It’s that time of year again.

Believe it or not, the first corn maze in the U.S. was built in Annville, PA, just east of Harrisburg, in 1993. So the practice of creating an elaborate maze through a cornfield isn’t exactly an ancient Appalachian tradition. Early mountain settlers didn’t dig up their crops to create crazy shapes in their gardens to get lost or to hide from native aggressors. Corn was a valuable foodstuff to the settlers. Recreation always came second to eating. Just like today.

It all began with a little lye… Always a frugal people, the Appalachian settlers used and reused everything, including the ashes from the fireplace. Collecting the ashes from hardwood in an ash hopper, the woman of the house added rainwater (also collected) to make lye. The water seeped through the ashes, gaining acidity. Once, twice, three times through the same ashes, as it became stronger and more acidic. Invaluable to the settlers, lye had many uses, such as tanning hides and making soap. Using water, lye and animal fat or lard, the womenfolk made a gooey soap that effectively cleaned everything from pots and pans to little hands.

See, Share, Savor, Shop and Stay

Simply Appalachian is an online magazine that touts itself as “celebrating all things Appalachian.” So within its virtual pages, you can learn about places to visit throughout a seven state region of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Some cities and towns — as well as state parks, national forests and historical destinations — go out of their way to attract tourists. Such is the subject of this month’s See, Share, Savor, Shop and Stay location.

Lewisburg, West Virginia, is an unassuming little town stuck in time in the Greenbrier Valley of the Allegheny Mountains. Founded in 1782 by General Andrew Lewis (who fought in the Revolutionary War), Lewisburg today has been named one of the “coolest small towns in America.” Its charm lies in its obvious history and the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains. You can expect to enjoy both when you visit.
The Appalachian region has a rich and varied past, starting in the early settler days. The Appalachian Mountains got in the way of the pioneers of the area; the hilly terrain presented a tough barrier to those wanting to head west. It wasn’t until Daniel Boone was commissioned to build what we now call the “Wilderness Road” in 1779 through Cumberland Gap that people begin to move westward and settle in the mountains.
Everyone knows that that Independence Day (aka the Fourth of July) celebrates the date in 1776 on which the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence. You probably didn’t know, however, that Independence Day has only been an official nationwide holiday since 1941. Massachusetts was the first state to make it an official holiday within its borders in 1781. Nevertheless, Americans have been celebrating their declared independence from the British monarchy unofficially since 1777. Parades, concerts, bonfires, picnics, even ceremonial funerals for King George III have evoked cheers and patriotic feelings. But until 1941, these festivities were primarily regional or local affairs, and celebrations varied from state to state.
Dahlonega, one of the first mining towns in the area, got its name from the Cherokee word tahlonega, meaning yellow or golden. And so it became Georgia’s own City of Gold. To this day, the town thrives on its past connection to the gold rush, as well as on the many natural wonders that surround the town. Hikers know Dahlonega as the closest hub to the end (or beginning) of the Appalachian Trail, which runs 2,180 miles north from Springer Mountain, about eight miles away.
Of all the unusual crafts, foods and practices that have become a part of the Appalachian way of life, none is truer to the heritage of these mountains than clogging. And because of its unique origins and uplifting artistic ambiance, clogging has drawn thousands around the country to its toe-tapping ways. A form of folk dance practiced by men, women, boys and girls from five to 85, clogging is to tap dance what watercolor is to oil painting.

“A history of American homes is necessarily a history of American life.” — Ernest Pickering

The history of baseball is the history of America.