Connecting, And Reconnecting With Loved Ones — Inside Appalachia


This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll meet several people who are making connections with each other, themselves, or a spiritual community. 

We’ll hear the story of one woman in Austria who spent years searching for her family in the United States. She didn’t know they were living in rural West Virginia, because her mother was afraid to reveal her father’s name.

We’ll hear how the families finally came together, and met face-to-face for the first time.

And we’ll visit a Southern Gospel Convention in West Virginia that’s been drawing people together to sing for 70 years. As we head into the holiday season, this is a good time for some of us to reconnect with family, or make new connections with friends. 

In this episode: 


In the small town of Pickens, West Virginia, one family made a connection to a sister they didn’t know they had. Report For America reporter Emily Allen attended a recent family reunion to hear the story. Below are some of the letters the Nestor family exchanged with their Austrian sister, Margaret Bogenhuber.


Gospel Music

The Hale Family sing at the WV Mountain State Gospel Convention in June 2019.  Photo by Zack Harold

Credit Zack Harold / For Inside Appalachia
For Inside Appalachia

For many in Appalachia, singing hymns brings them closer to God and their family as well. Inside Appalachia Folkways reporter Zack Harold has attended and sang at the West Virginia Mountain State Gospel Singing Convention in Mt. Nebo, West Virginia, since he was a kid. He went back this summer to reconnect with some of the singers and to see what’s changed. Find more stories of Appalachian Folklife, arts and culture, at 

Johnson City Sessions

In Ken Burns’ recent film “Country Music” we learned about music producer Ralph Peer’s 1927 and 1928 recording sessions in Bristol, Tennessee, which connected  two of country music’s first stars, Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family. At the same time, a different record producer, working in nearby Johnson City, Tennessee, made a set of recordings that aren’t as well-remembered today as the Bristol Sessions, but historians say are just as important. WETS’s Wayne Winkler brings us a story about the Johnson City Sessions.

A Familiar Wilderness


Credit Courtesy photo

In 2013, Jim Dahlman, a journalist and professor of Communications at Milligan College in Tennessee, walked Daniel Boone’s Wilderness Road from Tennessee into Kentucky. From that trip, he wrote a book called “A Familiar Wilderness: Searching for Home on Daniel Boone’s Road.” Author and Inside Appalachia associate producer Eric Douglas interviewed Dahlman about his journey.

We have more interviews where Eric talks with authors in central Appalachia on our website



Credit Glynis Board / West Virginia Public Broadcasting
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

For many Appalachians, immigration is an issue that’s mostly in the abstract — viewed through news reports. A group from Marshall County, West Virginia, recently felt compelled to take a trip to the border to see if they could do something to help asylum seekers. West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s assistant news director, Glynis Board, followed the group to learn more about the realities of the crisis at the southern U.S. border, and the people who try to help.

The Best Christmas

National Public Radio’s StoryCorps records interviews with people all over the country. These are memories and oral histories that otherwise would be forgotten. Dr. William Lynn Weaver recorded a memory with StoryCorps in Knoxville, Tennessee, about a Christmas 50 years ago he spent with his family when he was 18 years old in Mechanicsville, the neighborhood where he grew up. 

His interview will be archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress along with the rest of the StoryCorps collection.

We had help producing Inside Appalachia this week from WETS in Johnson City, Tennessee, and StoryCorps. Special thanks to the West Virginia Folklife Program at the West Virginia Humanities Council. 

Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Dinosaur Burps, and recordings from the Johnson City Sessions. 

Our host is Jessica Lilly. Roxy Todd is our producer. Eric Douglas is our associate producer.  Our executive producer is Jesse Wright. He also edited our show this week. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. 

You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.