Friday, May 26, 2017

Catawba Genesis

Charles Lanman (1819-1895) was an American Renaissance Man.  The Michigan native was a librarian, scholar, ambassador, angler, explorer and travel writer. Participating in the Hudson River School for an entire decade, Lanman was also a talented painter who studied under the great Asher Durand. 




Lanman’s Letters from the Alleghany Mountains (1849) is, arguably, the most picturesque eyewitness account of Southern Appalachian life in the antebellum period.  I read it thirty years ago and have returned to it often.

Digging a bit deeper into his extensive literary output, I recently discovered a piece that he described as an origin story of the Catawba Indians, among numerous other Indian tales in his 1857 book, Adventures in the Wilds of the United States and British American Provinces. 

In the eighteenth century, the Catawbas were a prominent native group in the Carolina Piedmont and were also perpetual adversaries of the Cherokees.  Their culture has survived, not quite intact, to the present day. Last year, I posted an entry on one man who was (ostensibly) the last speaker of the Catawba language.

To what extent Lanman was personally acquainted with Catawba people in the 1840s and 1850s is an open question, as is the degree to which he relied on his own imagination to recount the Catawba Genesis legend:

THERE was a time when the world was an unbroken waste of rocks, hills, and mountains, save only one small valley, which was distinguished for its luxuriance, and where reigned a perpetual summer. At that time, too, the only human being who inhabited the earth was a woman, whose knowledge was confined to this valley, and who is remembered among the Catawbas as the mother of mankind.

She lived in a cavern, and her food consisted of the honey of flowers, and the sweet berries and other fruits of the wilderness. Birds without number, and the wild streams which found a resting-place in the valley, made the only music which she ever heard. Among the wild animals, which were very numerous about her home, she wandered without any danger; but the beaver and the doe were her favorite companions.

In personal appearance she was eminently beautiful, and the lapse of years only had a tendency to increase the brightness of her eyes and the grace of her movements. The dress she wore was made of those bright green leaves which enfold the water lilies, and her hair was as long as the grass which fringed the waters of her native vale. She was the ruling spirit of a perennial world, for even the very flowers which bloomed about her sylvan home were never known to wither or die. In spite of her lonely condition, she knew not what it was to be lonely; but ever and anon a strange desire found its way to her heart, which impelled her to explore the wild country which surrounded her home.

For many days had she resisted the temptation to become a wanderer from her charming valley, until it so happened, on a certain morning, that a scarlet butterfly made its appearance before the door of her cave, and by the hum of its wings invited her away. She obeyed the summons, and followed the butterfly far up a rocky ravine, until she came to the foot of a huge waterfall, when she was deserted by her mysterious pilot, and first became acquainted with the emotion of fear.

Her passage of the ravine had been comparatively smooth; but when she endeavored, in her consternation, to retrace her steps, she found her efforts unavailing, and fell to the ground in despair. A deep sleep then overcame her senses, from which she was not awakened until the night was far spent; and then the dampness of the dew had fallen upon her soft limbs, and for the first time in her life did she feel the pang of a bodily pain.

Forlorn and desolate indeed was her condition, and she felt that some great event was about to happen, when, as she uncovered her face and turned it to the sky, she beheld, bending over her prostrate form, and clothed in a cloud-like robe, the image of a being somewhat resembling herself, only that he was more stoutly made, and of a much fiercer aspect. Her first emotion at this strange discovery was that of terror; but as the mysterious being looked upon her in kindness, and raised her lovingly from the ground, she confided in his protection, and listened to his words until the break of day.

He told her that he was a native of the far-off sky, and that he had discovered her in her forlorn condition while travelling from the evening to the morning star. He told her also that he had never before seen a being so soft and beautifully formed as she. In coming to her rescue he had broken a command of the Great Spirit, or the Master of Life, and, as he was afraid to return to the sky, he desired to spend his days in her society upon earth. With joy did she accept this proposal; and, as the sun rose above the distant mountains, the twain returned in safety to the luxuriant vale, where, as man and woman, for many moons, they lived and loved in perfect tranquility and joy.

In process of time the woman became a mother; from which time the happiness of the twain became more intense, but they at the same time endured more troubles than they had ever known before. The man was unhappy because he had offended the Master of Life, and the mother was anxious about the comfort and happiness of her newly-born child. Many and devout were the prayers they offered the Great Spirit for his guidance and protection, for they felt that from them were to be descended a race of beings more numerous than the stars of heaven.

