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Friday, July 07, 2006

The Early Settlers of Appalachia - Part II

Image by, D L Ennis
Part II – Family and Hard Work
It’s very likely that seventy-five percent of the people who now live in the Appalachians of Virginia and North Carolina are descendents of these first settlers, and they retain many of the admirable traits characteristic of their ancestors.

They remain a proud people, proud of their ancestry, willing to sacrifice to see that their sons and daughters have a better life than they have known. Many remain true to the faith of their forefathers and are unique, creative, and self-reliant. Appalachian folk tend to be conservative, weighing change cautiously before accepting it.
Most of the early families had only what they could carry or by pack horse. Some later settlers came by wagon and were able to bring more bedding, utensils, tools, seeds and plants, and such items as a spinning wheel and loom; but for many years, all needs had to be supplied by the family and from the resources at hand.
The lush forests of the Appalachians provided materials for houses, barns, household furnishings, tools, fences, and fuel. The first homes were simple cabins made of logs and occasionally covered with boards hand split from logs, until saw mills made an appearance.

With skills handed down these settlers turned cherry, maple, oak and walnut lumber into furniture for the homes and tools for the farms. There was fertile soil in the valleys and coves, and even on hillsides enabling them to provide food for the family and feed for livestock. Sheep that grazed on hillsides provided wool for women spin thread and weave cloth for garments, blankets, and coverlets.
They made patchwork quilts from scraps and unworn parts of discarded clothing; there was no place for waste. Leather for shoes and harness was made by the tanning of hides from cattle; or deer skins when soft leather was needed.
The early settlers, who came to the mountain region and made the land their own, stayed and helped build communities that would become the cities and towns of today. They came to love these mountains and the bountiful forests, the cool clear streams and rivers, the rich soil of the valleys and coves, and the cool summers and tolerable winters. Setting their roots into the new land, Appalachia soon became home.
Even today these hardy mountain folk are neighborly and welcoming once they become acquainted with newcomers. Many have a strong interest in politics within their own communities as a means of expressing their opinions and securing their rights.Their families still hold close ties as they did when they were more dependent upon one another for survival and are more themselves within the family circle than at any other time. For this reason, the "kinship system" tends to control local politics, schools, and even the churches to a great extent. They have a great love the home place, the community where they were born and grew up, and even though they may leave home to find work, they come back to retire or to die and be buried in the family cemetery.
Read Part I – Starting a New Life


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