Southern History Month 2019: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Happy Easter!

Did you know what happened to our mountains after the Civil War?

“A distinct family of mountains in the southern Appalachians, the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee may be the most biologically diverse place in North America. Heavy rainfall (80 inches per year on the peaks) here produces and omnipresent mist that makes them appear to give off steam – hence the nickname, the Smokies. …

Although small farmers engaged in market activities, such as collecting ginseng, selling surplus corn as moonshine and cutting locust trees for railroad ties, industrial logging would transform the Great Smoky Mountains. Some two dozen lumber companies harvested 2.2 billion board feet of lumber, affecting 60 percent of the region. Attendant floods, fires, and erosion altered some areas so much that they still do not (100 years later) support the same level of diversity as areas that remained unlogged. At the same time, an imported fungus, Crypho-nectria parasitica, or the chestnut blight, finished off the remaining chestnut trees. Scenic preservationists, alarmed at the loss of forests, worked with tourism interests to sell the region as a national park..

Creating a national park out of a region so heavily affected by humans proved a Herculean task. With unprecedented powers of eminent domain, the state governments of North Carolina and Tennessee removed 5,665 people from the former farming communities and lumber camps. The first national park rangers arrived in 1931, and within a year of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation, the Smokies had 17 Civilian Conservation Corps camps – more than any two national parks combined. The 4,350 young men who participated constructed 800 miles of trails and four major road systems; they built tourist amenities, stocked fish, and replanted roadsides with sensitivity to native species and scenic beauty, all in time for the president’s dedication in 1940.”

Margaret Lynn Brown in Martin Melosi (ed.) The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Environment (University of North Carolina Press, 2007), pp.221-223

Where do you think the profits went?

The profits were extracted and funneled up North like all over the South at this time whether it was in Texas and Louisiana with the oil, the Deep South with the depressed cotton prices, Arkansas with the bauxite mines, Kentucky and West Virginia with the coal, the textile villages in the Piedmont, the iron and steel industry in Birmingham which was in thrall to Pittsburgh as well as the timber that was clearcut and harvested elsewhere along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coasts.


Yes, things were so much better here under “conservatism” when 3 million people had pellagra. As every Boomer knows, the only alternative to free-market capitalism is socialism!

Note: Amazingly, “Democratic strategists” never bring this up either while talking about the “Green New Deal.” It’s like they are utterly ignorant of American history.

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  1. Why didn’t FDR’S New Deal include an Interstate highway system and national healthcare? People in those days used to joke that the WPA stood for Wops, Pollacks and Apes.

    • I didn’t know that about WPA. That’s hilarious. Even better than IBM, which stands for idiots, bums, and morons.

  2. The Appalachians are one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. 400 million years ago their jagged peaks stood 25 to 30 thousand feet high. Is mountaintop removal mining still being practiced in the region?

  3. Libertarians feel no responsibility towards nature, just as they feel no responsibility towards their fellow human. Ayn Rand looked down upon anyone who respected nature, and she literally bragged about being pro-pollution. To her, respect towards nature was irrational. Libertarians at Reason may not feel the same, but articles like the ones Mr. Wallace is posting serve to illustrate how protection of nature has historically been accomplished by ignoring the policies of Lolbertarianism.

    Speaking of which, here is today’s reminder that Lolbertarianism despises family and responsibility towards others. Today’s dispatch comes not from long dead libertarian thought leader Ayn Rand, but instead from The Misis Institute – the leading Lolbertarian thought tank in the world. In it, the Misis Institute will argue against private charity – and they will use Scrooge as their hero:

    “Michael Levin
    It’s Christmas again, time to celebrate the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge. You know the ritual: boo the curmudgeon initially encountered in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, then cheer the sweetie pie he becomes in the end. It’s too bad no one notices that the curmudgeon had a point—quite a few points, in fact.

