One of the things I have been learning at the NEH “Appalachia Up-Close” Summer Institute is something that I “knew” but had never thought about–and that’s the plain and simple fact that my mythologized “Scots-Irish” Appalachian culture is (and was) only partially Scots-Irish, at best. The German influence, for example, was also great in the hills, another point rebutting the simplistic divisions presented in David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. Those folkways, all four of them (if four you must have), were a lot less British than Fischer would have one believe.
My mother’s family, I’ve discovered over the last year, is a lot less “Albion” than once I had thought. My great-great-grandmother, born Rebecca Sprinkle, was from a family that had been Sprenckel, hailing from the Rhineland. Another great-great-grandmother, Dorcas Lowrance, came from the Lorentz family of Saxony.
The German influence was illustrated for me today through a tour of the Blue Ridge Institute‘s Farm Museum conducted by Assistant Director Vaughan Webb (pictured above). The farmhouse, originally from a farm some ten miles away and about to be moved again, though built some two hundred years ago for a non-German family, was built in the German style, Webb informed us, as was the barn, which had been moved from yet another farm.
Frankly, I was too much involved in just looking at things to pay much attention to the details of what makes the architecture “German” (though the barn does, indeed, have a jutting upper level of a sort common to Pennsylvania). What fascinated me was how familiar it all seemed. All these years in New York City haven’t removed me completely from the hills.