PAST Journal

Volume 33, 2010

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41st Annual Conference | Pipestem, WV | October 29 – 31, 2009

Abstracts of Papers Presented

A Social Geography of Saltpeter

Katie Algeo, Western Kentucky University

Conventional treatments of the saltpeter trade during the early nineteenth century tend to emphasize political and economic factors. While not denying their importance, this paper adds a dimension to our understanding of linkages between Northern gunpowder manufacturers and Southern saltpeter suppliers by examining the social relations behind the saltpeter trade. A case study of saltpeter purchases by the DuPont Company, at the time the largest US manufacturer of gunpowder, emphasizing their attempts and ultimate failure to establish a reliable Southern saltpeter supply, is used to illustrate the importance of networks of acquaintances and business associates, relations of trust, and business competency in creating and maintaining trade relations. Data is derived from the archives of the DuPont Company housed in the Hagley Library of Wilmington, Delaware, and numerous other primary and secondary sources. I argue that it was a failure of social relations and not a change in international trade laws that led to the demise of the Southern saltpeter industry following the War of 1812. Read the article.

The Invisible Streetscape: Vernacular Buildings and Being in 1850s Wheeling

Dan Bonenberger, Eastern Michigan University

Three dimensional computer modeling of the past, or virtual heritage, typically emphasizes great buildings rather than vernacular architecture. If this fledgling pursuit is to gain acceptance among disciplines that study the past, it must acknowledge the importance of the world beyond monumental architecture. Common building forms, landscapes, and invisible things such as sounds, smells, ideas, stories and rituals are essential components of human experience. Recent work in cultural geography, architectural history, preservation, philosophy, and other fields can provide some guidelines for integrating these realities into virtual heritage. This paper examines the tangible and intangible components that characterize the urban environment of American cities. From popular building forms, infrastructure and people, to terrain and wildlife elements, the author presents a conceptual model of the objects, rituals, and ideas that constitute the “life-world” of a city in the antebellum United States. The model is explored in a case study set on Webster Street in Wheeling, (West) Virginia in the 1850s, through the perspective of Rebecca Harding, a young writer about to challenge the literary status-quo.

Toward Small Town Revitalization in the Middle Susquehanna River Valley: Re-Assessing Historic Resources and Regional Landscapes for Collaborative Development

Caru Bowns, Pennsylvania State University, and Alison Stevenson, SEDA-Council of Governments

Both maligned and romanticized, small towns comprise a significant segment of the American settlement landscape but are not perceptibly considered an administrative category politically comparable to “cities” for the purposes and benefits of government policies and funding. This may be due to the independent spirit associated with most small towns or the regional differences that distinguish “towns” in New England from “towns” in New Mexico. Even before the current economic downturn, a common thread many towns share is the challenges they face for their communities’ economic and social survival. Some towns are shedding their centuries-old persona of rugged individualism. They are re-assessing historic and cultural assets for communal betterment that transcends local and regional boundaries. This study celebrates collaborative revitalization efforts taking place in the Middle Susquehanna River Valley of Pennsylvania. This region is part of the greater Appalachia cultural landscape and is within the eastern reaches of America’s Industrial Rust Belt. The study provides the context for issues associated with economic loss and depopulation in small towns in Pennsylvania’s “Rust Belt” region. A case study of MSRV towns illustrates capacity-building efforts to preserve existing assets and to re-purpose the region’s civic and cultural landscapes for sustainable economic development.

Preserving the Lonaconing Silk Mill

Richard J. Brand, Maryland Historical Trust

At the turn of the twentieth century, several entrepreneurs decided to look for a cheap labor supply for their industry. They found it in the Appalachian coal fields. Mining was a difficult and poor paying job. Miners were recruited from the newest immigrants to America and mining became a family tradition. Businessmen realized that mining families needed extra money and knew that women, young boys, and men who were not physically fit to work in the mines would be a ready source of cheap labor. Thus began the silk thread industry in Appalachia. Factories were located in Cumberland and Lonaconing in Maryland, and in other places in West Virginia and Virginia. The Klotz Throwing Company or Lonaconing Silk Mill was established in 1905 and closed its doors in 1956 after a strike over pay and working conditions. The Lonaconing Silk Mill still stands today, virtually unchanged from that fateful day in 1956. It is believed to be the only fully preserved historic thread factory in the United States. Not only is the building intact but the machinery used to make silk thread for the garment industry is still there just like it was. You can almost trace the evolution of the industrial era from wooden thread winders to aluminum and plastic bobbins.

