Scottish Roots

Like many Appalachian descendants, especially those from Southwest Virginia several generations back, we can generally find that at least a portion of our lineage came directly or indirectly through Scotland. Obviously there are many exceptions, particularly the Mediterranean and Eastern European immigrants that emigrated to the coalfields in droves during the early 1900s coal mining booms. Numerous scholars say that coalfield Appalachia was third only to New York City and San Francisco for the diversity of nationalities present at that time. The census in Wise County during that “black gold” boom of a nearly century ago documented over two dozen nationalities, with Hungarians being the predominant group from Eastern Europe. Similarly, West Virginia had, and still has, a big contingent of residents bearing Slavic surnames from those days. African Americans seeking an alternative to southern sharecropping also played a significant role in coalfield diversity.

Why Living in Appalachia Ain’t So Bad

During the last presidential race, the stereotype of Appalachia once again reared its ugly head. The national media could not resist taking repeated potshots at the last place they can slander without penalty. The region’s embracement of Hillary Clinton over Barrack Obama in the Democrat primaries had to be based upon racism, the media conclusion went, although many northern state and city polls showed that race was a determining factor at a higher rate there than in the mountains. The media tended to ignore the fact that whether black or white, if a voter primarily chooses a candidate based on race, that is racism. Candidate Obama’s biggest difficulty in Appalachia tended to be his liberal views about gun rights, questions about religion and Reverend Wright, and lingering doubts in the mountains that government can fix anything. In fact, our region has embraced many government interventions and programs, including Roosevelt’s New Deal, federal labor rights, and national mine safety and reclamation laws, to name a few. Like most Americans though, we are generally opposed to federal intervention and pork unless it helps us directly.