Post-war Economics and Politics. Fightin’, Feudin’, Speculatin’ . Mid-19 th century America was a highly stratified society, and Appalachia was no exception.
Fightin’, Feudin’, Speculatin’
Mid-19th century America was a highly stratified society, and Appalachia was no exception.
“Although a small elite in Clay County held a vastly disproportionate amount of personal wealth and land, they did not invest these resources in the diversified industries or local infrastructure that might generate sustained economic development. Rather, some invested their fortunes outside the county, in areas such as the Bluegrass. Others used their fortunes to leverage lucrative financial arrangements with outside resource extractive industries intent on plundering the riches of Clay County.” (245)
After the Civil War, westward expansion, railroad development in the west, and mechanization of agriculture created competition with Appalachian farmers.
“The outmigration of propertyless and economically marginal farm families meant that as generations succeeded each other in the rural neighborhoods of Beech Creek, greater parity of land ownership was achieved, leading later ethnographers to misperceive rural Appalachia as a region of longstanding egalitarianism.” (Billings & Blee, 247)
The feud takes place in the Tug Valley, along the Kentucky West Virginia boarder.
Anse Hatfield headed the “Logan Raiders,” a Confederate band of guerillas, during the Civil War.
Specifically, Hatfield won in a lawsuit 5,000 acres of timberland from one Perry Cline.
With his connections in Pike Co. Cline becomes a successful politician and lawyer.
In eventual defeat, Anse Hatfield sells his property to a coal speculator.
Like the Hatfield McCoy feud, the driving force was not the ignorant, isolated mountaineer, but town dwelling, politically connected, financially ambitious elites.
The dependency of other families on the patronage of Garrards or Whites was both older and stronger in Clay Co. than in Pike/Logan.
The inordinate power of the sheriff’s office was a factor in both feuds, as it will also be in the Harlan Co. mine wars. Kentucky sheriffs are law enforcement officers with significant patronage power. They are also tax collectors and conduct land sales for tax defaults.
Billings and Blee (p. 304ff.) identify several institutional legacies of the Clay Co. feud.
Another, opportunistic, outcome of the feuds was the stereotyping of the mountaineer as resistant to progress, and in need of the leadership of the outside investor and developer.
WVA, KY, TN, NC, VA and GA all established immigration boards to recruit people into the states.
The British firm, Southern States Coal, Iron and Land Company, bought Bald Mountain in TN, and then sold the 25,000 acres to Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad. (Davis, 153)
In 1874 British industrialist James Bowron purchased 150,000 acres in Tennessee to develop iron production. (Davis, 163-4)
Confederate General John Daniel Imboden, in 1880, bought 47,000 acres of mineral land in Wise Co, and 1/6 interest in another 100,000 acres.*
In Pike and Letcher Counties KY, Richard M. Broas of NY purchased or leased thousands of acres which eventually were sold to Consolidation Coal Co.
George L. Carter of Hillsville VA started in iron production. He organized the Tom’s Creek Coal Co., consolidated holdings into the Carter Coal and Iron Co., and after acquiring 300,000 acres in Dickenson, Russell and Wise Counties, created the Clinchfield Coal Co.
John C. Calhoun Mayo, born in Pike Co. and raised in Paintsville KY, was that state’s most industrious and successful speculator. In 1886 he was teaching school in Pike and Johnson Counties, but would spend weekends riding through the Big Sandy valley.
“By 1907, he controlled or owned outright 700,000 acres of mountain land, held principal interest in several banks and coal companies in Kentucky and southwest Virginia, and was a chief stockholder in Consolidation Coal… At the time of his death, Mayo’s fortune was reported to be worth over twenty million dollars.” (Eller, 63)
Helping fuel the speculation in Appalachian resources, and finance the construction of railroads to haul those resources from the mountains, was an influx of foreign capital.
Industrial development in Europe, especially in England, had reached a level of maturity that demanded less capital.
“… the flow of British funds to the US was dominated by the push of domestic British forces. This domination was stronger in the early years of the 1870-1913 period than it was towards the end. A relative dearth of both domestic and other overseas portfolio assets with the high return/medium risk characteristics of US assets and a heightened desire for relatively risky portfolio assets as British national wealth increased seem to have been the most important reasons for the early domination of push forces.” ibid
So, by the last quarter of the 19th century, Appalachia was deeply involved in what today we call a globalized economy.