Experiential Learning


Hiking and Apple Butter

Saturday October 1, 2016

About 5 hours

For my first experiential learning excursion I joined a class trip led by Stewart Scales. We hiked Bald Knob and Stewart was able to explain to us what mountains, ridges, and towns we could see from the outlook. The trail was short but steep, and on the way up we stopped and explored a patch of woods where there were a few large boulders that had been carved out of the Earth back when Appalachia was part of the ocean floor. As a geography major this was extremely interesting to me. As we walked out we were able to see mountain lake and we discussed what phenomenon led to the lake draining and what was done to stop it. After the hike we went over to the church Stewart attends as they were making apple butter. We sat around the fire that heats the apples, ate lunch and talked. Making apple butter takes all day and it has to be constantly stirred, so people took turns stirring. There were some ladies from the church quilting guild there and we talked about the church and the community it fosters. This was my first time visiting a church in the region and thinking about how religion brings community into Appalachia. It was a great experience and a great way to get out into the region a little and away from Blacksburg.


Virginia Museum of Transportation

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

About 3 hours

I chose to research railroads in Appalachia so I took advantage of the local resources and visited to the Museum of Transportation in Roanoke. The museum had a lot of good information on the railroads that ran through the area. This was very useful and I learned more about the uses and types of trains that came through the area. There was an exhibit on the Claytor brothers and their work in developing railroads in the region. It was interesting to learn about these local stories because most of the research I had been doing was about the routes the railroads ran and the technical difficulties they had getting there. Most of the exhibits were focused on the Virginian Railway and its development. This museum helped me to better understand the trains that ran though areas near to me and brought some perspective and relevance to my process.





Where, when, and why were railroads first brought to Appalachia?


Brigham, Albert Perry, A.M. Port Washington: Kennikat, 1907. Print.

This book is about early railway and transportation development in Appalachia. The book goes over the location and process of various roads, canals, and railways in detail. Here are chapters on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the Pennsylvania Railroad, and the Cumberland Gap that were particularly useful. These were some of the first major railroads to touch Appalachia, and the Cumberland Gap is a very important pass through the Cumberland Mountains. The author describes the history and importance of each topic. Since this book was written in 1907 it is fairly dated; it refers to the skepticism surrounding the “flying machines” of the time. Even through the book is older, it is still a reliable source. It does not cover the complete time range I am looking at, because it was written in the middle of it. This book helps to give an opinion of the railroads from a time where the majority of them were still being created.


Burton, Mark L., Richard V. Hatcher, and Thomas Maraffa, eds. “Transportation.” Encyclopedia of Appalachia. Knoxville: U of Tennessee, 2006. 686+. Print.

The book is a complete encyclopedia of Appalachia. This book covers almost every aspect of Appalachia. The transportation section of this book has information about many forms of transportation in Appalachia, including railroads. There are sections on general railroad development as well as basic effects of railways in Appalachia. There is a brief but detailed history on various railways through the region. Some of these, such as the Baltimore and Ohio, The Pennsylvania, and the Charleston, Clinchfield, and Ohio Railways, are particularly relevant because they were some of the first to successfully build through the roughest parts of Appalachia. This book is packed full of information and was a good first source to provide a base of knowledge for this research.


Cootner, Paul H. “The Role of the Railroads in United States Economic Growth.” The Journal of Economic History 23.4 (11963): 477-521. JSTOR. Web. 04 Nov. 2016. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/2116211>.

This resource addresses the how railroads in the Unites States changed the economy. This source was harder to understand and dense with economic jargon, but it was interesting and effective in dissecting the importance and purpose of railroads in the United States. The paper explores many complex theories in the context of railway development. This source helped to understand the impact of railroads on the Unites States as they came about. The paper was published in the Journal of Economic History and is a reliable scholarly resource.


“The Golden Age of American Railroading.” The University of Iowa Libraries: Exhibitions. The University of Iowa Libraries, n.d. Web.  12 Sept. 2016.

