People lived a somewhat simple life in Appalachia. There was plenty of self-sufficiency, but residents of Appalachia relied on each other in the local economy. There were limits to travel and limits to access for many things for the residents of this area during the early 1900s, who were often more focused on basic necessities and the need to make a living. Local economies are still important today, but were more so back in the first half of the twentieth century.
The general store is a thing of the past except for the commercialized general stores we can find today. Residing in a hotel was a much different experience for people traveling then. Local residents depended on the nearby mine or mill, or on commerce with neighbors and the few travelers who visited the region. Transportation included walking on foot, horseback, or horse-drawn wagons.
This module challenges students to paint a picture of how people made a living along the Appalachian Trail in Southwestern Virginia. Students will analyze current images as well as primary documents and the words of a local resident in order to understand how the local economy operated. What does the evidence of how a local economy operated back then compare and contrast with how our local economy operates today? What aspects of the natural environment were essential elements of the local economy? To what degree were the small businesses owned by local people critical to local economic life?