Absentee Landowning and Exploitation in West Virginia, 1760-1920

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University Press of Kentucky, Jul 11, 2014 - History - 232 pages

Absentee landowning has long been tied to economic distress in Appalachia. In this important revisionist study, Barbara Rasmussen examines the nature of landownership in five counties of West Virginia and its effects upon the counties' economic and social development.

Rasmussen untangles a web of outside domination of the region that commenced before the American Revolution, creating a legacy of hardship that continues to plague Appalachia today. The owners and exploiters of the region have included Lord Fairfax, George Washington, and, most recently, the U.S. Forest Service.

The overarching concern of these absentee landowners has been to control the land, the politics, the government, and the resources of the fabulously rich Appalachian Mountains. Their early and relentless domination of politics assured a land tax system that still favors absentee landholders and simultaneously impoverishes the state.

Class differences, a capitalistic outlook, and an ethic of growth and development pervaded western Virginia from earliest settlement. Residents, however, were quickly outspent by wealthier, more powerful outsiders. Insecurity in landownership, Rasmussen demonstrates, is the most significant difference between early mountain farmers and early American farmers everywhere.

 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Early Speculators and the Leather Stocking Assault upon Virginias Transmontane
16
Jostling for Place and Power in the BrandNew West
29
Planter Economics and Frustrations in the West
45
Tax Breaks for Industry and Legislated Defeat for Western Residents
56
Coal Dust Sawdust and Cinders on the Farmland
74
Life and Work with and without Coal with and without Absentees
90
Scrambling for Every Tree Crushing Every Foe
101
Tariff Woes and West Virginias Backwoods Campaign
115
Swashbuckling through the Forest and Poaching the Game
126
Conservation Reforestation and Economic Gridlock
138
Copernican Thinking and Changing the Political Paradigms
153
Notes
163
Bibliography
189
Index
209
Copyright

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About the author (2014)

Barbara Rasmussen is an Appalachian historian.

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