Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Our Southern Highlanders: A Narrative of Adventure in the Southern Appalachians and a Study of Life Among the Mountaineers by Horace Kephart

Our Southern Highlanders: A Narrative of Adventure in the Southern Appalachians and a Study of Life Among the Mountaineers by Horace Kephart is part memoir part anthropological survey. First I should note that I was going to use this for Maggie's Southern reading challenge however the introduction informs me that the author was in fact born in Pennsylvania. So I'll substitute one of Shelby Foote's novels in its place.

Anyway back to the book. Kephart describes in great detail the society, customs and personalities of the Scotch Irish and Dutch that were [are?] the mountain people. The book was written in the early 20th century. He spent several years living with them.

There is extensive discussion of bootlegging. He seems to be trying to give a balanced look but much of what he tells us is positive. His criticisms are muted and often come with caveats. For instance his discussion of blood feuds. He argues that they were necessary because of lack of government control. However government control as extended through the excise on alcohol is called un-American in the chapter on bootlegging. He evidently had quite a bit of affection for the people. In my edition there is an excellent introduction that helps put the book into context.

Highly recommended a portrait of a historical curiosity.

1 comment:

____Maggie said...

Ah, I'll allow Our Southern Highlanders if time becomes a factor. :)