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As of the United States Census , the region was home to approximately 25 million people. Since its recognition as a distinctive region in the late 19th century, Appalachia has been a source of enduring myths and distortions regarding the isolation, temperament, and behavior of its inhabitants. Early 20th century writers often engaged in yellow journalism focused on sensationalistic aspects of the region's culture, such as moonshining and clan feuding , and often portrayed the region's inhabitants as uneducated and prone to impulsive acts of violence.
Sociological studies in the s and s helped to re-examine and dispel these stereotypes. While endowed with abundant natural resources, Appalachia has long struggled and been associated with poverty. In the early 20th century, large-scale logging and coal mining firms brought wage-paying jobs and modern amenities to Appalachia, but by the s the region had failed to capitalize on any long-term benefits  from these two industries.
Beginning in the s, the federal government sought to alleviate poverty in the Appalachian region with a series of New Deal initiatives, such as the construction of dams to provide cheap electricity and the implementation of better farming practices. On March 9, , the Appalachian Regional Commission  was created to further alleviate poverty in the region, mainly by diversifying the region's economy and helping to provide better health care and educational opportunities to the region's inhabitants.
By , Appalachia had largely joined the economic mainstream, but still lagged behind the rest of the nation in most economic indicators. Since Appalachia lacks definite physiographical or topographical boundaries, there has been some disagreement over what exactly the region encompasses.
The most commonly used modern definition of Appalachia is the one initially defined by the Appalachian Regional Commission in and expanded over subsequent decades. The first major attempt to map Appalachia as a distinctive cultural region came in the s with the efforts of Berea College president William Goodell Frost, whose "Appalachian America" included counties in 8 states. Campbell published The Southern Highlander and His Homeland in which he modified Frost's map to include counties in 9 states.
A landmark survey of the region in the following decade by the United States Department of Agriculture defined the region as consisting of counties in 6 states. Historian John Alexander Williams, in his book Appalachia: The name was soon altered by the Spanish to Apalachee and used as a name for the tribe and region spreading well inland to the north.
Now spelled "Appalachian", it is the fourth oldest surviving European place-name in the U. The name was not commonly used for the whole mountain range until the late 19th century. A competing and often more popular name was the " Allegheny Mountains ", "Alleghenies", and even "Alleghania. The occasional use of the "sh" sound for the "ch" in the last syllable in northern dialects was popularized by Appalachian Trail organizations in New England in the early 20th century. Native American hunter-gatherers first arrived in what is now Appalachia over 16, years ago.
The earliest discovered site is the Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Washington County, Pennsylvania , which some scientists claim is pre- Clovis culture. Several other Archaic period — BC archaeological sites have been identified in the region, such as the St. In the 16th century, the de Soto and Juan Pardo expeditions explored the mountains of South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia, and encountered complex agrarian societies consisting of Muskogean-speaking inhabitants.
De Soto indicated that much of the region west of the mountains was part of the domain of Coosa , a paramount chiefdom centered around a village complex in northern Georgia. The French based in modern-day Quebec also made inroads into the northern areas of the region in modern-day New York state and Pennsylvania. By the mid 18th century the French had outposts such as Fort Duquesne and Fort Le Boeuf controlling the access points of the Allegheny River valley and upper Ohio valley after exploration by Celeron de Bienville.
European migration into Appalachia began in the 18th century. As lands in eastern Pennsylvania, the Tidewater region of Virginia and the Carolinas filled up, immigrants began pushing further and further westward into the Appalachian Mountains. A relatively large proportion of the early backcountry immigrants were Ulster Scots —later known as " Scotch-Irish "— who were seeking cheaper land and freedom from Quaker leaders, many of whom considered the Scotch-Irish "savages".
Others included Germans from the Palatinate region and English settlers from the Anglo-Scottish border country. Between and , immigrants trickled into western Pennsylvania , the Shenandoah Valley area of Virginia, and western Maryland.
Thomas Walker's discovery of Cumberland Gap in and the end of the French and Indian War in lured settlers deeper into the mountains, namely to upper east Tennessee , northwestern North Carolina, upstate South Carolina , and central Kentucky. Between and , a series of treaties with the Cherokee and other Native American tribes opened up lands in north Georgia , north Alabama , the Tennessee Valley , the Cumberland Plateau regions, and the Great Smoky Mountains along what is now the Tennessee-North Carolina border.
