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Counties classified as Appalachian Ohio are shaded in red.

Appalachian Ohio is a bioregion and political unit in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of Ohio characterized by the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The Appalachian Regional Commission defines the region as consisting of twenty-nine counties. This region roughly overlaps with the unique Appalachian mixed-mesophytic forests, which begin in southeast Ohio and southwest Pennsylvania and continue to north Georgia and Alabama. The mixed-mesophytic forest is found only in Central and Southern Appalachia and eastern/central China. It is perhaps the most biodiverse temperate forest in the world.

Geologically, Appalachian Ohio corresponds closely to the terminal moraine of an ancient glacier that runs southwest to northeast through the state. Areas south and east of the moraine are characterized by rough, irregular hills and hollows, characteristic of the Allegheny and Cumberland Plateaus of western Appalachia. Unlike eastern Appalachia, this region does not have long fin-like ridges like those of the Blue Ridge or Kittatinny Mountains, but a network of rocky hollows and hills going in all directions.

The region is considered part of "central Appalachia", a political, cultural, and bioregional classification that includes southeastern Ohio, eastern Kentucky, and most of West Virginia.

Contents

Counties and county seats

Counties in Appalachian Ohio are colored as follows:
Southern Ohio: blue
Southeastern Ohio: red
East Central Ohio: yellow

The Governor's Office of Appalachia classifies the counties of Appalachian Ohio into three smaller regions: East Central Ohio, Southeastern Ohio, and Southern Ohio.[1] The following lists include each county in the region and its county seat.

East Central Ohio

Southeast Ohio

Southern Ohio

Cities

Appalachian Ohio has several small cities within its borders. Those municipalities with a population of at least 5,000 according to the 2000 US Census include:

Transportation

Airports

Port Columbus International Airport, in Columbus, is the largest airport and serves most of the residents in southeast Ohio. Port Columbus offers primarily domestic flights. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to the southwest serves most of the residents of Cincinnati and its metropolitan area, and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport to the north is also a major hub airport.

Culture and History of Appalachian Ohio

"The majority of mountain people are unprincipled ruffians. There are two remedies only: education or extermination. The mountaineer, like the red Indian, must learn this lesson." Editors of the New York Times, 1912.

Appalachian Ohio shares the culture, history, and political problems of central and southern Appalachia. For example, there is a strong Appalachian folk music (pre-Bluegrass) tradition in the region. Notable songs about Appalachian Ohio include "The Big Sciota" (generally pronounced sigh-oh-tee), "Banks of the Ohio", and "Pike County Breakdown". This is because the region was settled by farmers from east Tennessee, eastern Kentucky, and western Virginia in the late 1700s and early 1800s. These farmers had distinct settlement patterns, land use practices, and cultural values, which were essentially an amalgam of Scots-Irish, German/Swiss, and Cherokee cultures. This inter-cultural "Back Country" lifestyle formed the basis for the cultural difference that later developed between Appalachian and non-Appalachian Ohio.

The northern non-Appalachian region was largely settled by out-migrants from the New England agricultural crisis of the late 1700s. Migrants also came to Ohio from New England and New York because of desire for land. Northern Ohio was part of what historians called the culture of Greater New England, sharing their own distinct settlement patterns, land use and housing types, and cultural values. Among the latter was support for public education, for instance, and belief in community action to achieve goals.

The most important distinction today between the Appalachian and non-Appalachian parts of Ohio is derived from their economic and political histories. Like the rest of central and southern Appalachia, Appalachian Ohio was controlled by absentee owners of extractive industries from the late 1800s through most of the 1900s or 20th century. Today it shares many of the cultural, political, and environmental problems of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. Numerous Americans were enriched by the exploitation of Appalachian natural resources and cheap labor, while Appalachians themselves became one of the most politically disfranchised and poor groups of people in the Global North. In the 1960s federal and state governments began to recognized the history of exploitation. The Appalachian Regional Commission was formed to foster "development" in the region.

