
social condition and economic status, to the "poor whites" of the
southern lowlands. It was assumed, on no historical basis whatever, that
the highlanders came from the more venturesome or desperate element of
the "poor whites," and differed from these only to the extent that
environment had shaped them.

Since this theory still prevails throughout the South, and is accepted
generally elsewhere on its face value, it deserves just enough
consideration to refute it.

The unfortunate class known as poor whites in the South is descended
mainly from the convicts and indentured servants with which England
supplied labor to the southern plantations before slavery days. The
Cavaliers who founded and dominated southern society came from the
conservative, the feudal element of England. Their character and
training were essentially aristocratic and military. They were not
town-dwellers, but masters of plantations. Their chief crop and article
of export was tobacco. The culture of tobacco required an abundance of
cheap and servile labor.

On the plantations there was little demand for skilled labor, small room
anywhere for a middle class of manufacturers and merchants, no
inducement for independent farmers who would till with their own hands.
Outside of the planters and a small professional class there was little
employment offered save what was menial and degrading. Consequently the
South was shunned, from the beginning, by British yeomanry and by the
thrifty Teutons such as flocked into the northern provinces. The demand
for menials on the plantations was met, then, by importing bond-servants
from Great Britain. These were obtained in three ways.--

1. Convicted criminals were deported to serve out their terms on the
plantations. Some of these had been charged only with political
offenses, and had the making of good citizens; but the greater number
were rogues of the shiftless and petty delinquent order, such as were
too lazy to work but not desperate enough to have incurred capital

2. Boys and girls, chiefly from the slums of British seaports, were
kidnapped and sold into temporary slavery on the plantations.

3. Impoverished people who wished to emigrate, but could not pay for
their passage, voluntarily sold their services for a term of years in
return for transportation.

Thus a considerable proportion of the white laborers of the South, in
the seventeenth century, were criminals or ne'er-do-wells from the
start. A large number of the others came from the dregs of society. As
for the remainder, the companionships into which they were thrust, the
brutalities to which they were subjected, their impotence before the
law, the contempt in which they were held by the ruling caste, and the
wretchedness of their prospect when released, were enough to undermine
all but the strongest characters. Few ever succeeded in rising to
respectable positions.

Then came a vast social change. At a time when the laboring classes of
Europe had achieved emancipation from serfdom, and feudalism was
overthrown, African slavery in our own Southland laid the foundation for
a new feudalism. Southern society reverted to a type that the rest of
the civilized world had outgrown.

The effect upon white labor was deplorable. The former bond-servants
were now freedmen, it is true, but freedmen shorn of such opportunities
as they were fitted to use. Sprung from a more or less degraded stock,
still branded by caste, untrained to any career demanding skill and
intelligence, devitalized by evil habits of life, densely ignorant of
the world around them, these, the naturally shiftless, were now turned
out into the backwoods to shift for themselves. It was inevitable that
most of them should degenerate even below the level of their former
estate, for they were no longer forced into steady industry.

The white freedmen generally became squatters on such land as was unfit
for tobacco, cotton, and other crops profitable to slave-owners. As the
plantations expanded, these freedmen were pushed further and further
back upon more and more sterile soil. They became "pine-landers" or
"piney-woods-people," "sand-hillers," "knob-people," "corn-crackers" or
"crackers," gaining a bare subsistence from corn planted and "tended"
chiefly by the women and children, from hogs running wild in the forest,
and from desultory hunting and fishing. As a class, such whites lapsed
into sloth and apathy. Even the institution of slavery they regarded
with cynical tolerance, doubtless realizing that if it were not for the
blacks they would be slaves themselves.

Now these poor whites had nothing to do with settling the mountains.
There was then, and still is, plenty of wild land for them in their
native lowlands. They had neither the initiative nor the courage to seek
a promised land far away among the unexplored and savage peaks of the
western country. They were a brave enough folk in facing familiar
dangers, but they had a terror of the unknown, being densely ignorant
and superstitious. The mountains, to those who ever heard of them,
suggested nothing but laborious climbing amid mysterious and portentous
perils. The poor whites were not highlanders by descent, nor had they a
whit of the bold, self-reliant spirit of our western pioneers. They
never entered Appalachia until after it had been won and settled by a
far manlier race, and even then they went only in driblets. The theory
that the southern mountains were peopled mainly by outcasts or refugees
from old settlements in the lowlands rests on no other basis than

How the mountains actually were settled is another and a very different

The first frontiersmen of the Appalachians were those Swiss and Palatine
Germans who began flocking into Pennsylvania about 1682. They settled
westward of the Quakers in the fertile limestone belts at the foot of
the Blue Ridge and the Alleghanies. Here they formed the Quakers' buffer
against the Indians, and, for some time, theirs were the westernmost
settlements of British subjects in America. These Germans were of the
Reformed or Lutheran faith. They were strongly democratic in a social
sense, and detested slavery. They were model farmers and many of them
were skilled workmen at trades.

Shortly after the tide of German immigration set into Pennsylvania,
another and quite different class of foreigners began to arrive in this
province, attracted hither by the same lodestones that drew the Germans,
namely, democratic institutions and religious liberty. These newcomers
were the Scotch-Irish, or Ulstermen of Ireland.

When James I., in 1607, confiscated the estates of the native Irish in
six counties of Ulster, he planted them with Scotch and English
Presbyterians. These outsiders came to be known as Scotch-Irish, because
they were chiefly of Scotch blood and had settled in Ireland. The native
Irish, to whom they were alien both by blood and by religion, detested
them as usurpers, and fought them many a bloody battle.