The Great Spirit had compassion on these lone inhabitants of the earth; and, in answer to their prayers, he caused a mighty wind to pass over the world, making the mountains crowd closely together, and rendering the world more useful and beautiful by the prairies and valleys and rivers which now cover it, from the rising to the setting sun. The Master of Life also told his children that he would give them the earth and all that it contained as their inheritance; but that they should never enjoy their food without labor, should be annually exposed to a season of bitter cold, and that their existence should be limited by that period of time when their heads should become as white as the plumage of the swan. And so endeth the words of the Catawba.

One of Charles Lanman's paintings

In 1848, Lanman spent some time exploring Roan Mountain, on the Tennessee – North Carolina border and he credited the Catawbas with an explanation for the rhododendron balds of that region:

In accounting for the baldness which characterizes the Roan Mountain, the Catawba Indians relate the following tradition:

There was once a time when all the nations of the earth were at war with the Catawbas, and had proclaimed their determination to conquer and possess their country.

On hearing this intelligence the Catawbas became greatly enraged, and sent a challenge to all their enemies, and dared them to a fight on the summit of the Roan. The challenge was accepted, and no less than three famous battles were fought—the streams of the entire land were red with blood, a number of tribes became extinct, and the Catawbas carried the day.

Whereupon it was that the Great Spirit caused the forests to wither from the three peaks of the Roan Mountain where the battles were fought; and wherefore it is that the flowers which grow upon this mountain are chiefly of a crimson hue, for they are nourished by the blood of the slain.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Who Said It? (Inaugural Edition)

The following post first appeared here on December 16, 2007:

I happened upon a collection of presidential inaugural addresses. After browsing through the past fifty years of speeches, I’m struck by how similar they all are (with a few exceptions). Reagan’s addresses, (and to a lesser extent those by the Bushes), break the pattern a bit, marked by language and ideas that are less lofty, and more specific, than the typical inaugural address. That's my first impression after a quick reading. In any event, you'll probably have a tough time matching the right president to each of the following quotes. These represent all of the inaugural addresses since 1957 (Eisenhower through Bush), but in random order. Answers follow the quotes. Noble words come easy, eh?

1. The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God. We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

2. Together with the rest of the world, let us resolve to move forward from the beginnings we have made. Let us continue to bring down the walls of hostility which have divided the world for too long, and to build in their place bridges of understanding—so that despite profound differences between systems of government, the people of the world can be friends. Let us build a structure of peace in the world in which the weak are as safe as the strong—in which each respects the right of the other to live by a different system—in which those who would influence others will do so by the strength of their ideas, and not by the force of their arms.

3. America must remain freedom's staunchest friend, for freedom is our best ally. And it is the world's only hope, to conquer poverty and preserve peace. Every blow we inflict against poverty will be a blow against its dark allies of oppression and war. Every victory for human freedom will be a victory for world peace. So we go forward today, a nation still mighty in its youth and powerful in its purpose. With our alliances strengthened, with our economy leading the world to a new age of economic expansion, we look forward to a world rich in possibilities.

4. In America’s ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled by service, and mercy, and a heart for the weak. Liberty for all does not mean independence from one another. Our nation relies on men and women who look after a neighbor and surround the lost with love. Americans, at our best, value the life we see in one another, and must always remember that even the unwanted have worth. And our country must abandon all the habits of racism, because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time.

5. We live in a land of plenty, but rarely has this earth known such peril as today. In our nation work and wealth abound. Our population grows. Commerce crowds our rivers and rails, our skies, harbors, and highways. Our soil is fertile, our agriculture productive. The air rings with the song of our industry—rolling mills and blast furnaces, dynamos, dams, and assembly lines—the chorus of America the bountiful. This is our home—yet this is not the whole of our world. For our world is where our full destiny lies—with men, of all people, and all nations, who are or would be free. And for them—and so for us—this is no time of ease or of rest.

6. Beyond that, my fellow citizensthe future is up to us. Our founders taught us that the preservation of our liberty and our union depends upon responsible citizenship. And we need a new sense of responsibility for a new century. There is work to do, work that government alone cannot do: teaching children to read; hiring people off welfare rolls; coming out from behind locked doors and shuttered windows to help reclaim our streets from drugs and gangs and crime; taking time out of our own lives to serve others.

7. We have found ourselves rich in goods, but ragged in spirit; reaching with magnificent precision for the moon, but falling into raucous discord on earth. We are caught in war, wanting peace. We are torn by division, wanting unity. We see around us empty lives, wanting fulfillment. We see tasks that need doing, waiting for hands to do them. To a crisis of the spirit, we need an answer of the spirit. To find that answer, we need only look within ourselves. When we listen to "the better angels of our nature," we find that they celebrate the simple things, the basic things—such as goodness, decency, love, kindness. Greatness comes in simple trappings.

