Even as they delighted in the landscape, though, travelers unabashedly feared for their lives.
Travel accounts left a uniformly negative portrait of the region's roads, coaches, and drivers. Author and former British naval officer Frederick Marryat, for example, regaled his readers with an account of nearing the springs in a dilapidated coach driven by a "hell-bent-for-leather" driver. Due to the summer's heat, two horses died in the mad dash for the resorts. Count Francesco Arese, a Milanese noble and close friend of France's Louis Napoleon, left a more good-natured but equally illustrative account.
The war moves south
Arese compared his fellow travelers to "anchovies in a keg. Once safely off the road, travelers began to record their thoughts about the region's inhabitants. While a few, like the "done up" Arese, were positive, most regarded the mountaineers negatively, eager to note any defect in the American or southern character. Buckingham's depiction of the residents of Peterstown, Monroe County, exemplify the negative comments, as he wrote they.
It is worth noting, however, that Buckingham could rise above his prejudices, if only for a moment. In almost the same breath, he praised the citizens of nearby Union for their sobriety, no small achievement to the ardent temperance reformer. Anne Royall left one of the best early portraits of southwest Virginia. Born in Maryland but raised primarily in Pennsylvania, Royall, widow of an eastern Virginia squire, traveled and wrote in the mids to supplement her income.
Journeying down the Valley Road, Royall found herself surprisingly taken with the people she encountered. She adored their "sweet melodious voices" and "personal beauty. In addition to all this, they are a well informed, hospitable, and polite people. Importantly, Royall limited such praise to southwest Virginians of British ethnic origins. The Appalachian region was stereotypically portrayed as one whose residents were of homogeneous British origins, of either English or Scottish descent.
As Royall and others noted, much of western Virginia contained a significant German minority. German customs and even the language flourished as late as the Civil War. Royall viewed this most unfavorably, and Washington County's "Dutch," as Germans universally were called, came in for stinging criticism. The "Dutch," Royall charged, were illiterate and immoral, "though industrious and in many instances wealthy.
Other alleged characteristics, such as sexual promiscuity among women and an improper familiarity with blacks, were seen as merely side effects of the resistance to change. After her experiences on the Valley Road, Royall turned northward to the springs, where she encountered more southwest Virginians. Royall concluded that the mountaineers of Mercer, Monroe, and Greenbrier counties were different from those she had previously encountered. Although of the same British stock, she considered them an inferior people.
Isolation in a "bleak, inhospitable, and dreary country, remote from commerce and navigation [and] destitute of arts, taste and refinement" left the inhabitants illiterate and ignorant of the ways of the world.
While not as unkind as Buckingham, her descriptions were hardly complimentary as she assured readers the region had never "reared one man of abilities of any sort. Royall's comments imply on the surface that the rugged landscape was somehow responsible for stunting the growth of its inhabitants, as if they were trees. In fact, the basis for Royall's condemnations was economic. The mountaineers of the Greenbrier Valley, she derisively concluded, were ".
They are without capital, system, or enterprise, nor do they seem ambitious of either. Clearly, what distinguished these mountaineers from their brethren to the south in Royall's eyes was the latter group's greater integration into the commercial mainstream, facilitated by a major transportation artery.
Yet the walls of alleged isolation already were tumbling in the Greenbrier Valley. The wealthy lowland elite at the hot springs acted as a catalyst. Royall believed that contact with the refined outsiders could not help but "bring a fund of amusement and instruction home to the doors of [the] inhabitants. Mountaineers desired tea and coffee, kitchenware, and clothing. Market demand spurred merchants to locate in the area, a development Royall regretted as a threat to the purity of the unsullied yeomen. These merchants acted as middlemen in marketing local goods to the outside world.
As Royall described the process, local merchants acquired through barter a variety of goods, including beeswax, feathers, maple sugar, whiskey, wool, and especially butter and ginseng and transported the items by wagon northward to Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.
