The Four Rivers has a rich history and culture. From ancient Native American mounds to making teas from the herbs growing in our region to preserving and protecting the resting places of War of 1812 veterans, there are people working to safeguarding the past for the generations to come. We’ll also meet a Marshall County man preserving his family’s tradition of making quality moonshine and the woman who’s reviving the art of burlesque in Paducah. Then, we’ll hear how sorghum is still being made the old-fashioned way and what’s being done to keep big singing alive in Benton. It's a special presentation of Front Page Sunday from WKMS.
(1.) OLD TIME TEA MAKING -- Before access to modern medicines became widespread, the rural poor mixed up their own treatments from the plants they grew and foraged. They learned which plants would relieve aches, supplement nutrition, and fight infections. These days, a trip to the pharmacy is a much more common way to heal an ailment. But there are still those in our region who work in natural healing. Angela Hatton traveled to Clarksville, Tennessee, where a local herbalist has preserved her great-grandmother’s remedies.
(2.) OLD TIME TEA MAKING -- Before access to modern medicines became widespread, the rural poor mixed up their own treatments from the plants they grew and foraged. They learned which plants would relieve aches, supplement nutrition, and fight infections. These days, a trip to the pharmacy is a much more common way to heal an ailment. But there are still those in our region who work in natural healing. Angela Hatton traveled to Clarksville, Tennessee, where a local herbalist has preserved her great-grandmother’s remedies.
(3.) AUDIO ARCHIVE POGUE -- In the previous stories, we’ve heard about practices, never committed to paper, learned and preserved in the doing. We now we turn to preserving those stories and lessons also not passed down not on the page, but rather person to person. That recording is part of Murray State University’s Oral History Collection. It contains stories of the history and culture of the Jackson Purchase region. On reel to reel and cassette tapes, hundreds of recordings amounting to many hundreds of hours of audio are stored in the Pogue Library archives on the MSU campus. Some, however, are coming into the 21st century, making the switch to digital. Pogue Library’s Cynthia Barnes is part of a project to digitize the old analog recordings and make them available online. Shelly Baskin spoke with her about the project to restore and release these old recordings.
(4.) MARSHALL CO. MOONSHINE -- As we’ve heard, our region keeps many traditions that are beyond a doubt beneficial. Others, like these next two, while legal, their benefits are, shall we say, debatable. First, western Kentucky moonshine is a tradition that goes back to the region’s first settlers. They turned their corn crops into liquid gold, or moonshine, to escape poverty in places where fields were plentiful but jobs scare. Moonshiners got their name from the practice of perfecting their craft in the dead of night; the better to avoid revenue agents seeking their cut of this often untaxed libation. An upstart Marshall County moonshiner bucked tradition a bit, starting a legal distillery to carry on his family’s legacy, despite the difficulties of trying to recreate a business that kept few records. Shelly Baskin brings us his story.
(5.) PADUCAH BURLESQUE REVIVAL -- Back when Paducah was a river town a little rough around its edges, it wasn’t too hard to catch a performance of the art form known as burlesque. Today, it’s one of the last art forms you might expect to take root in western Kentucky’s conservative culture. But a Metropolis healthcare worker who doubles as a burlesque performer believes otherwise. Back in May, she produced a burlesque show at Shandie’s Restaurant in Paducah, reviving a bit of America’s entertainment history as numerous dancers shimmied in corsets. As Casey Northcutt reports, the dancers moved with passion and dramatic flair to entertain their audience, and empower themselves.
(6.) MOUNDS AROUND US -- In our next story, we go back, way back, in our region’s history. Long before the Jackson Purchase, in about 1000 C.E, back when the Vikings were the only Europeans to come to this continent, Native American civilizations were building mound cities in and around our region. Today, researchers and volunteers work to preserve these sites. They call the people who built these now brooding places the Mississippians. And while much is known about them, there’s much more that’s mysterious. Kate Lochte reports.
(7.) MARSHALL CO. BIG SINGING -- This past May, we brought you the story of Benton’s annual Big Singing event, the longest running indigenous musical event in the country. It’s a gathering of singing enthusiasts in the Benton courthouse every spring. But in recent years, attendance has been dwindling, and organizers are looking to change that trend. Rose Krzton-Presson explores this tradition and why it’s struggling to bring in a new generation of singers.
(8.) HOLMBERG/WAR OF 1812 -- June marked the bicentennial of the start of the War of 1812. Not many Kentuckians know much about the conflict, aside from the burning of the White House, and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Even fewer know about the role the Commonwealth played in it, despite the fact that if you live in the Jackson Purchase, you likely live in a county named for a soldier who fought and died in one battle of the War of 1812: Major Bland Ballard, Major Benjamin Graves, Captain Paschal Hickman, and Captain Virgil McCracken. For some more background, Todd Hatton spoke with Jim Holmberg, Curator of Special Collections for the Filson Historical Society in Louisville.
(9.) WAR OF 1812 GRAVES -- As we just heard, the War of 1812 was a formative event for Kentucky. Despite the fact that almost two-thirds of those soldiers killed in battle were Kentuckians, it’s largely faded in our memory thanks to the far bloodier conflict that came fifty years later. Nevertheless, some of the men who survived the War of 1812 decided to move west, to the Jackson Purchase. The 1812 war veterans buried in western Kentucky fought in campaigns from Canada to New Orleans, with a few under the command of then-General and future president Andrew Jackson. Angela Hatton went searching for their graves.