In time, as their leases in Ulster began to expire, the Scotch-Irish
themselves came in conflict with the Crown, by whom they were persecuted
and evicted. Then the Ulstermen began immigrating in large numbers to
Pennsylvania. As Froude says, "In the two years that followed the Antrim
evictions, thirty thousand Protestants left Ulster for a land where
there was no legal robbery, and where those who sowed the seed could
reap the harvest."

So it was that these people became, in their turn, our westernmost
frontiersmen, taking up land just outside the German settlements.
Immediately they began to clash with the Indians, and there followed a
long series of border wars, waged with extreme ferocity, in which
sometimes it is hard to say which side was most to blame. One thing,
however, is certain: if any race was ordained to exterminate the Indians
that race was the Scotch-Irish.

They were a brave but hot-headed folk, as might be expected of a people
who for a century had been planted amid hostile Hibernians. Justin
Winsor describes them as having "all that excitable character which goes
with a keen-minded adherence to original sin, total depravity,
predestination, and election," and as seeing "no use in an Indian but to
be a target for their bullets." They were quick-witted as well as
quick-tempered, rather visionary, imperious, and aggressive.

Being by tradition and habit a border people the Scotch-Irish pushed to
the extreme western fringe of settlement amid the Alleghanies. They were
not over-solicitous about the quality of soil. When Arthur Lee, of
Virginia, was telling Doctor Samuel Johnson, in London, of a colony of
Scotch who had settled upon a particularly sterile tract in western
Virginia, and had expressed his wonder that they should do so, Johnson
replied, "Why, sir, all barrenness is comparative: the Scotch will never
know that it is barren."

West of the Susquehanna, however, the land was so rocky and poor that
even the Scotch shied at it, and so, when eastern Pennsylvania became
crowded, the overflow of settlers passed not westward but southwestward,
along the Cumberland Valley, into western Maryland, and then into the
Shenandoah and those other long, narrow, parallel valleys of western
Virginia that we noted in our first chapter. This western region still
lay unoccupied and scarcely known by the Virginians themselves. Its
fertile lands were discovered by Pennsylvania Dutchmen. The first house
in western Virginia was erected by one of them, Joist Hite, and he
established a colony of his people near the future site of Winchester. A
majority of those who settled in the eastern part of the Shenandoah
Valley were Pennsylvania Dutch, while the Scotch-Irish, following in
their train, pushed a little to the west of them and occupied more
exposed positions. There were representatives of other races along the
border: English, Irish, French Huguenots, and so on; but everywhere the
Scotch-Irish and Germans predominated.

And the southwestward movement, once started, never stopped. So there
went on a gradual but sure progress of northern peoples across the
Potomac, up the Shenandoah, across the Staunton, the Dan, the Yadkin,
until the western piedmont and foot-hill region of Carolina was
similarly settled, chiefly by Pennsylvanians.

The archivist of North Carolina, the late William L. Saunders, Secretary
of State, said in one of his historical sketches that "to Lancaster and
York counties, in Pennsylvania, North Carolina owes more of her
population than to any other known part of the world." He called
attention to the interesting fact that when the North Carolina boys of
Scotch-Irish and Pennsylvania Dutch descent followed Lee into
Pennsylvania in the Gettysburg campaign, they were returning to the
homes of their ancestors, by precisely the same route that those
ancestors had taken in going south.

Among those who made the long trek from Pennsylvania southward in the
eighteenth century, were Daniel Boone and the ancestors of David
Crockett, Samuel Houston, John C. Calhoun, "Stonewall" Jackson, and
Abraham Lincoln. Boone and the Lincolns, although English themselves,
had been neighbors in Berks County, one of the most German parts of all
eastern Pennsylvania.

So the western piedmont and the mountains were settled neither by
Cavaliers nor by poor whites, but by a radically distinct and even
antagonistic people who are appropriately called the Roundheads of the
South. These Roundheads had little or nothing to do with slavery,
detested the state church, loathed tithes, and distrusted all authority
save that of conspicuous merit and natural justice. The first
characteristic that these pioneers developed was an intense
individualism. The strong and even violent independence that made them
forsake all the comforts of civilization and prefer the wild freedom of
the border was fanned at times into turbulence and riot; but it blazed
forth at a happy time for this country when our liberties were

Daniel Boone first appears in history when, from his new home on the
Yadkin, he crossed the Blue Ridge and the Unakas into that part of
western Carolina which is now eastern Tennessee. He was exploring the
Watauga region as early as 1760. Both British and French Indian traders
and soldiers had been in this region before him, but had left few marks
of their wanderings. In 1761 a party of hunters from Pennsylvania and
contiguous counties of Virginia, piloted by Boone, began to use this
region as a hunting-ground, on account of the great abundance of game.
From them, and especially from Boone, the fame of its attractions spread
to the settlements on the eastern slope of the mountains, and in the
winter of 1768-69 the first permanent occupation of eastern Tennessee
was made by a few families from North Carolina.

About this time there broke out in Carolina a struggle between the
independent settlers of the piedmont and the rich trading and official
class of the coast. The former rose in bodies under the name of
Regulators and a battle followed in which they were defeated. To escape
from the persecutions of the aristocracy, many of the Regulators and
their friends crossed the Appalachian Mountains and built their cabins
in the Watauga region. Here, in 1772, there was established by these
"rebels" the first republic in America, based upon a written
constitution "the first ever adopted by a community of American-born
freemen." Of these pioneers in "The Winning of the West," Theodore
Roosevelt says: "As in western Virginia the first settlers came, for the
most part, from Pennsylvania, so, in turn, in what was then western
North Carolina, and is now eastern Tennessee, the first settlers came
mainly from Virginia, and indeed, in great part, from this same
Pennsylvania stock."