Today, "Appalachian" is increasingly being recognized as a discrete ethnic group by governments, such as the city government of Cincinnati. Literature by self-identified "Appalachian" authors is being included in "ethnic" and "multicultural" literary courses and anthologies.

Attempts to define "Appalachian" cultural values often result in controversy. Appalachian writer Loyal Jones has defined traditional "Appalachian values" as the following:

  • 1. Individualism: often the most obvious Appalachian characteristic: look after oneself; enjoy solitude; freedom from external restraints; do things for oneself; not wanting to be beholding to others; make do; strong work ethic; courage; defend oneself or take revenge, rather than relying on "the law." A common value of decentralized farming cultures.
  • 2. Strong Sense of Extended Family: Family-centered, rather than community-centered; Appalachian people settled in kin-groups, not towns; loyalty runs deep; responsibility may extend beyond immediate family; "blood is thicker than water."
  • 3. Love of Place - the term "homeplace" (roughly like the German "Heimat") is common; never forget "back home" and go there as often as possible; revitalizing, especially if a migrant; sometimes stay in places where there is no hope of maintaining decent lives.
  • 4. Neighborliness and Hospitality - help each other out, but suspicious of strangers; spontaneous to invite people for a meal, to spend the night, etc. People are friendly, but not open to strangers. Trust is important. Tend not to ask your advice until they trust you. Relationships are important and deep relationships are developed slowly. This suspicion of outsiders is based on the exploitative past. Historian David Hackett Fischer pointed out it preceded the American experience and went back to the border wars in England that many of the immigrants had lived with. .
  • 5. Traditionalism – a strong love of tradition; skeptical of schemes for "progress"; love of things as they are. Change comes slowly. This is typical of more isolated areas.
  • 6. Personalism - relates well to others, but think in terms of persons rather than degrees or professional reputations; go to great lengths to keep from offending others; getting along is more important than letting one's feelings be known.
  • 7. Modesty and Being Oneself - believe one should not put on airs; be oneself, not a phony; don't pretend to be something you're not or be boastful; don't get above your raising.
  • 8. Sense of Beauty - displayed through music, folksongs, poems, arts, crafts, etc., colorful language metaphors; home and beauty are closely connected.
  • 9. Sense of Humor - seem dour (unfriendly), but laugh at ourselves; do not appreciate being laughed at; humor sustains people in hard times. Humor is often sarcastic.
  • 10. Strong sense of solidarity - Stick, together, even if you disagree, express yourself but stand together, especially against outsiders, government, or big organizations. Unfortunately, this can be extremely counter-productive.
  • 11. Strong sense of Patriotism - goes back to Civil War times; flag, land, relationships are important.

For most of the 1800s, Appalachian farmers, particularly in the steeper hill country, remained small yeoman farmers, producing most of what they needed themselves. The landscape and their isolation meant that they did not produce commodity crops like planters in the lowlands of the South. Instead, they focused, first, on being able to feed their families, and secondly, to produce a small surplus to trade for a number of imported goods, such as coffee and sugar, sometimes only available in stores as far as 40 miles away.

Appalachian farmers developed a unique range of skills and strong sense of independence. For example, many Appalachian men knew basic blacksmithing and were able to fix broken tools on their own—a necessary skill because there were few towns of a size to support specialized craftsmen. Some Appalachian men were able to make their own hunting rifles and musical instruments, as well. Today both of these crafts remain highly developed in Appalachia, while they became subject to industrial production elsewhere in the country.

Typically Appalachian women handled all domestic affairs, kept a large kitchen garden, sometimes tended the fields, and often possessed a wide-ranging knowledge of herbal medicine. Some of this was acquired, along with the use of plants for natural dyes, from indigenous women prior to Indian removal in the 1830s. Numerous Appalachian people have claimed some indigenous ancestry, which may related to mixing of populations in the Virginia-Carolina "Back Country" of colonial America. Appalachia remains the heart of American traditional herbal medicine. In southeastern Ohio, the gathering of ginseng, goldenseal, black cohosh, and sassafras (still consumed locally, if illegal for sale in America) remain common activities.

