Category: History

History

Al Capone and the Little Chicago of the Blue Ridge

Al Capone and the Little Chicago of the Blue Ridge

Al Capone, the infamous American gangster of the 1920s, is widely known for his involvement in Chicago’s organized crime and bootlegging during Prohibition. What’s rarely discussed is that his liquor distribution network spread far beyond his base in Chicago: It went well into the mountains of Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, and Georgia. South of Chicago, his criminal activities centered in Johnson […]

A Paddlewheel Riverboat in the Blue Ridge Mountains

A Paddlewheel Riverboat in the Blue Ridge Mountains

You stand on the creaking deck of the paddlewheel riverboat, a relic of a bygone era. The wheel churns the water beneath you, its rhythmic thump echoing through your chest. The bell clangs as you round an island, and calliope music erupts from the steam whistles. You marvel at the sight of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains and wonder how […]

Stompin’ 76: The Woodstock of Bluegrass

Stompin’ 76: The Woodstock of Bluegrass

Stompin’ 76 was a landmark festival that, for one long weekend in 1976, made Bluegrass the center of the musical universe. Like New York’s iconic Woodstock festival in 1969, the event is legendary. Over 100,000 attended the event. Most attendees parked miles away—some on Interstate 77, more than eleven miles away—and walked up country roads to the festival near Galax, […]

Conquistadors in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia

Conquistadors in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia

The Euro-centric history I learned in school in the 1960s was woefully inadequate. I suppose that’s the best they could do. After all, the world is a big place with lots going on. There was only enough time to cover the Big Picture. That’s why I was shocked to learn, only a few years ago, of Spanish Conquistadors in the […]

The Saltville Muck Dam Tragedy

The Saltville Muck Dam Tragedy

Background: The Saltville Muck Dam broke around eight o’clock on Christmas Eve,1924. The dam held back a pond filled with 27 years of chemical waste released by the Mathieson Alkali Works. When the dam broke, a 100-foot-high wall of toxic sludge cascaded down the Holston River, destroying homes and farms, killing 19 people, and rendering the river lifeless for decades. […]

Floyd Allen And The Hillsville Courthouse Massacre

Floyd Allen And The Hillsville Courthouse Massacre

It started with a kiss and ended with a courtroom shootout. Five people died, and seven were wounded. A year and two weeks later, Floyd Allen and his son Claude were executed in Virginia’s electric chair for the courthouse murders. The kiss lit the fuse on a pre-existing political powder keg. Two of Floyd’s nephews, Wesley and Sidna Edwards, were […]

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