8. If we look to the answer as to why, for so many years, we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because here, in this land, we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on Earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price.

9. We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on Earth: through free markets, free speech, free elections, and the exercise of free will unhampered by the state. For the first time in this century, for the first time in perhaps all history, man does not have to invent a system by which to live. We don't have to talk late into the night about which form of government is better. We don't have to wrest justice from the kings. We only have to summon it from within ourselves. We must act on what we know. I take as my guide the hope of a saint: In crucial things, unity; in important things, diversity; in all things, generosity.

10. While many of our citizens prosper, others doubt the promise, even the justice, of our own country. The ambitions of some Americans are limited by failing schools and hidden prejudice and the circumstances of their birth. And sometimes our differences run so deep, it seems we share a continent, but not a country. We do not accept this, and we will not allow it. Our unity, our union, is the serious work of leaders and citizens in every generation. And this is my solemn pledge: I will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity.

11. We have already found a high degree of personal liberty, and we are now struggling to enhance equality of opportunity. Our commitment to human rights must be absolute, our laws fair, our natural beauty preserved; the powerful must not persecute the weak, and human dignity must be enhanced. We have learned that "more" is not necessarily "better," that even our great Nation has its recognized limits, and that we can neither answer all questions nor solve all problems. We cannot afford to do everything, nor can we afford to lack boldness as we meet the future. So, together, in a spirit of individual sacrifice for the common good, we must simply do our best.

12. How incredible it is that in this fragile existence, we should hate and destroy one another. There are possibilities enough for all who will abandon mastery over others to pursue mastery over nature. There is world enough for all to seek their happiness in their own way. Our Nation's course is abundantly clear. We aspire to nothing that belongs to others. We seek no dominion over our fellow man, but man's dominion over tyranny and misery. But more is required. Men want to be a part of a common enterprise—a cause greater than themselves. Each of us must find a way to advance the purpose of the Nation, thus finding new purpose for ourselves. Without this, we shall become a nation of strangers.

13. In serving, we recognize a simple but powerful truth—we need each other. And we must care for one another. Today, we do more than celebrate America; we rededicate ourselves to the very idea of America. An idea born in revolution and renewed through two centuries of challenge. An idea tempered by the knowledge that, but for fate, we—the fortunate and the unfortunate—might have been each other. An idea ennobled by the faith that our nation can summon from its myriad diversity the deepest measure of unity. An idea infused with the conviction that America's long heroic journey must go forever upward.



1. John F. Kennedy, 1961
2. Richard Nixon, 1973
3. Ronald Reagan, 1985
4. George W. Bush, 2005
5. Dwight Eisenhower, 1957
6. Bill Clinton, 1997
7. Richard Nixon, 1969
8. Ronald Reagan, 1981
9. George Bush, 1989
10. George W. Bush, 2001
11. Jimmy Carter, 1977
12. Lyndon Johnson, 1965
13. Bill Clinton, 1993

Friday, January 6, 2017

James R. Gilmore's "Mountain-White Heroine"

After decades perusing nineteenth century documents pertaining to the Southern Appalachians, it is easy for me to assume that I've already found all the "Really Good Stuff."  Of course that's not the case, though the rare gems I still unearth from time to time have been well hidden.

The work of James Roberts Gilmore is a good example.

A prolific and popular author during and after the Civil War, Gilmore deserves to be better known than he is today.  In a prior post, I shared his introduction to Mountain-White Heroine (1889). Gilmore's commentary caught my attention thanks to his early grasp of the threat posed by lax immigration laws and the diffusion of socialist thought in America.  In contrast, Gilmore saw the embodiment of desperately needed "American values" in the mountaineers of Southern Appalachia.



Although his political commentary at the front of Mountain-White Heroine is a somewhat surprising curiosity, I wasn't expecting anything special from the novel that followed.  I've read, or tried to read, other 19th century regional fiction.  Some of it is worth the effort, but much of it is deeply flawed.  Besides if Gilmore was any good, why had I never heard of him?

Born in Boston, James Roberts Gilmore (1823 - 1903) began his career in New York as a businessman involved in the cotton and shipping industries.  During the 1850s, his work took him to the South where he became acquainted with whites and blacks. During the Civil War and the decades that followed, he devoted more of his time to writing, often publishing his work under the pseudonym, Edmund Kirke.  He was a novelist, historian, poet and lecturer, spending time in the South to collect material for his books.  He took particular interest in John Sevier and other pioneers of trans-Appalachian settlement and stayed in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina while conducting research for his historical book series.