Moving Coal to Market: Anthracite, Gravity Rail, Roebling, and the Delaware and Hudson Canal

Wayne Brew, Montgomery County Community College

The mineral wealth of the Anthracite Coal Region of northeastern Pennsylvania was explored and mapped in the early nineteenth century by Philadelphia businessman William Wurts. He and his brothers started buying large tracts of land in the region in 1812 to mine the coal, but found it was very difficult to get the coal to market on the crude roads and not very navigable rivers. The Delaware and Hudson Canal Company was chartered in Pennsylvania and New York in 1823, and the canal was completed in 1828. To get the coal out of the Wyoming Valley a gravity railroad was constructed from Carbondale to Honesdale, Pennsylvania. The canal was constructed from Honesdale, using (and crossing) four river systems, to Kingston, New York, on the Hudson River. In the 1840s, John Roebling (of Brooklyn Bridge fame) designed four aqueducts over the major streams which cut travel time by several days. This presentation will discuss the history and geography of the Delaware and Hudson canal, and will be illustrated by maps and pictures of the ruins of the canal. Roebling’s suspension structure aqueduct over the Delaware River is still in service as an automobile bridge.

Croghan at Aughwick: Maps, History, and Archaeology Collide in the Search For Fort Shirley

Jonathan Burns, AXIS Research, Inc., George John Drobnock, Huntingdon Borough, and Jared Smith, Juniata College

Fort Shirley was an important colonial era frontier site erected by George Croghan as a trading post but later reconfigured as a provincial fort in October of 1755 to facilitate trade and to protect English colonists against the aggressions of the French and their Native American allies. The archaeological remains of the fort lies somewhere in the agricultural fields north of the town of Shirleysburg, Pennsylvania; however, its exact location remains a mystery. Local historical accounts differ from period land surveys and maps. Much more than just an outpost, the site was a hub of activity for travelers, traders, and emissaries of the commonwealth and Native Americans; therefore it is mentioned often in historic accounts. A few early attempts to locate the fort have been made in the past based from journals and manuscripts, but modern scientific techniques been never been applied towards the goal. This research demonstrates how archaeology may be used to complement and even correct the historic record, as confounding historical references collide with archaeological inquiry to locate the traces of the fort. The historical record can be a paradox for researchers as it is often proven that the past was not necessarily as it was recorded. Read the article.

The Johnson-Marquis House: A “Cajun Cottage” in Appalachian Ohio

Kevin Coleman, Intrepid Historical Services

It is rare to find a French-American house type in Ohio, but a house on a rural hilltop in south- central Ohio appears to be one. With incised front and rear “galeries” under a side-gabled roof, two front doors, and a loft stairway in a front porch-room, this “grenier house” fits the definition of a Cajun or Grenier House. However, it began as a one-story double-pen cottage probably in 1840, which was enlarged and probably moved in 1907-12 into its current form. Investigation is still underway, but a family with a possibly French surname owned the property when the alterations appear to have begun. Similar houses in the area include a now-lost galeried 2.5-storey house built about 1820, and mid-nineteenth-century “Georgian Cottages” in the county to the west, with incised porches and possibly Pennsylvania German origins—but otherwise Johnson-Marquis House is unique in the area, except for two others very similar to it that have recently been discovered deeper in Upland South Ohio. Now the object of a preservation effort, the building accents the natural attractions of its surrounding “Buzzard’s Roost” preserve with its unique ethnic connection and historic presence.

Sheet Music as an Indicator of Material Culture

Ralph Hartsock, University of North Texas

During the nineteenth century music printing, like book printing, increased due to the introduction of steam power. People of means collected music (solo piano music, songs for voice and piano). Many hired printers to bind these together subsequent to their purchases. Some even numbered the pages of the entire “book.” The University of North Texas Libraries, like other libraries, has collected and accessed these various collections. Jacob Burrough, an attorney, was on the first board of regents for what is now Southeast Missouri State University. His daughter Rachel Ida, born about 1858, performed at the college’s inauguration, and collected this music. Several pieces, compliments of William Barr Dry Goods Store, St. Louis, included its catalog of nonmusical merchandise on the back cover. Their advertising forms the nucleus of this study of 19th century material culture as communicated on sheet music covers. Materials studied are from two collections of music, piano music collected by Ida Burrough Coit of Cape Girardeau, now housed at the University of North Texas, and published sheet music at Washington University in St. Louis. Read the article.