    To appreciate them, it is necessary first to distinguish Scrooge’s outlook on life from his disagreeable persona. He is said to have a pointed nose and a harsh voice, but not all hardheaded businessmen are so lamentably endowed, nor are their feckless nephews (remember Fred?) alwavs “ruddy and handsome,” and possessed of pretty wives. These touches of the storyteller’s art only bias the issue.

    So let’s look without preconceptions at Scrooge’s allegedly underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit. The fact is, if Cratchit’s skills were worth more to anyone than the fifteen shillings Scrooge pays him weekly, there would be someone glad to offer it to him. Since no one has, and since Cratchit’s profit-maximizing boss is hardly a man to pay for nothing, Cratchit must be worth exactly his present wages.

    No doubt Cratchit needs—i.e., wants—more, to support his family and care for Tiny Tim. But Scrooge did not force Cratchit to father children he is having difficulty supporting. If Cratchit had children while suspecting he would be unable to afford them, he, not Scrooge, is responsible for their plight. And if Cratchit didn’t know how expensive they would be, why must Scrooge assume the burden of Cratchit’s misjudgment?

    As for that one lump of coal Scrooge allows him, it bears emphasis that Cratchit has not been chained to his chilly desk. If he stays there, he shows by his behavior that he prefers his present wages-plus-comfort package to any other he has found, or supposes himself likely to find. Actions speak louder than grumbling, and the reader can hardly complain about what Cratchit evidently finds satisfactory.

    More notorious even than his miserly ways are Scrooge’s cynical words. “Are there no prisons,” he jibes when solicited for charity, “and the Union workhouses?”

    Terrible, right? Lacking in compassion?

    Not necessarily. As Scrooge observes, he supports those institutions with his taxes. Already forced to help those who can’t or won’t help themselves, it is not unreasonable for him to balk at volunteering additional funds for their extra comfort.

    Scrooge is skeptical that many would prefer death to the workhouse, and he is unmoved by talk of the workhouse’s cheerlessness. He is right to be unmoved, for society’s provisions for the poor must be, well, Dickensian. The more pleasant the alternatives to gainful employment, the greater will be the number of people who seek these alternatives, and the fewer there will be who engage in productive labor. If society expects anyone to work, work had better be a lot more attractive than idleness.

    The normally taciturn Scrooge lets himself go a bit when Cratchit hints that he would like a paid Christmas holiday. “It’s not fair,” Scrooge objects, a charge not met by Cratchet’s patently irrelevant protest that Christmas comes but once a year. Unfair it is, for Cratchit would doubtless object to a request for a day’s uncompensated labor, “and yet,” as Scrooge shrewdly points out, “you don’t think me ill used when I pay a day’s wages for no work.”

    Cratchit has apparently forgotten the golden rule. (Or is it that Scrooge has so much more than Cratchit that the golden rule does not come into play? But Scrooge doesn’t think he has that much, and shouldn’t he have a say in the matter?)

    Scrooge’s first employer, good old Fezziwig, was a lot freer with a guinea—he throws his employees a Christmas party. What the Ghost of Christmas Past does not explain is how Fezziwig afforded it. Did he attempt to pass the added costs to his customers? Or did young Scrooge pay for it anyway by working for marginally lower wages?

    The biggest of the Big Lies about Scrooge is the pointlessness of his pursuit of money. “Wealth is of no use to him. He doesn’t do any good with it,” opines ruddy nephew Fred.

    Wrong on both counts. Scrooge apparently lends money, and to discover the good he does one need only inquire of the borrowers. Here is a homeowner with a new roof, and there a merchant able to finance a shipment of tea, bringing profit to himself and happiness to tea drinkers, all thanks to Scrooge.

    Dickens doesn’t mention Scrooge’s satisfied customers, but there must have been plenty of them for Scrooge to have gotten so rich.

    Scrooge is said to hound debtors so relentlessly that—as the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Be is able to show him—an indebted couple rejoices at his demise. The mere delay while their debt is transferred will avert the ruin Scrooge would have imposed.

