The Appalachian region has long been the focus of fascination and study going back to the early 1900’s when historians and musicologists traveled through the region collecting stories and songs.
But folks from outside the region have not always promoted a flattering image. And that, along with a curiosity about his own family, inspired Dave Tabler to start his web site Appalachia History.
Tabler grew up in Washington D.C. but his father is originally from Martinsburg, in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, where Tabler spent a lot of time as a child in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Tabler has fond memories of staying with his grandparents
“I have memories for example in the spring time of, I must have been three or four years old at that time, of grabbing on to my grandfather’s trousers and walking behind him in his footsteps as he plowed the garden,” he said.
Tabler also remembers family members and their friends telling stories about the old days and sitting outside in the summer in a circle shucking corn and stringing beans.
Not so positive feedback
As a young man Tabler learned his positive feelings about Appalachian culture are not shared so much outside the region. After graduating from the University of Maryland with a degree in art history and journalism, Tabler moved to New York City for a career marketing commercial illustrators. He also faced negative comments and jokes when people learned of his West Virginia roots.
“It just hurt me so much to hear all these ignorant comments,” he said.
When he was about 40 Tabler edited a book for his father, a memoir about growing up in West Virginia. That inspired Tabler to begin a blog about eight years ago that explored his Appalachian roots.
From blog to podcast
Initially Appalachian History was a traditional blog where Tabler discussed his own family history and his own thoughts on Appalachian culture. Eventually he expanded it to include guest writers and in 2008 he began a weekly podcast.
Technically retired, Tabler writes five blog posts and produces one podcast a week. He estimates each week about 25,000 people visit his web site, and about 15,000 subscribe to his podcast.
Tabler hopes the web site and podcast help instill a sense of pride in Appalachians about where they’re from. He doesn’t want them to feel a need to apologize for being from the region, for the way they speak, for the music that they listen to or for anything associated with Appalachian culture.
“Appalachian culture is American culture, that’s something we’ve forgotten over the years,” he said.