Boone first visited Kentucky, on a hunting trip, in 1769. Six years
later he began to colonize it, in flat defiance of the British
government, and in the face of a menacing proclamation from the royal
governor of North Carolina. On the Kentucky River, three days after the
battle of Lexington, the flag of the new colony of Transylvania was run
up on his fort at Boonesborough. It was not until the following August
that these "rebels of Kentuck" heard of the signing of the Declaration
of Independence, and celebrated it with shrill warwhoops around a
bonfire in the center of their stockade.

Such was the stuff of which the Appalachian frontiersmen were made. They
were the first Americans to cut loose entirely from the seaboard and
fall back upon their own resources. They were the first to establish
governments of their own, in defiance of king and aristocracy. Says John

     "Jefferson is often called the father of modern American democracy;
     in a certain sense the Shenandoah Valley and adjacent Appalachian
     regions may be called its cradle. In that rude frontier society,
     life assumed many new aspects, old customs were forgotten, old
     distinctions abolished, social equality acquired even more
     importance than unchecked individualism. The notions, sometimes
     crude and noxious, sometimes just and wholesome, which
     characterized Jeffersonian democracy, flourished greatly on the
     frontier and have thence been propagated eastward through the older
     communities, affecting their legislation and their politics more or
     less according to frequency of contact and intercourse.
     Massachusetts, relatively remote and relatively ancient, has been
     perhaps least affected by this group of ideas, but all parts of the
     United States have felt its influence powerfully. This phase of
     democracy, which is destined to continue so long as frontier life
     retains any importance, can nowhere be so well studied in its
     beginnings as among the Presbyterian population of the Appalachian
     region in the 18th century."

During the Revolution, the Appalachian frontier was held by a double
line of the men whom we have been considering: one line east of the
mountains, and the other west of them. The mountain region itself
remained almost uninhabited by whites, because the pioneers who crossed
it were seeking better hunting grounds and farmsteads than the mountains
afforded. It was not until the buffalo and elk and beaver had been
driven out of Tennessee and Kentucky, and those rolling savannahs were
being fenced and tilled, that much attention was given to the mountains
proper. Then small companies of hunters and trappers from both east and
west began to move into the highlands and settle there.

These explorers, pushing outward from the cross-mountain trails in every
direction, found many interesting things that had been overlooked in the
scurry of migration westward. They discovered fair river valleys and
rich coves, adapted to tillage, which soon attracted settlers of a
better class; and so, gradually, the mountain solitudes began to echo
with the ring of axes and the lowing of herds. By 1830 about a million
permanent settlers occupied the southern Appalachians. Naturally, most
of them came from adjoining regions--from the foot of the Blue Ridge on
one side and from the foot of the Unakas or of the Cumberlands on the
other, and hence they were chiefly of the same frontier stock that we
have been describing. No colonies of farmers from a distance ever have
been imported into the mountains, down to our own day.

Deterioration of the mountain people began as soon as population began
to press upon the limits of subsistence. At first, naturally, the best
people among the mountaineers were attracted to the best lands. And
there to-day, in the generous river valleys, we find a class of
citizens superior to the average mountaineers that we have been
considering in this book. But the number and extent of such valleys was
narrowly limited. The United States topographers report that in
Appalachia, as a whole, the mountain slopes occupy 90 per cent. of the
total area, and that 85 per cent. of the land has a steeper slope than
one foot in five. So, as the years passed, a larger and larger
proportion of the highlanders was forced back along the creek branches
and up along the steep hillsides to "scrabble" for a living.

It will be asked, Why did not this overplus do as other crowded
Americans did: move west?

First, because they were so immured in the mountains, so utterly cut off
from communication with the outer world, that they did not know anything
about the opportunities offered new settlers in far-away lands. Moving
"west" to them would have meant merely going a few days' wagon-travel
down into the lowlands of Kentucky or Tennessee, which already were
thickly settled by a people of very different social class. Here they
could not hope to be anything but tenants or menials, ruled over by
proprietors or bosses--and they would die rather than endure such
treatment. As for the new lands of the farther West, there was scarce a
peasant in Ireland or in Scandinavia but knew more about them than did
the southern mountaineers.

Second, because they were passionately attached to their homes and
kindred, to their own old-fashioned ways. The mountaineer shrinks from
lowland society as he does from the water and the climate of such
regions. He is never at ease until back with his home-folks, foot-loose
and free.

Third, because there was nothing in his environment to arouse ambition.
The hard, hopeless life of the mountain farm, sustained only by a meager
and ill-cooked diet, begat laziness and shiftless unconcern.

Finally, the poverty of the hillside farmers and branch-water people was
so extreme that they could not gather funds to emigrate with. There were
no industries to which a man might turn and earn ready money, no markets
in which he could sell a surplus from the farm.

So, while the transmontane settlers grew rapidly in wealth and culture,
their kinsfolk back in the mountains either stood still or retrograded,
and the contrast was due not nearly so much to any difference of
capacity as to a law of Nature that dooms an isolated and impoverished
people to deterioration.

Beyond this, it is not to be overlooked that the mountains were cursed
with a considerable incubus of naturally weak or depraved characters,
not lowland "poor whites," but a miscellaneous flotsam from all
quarters, which, after more or less circling round and round, was drawn
into the stagnant eddy of highland society as derelicts drift into the
Sargasso Sea. In the train of western immigration there were some feeble
souls who never got across the mountains. These have been described
tersely as the men who lost heart on account of a broken axle.