As a Civil War story, as a suspenseful tale well-told, Mountain-White Heroine rises well above my low expectations. It warrants a space on the same shelf as similar works by modern writers like Charles Frazier and Robert Morgan.  The novel recounts the hardships endured by Union loyalists in Madison County, NC.  Sons and husbands who refuse to fight for the Confederacy suffer the most dire of consequences. Several historic figures appear in the novel:  Robert Vance (briefly), Daniel Ellis (a Union officer who wrote a popular memoir about his war-time exploits in the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina), and Union Colonel George Kirk. More often than not in other novels and histories, Kirk and his "Raiders" are portrayed as cruel bushwhackers, terrorizing North Carolina mountaineers regardless of their allegiances in the war.  Gilmore, though, presents a different perspective on Kirk's Raiders, casting them in an unusually positive light.

Several things ring true in Mountain-White Heroine: Gilmore was intimately familiar with the geographical setting for the story, primarily in Madison County, although action ranged as far as Charleston (Bryson City), Soco, Waynesville and Morganton.  Gilmore also had a sense of the social strata of mountain communities.  His descriptions of some mountain people as ignorant and slovenly verge on stereotype.  On the other hand, he devotes as much or more space to mountaineers who are resolute, principled and brave.  Gilmore introduces us to the best and the worst of society.

The novel opens in April 1861 with the arrival of the circus:

...the monster placard announced that the dancing dogs, the monkey that plays the tambourine, and the half-nude goddess who rides four steeds at once, bare-backed, and at full gallop, would soon be on exhibition in the widely-known village of Asheville. The circus stole into town over night, and when the half-asleep dwellers in the place heard its measured tramp on the highway, they knew that a long procession of Mountain-Whites would follow in the morning. And it did. One unbroken stream of both sexes, and all ages, on foot, on horse-back, mule-back, and "critter back," and in every kind of nondescript vehicle, poured into the town, over all its principal thoroughfares, from early dawn till high-noon...

Gilmore devotes several pages to colorful descriptions of the people travelling to the big show:

The most of the people in this procession had dull, expressionless faces, and only a casual glance was needed to show that they were below the average of our rural population in civilization, and intelligence. A considerable portion had the appearance of well-to-do farmers, the remainder are known, far and wide, as "poor whites;" though they are not poor in the sense of being homeless, and destitute of the necessaries of life. However, their homes are often little better than hovels, and their food is usually a ration of salt pork, hominy, and "corn-dodger," which fails to develop in them a very high order of manhood. But the hovels are their own, and so are the small patches of cleared ground which they cultivate in the rudest and most primitive manner.

During the circus, news of the recent attack on Fort Sumter in Charleston begins to circulate through the crowd:

It is probable that not an individual in the assemblage had any adequate conception of the national bearing of the event, or of its vital relation to his own future; and yet, a feeling of dread and uncertainty, a vague sense of a grave crisis having come into their lives, pervaded the entire gathering, and sent each one back to his home pondering the tidings with more than his accustomed thoughtfulness. By none was the political bearing of this event more fully appreciated than by three youths, aged respectively, fifteen, seventeen, and nineteen years, who occupied one of the upper seats of the immense tent at the beginning of the itinerant performance. They were of a better class than a larger portion of the motley audience. Their clothing was of homespun, like that of the others, but it was neat, cleanly, and well-fitting, and sat upon them with the easy grace which betokens good breeding.

A reference to "good breeding" might chafe the sensitivities of the 21st century reader, but so be it. Gilmore's distinctions bring to mind an interview with Charlotte Young (1879-1985) a poet and educator who taught in remote mountains schools in the early twentieth century.  She had her own way of depicting the range of virtue and vice that she observed among mountain folk:

According to Greek belief, there two groups in the world. Apollo stood for reaching for Divinity for music and poetry. The followers of Bacchus emphasized the physical side of like, and were call Dioninysians. In Western North Carolina you see that as it was then in Greece and Rome, and everywhere, for that matter. You can see it all over the world now; all civilization, or lack of civilization. It was a fight between those two forces. In North Carolina the force for seeking the Divine is rather strong.  Some are followers of Bacchus and some are followers of Apollo, reaching for the Divine in art, in music, in beauty, as Apollo stood for all the finer things of life, as we say. So Bacchus stood only for his wine and women and eat, drink and be merry.  In North Carolina, I don't know if it's more so than in other places, but those who are with the group that reach for Divinity are very strong in it; and just as strong are those who like to shake their feet and dance and drink and run with the Bacchus crowd. I find that in my teaching, and I suppose it's more or less that way everywhere.