This is an introductory resource to the overall arc of railroads in America. This source explains some contributing factors to the rise and fall of railroads in the U.S. The unions that we created by rail workers were mentioned and brief histories given. This source provided me a macro history of U.S. railroads that was much needed to contextualize more specific information. This source is published by the University of Iowa Libraries and provided an accurate description of railroad history in the United States from the beginning, through the most popular age for railroads, to the start of a decline in railroad activity.


“History of the Virginian Railway.” Princeton Railroad Museum. Princeton Railroad Museum, 31 Dec. 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.

This resource helped me to expand on the knowledge I gathered from visiting the Virginia Museum of Transportation. It is a history of the Virginian Railway that includes information about the beginning stages of the railroad and the smaller companies that came together to form the full Virginian Railway. This resource focused more on the building of the railroad and the resistance it met. It was also useful in exploring this particular railway further. This page is published by the Princeton Railroad Museum in Princeton, West Virginia.


“Railroad Maps, 1828 to 1900.” The Library of Congress. Web. 20 Sept. 2016. <https://www.loc.gov/collection/railroad-maps-1828-to-1900/>

This source is the first source to consist of maps. This collection of maps consists of many maps created in the years between 1828 and 1900. Many of them have the early railway lines on them. Maps are a great source because they show where the railroads ran, and from there it can be seen where the rails ran into certain obstacles. These maps are all old and hand drawn. They are complex and confusing at first glance and take some time to comprehend and understand. Since this collection consists of many maps from different years during heavy railway development the changes and progress in the railroads can be seen through the series of maps.


“The Fabled Baltimore And Ohio Railroad, Linking Thirteen Great States With The Nation.” American-Rails.com. American-Rails.com, n.d. Web. 2 Nov. 2016.

This website was all about the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. This rail is worth learning about because it was the first common carrier rail and it had a tough route that cut through the mountains of northern West Virginia. This resource describes how the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was different from other railroads being constructed and it speaks to the challenges faced when building the railroad. American-Rail.com is a website that has pages of information for many different railways. Their information in thorough and they provide a Works Cited page for all the information on their website.


Virginia Museum of Transportation. 303 Norfolk Ave SW, Roanoke, VA 24016. 16 November 2016.

This museum is located in the old freight station in Roanoke, VA. They have many exhibits specific to railways, and lots of information relevant to the area. There was an exhibit on the Claytor brothers and their work on the Virginian Railway system. Part of the museum is a railyard where several old cars and engines sit on old, inactive railroad tracks. I believe everything in the museum to be accurate, but museums can thwart how things are seen by what they have available to display. This source was very useful in gathering information on the railroads specific to southwest Virginia.

Creative Portion – The Virginian Railway

As a culmination to my research on railroads in Appalachia I decided to present the route of a railway on a useable object that would been seen. Maps can hold a lot of information; even the creation of a map informs you that that area or subject is important to someone or something. With that in mind I stitched the route of the Virginian Railway with minimal geographic reference onto a tote bag. The red is the route of the railroad and the black around it outlines its namesake state, Virginia. On the bottom right I stitched the Virginian Railway logo.

I chose the Virginian Railway because it was the first railroad to cut across southern Virginia into Appalachia. This was the first railroad constructed for the purpose of moving coal within the region and out of it. This seemed particularly relevant to this class because it seems that whatever we discuss, we cannot avoid the topic of mining.

I chose to embroider the railway onto the bag because the Virginian Railway, and railways in general, are so utilitarian and powerful, I loved the juxtaposition with the softness of working with fiber. I kept the design simple to reflect the utilitarian ways of railroads. Little embellishment is needed, so little is given. The railway is red to make it stand out and make it the obvious focus in the center of the bag. The logo pulls the eye down and simply explains.

Looking forward it would be incredibly interesting to create a whole series of stitched railways on tote bags and possibly scarves. Many people have little sense for geography and the world around them at any scope. By placing map patterns and images on accessories that will be used and seen I hope to make someone stop and think about the greater space around them.

