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Yesterday's People

Yesterday's People: Life in Contemporary Appalachia

Jack E. Weller
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Yesterday's People
    Book Description:

    The distinctive way of life of the Southern Appalachian people has often been criticized, romanticized or derided, but rarely has it been understood. Yesterday's People, the fruit of many years' labor in the mountains, reveals the fears, anxieties, and hopes that underlie the mountaineers' way of thinking and acting, and thereby shape their relationships in family and community. First published in 1965, this book has been an indispensable guide for all who seek to study, work or live within the Appalachian culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4649-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface, Thirty Years After
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Jack E. Weller
  4. An Introductory Note
    (pp. ix-xiii)
    Rupert B. Vance
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xiv-xviii)
    Harry M. Caudill

    The Appalachian mountaineers have been discovered and forgotten many times. They first attracted national attention during the Civil War. Their primitive agriculture disrupted by foragers and incessant guerrilla warfare, thousands of them straggled out of the mountains in search of food and shelter. General O. O. Howard, the director of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, called their plight to the attention of the White House, and President Lincoln told the General that after the war a way would be found to aid the poor mountain people whom the world had bypassed and forgotten for so long.


  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
    Jack E. Weller
  7. 1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    It was thirteen years ago that I first came to Southern Appalachia, to a coal-mining area in the mountains of West Virginia. Work as a minister in a parish of the United Presbyterian Church called me there. As time went on and the period required for being accepted in a new community passed, and I still felt very much an outsider, I tried to analyze why I did not fit in as completely as I thought I should. Plans and methods that had been successful in other places were not effective here. Standard ways of working with individual persons, with...

  8. 2. The Homeland of the Mountaineer
    (pp. 9-27)

    Early in our nation’s life the region we now call Appalachia became a problem: it was a block to settlers moving westward. The long ridges of the old mountains, which run for 1,300 miles from Vermont to northern Alabama, presented a formidable barrier to westward movement. These mountains are not high, as mountains go—Mt. Mitchell, the highest, rises not quite 6,700 feet—but they are steep and rugged and continue range after range.

    The eastern edge of the Southern Appalachians is formed by the Blue Ridge Mountains, which rise steeply from the broad Piedmont that stretches toward the coast....

  9. 3. Introducing the Mountaineer
    (pp. 28-57)

    American society has loved the caricaturization of the cowboy, and his ways have found entrance into the dreams and play of many an American child. There is something romantic and wholesome about the cowboy. The “western” image has a significant role in American entertainment, business, and even politics and religion. (Note the ten-gallon hat and boots that many Westerners still wear, and the evangelistic impact made by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.)

    The mountaineer, on the other hand, has become an object of amusement and scorn. Who has not been confronted by a picture of the bare-footed man in ill-fitting...

  10. 4. The Mountaineer in His Society
    (pp. 58-86)

    The social life as well as the emotional security of the mountain person is centered in the reference group, within which all important activities take place. This central group, which is composed of persons of the same sex and status and of approximately the same age, shapes the mountaineer’s personality and his culture. He finds his fulfillment as a person within this primary group. There are no strict rules for defining this group, but for adults it is almost entirely family based, including the immediate family, cousins, and uncles, with a few close neighbors. Compatibility is essential, so that not...

  11. 5. The Mountaineer and the Community
    (pp. 87-101)

    The middle class traveler, as he journeys through rural Appalachia, is not likely to be favorably impressed with much that he sees. He will observe rows of coal-camp houses with peeling paint; elsewhere, unpainted, weather-stained houses set on blocks or posts (allowing the chickens or house pets some shelter and escape), perched on the hillsides or back from the creek banks; the front porch with its ever occupied rocking chairs or a swing, and children everywhere. In the visitor’s eyes the well-kept garden patches and the picturesque narrow footbridges swinging precariously across the creeks in front of the houses cannot...

  12. 6. The Mountaineer and the Outside World
    (pp. 102-120)

    By “outside world” I mean all the persons, groups, and forces which act in the mountains but are not an indigenous part of mountain society. This outside world includes the educational system, the government on every level except local, the personnel of the railroads and the coal and land companies, the doctors, the social workers from the public-welfare office, the educated ministers and missionaries, the state police—all those who do not really “belong” by nature in the mountains. These organizations and the persons who represent them are often looked upon with hostility and suspicion, for they are regarded as...

  13. 7. The Mountaineer and the Church
    (pp. 121-133)

    The religious heritage of the Southern Appalachian people has been pictured as ‘leftwing Protestantism.’ Its characteristics include puritanical behavior patterns, religious individualism, fundamentalism in attitudes toward the Bible and Christian doctrine, little distinction between clergy and laity, sectarian concepts of the church and its mission, revivalism, informality in public worship, and opposition to central authority of state or church.”¹ This description of religion in the Southern Appalachians is almost exactly opposite from the traditions of much American Protestantism and of the clergy trained in seminaries. It is hardly surprising that many dedicated young men from the cities and towns of...

  14. 8. The Mountaineer and the Future
    (pp. 134-160)

    Appalachia has been rediscovered—so we began some chapters ago. The people of the mountains, often to their grave dislike, have found themselves the objects of surveys and studies, the subjects of pictures and articles in newspapers and national magazines, the grist for the TV cameraman’s mill as he grinds out pictures of poverty, malnutrition, ignorance, and loss of hope. The governments of the mountain states have suddenly awakened to the needs of great numbers of their people who have been lost to their consciousness for so long. The Federal government has its programs, and there is every reason to...

  15. Appendix
    (pp. 161-164)