The three brothers in Gilmore's novel have never been so far from their home across the Ivy River in Madison County.  Growing weary of the circus, they leave early to share the news of Fort Sumter with their widowed mother, Mrs. Nancy Hawkins, a saintly woman and the central character of Mountain-White Heroine, a Charlotte Young Apollonian if there ever was one.



Mrs. Hawkins' relationship with a mountain "wild-woman" named Sukey is remarkably similar to the Ada and Ruby friendship in Frazier's Cold Mountain.  For anyone steeped in 19th century mountain narratives, Frazier's "borrowings" from that pool of literature are obvious.  Frazier acknowledges as much in an afterword to his novel, listing a dozen books that he found particularly helpful.  Nothing by James R. Gilmore is listed.  So, the parallels between Nancy-Sukey and Ada-Ruby could be sheer coincidence...or not:

...house-keeping was not Sukey's "gift."  She preferred to roam the woods, rifle or shot-gun in hand, in pursuit of the deer or wild rabbit. With these she kept their larder well stocked, and sometimes she brought down game that would have been regarded as a trophy by a male sportsman — on two or three occasions, a bear, and once a panther, which had stretched itself along the limb of a tree, and was about to spring down upon her.  

Sukey faces ongoing difficulties with her neer-do-well common law husband, the "Parson:"

"He's just loike what they say uv his farder and gran'ther — lazy as one, an' as big a thief as t'other. Why, he steals game thet I gits by all-day hunting; and swops hit off for bacon. He'd ruther pay twenty cents a pound for greasy swine-flesh, nor eat my best venison for nothin'. An' the swine ar' got inter his blood — made him just loike the porkers, an' thet's the trouble with all the folks round yere. They'se lived on swine so long that they'se got to be swine tharselves."

Yes, some of the dialect might be an issue for today's reader, but isn't as extreme or pervasive as that found in other Appalachian literature from the same time period, Mary Noailles Murfree (aka Charles Egbert Craddock) being a prime example.  Gilmore is also more moderate than Murfree with another common device from that time, florid descriptions of mountain scenery.  I happen to enjoy over-the-top word pictures like those painted by Murfree, including this one from The Frontiersmen:

The mockingbirds were singing in the woods outside. The sun was in the trees. The leafage had progressed beyond the bourgeoning period and the branches flung broad green splendors of verdure to the breeze. The Great Smoky Mountains were hardly less blue than the sky as the distant summits deployed against the fair horizon; only the nearest, close at hand, were sombre, and showed dark luxuriant foliage and massive craggy steeps, and their austere, silent, magnificent domes looked over the scene with solemn uplifting meanings.

It is worth remembering that most readers in the mid to late 19th century had no access to full-color, high resolution images of the Smokies.  Perhaps they had seen a few black-and-white lithographs in popular magazines, but they relied on their own imaginations to form a mental image of the mountains.  Compared to other writers of his time, Gilmore exercises restraint with his depictions of the landscape, and this passage is about as extravagant as it gets:

...the horsemen set off at a brisk gallop down the road to Waynesville, until they came opposite the point where the Oconolufta joins the Tuckasege. There in Indian file, each horseman treading as nearly as possible in the tracks of the one preceding him — they forded the Tuckasege, and striking a north-east course entered, at the distance of a few miles, the wooded ravine bordered by steep mountain ranges, a mile or more in height, through which flows the picturesque Oconolufta.  They were now in a magnificent region of mighty woods, majestic mountains, and noisy cascades, which leap over precipitous cliffs, and rush in sheeted foam down steep declivities. Here and there a grassy cove indents the side of the ravine, or a quiet, tree-sprinkled valley, where the mountains had receded farther from the river, and left some luxuriant nook to be one day the abode of man. As yet, however, no human habitation can be found in all the forest-covered region, and a stillness unbroken save by the noisy rush of the river, the startled cry of some bird, or the occasional bleat of a deer, or growl of a bear, reigns over all the leafy solitude.  

I'll reveal nothing more about the plot of Gilmore's novel.  Despite, or perhaps because of, the literary license he takes with historic facts, he gives us an engaging and valuable perspective on a tragic episode of Appalachian life.  The author's obscurity, 130 years after his hey-day, is revealed by googling "James Roberts Gilmore."  After reading his novel about the people of Madison County, I would say he deserves to be rediscovered.