Traditionally, Appalachian women spun their own wool and wove cloth, producing clothing, quilts, and other necessary items for their families and sometimes for barter. Quilting, in particular, remains a highly visible part of Appalachian culture. Women worked on quilts together as a communal activity, as they did in other parts of the country in the early 19th century. The independence of Appalachian people was noted by Americans living in the more urban, industrial northeast and the quasi-feudal south.

In some parts of southeast Ohio, this type of small, diversified agriculture remained the norm until the 1960s. Today some of these families are able to shift their farming toward the growing "farmers' markets" in urban areas and herbal medicine market.

Many parts of the region were completely transformed by the coming of timber, coal, gas, oil, clay, and other "extractive" industries in the 1870s. Through a variety of means, companies bought up land that did not have a private owner. (Appalachian people had long kept less fertile, hilly, rocky backcountry in forest and, unofficially, in the public domain, a practice that did not fit with the state's property laws). Through "corporate enclosure", the companies cleared much of what had been "commons" forest in producing timber, charcoal, and tan-bark. In addition, they mined it for coal and iron ore, and drained the land of gas and oil. Crucially, this shift to large-scale extractive industries disrupted the local economy and began the impoverishment of the region. It was increasingly difficult for Appalachian people to continue the type of agriculture best-suited for the rugged hills.

With the arrival of industrial companies and loss of the "forest commons", there was (1) near-extinction of whitetail deer, wild turkey, squirrel, and other traditional American game animals, and (2) the loss of forest fodder for farmers' free-range livestock, particularly hogs. Appalachian people had traditionally enjoyed deer and squirrel as a way to add protein and B-12 to their largely plant-based, agricultural diets. The loss of the forest meant loss of habitat for these wild animals. By the early twentieth-century deer, in particular, became unusual in southeast Ohio. Only in the latter part of twentieth-century did deer and wild turkey revive to become the common animals they are today.

Farm families used hogs because they were largely self-sufficient and could range in the forest for fodder. Hogs could run "hog wild" and fatten themselves on chestnuts, hickory nuts, and acorns. After the autumn freeze, Appalachian men would hunt them down and harvest the meat. Many families kept dozens of hogs as their insurance against crop failures. One could raise hogs almost for free in the forested, nut-tree dominated uplands (covered with the typical Appalachian chestnut-oak-hickory forest).

Hogs are the typical "subsistence" animal in rugged forest environments around the world, from China, to Vietnam, to parts of South America. Spanish conquistadors were the first to introduce the hog into southeast North America—they brought huge herds of rugged hogs with them for food on their colonial military expeditions. Hogs were the "linchpin" that made farming in the hills a stable, reliable economic practice—without hogs, Appalachian people would find themselves in a precarious position indeed.

With the loss of the chestnut/oak/hickory forest to outside industrial interests came the loss of the hog and increased economic marginalization of Appalachia. This was true in southeast Ohio, eastern Kentucky, and in the uplands as far south as north Georgia. Studies have shown that the wealth of the average Appalachian farm sharply decreased in the 1870-1900 period. This was also a period of general agricultural decline in the country, continuing decrease in cotton prices, and recession across the South.

To compensate for the loss of hogs, Appalachian farmers began clearing hillsides to plant more corn and other grain crops. Previously the typical Appalachian farm had been as much as 3/4 timber, because the forest provided feed for hogs, and the uplands were extremely susceptible to erosion when cleared of trees. Increased competition for nuts on the farm's timber-stand as deer and squirrels migrated off the clear-cut "forest commons" and onto the farms forced farmers to find other ways to use their relatively small farm acreage to produce more fodder. Corn provided much more fodder per acre than forest. Appalachian farms became increasingly deforested. But cultivating corn resulted in severe erosion; fields typically produced good corn crops for only a few years before needing to be fallowed. Farmers needed more corn fields and cleared more forest, increasing the cycle of reducing habitat for deer and hogs. Farmers took to killing deer and other animals that intruded on their fields, contributing to the near-extinction of game animals in the region.