    This canard is triply absurd. First, a businessman as keen as Scrooge would prefer to delay payment to protect his investment rather than take possession of possibly useless collateral. (No bank wants developers to fail and leave it the proud possessor of a half-built shopping mall.) Second, the fretful couple knew and agreed to the terms on which Scrooge insisted. By reneging on the deal, they are effectively engaged in theft. Third, most important, and completely overlooked by Ghost and by Dickens, there are hopefuls whose own plans turn on borrowing the money returned to Scrooge from his old accounts. Scrooge can’t relend what Caroline and her unnamed husband don’t pay up, and he won’t make a penny unless he puts the money to use after he gets it back.

    The hard case, of course, is a payment due from Bob Cratchit, who needs the money for an emergency operation on Tiny Tim. (Here I depart from the text, but Dickens characters are so familiar to us they can be pressed into unfamiliar roles.) If you think it is heartless of Scrooge to demand payment, think of Sickly Sid, who needs an operation even more urgently than Tim does, and whose father is waiting to finance that operation by borrowing the money Cratchit is expected to pay up.

    Is Tim’s life more valuable than Sid’s just because we’ve met him? And how do we explain to Sid’s father that his son won’t be able to have the operation after all, because Scrooge, as Christmas generosity, is allowing Cratchit to reschedule his debt? Scrooge does not circulate money from altruism, to be sure, but his motives, whatever they are, are congruent with the public good.

    But what about those motives? Scrooge doesn’t seem to get much satisfaction from the services he may inadvertently perform, and that seems to be part of Dickens’s point. But who, apart from Dickens, says that Scrooge is not enjoying himself? He spends all his time at his business, likes to count his money, and has no outside interests.

    At the same time, Scrooge is not given to brooding and shows absolutely no sign of depression or conflict. Whether he wished to or not, Dickens has made Scrooge by far the most intelligent character in his fable, and Dickens credits his creation with having nothing “fancy” about him. So we conclude that, in his undemonstrative way, Scrooge is productive and satisfied with his lot, which is to say happy.

    There can be no arguing with Dickens’s wish to show the spiritual advantages of love. But there was no need to make the object of his lesson an entrepreneur whose ideas and practices benefit his employees, society at large, and himself. Must such a man expect no fairer a fate than to die scorned and alone? Bah, I say. Humbug”

  4. Here in the Ozarks, which is also a region that is biologically rich, with many unique species that are found nowhere else in the world. There are two species of hell bender salamander. Eastern, and the Ozark species for instance. what happened in Appalachia, also happened here. People called it “tie wacking” Railroads cut down millions of big pines for railroad ties, and industry. Settlers let their livestock run loose in the woods, and set fires to burn undergrowth, witch gave temporary flush of green in the spring but devastated, the forest environment. took the government years to get people to stop doing that. The forests have grown back, thank God. People forget all of this. People used to go fishing and keep everything they caught, you see old pictures with guys catching smallmouth bass from a local river. the species couldnt sustain that kind of harvest. And so on and so on, until game laws forced it to stop. Free market hunting and fishing, was a disaster before goverment game laws came along.

  5. Since you’re on the subject….. I must protect my people…..

    For the dark side of our great national parks, see David Paulides YT interviews (he’s former law enforcement) on people disappearing in them and the “authorities” doing very little to find out what happened to them. As one park ranger told Paulides, the investigations get shut down from the top. As for GSMNP (see the Dennis Martin case), the FBI lead investigator into several disappearances there eventually committed suicide. Coincidence?

    The strangeness of these cases goes back beyond 100 years. Paulides uses certain parameters that the cases have to include for him to investigate. Yosemite is the worst.

    Don’t go to a national park for an extended hike into sparsely populated areas without a firearm, a personal beacon locator, and a satellite phone.

    They are beautiful but they have secrets.

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