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Blog 10 – Overview

Appalachia is a complex place that shows the intersection of many different issues. Appalachia is a place with it’s own unique culture that has gone far in influencing the world around. Some problems that appear throughout the U.S. seem to be inexplicably worse in Appalachia. To me Appalachia is strong, Appalachia is resilient, but Appalachia is also sensitive.

Land wise, mining is a huge problem in Appalachia that polarizes the community. Mining provides jobs and economic stimulus to the region, but it destroys the land. Mining coal mining has been on the decline, but with recent political events, it may rise again. Mining provides a livelihood for many people working in the mines; but how can they live on land that will soon be too far destroyed to be safe? There is no way to preserve coal mining and the environment, this is an impossible problem.

Education is very undervalued in Appalachia. Schools are weak and students are not taught to value education and the opportunities it opens. Support and motivation is needed for students in school and and home.

Home life is a challenge for many in Appalachia. Drug abuse, alcoholism, and poverty tear many families apart. This is true throughout the U.S., but it appears more commonly in Appalachia.

Poverty is due to the low economic activity in the region. People are isolated by the topography and jobs are scarce. Mining carried the region economically and brought wealth to the area. When mining declined unemployment rose and people who were able and willing began to leave the region. This left the region with even higher poverty rates.

Alcoholism and drug abuse are all too common in Appalachia. Black market buying and selling of drugs and alcohol is what some people rely on as income to support themselves and their families. Peddling drugs has become a legitimate, albeit illegal, way to make ends meet and even more. Addicts can be created anywhere there is opportunity; it is troubled places where drugs are easy to aquire that it happens. Regulation of dangerous drugs, illegal and prescription, is needed. Help for those addicted to recover is also desperately needed. The hard thing about rehab and recovery is you have to motivate people to help themselves and want to change.

Because if the economic issues and the isolation brought by the topography, food security is a problem for many in Appalachia. Much of Appalachia is considered a food desert. This means that most people in Appalachia live far from grocery stores, do not have adequate transportation to get to grocery stores, or do not have the means to purchase food. The food people can get is not always nutritionally balanced. This is a problem for everyone without adequate food, but particularly for children that are being under nourished through no fault of their own, simply because their family cannot afford anything else.

As you can see these issues are complex and heavily intertwined. There is no simple answer to all of them or even one of them. Let the communities and people of Appalachia play a role in the university. Use the university, a powerful place of education and knowledge, to support and better local communities. Support communities in a way in which you are not overpowering their will.

Above all else you must try and understand. This may prove an impossible task, but you must try and understand and support the people of Appalachia without assuming anything about them. This should be a practice applied to the world, but the mind is always assuming something.



Trampoline Group: Education

A Comparison of Dawn Jewell and Homer Hickam

Discussion Questions

  1. Where is Dawn headed academically?
  2. How are Dawn’s family and Homer’s family different?
  3. How could Dawn have been more supported academically? Who could/should have supported her?
  4. Why are Homer and Dawn on different paths?
  5. What are some roadblocks to education in Appalachia? What can be done to fix these things?
  6. Will improved education help the region or result in people leaving?

The Coal Flowers That Didn’t Flower

I don’t know what went wrong with this activity, but my coal flowers did not flower. Here’s proof:


The lack of crystals/flowers seen here is probably because nothing was measured. There were quantities for the liquid solutions used in this activity but without the necessary tools to execute, nothing happened.

This week we read about and talked about drug use in Appalachia. I knew there was some pain killer abuse in Appalachia (like everywhere) but I didn’t know the extent of it. In class we talked a lot about who gets blamed about this drug abuse problem in Appalachia. Personally, I think that doctors should be held somewhat responsible if they continue allowing addicts access to prescription drugs. The people who abuse the drugs are also responsible for their own actions. Addiction is a disease and that needs to be recognized by everyone if this problem is going to be solved in any way.

Currently the main system for treating drug addiction is with more drugs. Patients are given a replacement drug that is supposed to help, but in most cases they just become addicted to the new drug. Drug addiction is a huge problem in America as a whole and it is even worse in Appalachia. Without proper understanding of addiction and the necessary tools to solve the problem, nothing will happen.

