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Appalachia and Ozarks

Appalachia and Ozarks The Appalachian Uplands, stretching from New York to Alabama, and the area of the Ozark-Ouachita mountains are separated by some 400 kilometers of land. They are actually two parts of a single physiographic province that have a strong topographic similarity and an unusually close association between topography and human settlement.

Early settlers, when they reached the shores of colonial America, heard tales of a vast range of high mountains to the west. As they moved into those mountains, they discovered that their elevation had been exaggerated. Only in a few small areas do the Appalachians or Ozarks approach the dramatic vistas so common in the West.

Nevertheless, most who concern themselves with such questions would agree that much of the Appalachian and Ozark topography should be called mountainous. Local relief is greater than 500 meters in many areas, and it is sometimes greater than 1,000 meters. Slopes are often steep.

The human geography of Appalachia remains closely intertwined with its topography. Without the mountains, the area would merely be a part of several adjoining areas, such as the Deep South. With them, Appalachia and the Ozarks exist as a distinctive and identifiable American region.

It is an irony of history that many of the first settlers to come to the mountainous areas in and around Cumberland Gap were the rebels. In the Appalachians they found a place to escape the rapid industrialization of England and of Europe and to establish a new way of life, free from the exploitative social relations which they had known before. As Jack Weller describes in Yesterday's People, some of the settlers came from the Levellers movement in Britain, where they had challenged the power of their English landlords, and they came "in rebellion against a form of government that imposed its rule from the top."

"The Appalachian mountaineers have been discovered and forgotten many times. They first attracted national attention during the Civil War. Their primitive agriculture disrupted by foragers and incessant guerrilla warfare, thousands of them straggled out of the mountains in search of food and shelter. General O. O. Howard, the director of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, called their plight to the attention of the White House, and President Lincoln told the General that after the war a way would be found to aid the poor mountain people whom the world had bypassed and forgotten for so long."

American society has loved the caricaturization of the cowboy, and his ways have found entrance into the dreams and play of many an American child. There is something romantic and wholesome about the cowboy. The “western” image has a significant role in American entertainment, business, and even politics and religion. The mountaineer, on the other hand, has become an object of amusement and scorn.

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Page last modified: 01-11-2017 19:24:06 ZULU