A good part of my heritage can be traced back to some of the Scots- Irish, English and German settlers who first blazed a trail into what is now Southeastern Kentucky and East Tennessee. That part of the country was originally very fertile, with plenty of timber, game and good soil to plant and harvest crops from.
That changed when timber and, later, coal companies came in to utilize the resources of the land, often at the expense of the people who were already living there. That kind of commercialism happened all over the Southern Appalachians, as these links will show:
The Southern Appalachians have become an economically impoverished area, with large swaths of empty land ( or land owned by absentee landlords) and many people living below the poverty line.
I live in Northern Virginia, which is part of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area. Through my father, I descend from early English and German settlers in the areas of Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, Virginia and Prince Georges County, Maryland. There’s no shortage of poverty here, either and jobs are certainly at a premium. The growing international community makes simple things like communicating to people in English occasionally a touch and go situation, as large minorities of people do not speak English ( or they speak it poorly). I grew up here, but I make my way to the southwest for certain family reunions that my mother’s family will hold in Tennessee every couple of years. The contrast between what I see at home and what I see down South is shocking, but even more shocking, I think, is what I see when I go up to the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia to visit my daughter.
That part of West Virginia is flourishing! They have a strong economy, a large population growth and plenty of jobs for whoever wants to work. It’s also close enough to the DC Metro area that people can easily commute back and forth. That means that they earn money and spend it in an area that’s not as expensive as the DC area is;
Positive Changes For Maryland
Economy bounces back for Pittsburgh.
I also had a chance to see Western Maryland and Southwestern Pennsylvania, which looks to be just as prosperous as the Eastern panhandle of West Virginia .So, between the Pittsburgh Metro Area in the North and the poverty stricken Kentucky coal country in the South, you have two glaringly different parts of Appalachia.
I’m very relieved that my daughter ( who through her mother has a heritage in the prospering towns of the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia as well as the Southwestern mountain areas of Pennsylvania) is growing up in a positive, robust economy that that area of West Virginia is enjoying at the moment. I can hope also that some day, all the investments and businesses that are vitalizing the economy in the more northerly parts of Appalachia might find their way down South. Time will tell, I reckon.