Appalachian Mountain Advocates

Appalachian Mountain Advocates is a current organization in Appalachia that aims to protect the region and it’s inhabitants. This organization has been around for 15 years and they have had many victories fighting against mountain top removal mining. They have stopped some of the largest proposed mining sites, and they have forced mining companies off other sites. In addition to stopping mining they have worked to clean up environments damaged by coal mining, specifically waterways. Next on the agenda for this organization is to fight against natural gas. Natural gas is growing as a fuel source in America. Extracting natural gas through hydraulic fracking is very dangerous to the environment and the people who live in the area. In general Appalachian Mountain Associates wants to end our dependence on fossil fuel and move toward sustainable energy.

Website: http://www.appalmad.org/

Eller and Lewis


“One important consequence of mining was that it did not open up the mountains. The isolation of the area went beyond just physical isolation; it now included social isolation. The inability of the indigenous population to cope with those representatives of the coal industry and the many fraudulent land deals that were made with the local people stand as bold evidence of antagonistic relationships.” (Lewis, p. 17)

I chose this image for multiple reasons. It obviously shows the physical toll mining takes on the land. Mountain top mining is one the the post destructive forms of mining. Mining also affected the culture and socioeconomics of the region. Appalachia is an explosion of isolation and destruction.

What mining advancements have had the greatest impact on Appalachia?

Appalachian Music

I don’t know much about Appalachian music.

This song is played by Old Crow Medicine Show, but the chorus was written by Bob Dylan years before.

Malone talks about the journey of Appalachian music. It seemed to capture the attention of many. People were fascinated by this different sound and many people from all over began to romanticize it and imitate it. Through the process of Appalachian music over the years the definition if the genre has gotten blurry. “Hosts of fans and critics are more than ready to accept any acoustic “rural” sound as Appalachian. More likely, these sophisticated musicians themselves may have succumbed to the romance of Appalachia.” (HMR, 131) Here, Malone is saying that almost everyone has succumbed the the romance and mystery of Appalachia. Everything in Appalachia seems to be surrounded by some level of mystery. Appalachia and Appalachian culture is hard to define.

How has the romanticization of Appalachian music changed how people perceive and think about Appalachia as a region and a culture?

Images and Industrialization–My Town

I am from Townsend, Massachusetts and these are the three images my town chooses to put on the front page of their website.  riverThis is a photo of a small damn in the Squannacook River that creates Harbor Pond. This photo makes this part of town look a lot more rural and serene that it is in reality. This is the nicest and happiest I have ever seen this waterfall look and this is located on an intersection at one of the three traffic lights in town, it is not in a relatively low traffic area.

These next two photos are of the Senior Center and then the Library, which are next to each other and actually connected. The buildings are styled to look different, but they are indeed connected. These buildings are both strong community assets but, using both these photos for the first impression on the town website really mis informs the viewer about the town.


Townsend has a cute and fairly active little common, it has some hiking areas with ponds bigger and nicer than Harbor Pond and real natural waterfalls. There are many more important things to focus on in Townsend than a small waterfall on a busy corner, and one building depicted to look like two.

Welcome! (Post #01)

This is my blog for Introduction to Appalachian Studies at Virginia Tech. I will post here with thoughts and reactions to reading and activities from class.

Here we go!

“The Indian was to become a white person with red skin.” -Finger

Here Finger is writing about what the Europeans were doing to the Native Americans and the native culture in Appalachia. This caught my attention because it so boldly states how the Europeans were pushing their culture on the natives and in the process slowly choking out the Native American culture.


The power mapping activity kind of reminded me of historic T and O maps. Jerusalem was the center of the T because it was important and influential, and the rest of the world was divided simply into the three known continents.

I mostly like how power and influence can be interpreted from a map based on placement and how the world is depicted. I also note that power and influence can be from different sources depending on what culture/time/place the map was created.

From a 12th-century copy of Etymologiae (image from wikipedia)