This cycle continued in Appalachian Ohio, with small farms increasingly a patchwork of fallowed and marginal corn fields, and the stock of each farm reduced to a couple of penned hogs, chickens in a barnyard, and perhaps a milk cow fed on poor sedge-filled fields.

Timber companies and other industries continued to strip the landscape of its resources, until by the 1920s most of Appalachian Ohio was deforested. Some small farmers were fortunate, however, as their land was too rugged for exploitation by industries. These pockets of small farmers maintained a quality of life similar to those of their nineteenth century forebears—which, in terms of estimated per capita wealth, was slightly above average for the United States.. Free-range hogs continued to be the wealth of such farmers. Chestnut Blight hit Appalachia hard in the 1920s, destroying the forests which hogs and deer depended on.

Within a few years, entire uplands were full of dead trees no longer producing nuts. Environmental historian Donald Davis reports that for some farmers and residents in the region during the Blight, it seemed as if "the whole world was dying." In a sense, it was. The chestnut was the major tree of the Appalachian upland forest: it provided food for hogs, for deer, and for farm families who gathered bushels of nuts for their own nourishment and sometimes for barter at stores. It would take decades for the chestnut to be replaced by mature nut-bearing oaks and hickories. By that time, together with effects of the Great Depression, most of the Appalachian farms had collapsed.

Millions of Appalachian people migrated from their homeplaces in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, in part as a result of this final blow to their forest-dependent agriculture. The loss of agriculture also pushed more Appalachian people into the region's coal mines and other industrial jobs.

If outside industries had not controlled hundreds of thousands of acres of land in the region, it is likely that Appalachian farmers could have simply expanded their production over what had previously been common land. Existing oaks and hickories (the two dominant trees in the region today, although secondary to the chestnut traditionally) might have supplemented the loss of chestnuts. , and ultimately Appalachian farmers who had once made remarkable adaptations to the tough upland, forest environment in the 1700s and 1800s might have managed to make new adaptations in the 1900s.

Most farmers who remained in the region followed the advice of the state and began increasing the productivity of their land by using chemical fertilizers and tractors during the push for farm mechanization in the 1930s. Misuse of the latter increased hillside erosion. They no longer aimed at family self-sufficiency or diversified crop-stock production, but increasingly turned to monocropping. Thus the typical Appalachian farm of today resembles a poorer version of farms elsewhere in America, rather than a unique agriculture adapted to the Appalachian bioregion. It is difficult for current observers to realized that Appalachia had once had higher per capita wealth than other regions of the US.

Given the region's isolation and poverty, public schools struggle to compete with those of other areas. As in other parts of the country, schools are supported by property taxes, which do not yield much revenue in the Appalachian counties. Groups have challenged the state's funding system with class action suits, as also have been brought in New Hampshire. Although the state Supreme Court has found Ohio's school funding system unconstitutional, because of failing to provide equitable funding, the Ohio legislature has not found an alternative.

Appalachian schools remain overcrowded, under-staffed places in which little learning is possible. Thus Appalachian Ohio today is largely filled with under-employed workers competing for limited service and industrial jobs. The land is monopolized by the state, wealthy outsiders, and a local elite enriched by state-funded bureaucratic and educational jobs. Appalachian young adults face choices similar to those faced by people at other times in other declining regions - to migrate to where there is better work and schools. United States history is filled with the migrations of people for opportunity.

A large underground economy of marijuana and meth production and distribution has filled the void created by the loss of Appalachian agriculture. The state has responded by increasing surveillance and policing of this poor region, but so far has offered few alternatives to its desperate residents. The Appalachian Regional Commission purports to represent and foster development in the region. ARC-funded scholar Ron Eller has accused the commission of being little more than a "governor's slush fund".[2] Since the 1960s, many Appalachian counties have only grown poorer, despite attempts by ARC to develop them. For some, eco-tourism offers hope for the region's future. It is difficult to see how this will benefit residents who are not among the local elite who own land and have access to development resources.