The anemic element thus introduced is less noticeable in Kentucky than
in Virginia and the States farther south--for the reason, no doubt, that
it took at least two axles to reach Kentucky--but it exists in all parts
of Appalachia. Moreover, the vast roughs of the mountain region offered
harborage for outlaws, desperadoes of the border, and here many of them
settled and propagated their kind. In the backwoods one cannot choose
his neighbors. All are on equal footing. Hence the contagion of crime
and shiftlessness spreads to decent families and tends to undermine

We can understand, then, how it happened in many cases that highland
families founded by well-informed and thrifty pioneers deteriorated
into illiterate and idle triflers, all run down at heels. Lincoln's
family is an apt illustration. His grandfather sold his Virginia farms
for seventeen thousand dollars and bought large tracts of land in
Kentucky. But Abraham Lincoln's father set up housekeeping in a shed,
later built a log hut of one room without doors or windows (although he
was a carpenter by trade), then moved to another cabin a little better,
tired of it, moved over into Indiana, and made his family spend the
winter in a half-faced camp, where they were saved from freezing by
keeping up a great log fire in front of the lean-to through days and
nights when the temperature was far below zero. The Lincolns were not
mountaineers, but they were of the same stock, and were subjected to
much the same vicissitudes.

So the southern highlanders languished in isolation, sunk in a Rip Van
Winkle sleep, until aroused by the thunder-crash of the Civil War. Let
John Fox tell the extraordinary result of that awakening.--

     "The American mountaineer was discovered, I say, at the beginning
     of the war, when the Confederate leaders were counting on the
     presumption that Mason and Dixon's Line was the dividing line
     between the North and South, and formed, therefore, the plan of
     marching an army from Wheeling, in West Virginia, to some point on
     the Lakes, and thus dissevering the North at one blow.

     "The plan seemed so feasible that it is said to have materially
     aided the sale of Confederate bonds in England. But when Captain
     Garnett, a West Point graduate, started to carry it out, he got no
     farther than Harper's Ferry. When he struck the mountains, he
     struck enemies who shot at his men from ambush, cut down bridges
     before him, carried the news of his march to the Federals, and
     Garnett himself fell with a bullet from a mountaineer's squirrel
     rifle at Harper's Ferry.

     "Then the South began to realize what a long, lean, powerful arm of
     the Union it was that the southern mountaineer stretched through
     its very vitals; for that arm helped hold Kentucky in the Union by
     giving preponderance to the Union sympathizers in the Blue-grass;
     it kept the east Tennesseans loyal to the man; it made West
     Virginia, as the phrase goes, 'secede from secession'; it drew out
     a horde of one hundred thousand volunteers, when Lincoln called for
     troops, depleting Jackson County, Kentucky, for instance, of every
     male under sixty years of age and over fifteen; and it raised a
     hostile barrier between the armies of the coast and the armies of
     the Mississippi. The North has never realized, perhaps, what it
     owes for its victory to this non-slaveholding southern

President Frost, of Berea College, says:

     "The loyalty of this region in the Civil War was a surprise to both
     northern and southern statesmen. The mountain people owned land
     but did not own slaves, and the national feeling of the
     revolutionary period had not spent its force among them. Their
     services in West Virginia and east Tennessee are perhaps generally
     known. But very few know or remember that the whole mountain region
     was loyal [except where conscripted]. General Carl Schurz had
     soldiers enlisted in the mountains of Alabama, and the writer has
     recently seen a letter written by the Confederate Governor of South
     Carolina in which he relates to General Hardee the troubles caused
     by Union sentiment in the mountain counties.

     "It is pathetic to know how these mountain regiments disbanded with
     no poet or historian or monument to perpetuate the memory of their
     valor. The very flag that was first on Lookout Mountain and 'waved
     above the clouds' was lost to fame in an obscure mountain home
     until Berea discovered and rescued it from oblivion and

It may be added that no other part of our country suffered longer or
more severely from the aftermath of war. Throughout that struggle the
mountain region was a nest for bushwhackers and bandits that preyed upon
the aged and defenseless who were left at home, and thus there was left
an evil legacy of neighborhood wrongs and private grudges. Most of the
mountain counties had incurred the bitter hostility of their own States
by standing loyal to the Union. After Appomattox they were cast back
into a worse isolation than they had ever known. Most unfortunately,
too, the Federal Government, at this juncture, instead of interposing
to restore law and order in the highlands, turned the loyalty of the
mountaineers into outlawry, as in 1794, by imposing a prohibitive excise
tax upon their chief merchantable commodity.

Left, then, to their own devices, unchecked by any stronger arm,
inflamed by a multitude of personal wrongs, habituated to the shedding
of human blood, contemptuous of State laws that did not reach them,
enraged by Federal acts that impugned, as they thought, an inalienable
right of man, it was inevitable that this fiery and vindictive race
should fall speedily into warring among themselves. Old scores were now
to be wiped out in a reign of terror. The open combat of bannered war
was turned into the secret ferocity of family feuds.

But the mountaineers of to-day are face to face with a mighty change.
The feud epoch has ceased throughout the greater part of Appalachia. A
new era dawns. Everywhere the highways of civilization are pushing into
remote mountain fastnesses. Vast enterprises are being installed. The
timber and the minerals are being garnered. The mighty waterpower that
has been running to waste since these mountains rose from the primal sea
is now about to be harnessed in the service of man. Along with this
economic revolution will come, inevitably, good schools, newspapers, a
finer and more liberal social life. The highlander, at last, is to be
caught up in the current of human progress.



The southern mountaineers are pre-eminently a rural folk. When the
twentieth century opened, only four per cent. of them dwelt in cities of
8,000 inhabitants and upwards. There were but seven such cities in all
Appalachia--a region larger than England and Scotland combined--and
these owed their development to outside influences. Only 77 out of 186
mountain counties had towns of 1,000 and upwards.