Among his other books was the historic work, Advance Guard of Western Civilization, focused on James Robertson and the pioneer settlers of Middle Tennessee's Cumberland Region. Though Gilmore's contemporaries were underwhelmed by the depth of his scholarship.  With a lengthy footnote in the The Winning of the West, Theodore Roosevelt skewered Gilmore for shoddy research about John Sevier.  Even so, and even if Gilmore's version of history might have its shortcomings, Advance Guard is an entertaining read. Until finding Gilmore's book, I knew nothing about Spanish intrique among the trans-Appalachian pioneers in the 1780s, and I was unaware of James Wilkinson, a man who challenges Benedict Arnold for the title of "America's Worst Traitor...Ever."

With a little digging, one can find some unusual items from and about James R. Gilmore.  It would seem that President Abraham Lincoln sought his advice, if we are to believe the dialogues in Gilmore's Personal Recollections Of Abraham Lincoln And The Civil War.

Indeed, the New York Times reported on Gilmore's July 1864 mission to Richmond where he intended to convince Rebel leader Jefferson Davis to surrender.  Had Gilmore's mission been a success, no doubt his name would be better known today.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

"Fetid Exhalation from the Cesspools of Europe"

I enjoy finding obscure 19th century literature pertaining to the Southern Appalachians. Until this week, I was unaware of James Roberts Gilmore (1823-1903), a wealthy Northern merchant who ran a New York cotton and shipping company in the 1850s. Inspired by his business trips to the southern states, Gilmore began publishing books under the pseudonym Edmund Kirke. During and after the Civil War, his fact-based novels advanced his abolitionist views.


The best profile I found on Gilmore can be read here:
http://posterityproject.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-idol-of-frontier-people.html

In 1889, Gilmore published “A Mountain-White Heroine” with much of its action set along the Tuckaseigee and Oconaluftee Rivers. Perhaps a review of the story will be forthcoming. I have yet to determine if the novel’s character “Dan Ellis” is the same Union officer whose modestly titled autobiography “Thrilling Adventures of Daniel Ellis” included many war-time stories about his exploits in Western North Carolina and East Tennessee – a great read for anyone interested in the history of this region.

Gilmore’s introduction to “A Mountain-White Heroine” is a real attention-grabber, given his warnings about lax immigration policies and the insidious nature of Socialist thought in America.  I was surprised by what he was describing at such an early date. Though the most dire of scenarios outlined by Gilmore has not yet come to pass, the recent hysteria on behalf of Bernie Sanders points to the relevance of Gilmore’s words, 130 years after they were written:


A MOUNTAIN-WHITE HEROINE.

BY JAMES R. GILMORE (EDMUND KIRKE)

AUTHOR OF "AMONG THE PINES" "THE LAST OF THE THORNDIKES"
"THE REAR-GUARD OF THE REVOLUTION-" ETC.

NEW YORK AND CHICAGO
BELFORD, CLARKE AND COMPANY

1889

INTRODUCTION.

Our country offers hospitality to all civilized nations. It opens wide its doors to every man who desires civil and religious freedom, and is willing to assimilate with our people, and support our free institutions. It accords to him every right of property, and, after a brief probation, the same voice in shaping our governmental policy that is enjoyed by our native-born population, whose fathers laid the foundations of our Republic, and who have themselves erected it into a great nation. But, like prudent householders, our native citizens do not give cordial welcome to the foreign beggar, burglar, incendiary, and cutthroat. And yet, recent investigations, conducted under the authority of Congress, disclose the fact that European governments are vomiting upon our shores their criminal and worthless characters in startling numbers. Their highways and by-ways are ransacked for paupers, and their jails and penitentiaries are emptied of dangerous vagabonds, to be thrust into our large cities in idle and lawless crowds, there to form an element that is a menace to the peace and security of any civilized community.

The presence of this element has already obliged every one of our larger municipalities to so augment its police force, as to greatly increase the tax-burden of its order loving citizens.

This is an element sufficiently dangerous to cause alarm; but it is far less dangerous to us as an American people than those firebrands of Europe — the Anarchists and Socialists — whom foreign governments are scattering broadcast among us. The paupers and criminals threaten our security as individual citizens; the Anarchists and Socialists are a menace to the stability of our Government, and the integrity of our very civilization.