This is only a brief sketch of Appalachian history and culture. A fuller account would include the experience of Appalachian people who have worked in industrial jobs, like coal mining, for over a century. Regardless, Appalachian culture and history must be understood as a series of adaptations to the region's political economy and position at the margins of the American nation-state.

The revitalization of Appalachian agriculture may be part of this process, with improved cultivation methods drawn from biointensive approaches used by alternative development activists in the Global South. Appalachian residents may be able to learn from organizations, many of them based in India, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South America, that are working with microeconomies and marginalized "peasant" (quasi-autonomous agricultural producers, like Appalachians) populations.

Globalization and the decline of the nation-state's hegemony may be a positive development for Appalachia. It was exploited by the American state and industrial corporations. Appalachia may once again sustain a high quality of life and an independent, highly skilled population, negotiating modernity on its own terms. A recent book attempting to foster this "new Appalachia" is Al Fritsch and Paul Gallimore's Healing Appalachia: Sustainable Living through Appropriate Technology (2007).

Appalachian Regional Commission

Map showing 2001-2003 ARC economic designations for Appalachian Ohio.

The Appalachian Regional Commission was formed in 1965 to aide economic development in the Appalachian region, which was lagging far behind the rest of the nation on most economic indicators. The Appalachian region currently defined by the Commission includes 420 counties in 13 states, including 29 counties in Ohio. The Commission gives each county one of five possible economic designations— distressed, at-risk, transitional, competitive, or attainment— with "distressed" counties being the most economically endangered and "attainment" counties being the most economically prosperous. These designations are based primarily on three indicators— three-year average unemployment rate, market income per capita, and poverty rate.[3]

In 2003, Appalachian Ohio had a three-year average unemployment rate of 6.3%, compared with 5.4% statewide and 5.5% nationwide. In 2002, Appalachian Ohio had a per capita market income of $18,037, compared with $24,473 statewide and $26,420 nationwide. In 2000, Appalachian Ohio had a poverty rate of 13.6%, compared to 10.6% statewide and 12.4% nationwide. Four Ohio counties— Athens, Meigs, Pike, and Vinton— were designated "distressed," while six— Adams, Jackson, Lawrence, Morgan, Perry, and Scioto— were designated "at-risk." No counties in Ohio were given the "attainment" or "competitive" designations. Most Appalachian Ohio counties were designated "transitional," meaning they lagged behind the national average on one of the three key indicators. Athens County had Appalachian Ohio's highest poverty rating, with 27.4% of its residents living below the poverty line. Clermont had Appalachian Ohio's highest per capita income ($25,912) and Holmes had the lowest unemployment rate (3.1%).[3]

Popular media

See also

References

  1. ^ County Map, Governor's Office of Appalachia, 2008. Accessed 2008-12-10.
  2. ^ Mark Ferenchik and Jill Riepenhoff, "Mountain money: Federal tax dollars miss the mark in core Appalachia", Sullivan County, 26 Sep 1999
  3. ^ a b Appalachian Regional Commission Online Resource Center. Retrieved: 15 May 2009.

Further reading

  • Billings, Dwight B. and Kathleen M. Blee "Agriculture and Poverty in the Kentucky Mountains: Beech Creek, 1850-1910" in Appalachia in the Making: The Mountain South in the Nineteenth Century, eds. Pudup et al. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.
  • Blethen, H. Tyler "Pioneer Settlement" in High Mountains Rising: Appalachia in Time and Place, eds. Straw and Blethen. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.
  • Davis, Donald Edward. "A Whole World Dying" and "Medicinal and Cultural Uses of Plants in the Southern Appalachians" in Homeplace Geography: Essays for Appalachia. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2006.
  • Lewis, Ronald L. "Railroads, Deforestation, and the Transformation of Agriculture in the West Virginia Back Counties, 1880-1920" in Appalachia in the Making: The Mountain South in the Nineteenth Century, eds. Pudup et al. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.
  • Saelstron, Paul. "Newer Appalachia as One of America's Last Frontiers" in Appalachia in the Making: The Mountain South in the Nineteenth Century, eds. Pudup et al. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

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