The Mix Zone

Simplified map of coloniser migration routes

Simplified map of coloniser migration routes


Many people have asked me why it is that a blog and podcast dealing with the general ethnic history of the USA should have so much focus on Appalachia.

This is a highly simplified map I made in order to answer that question.

The colonisation of what would become the USA was effected mostly by three major and two minor European states:


Spain, France, and England (the later United Kingdom of Great Britain), along with The Netherlands and Sweden.


Almost everywhere north and west of the blue and red migration arrows was once claimed by France or The Netherlands.

Almost everywhere south and west of the yellow and red migration arrows was once claimed by Spain.

For a brief 17 years, parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland were claimed by Sweden.

The heartland of British colonial America lay largely along the eastern seaboard, east of the Appalachian mountains.

In 1790, the largest cities in the new USA were New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Boston, MA; Charleston, SC; and Baltimore, MD; in that order.

Backcountry Virginia and the Carolinas were still mostly rural.

On the whole, American settlers only began to push into and beyond the Appalachian mountains in large numbers after the Revolutionary War.

The agricultural lands of the Ohio and Illinois Country were most desirable to New Englanders, while the planter classes of Virginia and South Carolina tended to eye-up lands in the Deep South.

Between 1607 and 1770, the Virginia and Carolina backcountry had tended to attract the poorer “white” underclasses, due to the accessibility of cheaper land, while acting as a sort of “Maroon community” for free people of color and people of various mixed ethnicity who were being squeezed by ever more stringent “race” laws back east.

For readers who are suburban and city folks, mountain land might be beautiful, but it is extremely hard land to farm. As an Irishman once said “You can’t eat scenery”.

Some lucky (and trigger happy) settlers got their hands on some bottom land in the mountain valleys.  Others pushed right on through in search of better land even farther west.

It was the poorest and most mixed-ethnic peoples who tended to squat, purchase, or settle land in the most mountainous parts of Appalachia, right around the mountain gaps where colonisers like Daniel Boone had first pushed their way through in the face of fierce indigenous resistance, building blockhouse forts in much the same way that Israeli settlers build outposts in occupied Palestinian lands today.

The blue circle on this map represents the “hill and holler” country where the earliest settlers with the least financial means fanned-out and attempted to eke out an existence through hunting, trapping, distilling, tobacco and subsistence farming, and the timber industry.  This blue circle also represents a sort of cultural funnel, where people with ancestry from four or even five continents intermarried and created an utterly new and distinctly “American” culture.

People elsewhere talk of the American melting pot, while still secretly believing there is a “white” melting pot and a “black” melting pot.  Southern Appalachia, despite the ignorant jibes of outsiders, is the real deal.

The people who put down roots and remained in the remoter parts of westernmost Virginia and North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee, and Eastern Kentucky were mostly not part of the later 19th century waves of “white” immigration which took place on the east coast and in places west of the Appalachian Mountains.

For the better part of 150 years, from the 1770s to the 1920s, Southern Appalachia remained a sort of snapshot of a forgotten multi-ethnic America which had prevailed before the hardening of race laws forced all “brown people” to declare themselves as “white”.

This particular region is hugely significant in the formation of the wider American identity, for many reasons.

For an often marginalised people, Southern Appalachian culture has had an outsized influence on everything from the accent spoken in Texas, to labor relations and unions, to traditional American foods, to country and rock music.

#appalachia #americanhistory #beforewewerewhite

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *