Monday, August 30, 2010

The New River Frontier Settlement

On thr Virginia-North Carolina Border

By Paula Hathaway Anderson-Green*

Published in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, V86: pgs. 413-431 (1978).

Analysis Of the eighteenth-century frontier in the New River Valley, on the western Virginia-North Carolina border, illustrates significant factors of the settlement pattern in the antebellum Piedmont and Appalachian South. Particularly notable is the leadership role exercised by individuals class termed "plain folk,"1 a group whose contribution to the Old South is sometimes overlooked. The industry and self-sufficiency of this group is especially evident in the New River settlement, which was geographically remote from the East, at the southern end of the Valley of Virginia, on the western side of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Although some historians, notably Frank L. Owsley, have devoted careful attention to the plain folk, in general writers continue to focus on the antebellum South in terms of only three classes: planters, slaves, and poor whites. Indeed, there still is particular danger or such misinterpretation in regard to the Southern back country, i.e., the western hill and valley section running from Virginia through the Carolinas to Alabama, generally viewed as populated predominantly by poor whites. Although recent historians have issued some correctives to this misunderstanding of the Southern frontier, few detailed studies of individual Southern back-country pioneers, and their settlements, have yet been published. It is hoped that this study of one such settlement, the New River frontier border community, will help fill the gaps in our knowledge of a notable people and era.

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