Effects of Industrialization on Western NC Life

Before the Industrialization of the Appalachian 

Prior to the introduction of industrialization, the Appalachian mountain culture in the Southern US based their livelihood on the practice of agriculture. In this situation, family life revolved around the production of the farm; a mountaineer’s farm provided the necessary resources for the entire household, including food, clothing and shelter. Family sizes also tended to favor larger numbers (of roughly ten to twelves individuals) in order to have more working hands for the farm.

During the initial wave of industrialization in America, rural communities in the Appalachian remained isolated from large, modernizing cities. The distinct division between urban and rural societies permitted the mountaineers to maintain their traditions and cultures. However, the Industrial Revolution approached a certain magnitude in the 1880’s that finally began to tamper with the lives of the Appalachian mountaineers.

Change in Labor and Economy

As industrialization became more prominent factor in American society, it was met with a greater demand for raw materials and other resources. The Appalachian region was particularly rich in timber. In the early stage of industrialization, farmers would practice “selective cutting” of trees in order to create an extra source of income for farmers. By this practice, the harvest logs where transported down rivers and sold to local companies for use. However, this method could not meet the high demands brought on by industrialization.By the 1890’s larger companies had an eye on the richness of resources contained in the Appalachian. Timber industries materialized and began to purchase mountain land with the intent of harvest its timber. Under the direction of these companies, the timber industry became more efficient at the expense of the mountaineer’s economy. The shift from local, family-based harvesting to a mass-producing, commercial industry began to deplete the job pool for farmers on the Appalachian mountains. 

Transportation and Cities

Many families had to move away from their homeland in order to seek a new labor task to maintain a livelihood. The movement of mountaineer families out of the Appalachian was facilitated by the introduction of the railroads. As the timber industry experienced a significant degree of economical success, the railroad was able to extend to mountainous territory.

The expansion of the railroads allowed for the creation of largely populated cities near the Appalachians. These cities became common destinations for farmers seeking new labor opportunities mainly in the manufacturing and service industries. These positions became beneficial especially in cities, such as Asheville, that took advantage of the mountain scenery as a pulling factor for tourism.


Case Study

The effects of the industrial period on the life of Otis Kuykendall.


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Eller, Ronald D. Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers Industrialization of the Appalachian South, 1880-1930. University of Tennessee Press: Knoxville. 1982. Print.

Starnes, Richard D. ""A Conspicuous Example of what is Termed the New South" : Tourism and Urban Development in Asheville, North Carolina, 1880-1925." The North Carolina Historical Review 80.1 (2003): 52-80. JSTOR. Web.