Our highlanders are the most homogeneous people in the United States. In
1900, out of a total population of 3,039,835, there were only 18,617 of
foreign birth. This includes the cities and industrial camps. Back in
the mountains, a man using any other tongue than English, or speaking
broken English, was regarded as a freak. Nine mountain counties of
Virginia, four of West Virginia, fifteen of Kentucky, ten of Tennessee,
nine of North Carolina, eight of Georgia, two of Alabama, and one of
South Carolina had less than ten foreign-born residents each. Three of
them had none at all.

Compare the North Atlantic states. In this same census year, 57 per
cent. of their people lived in cities of 8,000 and upwards. As for
foreigners--the one city of Fall River, Mass., with 104,863 inhabitants,
had 50,042 of foreign birth.

The mountains proper are free not only from foreigners but from negroes
as well. There are many blacks in the larger valleys and towns, but
throughout most of Appalachia the population is almost exclusively
white. In 1900, Jackson County, Ky. (the same that sent every one of its
sons into the Union army who could bear arms), had only nineteen negroes
among 10,542 whites; Johnson County, Ky., only one black resident among
13,729 whites; Dickenson County, Va., not a single negro within its

In many mountain settlements negroes are not allowed to tarry. It has
been assumed that this prejudice against colored folk had its origin far
back in the time when "poor whites" found themselves thrust aside by
competition with slave labor. This is an error. Our mountaineers never
had to compete with slavery. Few of them knew anything about it except
from hearsay. Their dislike of negroes is simply an instinctive racial
antipathy, plus a contempt for anyone who submits to servile conditions.
A neighbor in the Smokies said to me: "I b'lieve in treatin' niggers
squar. The Bible says they're human--leastways some says it does--and so
there'd orter be a place for them. But it's _some place else_--not
around me!" That is the whole thing in a nutshell.

Here, then, is Appalachia: one of the great land-locked areas of the
globe, more English in speech than Britain itself, more American by
blood than any other part of America, encompassed by a high-tensioned
civilization, yet less affected to-day by modern ideas, less cognizant
of modern progress, than any other part of the English-speaking world.

Of course, such an anomaly cannot continue. Commercialism has discovered
the mountains at last, and no sentiment, however honest, however
hallowed, can keep it out. The transformation is swift. Suddenly the
mountaineer is awakened from his eighteenth-century bed by the blare of
steam whistles and the boom of dynamite. He sees his forests leveled and
whisked away; his rivers dammed by concrete walls and shot into turbines
that outpower all the horses in Appalachia. He is dazed by electric
lights, nonplussed by speaking wires, awed by vast transfers of
property, incensed by rude demands. Aroused, now, and wide-eyed, he
realizes with sinking heart that here is a sudden end of that Old
Dispensation under which he and his ancestors were born, the beginning
of a New Order that heeds him and his neighbors not a whit.

All this insults his conservatism. The old way was the established order
of the universe: to change it is fairly impious. What is the good of all
this fuss and fury? That fifty-story building they tell about, in their
big city--what is it but another Tower of Babel? And these silly,
stuck-up strangers who brag and brag about "modern improvements"--what
are they, under their fine manners and fine clothes? Hirelings all.
Shrewdly he observes them in their relations to each other.--

  "Each man is some man's servant; every soul
    Is by some other's presence quite discrowned."

Proudly he contrasts his ragged self: he who never has acknowledged a
superior, never has taken an order from living man, save as a patriot in
time of war. And he turns upon his heel.

Yet, before he can fairly credit it as a reality, the lands around his
own home are bought up by corporations. All about him, slash, crash, go
the devastating forces. His old neighbors vanish. New and unwelcome ones
swarm in. He is crowded, but ignored. His hard-earned patrimony is
robbed of all that made it precious: its home-like seclusion,
independence, dignity. He sells out, and moves away to some uninvaded
place where he "will not be bothered."

"I don't like these improve_ments_," said an old mountaineer to me.
"Some calls them 'progress,' and says they put money to circulatin'. So
they do; but _who gits it_?"

There is a class of highlanders more sanguine, more adaptable, that
welcomes all outsiders who come with skill and capital to develop their
country. Many of these are shrewd traders in merchandise or in real
estate, or they are capable foremen who can handle native labor much
better than any strangers could. Such men naturally profit by the

Others, deluded by what seems easy money, sell their little homesteads
for just enough cash to set them up as laborers in town or camp. Being
untrained to any trade, they can get only the lowest wages, which are
quickly dissipated in rent and in foods that formerly they raised for
themselves. Unused to continuous labor, they irk under its discipline,
drop out, and fall into desultory habits. Meantime false ambitions
arise, especially among the womenfolk. Store credit soon runs such a
family in debt.

"When I was a young man," said one of my neighbors, "the traders never
thought of bringin' meal in here. If a man run out of meal, why, he was
_out_, and he had to live on 'taters or somethin' else. Nowadays we
dress better, and live better, but some other feller allers has his
hands in our pockets."

Then it is "good-by" to the old independence that made such characters
manly. Enmeshed in obligations that they cannot meet, they struggle
vainly, brood hopelessly, and lose that dearest of all possessions,
their self-respect. Servility is literal hell to a mountaineer, and when
it is forced upon him he turns into a mean, underhanded, slinking
fellow, easily tempted into crime.