Excavating Memory: Mining History, 1931

William M. Hunter, Heberling Associates

In 1931, the National Miners Union (NMU), a radical alternative union, deployed politics of hunger and the wage to organize miners and disrupt production in the eastern Ohio coalfields. The NMU chose specific nodes in the networks of production as sites for direct action, a strategy intended to disrupt temporally sensitive chains of production throughout the integrated coal, ore, shipping and steel industries. They were met by the power of the state activated through the coal operators, the county government, and civil society, and roundly defeated. This paper examines the NMU attempt to realize this strategy at the New Lafferty mines of Hanna Coal Company; the response of the company, miners, their families, and the local authorities; and the suppression of the radical union. It examines how landscape, hunger and scale factored in the strategy of the “Bolshevik insurrection,” its suppression, the expulsion of the NMU from the eastern Ohio coalfields, and the erasure of historical memory in this forgotten prelude to Bloody Harlan.

Spatial Patterns of Recent Native American Body Proportions: Climate or Colonization History?

Claire Jantz, Shippensburg University, Paul Marr, Shippensburg University, Richard Jantz, University of Tennessee

On a global scale, human populations exhibit body morphology that correlates with climate as expected under the Bergmann-Allen ecogeographical rules, which predict that cold-adapted populations will have compact bodies and shorter limbs. Native American populations generally fit Bergmann-Allen expectations, but few studies have clearly documented this supposition. This paper examines body measurement-climate correlations and spatial trends in Native North Americans using a data set collected by Franz Boas between 1890 and 1901. We examined the relationship between mean annual temperature and the following measurements: height, sitting height, leg length, arm length, shoulder breadth, and three indices (relative sitting height [cormic index], relative arm length, and relative shoulder breadth). The absolute dimensions show that larger, wider bodies are found in warmer temperatures, the opposite of expectations. Relatively longer legs in warmer climates agrees with Bergmann-Allen expectations. However, spatial trend surface analysis shows that cormic index increases from the southeast to the northwest, indicating a strong east to west trend rather than the expected north to south trend with temperature. We conclude that body measurements provide little evidence of climate patterning. Rather, the patterning is more likely to reflect colonization history of the continent.

The Alvis Partin Farm: Memories of a Farm in Bell County, Kentucky

Jon Kay, Indiana University

The Alvis Partin Farm can serve as a lens through which one can view elements of traditional regional agricultural techniques, community life and cultural experience. The farm references not only a pattern of agriculture, but also a complete way of life common during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in rural Bell County, Kentucky. This paper describes fifteen resources present at the farm that reflect a traditional way of life, once integral to this community. The molasses mill and evaporator were the centerpieces of “stir-offs,” the walnut crib, potato holes and bee gums point toward regional foodways; and the worn pathways and foot-logs that connect the buildings to the lay of the land speak about past and contemporary patterns of daily life on the farm. Through the use of oral histories, I discovered that the Partin Farm is more than words on a deed or buildings on the landscape; it is a complex system bound with memories, experiences, words, wood, stone, nails and dirt, all of which point toward the cultural, historical and individual meaning of this farm.

The Power of Place

Margaret J. King and Jamie O’Boyle, Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis

We rarely think in any systematic way about the fact of place itself: our situational awareness and the factors that affect its power over the brain and mind as thematic cognition. However, human thinking and behavior is highly situational. Where we find ourselves at any given moment determines what we think about, and how we process that thought. This process is driven by social surroundings (who we are with), the cultural imprint of place (meaning) along a behavioral range (action within place), and the potential and outcomes of what happens in various venues (expectations, values, and decision making). Cultural studies can define and analyze these factors to explore the potentials of a variety of settings and their effects—from simple seating to complex theme parks. Considered will be the five senses, especially sight and sound, in gauging the setting’s physiological DNA and its ties to perception and meaning. The role of place is a rich example of cultural software as an IIS, integrated information system, that accommodates and facilitates the many venues encountered as everyday experience.

