Religion in the Appalachian mountains


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According to the page of Mr. and Mrs. Stamey, we know that Mr. Stamey had given Professor. Brown two religious songs which were excluded from Frank Brown Collection.

This fact asks us the reason why Mr. Stamey gave the religious songs to Professor. Brown who collected folk songs in Western NC. There are two scenarios; One is that Mr. Stamey lived in the area where religion was one of the most important cultures and the other is that Professor. Brown already knew the relationship how important religion was in the area where Mr. Stamey's family lived.

For this reason, it would be meaningful to look at the whole song list of the list of the collection and the unpublished song list and discuss the most important reason why Mr. Stamey's religious songs were excluded. With discussing how much religion was important to Appalachian mountain cultures, I can connect this reason with how folklorists such as Olive Dame Campbell and Cecil Sharp viewed religion or religious songs of the Appalachian mountain. This connection will give us the opportunity to think how Professor. Brown viewed those songs.


The reason why two religious songs given by Mr. Stamey were excluded

According to the checklist of unpublished ballads and songs in the Frank. C. Brown collection of North Carolina folklore, "The model church" was excluded from the collection because "Words and music were printed in an old book entitled Work and Worship".  In the same way, on the same paper on which the lyric of "The lone pilgrim" was written, Professor. Brown took a note about the fact that "This song has been printed, words and music, in some of the old song-books, included in Bells of Heaven, 1930".

There are religious songs some of which were included in the collection and the rest of which were not in. This fact shows that the exclusion of "The model church" and "The lone pilgrim" is not the special case showing how the songs were excluded from the collection by reason of religious songs.


The mission to mountain whites

There was already very active denominational home mission from 1900s in Appalachian region. This home mission is called "The mission to mountain whites". "The mission to mountain whites" was not the common case in the history of Christianity in that home mission works had been usually done for nonwhite and immigrant populations.

As every household member of Mr. Stamey's family was white and farmer in Altamont which is located in central Appalachian mountains, not only Mr. and Mrs. Stamey but also many singers living there might be influenced by this home mission.


How Olive Dame Campbell viewed religion or religious songs of the Appalachian mountains.

It is very remarkable that Olive Dame Campbell and her husband, John Campbell, were the central figures related to denominationalism in mountain religion. Denominationalism means the Christian community's movement to divide itself into sub-bodies (or sub-branches). In addition, the time period of denominationalism in Appalachian mountain is very similar to that when and after Professor. Brown worked on his publication.

Campbells published The Southern Highlander & His Homeland (1921) which is considered as "the best comprehensive portrait of the Appalachian region". The publication itself and its background of The Southern Highlander & His Homeland is very meaningful for the history of Appalachian mountain because this publication is known as the first book observing religion in Appalachian mountains.


How Cecil Sharp viewed religion or religious songs of the Appalachian mountains.

In contrast to John and Olive Campbell, Cecil Sharp, their great colleague, did not seem to be interested in collecting religious songs. His tendency to collect old ballads is shown by the anecdotes between him and Jane Hicks Gentry, an extraordinary female songcatcher and storyteller working with Cecil Sharp.

According to Jane Hicks Gentry: A Singer Among Singers, Cecil Sharp is sometimes criticized to have focused on ballads and folk songs in British tradition too much. On the other hand, his bias for collecting British ballads are also understood because he set his goal to publish collect English folk songs.


Religion in the Appalachian mountains