Transforming the Appalachian Countryside: Railroads, Deforestation, and Social Change in West Virginia, 1880-1920 / Edition 1

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Overview

In 1880, ancient-growth forest still covered two-thirds of West Virginia, but by the 1920s lumbermen had denuded the entire region. Ronald Lewis explores the transformation in these mountain counties precipitated by deforestation. As the only state that lies entirely within the Appalachian region, West
Virginia provides an ideal site for studying the broader social impact of deforestation in Appalachia, the South, and the eastern United States.

Most of West Virginia was still dominated by a backcountry economy when the industrial transition began. In short order, however, railroads linked remote mountain settlements directly to
national markets, hauling away forest products and returning with manufactured goods and modern ideas. Workers from the countryside and abroad swelled new mill towns, and merchants ventured into
the mountains to fulfill the needs of the growing population. To protect their massive investments, capitalists increasingly extended control over the state's legal and political systems.

Eventually, though, even ardent supporters of industrialization had reason to contemplate the consequences of unregulated exploitation. Once the timber was gone, the mills closed and the railroads pulled up their tracks, leaving behind an environmental disaster and a new class of marginalized rural poor to confront the worst depression in American history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A very fine book that will be of enormous use to Appalachian historians in the future.

Journal of Social History

[P]rovides the best account yet of how industrialization transformed the Appalachian forests at the turn of the century.

Journal of American History

Meticulously researched, well written, and enhanced by dozens of poignant photographs.

Journal of Southern History

A thorough and detailed account of the emergence, florescence, and decline of the timber industry in West Virginia.

Environmental History

A book that everyone interested in the process of development in the mountains should read—and read again.

Journal of Appalachian Studies

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807847060
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 6/29/1998
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 1,222,265
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Ronald L. Lewis is Stuart and Joyce Robbins Chair in History at West Virginia University.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 The Virgin Forest and the Backcounty Economy 15
2 The Touch of Capital: Railroads, Timber, and Economic Development of the Backcounties 45
3 Land, Capital, and Timber Operations at the Periphery 81
4 Making Capital Secure: Law and the Industrial Transformation of West Virginia 103
5 Workers in the Woods 131
6 Ethnicity, Exploitation, and Social Conflict 165
7 Connecting the Periphery: Commercialization of the Countryside 185
8 "New Men" versus "Old Men": Political Economy and the Country Seat Wars 211
9 The Market Revolution and the Decline of Agriculture 235
10 If Trees Could Cuss: Environmental Destruction and the Beginnings of Restoration 263
Notes 293
Bibliography 317
Index 399
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