Uncovering Sundown Towns in Southern Appalachia

James W. Loewen, Catholic University of America

Between 1890 and 1968, thousands of towns across the United States drove out their black populations or took steps to forbid African Americans from living in them. Thus were created “sundown towns,” so named because some posted signs typically reading, “Nigger, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On You In Salem,” a town in north central West Virginia that boasted such a sign, according to oral history. Sundown towns are rare in the South, but they spread across Appalachia from 1890 to 1940. Whole counties went sundown, driving out their black populations and maintaining themselves as all-white for many decades. Counties that did so near Pipestem include Giles County, Virginia, about fifty miles west; and probably Webster County, West Virginia, seventy miles north. Wide stretches of Appalachia went sundown, including almost the entire Cumberland Plateau, seven contiguous counties in north Georgia, and entire river valleys in Pennsylvania.

Finding Fort Morris: The Search for Shippensburg’s Elusive Colonial Fort

Paul Marr, Shippensburg University

On July 31, 1755 following the defeat of General Braddock’s army in western Pennsylvania, Governor Robert Morris commissioned the construction of two stockade forts, one in Carlisle and one in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. Built by Colonel William Burd, Shippensburg’s Fort Morris was one of a line of frontier defenses erected to protect local settlers and garrison provincial troops. While the location of the fort at Carlisle is well documented, there has been much confusion over the location of Shippensburg’s small fort. While contemporary documents concerning the fort exist, they do not pinpoint its location and in some cases offer conflicting information. For over one hundred years historians have argued about the exact location of the fort without reaching consensus, to the point that there are now three locations recognized by various state agencies and local organizations as the site of the fort. Through the use the available historic evidence and geo-spatial techniques a site was proposed as being that of the historic Fort Morris. Ultimately an archaeological excavation at the proposed site was conducted and fort-period artifacts and structures were found… but was this Fort Morris?

The Evolution of Mountain Top Removal Sites

Chris Mayda, Eastern Michigan University

In 2005-06 I spent my summers in West Virginia investigating mountaintop removal. I lived with people from Coal River Mountain Watch and recorded their attempts to get the world to notice what was happening in their communities. This is a small portion of what I learned at two different MTR sites.

The Baroque Parapet: Cultural Diffusion and Sense of Place in the American Southwest

Marshall McLennan, Eastern Michigan University

The intent of this paper is to trace the diffusion and vernacularization of the baroque parapet from seventeenth-century Spain to Mexico and thence to the American Southwest. High style baroque cathedrals and churches, among them the Spanish rococo baroque variant called churrigueresque, were introduced to and constructed in Mexico. In Mexican territories later to be acquired by the United States, frontier mission churches incorporated simplified vernacular renditions of the baroque parapet, whereas churrigueresque details barely gained a foothold. During the second half of the nineteenth century, some secular buildings began to utilize vernacular forms of the baroque parapet in the American Southwest. A more self-conscious use of the baroque parapet, within the context of the Mission and Spanish-Revival styles, emerged early in the twentieth century as a regional expression of the colonial-revival architectural fashion. Domestic, commercial and public forms of popular architecture made use of the baroque parapet, and thereby embellished the regional sense of place in the Southwest. Key elements of the baroque parapet include curved and/or stepped gables, bell screens, corner pinnacles and piers, statuary niches, and circular or quatrefoil windows. Read the article.

The Case for Coalwood, WV: Historic Preservation and Economic Development in Appalachian Coal Mining Towns

Lisa Mroszczyk, City of Frederick Planning Department

This paper looks at the role historic preservation can play in the economic development of the former coal mining company town of Coalwood in rural McDowell County, primarily through a series of interviews with members of varying levels and agencies of government, non-profit organizations working on the state, county, and local levels, and long-time residents of Coalwood, as well as field visits. The paper will present the history and significance of Coalwood and the issues presently hindering its preservation and economic development, and assesses how historic preservation can enhance current plans for economic development. From this information, a historic preservation proposal is presented that addresses all of the major issues in an attempt to bring a viable alternative economic base and a long-term solution.

Coal Patch Communities in Indiana County, PA: Industrial Age Urbanity in Rural Appalachia

Kevin Patrick, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

When Indiana County was founded in 1803 it was literally on the frontier. The seat of Indiana was centrally located at the junction of the county’s two most important Indian paths. Forests were cut, farms planted, and to this day the land use beyond the borough limits of every town is decidedly agricultural. The exploitation of Indiana County’s agricultural resources created a rural landscape of small crossroad villages. The exploitation of the county’s coal resources, however, created miniature city systems dependent on the export oriented infrastructure of railroads located relative to the county’s topography, hydrology and underground geology. Although small, the high density coal patch communities were decidedly urban, and assembled hierarchically into a network of larger towns. A cluster of semi-isolated coal patch communities made up the base of the hierarchy. These clusters were tributary to conveniently located market towns. Indiana, with its public administrative and private headquarters functions, higher order retail goods and services, well developed infrastructure, and social elite, was at the top of the county hierarchy. These communities have survived into the post-industrial present, but they are no longer connected through the production of coal and coke. Ironically, 21st century Indiana County’s links to even larger metropolitan places has stimulated construction of new infrastructure to import coal into power generating facilities.