The curse of our invading civilization is that its vanguard is composed
of men who care nothing for the welfare of the people they dispossess. A
northern lumberman admitted to me, with frankness unusual in his class,
that "All we want here is to get the most we can out of this country, as
quick as we can, and then get out." This is all we can expect of those
who exploit raw materials, or of manufactures that employ only cheap
labor. Until we have industries that demand skilled workmen, and until
manual training schools are established in the mountains, we may look
for deterioration, rather than betterment, of those highlanders who
leave their farms.

All who know the mountaineers intimately have observed that the sudden
inroad of commercialism has a bad effect upon them. As President Frost
says, "Ruthless change is knocking at the door of every mountain cabin.
The jackals of civilization have already abused the confidence of many a
highland home. The lumber, coal, and mineral wealth of the mountains is
to be possessed, and the unprincipled vanguard of commercialism can
easily debauch a simple people. The question is whether the mountain
people can be enlightened and guided so that they can have a part in the
development of their own country, or whether they must give place to
foreigners and melt away like so many Indians."

It is easy to say that the fittest will survive. But the fittest for
what? Miss Miles answers: "I have heard it said that civilization, when
it touches the people of the backwoods, acts as a useful precipitant in
thus sending the dregs to the bottom. As a matter of fact, it is only
the shrewder and more determined, not the truly fit, that survive the
struggle. Among these very submerged ones, reduced to dependence on an
alien people, there are thousands who inherit the skill of their
forefathers who fashioned their own locks, musical instruments, and
guns. And these very women who are breaking their health and spirit over
a thankless tub of suds ought surely to turn their talents to better
account, ought to be designing and weaving coverlets and Roman-striped
rugs, or 'piecing' the quilt patterns now so popular. Need these razors
be used to cut grindstones? Must this free folk who are in many ways the
truest Americans of America be brought under the yoke of caste division,
to the degradation of all their finer qualities, merely for lack of the
right work to do?"

There are some who would have it so; who would calmly write for these
our own kindred, as for the Indians, _fuerunt_--their day is past. In a
History of Southern Literature, written not long ago by a professor in
the University of Virginia, a sketch of Miss Murfree's work closes with
these words: "There [at Beersheba Springs, Tenn.] it was that she first
studied the curious type of humanity, the Tennessee mountaineer, a
people so ignorant, so superstitious, so far behind the world of to-day
as to excite wonder and even pity in all who see them.... [She] is
telling the story of a people who, in these opening years of the 20th
century, wander on through their limited range of life much as their
ancestors for generations have wandered. They, too, will some time
vanish--the sooner the better."

One cannot read such a sentiment without wonder and even pity for the
ignorance of history and of human nature that it discloses. Is the case
of our mountaineers so much worse than that of the Scotch highlanders of
two centuries ago? We know that those Scotchmen did not "vanish--the
quicker the better." What were they before civilization reached them?
Let us open the ready pages of Macaulay.--

     "It is not easy for a modern Englishman ... to believe that, in the
     time of his great-grandfathers, Saint James's Street had as little
     connection with the Grampians as with the Andes. Yet so it was. In
     the south of our island scarcely anything was known about the
     Celtic part of Scotland; and what was known excited no feeling but
     contempt and loathing....

     "It is not strange that the Wild Scotch, as they were sometimes
     called, should, in the 17th century, have been considered by the
     Saxons as mere savages. But it is surely strange that, considered
     as savages, they should not have been objects of interest and
     curiosity. The English were then abundantly inquisitive about the
     manners of rude nations separated from our island by great
     continents and oceans. Numerous books were printed describing the
     laws, the superstitions, the cabins, the repasts, the dresses, the
     marriages, the funerals of Laplanders and Hottentots, Mohawks and
     Malays. The plays and poems of that age are full of allusions to
     the usages of the black men of Africa and the red men of America.
     The only barbarian about whom there was no wish to have any
     information was the Highlander....

     "While the old Gaelic institutions were in full vigor, no account
     of them was given by any observer qualified to judge of them
     fairly. Had such an observer studied the character of the
     Highlanders, he would doubtless have found in it closely
     intermingled the good and the bad qualities of an uncivilised
     nation. He would have found that the people had no love for their
     country or for their king, that they had no attachment to any
     commonwealth larger than the clan, or to any magistrate superior to
     the chief. He would have found that life was governed by a code of
     morality and honor widely different from that which is established
     in peaceful and prosperous societies. He would have learned that a
     stab in the back, or a shot from behind a fragment of rock, were
     approved modes of taking satisfaction for insults. He would have
     heard men relate boastfully how they or their fathers had wracked
     on hereditary enemies in a neighboring valley such vengeance as
     would have made old soldiers of the Thirty Years' War shudder.

     "He would have found that robbery was held to be a calling not
     merely innocent but honorable. He would have seen, wherever he
     turned, that dislike of steady industry, and that disposition to
     throw on the weaker sex the heaviest part of manual labor, which
     are characteristic of savages. He would have been struck by the
     spectacle of athletic men basking in the sun, angling for salmon,
     or taking aim at grouse, while their aged mothers, their pregnant
     wives, their tender daughters, were reaping the scanty harvest of
     oats. Nor did the women repine at their hard lot. In their view it
     was quite fit that a man, especially if he assumed the aristocratic
     title of Duinhe Wassel and adorned his bonnet with the eagle's
     feather, should take his ease, except when he was fighting,
     hunting, or marauding. To mention the name of such a man in
     connection with commerce or with any mechanical art was an insult.
     Agriculture was indeed less despised. Yet a highborn warrior was
     much more becomingly employed in plundering the land of others than
     in tilling his own.