A Damaged Culture
The merchants sold or bartered at profit consumer goods from these cities in the Greenbrier Valley. Southwest Virginians often cut out the middlemen when it came to marketing the region's most important product, livestock. Blessed with luxurious pastures, the region yielded fine cattle, hogs, horses, and sheep, which found ready buyers in the northeast.
Drovers embarked on long stock drives to the nation's capital and beyond. Stock raising was the mountaineer's most serious foray into the commercial economy. The stock industry continued to develop in the antebellum years. Buckingham, who entered southwest Virginia more than ten years after Royall, believed the region to possess the best pastures in the United States. He wrote of a large farm near Newbern:. Frederick Law Olmsted, perhaps the best known of the antebellum travelers, left another vivid account of stock droving in southwest Virginia. East of Abingdon, Washington County, Olmsted,.
The hot springs provided ready markets for beef, pork, and mutton as well.
Featherstonhaugh, a British geologist and aristocrat, observed drovers at White Sulphur Springs who arrived with twenty to fifty animals per herd, which they sold to the management for three cents per pound. The springs contributed to the local economy in additional ways.
Diners desired fruits, vegetables, and milk products with their meat. Local entrepreneurs provided private carriages for guests' transportation.
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Farm families provided short-term lodging for travelers waiting for rooms at the resorts. Moreover, guests eager for a change in routine fueled a nascent tourist industry away from the resorts. Writers counseled that no visit to the springs could be complete without a stop at Hawk's Nest, magnificently perched a thousand feet above the New River in Fayette County, or at Organ Cave, fifteen miles south of White Sulphur Springs.
Travelers employed local guides to escort them to these and other attractions. Featherstonhaugh, for example, hired farmer and hunter Charley Talbot to take him to King's Cove, a spot in far southwest Virginia. Talbot apparently supplemented his income regularly in this manner. The transition to a market economy stimulated town development in southwest Virginia. Abingdon, home of the influential Campbell, Floyd, and Preston families and seat of Washington County government, was the region's most substantial town.
Culture of Swaziland - history, people, women, beliefs, food, family, social, dress, marriage
By , it had eleven hundred residents, over two hundred buildings, four churches, and a macadamized main street. While Featherstonhaugh dismissed it as a "straggling village," Olmsted several years later praised Abingdon as "a compact little town with a good deal of wealth. Lewisburg, Greenbrier County, was the principal town in the Greenbrier Valley. Anne Royall noted in the mid-twenties that Lewisburg was a lively, thriving place with a stone courthouse, two churches, two academies, and forty homes. Commerce, especially stock droving, and county court business generated Lewisburg's bustling atmosphere.
Union, mercantile center for the ginseng and pelt trade, was another important town in the area. The mountain region described in the travel accounts, then, was not an isolated backwater cut off from the outside world. Rather, southwest Virginians were making the transformation from a locally-oriented, semi-subsistence economy to a wider commercial market. Southwest Virginia's mountaineers moved warily toward the benefits capitalism offered, while simultaneously safeguarding their independence and security.
Historical geographer Edward K. Muller's model of regional growth is helpful on this point, describing three distinct phases of regional development. In the "pioneer" phase, settlers established communities far removed from commercial markets. The absence of population and the time and energy required to establish homes and farms hindered the development of agriculture beyond subsistence needs.
Transportation was confined to a few natural routes. However, as settlement expanded and the population grew, communities passed into a second, "specialized" phase. Intraregional and interregional connections improved, resulting in the influx of new settlers and the beginnings of commercial agriculture and manufacturing. In the final phase, which Muller called "transitional," national transportation and marketing systems, especially railroads, integrated communities into the national economy. Robert D. Mitchell applied a model like Muller's to Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, and it can be used just as profitably in examining southwest Virginia.
Using Muller's terminology, the historians of continuity and homogeneity argued that southwest Virginia and the rest of Appalachia never emerged from the first, pioneer phase of development.