Graveyard Traditions in Southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia

J. Daniel Pezzoni, Landmark Preservation Associates

The presentation, an outgrowth of research on the folk graveyards of the South, focuses on interesting aspects of form, material, symbolism, and ethnicity in selected cemeteries of the region. Discussion includes the Pocahontas Cemetery, notable for its Hungarian and Italian grave markers; the exceptional folk Germanic gravestone tradition of southwest Virginia; cemeteries in Lewisburg, West Virginia, and Blacksburg, Virginia, containing work signed by or attributable to the German-influenced carver B. F. Spyker; and modern trends.

Transportation Costs and Social Change in Western New York, 1800-2010

Tom Rasmussen, Gainesville State College

Transportation costs have declined steadily in rural western New York for 200 years. Improvements that have transformed social life include the quality of foot paths and later, roads on the frontier; construction of railroads in the 1850s connecting western New York farms and eastern seaboard cities; invention of the automobile which transformed rural life in the 1920s; and construction of the interstate highway system after World War II. Transportation costs shaped where the first European migrants chose to settle; why farmers abandoned subsistence production for cash crop farming; why farm dwellers steadily moved to village and city; how social status and economic opportunities for women improved; and how vernacular housing style evolved over 200 years.

Rediscovering Rural Appalachian Communities with Historical GIS: A Case Study of Summers County, WV

George Towers, Concord University

From the late nineteenth century until World War II, agrarian southern Appalachia was a patchwork of small, close-knit farm communities. This historic rural settlement pattern is locally recorded in community case studies by ethnographers and historical geographers but has not been mapped systematically. This paper explores the hypothesis that GIS analysis of historic topographic maps adequately identifies the boundaries of bygone southern Appalachian agricultural neighborhoods. Using the ArcGIS cost allocation analysis function, least cost regions are generated around neighborhood nodes based on the energy cost of foot travel relative to distance and slope. These prospective agricultural neighborhoods closely match ethnographers’ and historical geographers’ spatial descriptions. Mapping historic Appalachian agricultural neighborhoods provides an important basis for comparison with past and present settlement patterns. The research method is significant because it is easily replicated and may be extended across Appalachia and the past century.

Speak, Landscape: Conversation with a North Carolina Textile Mill Village’s Nodes, Edges, Paths and Landmarks

Julie K. Trotter, Alamance Community College

Interviews and oral histories collected from former Southern textile mill workers often solely reflect what no longer exists–mill village life while the mill was operational. When the direction of inquiry primarily looks backwards, without the balance of also looking at the present, accounts of mill life appear frozen in past time, as one book title suggests (and laments) that My World is Gone. What can we learn from the present-day mill village landscape that might offer insight into what is important to current people who reside there, and what might have impacted the tight-knit mill village life of yesteryear? Using Kevin Lynch’s framework for organizing elements of a city he identified in his classic book The Image of the City, the current landscape of a former thriving textile mill village, Bynum, North Carolina, will be analyzed to look for indicators of how place affects people’s lives. Studying the current topographical landscape of a former mill town serves as a connecting agent; it grounds our understanding of social relationships in the physical world where they take place, it creates a bridge from past to future, and it offers an awareness of how the landscape figures in everyday cultural life.

Exploring the National Park Service as a Federal Partner in National Heritage Areas: Perceptions and Practices Over Time

Susan Martin Williams, Concord University

Using case study analysis, this qualitative research project explored National Heritage Areas’ perceptions about the role of the National Park Service as a Federal Partner over time. An evolutionary model resulted, showing that the role of the NPS as Federal Partner changes as National Heritage Areas evolve as interorganizational domains. This information is especially important as public, private and non-profit sectors are forced to rely on partnerships and collaboration to withstand increasingly turbulent economic environments, avoid competing for common resources and duplication of efforts. Read the article.


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