Sunday, November 1, 2009

Appalachian Politics

Pictured is Flora "Mae" Perdue Burress & Stewart Burress behind the old home place. Courtesy of my Aunt Judy Boyles.

We are having a Governor's election here in Virginia and yesterday I went to one of those political rally's where each party tries to get the people out there to garner votes.

It caused me to reflect on politics in the mountains. Mountain folk are not much different from anywhere else except our politics have effected families for years and our memories go way, way BACK.

My family are all from the area right on the border of West Virginia. During the Civil War I had a grandfather that refused to serve for either side. He had a brother on the Confederate side and one on the Union and he said he refused to fight against either. He was conscripted into the Confederacy but kept deserting. He deserted one time too many and they shot him in the back of the head, letting him fall back into his own coffin. Then the family sent an Aunt and a black neighbor to go get him and bury him in the family cemetery.

We remember that the Methodist Church split on the issue of slavery in 1845.
 You would have a Methodist Church North and a Methodist Church South in the same town or community. Depending on which troops were in occupation during the Civil War depended on which one you attended church services at regardless of who you were for.

During the Revolutionary War, I had some grandfather's that were Tories living in these back woods. They thought the Revolution would make them slaves of France and didn't want any part of it. Even as their son's fought for the American Cause of liberty. A couple were imprisioned for it though later released after they pledged to the new country.

In more modern times it just seems a tradition to have family members of the same family belonging to one side or the other or the party of their choice. My great grandparents were that way. If opposites attract then they were perfect for each other. Grand ma Burress was a "red hot Republican" because she said when you go back she thought that was the party that got her the right to vote. Grand Pa Burress was a Democrat and he didn't give a reason except I heard him say, " if a poor man voted Republican, he didn't have much common sense" . But in reality they voted locally on issues that mattered to them. It was the stump speeches that turned their heads or their perception on personal issues that garnered their votes.

In their day on local elections, Grand pa said he made a point of not imbibing in the liquor offered by someone he wasn't going to vote for. That to him was just "plum uncouth". But I heard him say his brother took liquor from anybody seeing as he had a weakness for it. Seems that was a common practice at the polling stations i.e. offer a man liquor for their vote. Grand pa had to take his brother every election because his sister-in-law trusted Grandpa to get him back home when it was over with.

Grandma said in our area, the delegate that was Republican voted for women to vote, that's why she was a Republican. Didn't matter the party politics at the state or National level. She saw it as a loyalty issue that without that Republican voting for her to vote she would not have a vote.

I can remember a conversation that Grandpa Burress told Grandma, "Mae, your voting to starve us to death." At which she replied, "that would appear so, but I can vote because the Republicans gave me a vote and I owe it to them." Grandpa said it was her Baptist hard shell background. She was just stubborn by nature and religion. He being a Methodist and all could see these things.

It hasn't changed much in the very modern day. I was at the local fall festival a few weeks ago. Two sisters I know were campaigning on opposite sides of the fence. One brought around buttons with the state delegate of her choice in tow introducing them to everybody. The other handed out campaign material for the opposing candidate. When I mentioned it to the one sister how her other sister was campaigning for the other side, she said, "Well she's my sister but every good cake always has a few nuts in it in my opinion."