     "The religion of the greater part of the Highlands was a rude
     mixture of Popery and Paganism. The symbol of redemption was
     associated with heathen sacrifices and incantations. Baptised men
     poured libations of ale on one Dæmon, and set out drink offerings
     of milk for another. Seers wrapped themselves up in bulls' hides,
     and awaited, in that vesture, the inspiration which was to reveal
     the future. Even among those minstrels and genealogists whose
     hereditary vocation was to preserve the memory of past events, an
     enquirer would have found very few who could read. In truth, he
     might easily have journeyed from sea to sea without discovering a
     page of Gaelic printed or written.

     "The price which he would have had to pay for his knowledge of the
     country would have been heavy. He would have had to endure
     hardships as great as if he had sojourned among the Esquimaux or
     the Samoyeds. Here and there, indeed, at the castle of some great
     lord who had a seat in the Parliament and Privy Council, and who
     was accustomed to pass a large part of his life in the cities of
     the South, might have been found wigs and embroidered coats, plate
     and fine linen, lace and jewels, French dishes and French wines.
     But, in general, the traveler would have been forced to content
     himself with very different quarters. In many dwellings the
     furniture, the food, the clothing, nay, the very hair and skin of
     his hosts, would have put his philosophy to the proof. His lodging
     would sometimes have been in a hut of which every nook would have
     swarmed with vermin. He would have inhaled an atmosphere thick with
     peat smoke, and foul with a hundred exhalations. At supper grain
     fit only for horses would have been set before him, accompanied
     with a cake of blood drawn from living cows. Some of the company
     with whom he would have feasted would have been covered with
     cutaneous eruptions, and others would have been smeared with tar
     like sheep. His couch would have been the bare earth, dry or wet as
     the weather might be; and from that couch he would have risen half
     poisoned with stench, half blind with the reek of turf, and half
     mad with the itch.

     "This is not an attractive picture. And yet an enlightened and
     dispassionate observer would have found in the character and
     manners of this rude people something which might well excite
     admiration and a good hope. Their courage was what great exploits
     achieved in all the four quarters of the globe have since proved it
     to be. Their intense attachment to their own tribe and to their own
     patriarch, though politically a great evil, partook of the nature
     of virtue. The sentiment was misdirected and ill regulated; but
     still it was heroic. There must be some elevation of soul in a man
     who loves the society of which he is a member and the leader whom
     he follows with a love stronger than the love of life. It was true
     that the Highlander had few scruples about shedding the blood of an
     enemy; but it was not less true that he had high notions of the
     duty of observing faith to allies and hospitality to guests. It was
     true that his predatory habits were most pernicious to the
     commonwealth. Yet those erred greatly who imagined that he bore any
     resemblance to villains who, in rich and well governed communities,
     live by stealing. When he drove before him the herds of Lowland
     farmers up the pass which led to his native glen, he no more
     considered himself as a thief than the Raleighs and Drakes
     considered themselves as thieves when they divided the cargoes of
     Spanish galleons. He was a warrior seizing lawful prize of war, of
     war never once intermitted during the thirty-five generations which
     had passed away since the Teutonic invaders had driven the children
     of the soil to the mountains....

     "His inordinate pride of birth and his contempt for labor and trade
     were indeed great weaknesses, and had done far more than the
     inclemency of the air and the sterility of the soil to keep his
     country poor and rude. Yet even here there was some compensation.
     It must in fairness be acknowledged that the patrician virtues were
     not less widely diffused among the population of the Highlands than
     the patrician vices. As there was no other part of the island where
     men, sordidly clothed, lodged, and fed, indulged themselves to such
     a degree in the idle, sauntering habits of an aristocracy, so
     there was no other part of the island where such men had in such a
     degree the better qualities of an aristocracy, grace and dignity of
     manner, self-respect, and that noble sensibility which makes
     dishonor more terrible than death. A gentleman of Skye or Lochaber,
     whose clothes were begrimed with the accumulated filth of years,
     and whose hovel smelt worse than an English hogstye, would often do
     the honors of that hovel with a lofty courtesy worthy of the
     splendid circle of Versailles. Though he had as little
     book-learning as the most stupid ploughboys of England, it would
     have been a great error to put him in the same intellectual rank
     with such ploughboys. It is indeed only by reading that men can
     become profoundly acquainted with any science. But the arts of
     poetry and rhetoric may be carried near to absolute perfection, and
     may exercise a mighty influence on the public mind, in an age in
     which books are wholly or almost wholly unknown."

So, too, in the rudest communities of Appalachia, among the most
trifling and unmoral natives of this region, among the illiterate and
hide-bound, there still is much to excite admiration and good hope. I
have not shrunk from telling the truth about these people, even when it
was far from pleasant; but I would have preserved strict silence had I
not seen in the most backward of them certain sterling qualities of
manliness that our nation can ill afford to waste. It is a truth as old
as the human race that savageries may co-exist with admirable qualities
of head and heart. The only people who can consistently despair of the
future for even the lowest of our mountaineers are those who deny
evolution and who believe, with Archbishop Usher, that man was created
_perfect_ at 9 A. M. on the 21st of October, in the year B. C. 4004.

Let us remember, Sir and Madam, that we ourselves are descended from
white barbarians. From William the Conqueror, you? Very well; how many
other ancestors of yours were walking about England and elsewhere at the
time of William? Untold thousands of them were just such people as you
can find to-day brawling in some mountain still-house (unless there has
been a deal of incest somewhere along your line), and you have
infinitely more of their blood in your veins than you have of the
Conqueror's--who, by the way, could he be re-incarnated, would not be
tolerated in your drawing-room for half an hour. I may have made the
point too brutally plain; but if it sinks through the smug
self-complacency of those who "do not belong to the masses," who act as
though civilization and morals and good manners were entailed to them
through a mere dozen or so of selected ancestors, I remain unrepentant
and unashamed. Let us thank whatever gods there be that it is not
merely thou and I, our few friends and next of kin, but all humanity,
that scientific faith embraces and will sustain.