John Most, the high priest of American anarchy, in his recent examination before the Congressional Immigration Committee, expressed the opinion that there are fifty millions of Socialists in Europe, and he stated that two million Anarchists are already domiciled in the United States, and are being reinforced by every ship that arrives from the Continent. The number of Socialists already here he did not state; but they are undoubtedly more numerous than the Anarchists. When asked to define the difference between socialism and anarchism, Most replied that the Socialist seeks to change the whole system of society. He does not seek to abolish individual ownership, but — what is the same thing — he would have the earnings of property equally distributed among the people. Under this system he believes there would be no necessity for laws, nor any need of a government. Every man would become a law unto himself, and the State would soon go out of existence. The" Anarchist, on the other hand, according to Most, believes in the equal distribution of all property, and the immediate and total abolition of all State government.

The mere statement of these doctrines is enough to show that these people are the natural enemies of our American civilization. They are simply destructives. License with them is liberty; and freedom the ability of the poor to pull down the rich, and to revel idly on the avails of other men's industry. Both Socialists and Anarchists are largely sceptics and atheists, and drawn, as they mainly are, from the most ignorant and degraded population of Europe, they are the ready instruments of designing demagogues who would build themselves up on the ruin of society. What enormities they would commit if once freed from restraint, may be seen in the recent developments in Chicago, and in the atrocities attending the great riots in Pittsburg and New York city.

But I conceive that the peril to which the country is exposed from this disorganizing element, lies not so much in its violent uprising, as in the peaceful spread of its opinions — the silent infusion of its poisonous virus into the veins of the great body of our working population, till they shall mistake French Communism, or German Socialism, or Russian Nihilism, for Anglo-Saxon freedom. The danger is that the country shall thus lose its national character, be un-Americanized, swung away from the traditions of our fathers, and from the English liberty, English law, and English religion, which have given us all our greatness as a nation.




This calamity may not be possible in our Eastern and Middle States, where the foreign element is a minority, and every school-boy knows that true freedom is liberty regulated by law, and its most characteristic trait a strict regard for the property and rights of other men. The natural field for these destructive theories is the West, where the foreign-born population is a much more potent element, and New England ideas have not so thoroughly leavened the community. In that section, which in the near future will hold the political power of the country, these atheistic and destructive principles are strongly aggressive, and gaining ground with astonishing rapidity. In Chicago alone there are now, according to Professor Samuel Ives Curtiss, forty thousand Anarchists, who openly counsel resistance to law, and support vile journals in which are reproduced the writings of Thomas Paine, the shallow utterances of Robert G. Ingersoll, and ribald parodies of all that is most sacred in human literature. These journals distinctly proclaim that property is theft, the future life a delusion, Christianity a fable, and God Himself merely a scarecrow, invented to keep the poor out of the rich man's cornfield.

All along the Great Lakes this fetid exhalation from the cesspools of Europe is spreading, and it threatens to soon taint the atmosphere of the entire West. And the misfortune is that the spread of the poison cannot be checked. No capitation tax will keep these men out of the country, and we cannot deny them a free expression of their opinions when they are in it. If we were to set zealously about the work we might convert a few of them to our political creed; but the chances are that when we had made one proselyte two others would spring up in his place, armed at all points with false logic, and backed by the moral support of that European reserve of fifty millions.

But it is doubtful if any genuine Anarchist can be converted to our American idea of freedom. Hatred of the rich he has drunk in with his mother's milk, and the iron heel of the governing classes in his native country has so scarred his very soul, that he has come to regard all who are better-conditioned than himself as his natural enemies. He cannot be made to understand that there can be no tyranny where every man wears a crown, no actual inequality where all are equal before the law, no exclusive possession of riches where moderate intelligence, and persistent industry, will speedily bestow them upon the poorest and most illiterate. He is incapable of understanding this, and hence, is unable to appreciate either the rights or the duties of an American citizen. This being so, and these men increasing in number in a more rapid ratio than our native population, and every one of them having the ballot in his possession, how shall we during the coming years preserve our national character, and keep intact our American institutions? The question is of vital moment to this nation, and it concerns not only every patriot, but every Christian who has at heart the upward progress of the human race, and would see his country achieve its high mission as the standard bearer of civil and religious freedom.

There can be but one answer to this question, and that is —The safety of our American institutions depends solely upon a more general education of our native born American population. From our own people, who have inherited our national traditions, and have our Anglo-Saxon freedom in their very blood, must be formed a body of intelligent, liberty-loving, God-fearing men, whose ballots shall hold this destructive foreign element in check, and thus preserve to us in their integrity our national character, and our free institutions. Thus far we have been safe in our numerical superiority; but with this inflowing tide of socialism and anarchism overspreading all the West, the time has come when our supremacy is endangered, and we need to be reinforced by a body of voters who have the same ideals and aspirations as ourselves. This reinforcement we must have, or soon lose our character as an American people. This is the emergency that is now upon the nation.

