Author Archive

My Upcoming Talk at Brevard College, Sept. 20

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I am giving a lecture at Brevard College on September 20.  Come on out and hear about the origins of the botanical drug trade in southern Appalachia.  It is a story you won’t… Continue reading

Root Diggers and Herb Gatherers: The Rise and Decline of the Botanical Drug Industry in Southern Appalachia

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So I have polished off the old dissertation: “Root Diggers and Herb Gatherers: The Rise and Decline of the Botanical Drug Industry in Southern Appalachia.”  I’m sure the title does not do it… Continue reading

On the Fence: The Stock Law Revolt in Buncombe County, North Carolina, 1885-1887

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On the morning of June 8, 1885, one of the most unusual and contentious commission meetings in Buncombe County history was brought to order, one that would shape county politics for a decade… Continue reading

Tapping Into History With Maps: Maple Sugaring in Southern Appalachia

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This map tells a fascinating story: the rise and fall of the maple sugar industry.  Due to effective branding by the modern industry, most people associate maple sugar and maple syrup with Vermont,… Continue reading

The Shaker connection: How Appalachian plants helped create Big Pharma

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  In the fall of 1850, an enterprising young merchant named Calvin J. Cowles left his home outside of Wilkesboro, North Carolina, and headed north with his brother, Josiah, with a most unusual… Continue reading

Galackin’ in Western North Carolina

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We could smell them before we saw them.  A pungent, skunky odor engulfed us as we neared the top of the ridge.  “Must be galax,” my brother Daniel remarked.  Sure enough, as we… Continue reading

The Ginseng Trade in 1840

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I’m kind of a map nerd, so sorry if this isn’t your cup of tea.  To show off my newly acquired–and very limited–skills using ArcGIS, here is one of the maps I have… Continue reading

Happy New Year and Welcome Back!

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I would like to apologize to our readers for being AWOL these past several months.  We’ve had some big changes that have taken our attention and energy.  Daniel got a job at the… Continue reading

Proctor, Cataloochee, and the Pursuit of Environmental History

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  By Luke Manget Getting to the abandoned town of Proctor requires some hiking nowadays.  You can either take the Lakeshore Trail some 15 miles from Fontana Dam into the remote southwestern corner… Continue reading

Do Mandrakes Scream? Exploring the cross-cultural work of plant mythology in Appalachia

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By Luke Manget In 1903, Clifford Smyth, a correspondent for the Atlanta Constitution, ventured deep into the mountains of eastern Kentucky to find and interview some of the “sang diggers” that supposedly lived… Continue reading

Do Panthers Scream?  Coming Face to Face with the Eastern Cougar Phenomenon

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By Luke Manget I remember well the noise that I heard that summer day in 2003 as I hiked down the Jacks River trail in north-central Georgia.  It sounded like a cat’s scream,… Continue reading

Root Diggers and Herb Gatherers: How Wild Plants shaped post-Civil War Appalachian Society

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David Greer, Hermit of Bald Mountain: A Romantic Alternative to the “Wild Man” Myth

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By Luke Manget Last week I wrote about how popular perceptions of the “wild man of the woods” in the late nineteenth century led to something of a round-up of human forest dwellers… Continue reading

The “Wild Man” of the Woods

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By Luke Manget In 1877, a party of gold miners traveling through the Globe Valley in Caldwell County, North Carolina encountered what they described as a “Wild Man”. Although they only got within… Continue reading

Death of a Sang Digger and the Fate of the Commons

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By Luke Manget   On July 28, 1908, a Mrs. Collins appeared at the Lee County, VA, courthouse with a shocking and peculiar letter. The letter relayed third-hand news that her husband had… Continue reading

Lobelia, the herb that carried more cultural weight than marijuana.

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Before there was marijuana, there was lobelia. This blue, summer wildflower was the most controversial plant in the United States prior to the Civil War, as it came to symbolize a cultural divide… Continue reading

In the Footsteps of Herb Diggers

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By Luke Manget   Rarely do I get the opportunity to do field work as a historian. Most of my hours are spent in front of a book or a computer, but last… Continue reading

The Wild and the Cultivated: Is there really a difference?

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By Luke Manget The Turk’s Cap Lily is one of the southern Appalachian Mountains’ true wildflower jewels, but does our perception of its beauty depend upon its state of wildness?  In other words, if this photo… Continue reading

E. B. Olmsted and the Post-Civil-War Ginseng Boom

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By Luke Manget Particularly vulnerable to habitat destruction and overharvesting, ginseng plants like this once covered the mountains, but over the course of the nineteenth century, they gradually disappeared from much of their… Continue reading

The Quest for Shortia: How a 17-year-old boy found the holy grail of botany

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My first post is a story that all residents of western North Carolina, especially those interested in botany and history, should know: the quest for shortia galacifolia, now commonly called Oconee Bells. For… Continue reading