"People who have been among the southern mountaineers testify," says Mr.
Fox, "that, as a race, they are proud, sensitive, hospitable, kindly,
obliging in an unreckoning way that is almost pathetic, honest, loyal,
in spite of their common ignorance, poverty, and isolation; that they
are naturally capable, eager to learn, easy to uplift. Americans to the
core, they make the southern mountains a storehouse of patriotism; in
themselves they are an important offset to the Old World outcasts whom
we have welcomed to our shores; and they surely deserve as much
consideration from the nation as the negroes, or as the heathen, to whom
we give millions."

President Frost, of Berea College, who has worked among these people for
nearly a lifetime, and has helped to educate their young folks by
thousands, says: "It does one's heart good to help a young Lincoln who
comes walking in perhaps a three-days' journey on foot, with a few
hard-earned dollars in his pocket and a great eagerness for the
education he can so faintly comprehend. (Scores of our young people see
their first railroad train at Berea.) And it is a joy to welcome the
mountain girl who comes back after having taught her first school,
bringing the money to pay her debts and buy her first comfortable
outfit--including rubbers and suitable underclothing--and perhaps
bringing with her a younger sister. Such a girl exerts a great influence
in her school and mountain home. An enthusiastic mountaineer described
an example in this wise: 'I tell yeou hit teks a moughty resol_ute_ gal
ter do what that thar gal has done. She got, I reckon, about the
toughest deestric' in the ceounty, which is sayin' a good deal. An' then
fer boardin'-place--well, there warn't much choice. There was one house,
with one room. But she kep right on, an' yeou would hev thought she was
havin' the finest kind of a time, ter look at her. An' then the last
day, when they was sayin' their pieces and sich, some sorry fellers come
in thar full o' moonshine an' shot their revolvers. I'm a-tellin' ye hit
takes a moughty resol_ute_ gal."

The great need of our mountaineers to-day is trained leaders of their
own. The future of Appalachia lies mostly in the hands of those resolute
native boys and girls who win the education fitting them for such
leadership. Here is where the nation at large is summoned by a solemn
duty. And it should act quickly, because commercialism exploits and
debauches quickly. But the schools needed here are not ordinary graded
schools. They should be vocational schools that will turn out good
farmers, good mechanics, good housewives. Meantime let a model farm be
established in every mountain county showing how to get the most out of
mountain land. Such object lessons would speedily work an economic
revolution. It is an economic problem, fundamentally, that the
mountaineer has to face.



[1] A friend of mine on the U. S. Geological Survey tested with his
clinometer a mountain cornfield that sloped at an angle of fifty

[2] Average annual rainfall of New York City, 44 inches; of Glencoe, in
the Scotch Highlands, nearly 130 inches.

[3] _Gant-lot_: a fenced enclosure into which cattle are driven after
cutting them out from those of other owners. So called because the
mountain cattle run wild, feeding only on grass and browse, and "they
couldn't travel well to market when filled up on green stuff: so they're
penned up to git _gant_ and nimble."

[4] Pure bluff of mine, at that time; but it was good policy to assume
perfect confidence.

[5] This was in 1904. There are no dispensaries in North Carolina now.

[6] It is a curious fact that most horses despise the stuff. A
celebrated revenue officer told me that for several years he rode a
horse which was in the habit of drinking a mouthful from every stream
that he forded; but if there was the least taint of still-slop in the
water, he would whisk his nose about and refuse to drink. The officer
then had only to follow up the stream, and he would infallibly find a

[7] Ellwood Wilson, Sr., in the _Sewanee Review_.

[8] In mountain dialect such words as settlement, government, studyment
(reverie) are accented on the last syllable, or drawled with equal
stress throughout.

[9] So also in the lowland South. An extraordinary affectation of
propriety appeared in a dispatch to the _Atlanta Constitution_ of
October 29, 1912, which reported that an exhibitor of cattle at the
State fair had been seriously horned by a _male cow_.

[10] Pronounced Chee-_o_-ah, Chil-_how_-ee, Cow-_ee_, Cul-lo-_whee_,
High-_wah_-see, Nan-tah-_hay_-lah, O-_ko_-na, _Luf_-ty, San-_teet_-lah,
_Tel_-li-co, Tuck-a-_lee_-chee, Tuck-a-_see_-gee, Tuh-_loo_-lah,
Tus-_quit_-ee, Wah-_yah_ (explosively on last syllable), _Wau_-ke-chah,
Yah-_lah_-kah (commonly Ah-lar-ka or _'Lar_-ky by the settlers),

Transcriber's Notes:

Passages in italics are indicated by _underscore_.

The original text includes Greek characters. For this text version these
letters have been replaced with +transliterations+.

Additional spacing after some of the quotes is intentional to indicate
both the end of a quotation and the beginning of a new paragraph as
presented in the original text.

The following misprints have been corrected:
  "Hiddden" corrected to "Hidden" (Table of Contents)
  "sing" corrected to "sting" (page 70)
  "hav-" corrected to "having" (page 134)
  "and and" corrected to "and" (page 148)
  "could could" corrected to "could" (page 172)
  "haled" corrected to "hauled" (page 174)
  "Some the expedients" corrected to "Some of the expedients" (page 238)
  "hoplessly" corrected to "hopelessly" (page 275)
  "civlization" corrected to "civilization" (page 384)

Printer's inconsistencies in hyphenation usage have been retained.

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