But where shall we look for an auxiliary native force that will neutralize the baleful influence of this disorganizing foreign element? The Southern negro is the born enemy of atheism and anarchism, and when his rights as a freeman are more generally respected, and he is better educated, and more fully acquainted with his duties as an American citizen, he will be a valuable aid in upholding our American institutions. But the negro has not inherited our traditions, he has no ancestral memories connected with Bunker Hill, or King's Mountain, nor does he belong to a race which through fifteen hundred years of blood and struggle has achieved enlightened liberty and Christian civilization.

There is, however, among us a class of native-born Americans, who, if educated, and socially and morally elevated, would I think give the country the added strength it needs to maintain intact its free institutions; and this class is the so-called " Mountain-White" population of the Southern Alleghanies. They occupy what is now the very heart of this country, and number about two millions, all of them native-born, with an inherited love of freedom, and the intense patriotism which is peculiar to our American character. Being either too poor, or too conscientious, to hold slaves, they were, more than a hundred years ago, forced back to the mountains by the slave-holding planters of the seaboard, and, insulated there, shut out from the world, and deprived of schools and churches, they have grown up in ignorance of their rights and duties as American citizens.



The present condition of these people is directly traceable to slavery; for in making the slave the planter's blacksmith, carpenter, wheelwright, and man of all work, slavery shut every avenue of honest employment against the working white man, and drove him to the mountains and the barren sand hills to starve and to die. And having there shut him out from the world, it legislated to keep him in ignorance, lest he should learn his rights and overthrow its power. Only a few years before the war I saw a planter of my acquaintance march twenty of these men up to the polls, and when they had voted at his bidding, he turned to me and said, "This is your boasted Democracy. These men govern this country: Jefferson gave them the right of suffrage, and they suppose they are voting for Jefferson now."

"But," I said to him, "why do you not teach them to think? Why not give them schools and churches?"

"Because, if we did, they might not vote for Jefferson."

This reply indicates the policy that was pursued toward these people, through long years, by the ruling element in the South. But ignorant as they generally are, there is not in the whole country a more honest, brave, and liberty-loving class of men than these " Mountain-Whites," and during our recent civil war they developed qualities that do honor to American manhood. Though citizens of seceded States, and hemmed in by secession armies, and a disloyal people, the majority of them stood firmly by the Union, enduring, for what they thought the right, such suffering as rarely falls to the lot of any people. Multitudes of them laid out in the woods, were hunted with blood-hounds, beaten with stripes, hung to trees, tossed on the points of bayonets, and buried while yet alive, rather than deny their country, or betray its friends. Grass-grown cross-roads, where rude guide posts point ways no traveler ever went; lonely mountain hamlets, unknown except to the census-taker and the tax-gatherer, where the spelling-book and the mail bag never were seen, produced a race of heroes whose deeds will vie with those of any of the most noted characters in our history.

Living as these people do, remote from traveled routes, they are seldom seen by travelers, and their exploits in the late war, performed as they were in small conflicts, and amid the seclusion of their remote mountains, have escaped the notice of the chroniclers of the great events that decided the fate of the nation. Nevertheless, they are worthy of record at the present time, if for no other reason than to show the character of a large native element on which, when properly instructed, we may rely to stem the tide of socialism and anarchy that is now inundating the country. Therefore, it has been suggested to me that I may do a public service by recounting some of the war history of these people as it has been related to me by veracious persons, and by drawing such a general picture of their way of life, and natural and social surroundings, as came under my personal observation during a recent residence of some years in their near neighborhood. The facts that I record were communicated to me by some scores of individuals while I was traveling through their country in pursuit of material for a series of histories of the early South-West, that I have recently written; and I had then no thought of ever giving them to the public. I consequently took no further care at the time to verify the various accounts I received than would be natural to one who has more personal satisfaction in truth than in fiction. But, since the idea of writing this volume has been suggested to me, I have taken every means of verifying its facts that are possible by a correspondence with my original informants. The conclusion I have arrived at is, that the main facts I relate are historically true, and that, if some of the minor details are not so, the fact does not detract from the truthful character of my picture as a whole, nor render it a less faithful representation of the rare heroism, and self devoted patriotism exhibited by these Mountain-Whites during the recent war for the preservation of the Union.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Webster Knob



Webster Knob, Acrylic, 11x17"