Roots in Appalachia


My Mullins family connection from L-R: Andrew Jackson Mullins, my great-great grandfather, David A.J. Mullins, my great grandfather, James Russell Mullins, my grandfather and Roscoe Mullins, my father.

When I started “Appalachian Chained”, I stepped outside my comfort zone.

I internalized a lot of issues, many of them dealing with Appalachia and life until after encouragement from friends and family, I decided to start putting them down online in the blog.

It hasn’t been easy writing the blog.  I’ve had to carefully choose subjects, sometimes I have ranted, other times, I have tried to combine my love for history, Appalachia and other interests together into the blog.

But this weekend, I’m getting ready to step outside my comfort zone once again, this time to speak on the life and times of my great-great grandfather and his place in Appalachian/Cumberland culture along with such names as “Devil John Wright, Doc Taylor, “The Red Fox of the Cumberlands”, The Melungeons, and much more.

And once again, I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew on these roots in Appalachia.

On Friday morning (09/22/2017) at 9:00AM, I will face either a handful of people in a conference room or a room bustling at the seams with people for the first full day of activities at the “Tales of the Cumberlands” event, the fourth event of its kind, to be held at the Breaks Interstate Park.

The event which is organized by Stevie Conley is crammed with big name historians, genealogists, authors, podcasters in Luke Bauserman of “The Weekly Holler”, more Appalachian history, genealogy sessions, information and knowledge and then there’s just me; talking about this little character named Andrew Jackson Mullins, “Brandy Jack” as he was called, a small player in a world of big names.

Big names like Wright, whose reputation as a crackshot and lawman/vigilante or whatever you might call him, that might have inspired Elmore Leonard to create Raylan Givens or at least give the character life based upon his “legendary” status.

I have to admit, my great-great grandfather was a counterfeiter and ladies man.  He married four times, fathered 21 children in wedlock and who knows the number out of wedlock.  He was sent to prison in 1875 for counterfeiting to serve a seven year prison sentence and returned home in 1882 to begin making whiskey from apples grown on an orchard on Caney Ridge in Dickenson County, VA before he died in 1917 of blood poisoning at the age of 93.

I’ve posted a picture above of him, my great grandfather, grandfather and my dad. Despite all the bad stuff “Brandy Jack” did, the line did improve until me.

I’ve made presentations before to local groups.  I co-host a podcast talking about Appalachian history.  Why is there reason to feel like I am out of my comfort zone?

Because, it’s on a bigger scale and sometimes, I get uncomfortable when the spotlight is on me, despite working in a business where the spotlight is constantly on you in your writing, your podcasts, everything.

Its also because I am doing something different than being behind the laptop or camera, typing away like I am now at this blog, or behind the microphone, where there is a sense of security, protection.

You are also talking about history and family history, and sometimes you don’t know whether to take out an insurance policy before the event, wear a bulletproof vest during the event or check your glass or food for signs of poisoning afterward.

People are funny about history, to the point of murder in some cases. I hope that won’t be the end result after this weekend.

I’m just hoping to find my roots a little more here in Appalachia and share what I have learned about home while getting my feet wet in a new zone.

We’ll fill you in on how it goes.

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