I have a great new book to share with all of you and I’ll be doing so periodically over the next few weeks (as I manage to read it through). The Land of Saddle-Bags (1924, Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication) was written by Berea College Professor James Watt Raine. I’ve read many books about the Appalachian people in the early twentieth century and I’ve complained about most of them. When I started reading this book, it brought tears to my eyes for I felt that finally here was a man who wrote with appreciation of my people. He did not present us as a people in need of fixing, pathetic and ignorant.
Professor Raine was born in Scotland and immigrated to the US when he was twelve years old. While he was educated in Ohio and New York, his family lived in West Virginia and Arkansas. Therefore, he grew up among the Southern and Appalachian people and no doubt was one of them. Many mountain folk were so busy surviving in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s that there are few books published by them. The writings about these people in this era are penned by outsiders who came to the mountains to teach and heal the poor creatures living there. It was a noble undertaking but I feel it doesn’t really reflect the true nature of the people. The tone of The Land of Saddle-Bags seems determined to correct this image.
The book is only 260 pages yet I feel I can write from it for weeks. It details the progression of civilization from New England down the Valley of Virginia and westward. I was fascinated by Mr. Raine’s brief history of Daniel Boone and wanted to share it with you verbatim.
“In 1750 Daniel Boone moved with his father, brothers, and uncles from their home in Pennsylvania into the Valley of Virginia. They stayed in Rockingham County one season, presumably to raise a crop of corn. They then moved on down to the valley of the river Yadkin. Here the father and most of the uncles settled permanently and lived the rest of their lives. But Daniel, fifteen or sixteen years after his marriage, moved his family to Watauga, in Tennessee, a region he had explored ten or twelve years before. He had scarcely built his cabin before the whole valley was over-run with Scotch-Irish from North Carolina, coming there by thousands on account of the wrongs they received from the Government officials.
The next year, accordingly, in 1773, Daniel Boone and his wife, Rebecca Bryan, and their children started for Kentucky, where Boone had been hunting and exploring some years before. With them went forty Bryans, Captain William Russell, and several others. But in Powell’s Valley, just before they reached Cumberland Gap, the mountain pass into Kentucky, they were attacked by Indians. Several were killed, among them Boone’s eldest son, and the party decided to return to Watauga until the region became safer. Boone, having already sold his Watauga home, went into the Clinch Valley, near Russell. Two years later he moved his family to Boonesboro, where, in the meantime, he had built log cabins and started a stockade or fort. His migration from Pennsylvania, where he had lived sixteen years, to Kentucky thus took twenty-five years. He spent a year in Virginia, twenty years in the four different places in North Carolina, and four years in Tennessee.
It was, therefore, when he was forty-one years old, that he thus brought his family to Boonesboro, and he lived in Kentucky thirteen years. Then Boone’s land was seized on technical error by shrewd title-sharks, and in 1788 he moved to the mouth of the Great Kanawha River, now in West Virginia. For eleven years he lived here-about, but again coming into conflict with registered titles, in 1799 he decided to go beyond the jurisdiction of the United States. Accordingly, he moved across the Mississippi River into Spanish territory, penetrating nearly fifty miles west of St. Louis, and here lived for twenty years. His wife died when he was seventy-eight, and shortly thereafter he was persuaded to give up living alone in his cabin. From that time he lived in his son’s two-story stone house. Yet in his eighty-fifth year his sons could scarcely restrain him from starting out alone, or with an Indian lad, to begin life anew in the unexplored Rocky Mountains.
Boone always felt uncomfortably restricted when neighbors crowded their homes too close around him. He wanted to live in the open. He enjoyed the freedom of the unfenced wilderness. His life therefore was a succession of flights from his neighbors. However, he was not a recluse, in fact he was very genial and social in his nature, always enjoying neighbors – but not too close. He wanted elbow room. Like a sociable English gentleman, he needed a scope of land large enough to be alone when he wished. In this Boone was typical; he constantly led settlers into new territory, and as constantly fled from their midst as soon as they began to clear the forests.”