Appalachian frontiersmen have long been romanticized for their ruggedness and self-sufficiency. A typical depiction of an Appalachian pioneer involves a hunter wearing a coonskin cap and buckskin clothing , and sporting a long rifle and shoulder-strapped powder horn. Perhaps no single figure symbolizes the Appalachian pioneer more than Daniel Boone — , a long hunter and surveyor instrumental in the early settlement of Kentucky and Tennessee.
Like Boone, Appalachian pioneers moved into areas largely separated from "civilization" by high mountain ridges, and had to fend for themselves against the elements.
As many of these early settlers were living on Native American lands, attacks from Native American tribes were a continuous threat until the 19th century. As early as the 18th century, Appalachia then known simply as the "backcountry" began to distinguish itself from its wealthier lowland and coastal neighbors to the east. Frontiersmen often bickered with lowland and tidewater "elites" over taxes, sometimes to the point of armed revolts such as the Regulator Movement — in North Carolina.
Two years later, a group of Appalachian frontiersmen known as the Overmountain Men routed British forces at the Battle of Kings Mountain after rejecting a call by the British to disarm. In the early 19th century, the rift between the yeoman farmers of Appalachia and their wealthier lowland counterparts continued to grow, especially as the latter dominated most state legislatures. People in Appalachia began to feel slighted over what they considered unfair taxation methods and lack of state funding for improvements especially for roads.
In the northern half of the region, the lowland "elites" consisted largely of industrial and business interests, whereas in the parts of the region south of the Mason—Dixon line , the lowland elites consisted of large-scale land-owning planters.
Tensions between the mountain counties and state governments sometimes reached the point of mountain counties threatening to break off and form separate states. In , bickering between western Virginia and eastern Virginia over the state's constitution led to calls on both sides for the state's separation into two states. The proposed state would have been known as "Frankland" and would have invited like-minded mountain counties in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama to join it.
By , the Whig Party had disintegrated. Sentiments in northern Appalachia had shifted to the pro- abolitionist Republican Party.
In southern Appalachia, abolitionists still constituted a radical minority, although several smaller opposition parties most of which were both pro- Union and pro-slavery were formed to oppose the planter-dominated Southern Democrats. As states in the southern United States moved toward secession , a majority of Southern Appalachians still supported the Union.
After Virginia voted to secede, several mountain counties in northwestern Virginia rejected the ordinance and with the help of the Union Army established a separate state, admitted to the Union as West Virginia in However, half the counties included in the new state, comprising two-thirds of its territory, were secessionist and pro-Confederate.
This caused great difficulty for the new Unionist state government in Wheeling , both during and after the war. Both central and southern Appalachia suffered tremendous violence and turmoil during the Civil War. While there were two major theaters of operation in the region—namely the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and present-day West Virginia and the Chattanooga area along the Tennessee-Georgia border—much of the violence was caused by bushwhackers and guerrilla war.
The northernmost battles of the entire war were fought in Appalachia with the Battle of Buffington Island and the Battle of Salineville resulting from Morgan's Raid. Large numbers of livestock were killed grazing was an important part of Appalachia's economy , and numerous farms were destroyed, pillaged, or neglected.
After the war, northern parts of Appalachia experienced an economic boom, while economies in the southern parts of the region stagnated, especially as Southern Democrats regained control of their respective state legislatures at the end of Reconstruction.
By , the Chattanooga area and north Georgia and northern Alabama had experienced similar changes due to manufacturing booms in Atlanta and Birmingham at the edge of the Appalachian region. Railroad construction between the s and early 20th century gave the greater nation access to the vast coalfields in central Appalachia, making the economy in that part of the region practically synonymous with coal mining.
As the nationwide demand for lumber skyrocketed, lumber firms turned to the virgin forests of southern Appalachia, using sawmill and logging railroad innovations to reach remote timber stands. The late 19th and early 20th centuries also saw the development of various regional stereotypes.
Attempts by President Rutherford B. Hayes to enforce the whiskey tax in the late s led to an explosion in violence between Appalachian " moonshiners " and federal "revenuers" that lasted through the Prohibition period in the s.
Frost attempted to redefine the inhabitants of Appalachia as "noble mountaineers"—relics of the nation's pioneer period whose isolation had left them unaffected by modern times. Today, residents of Appalachia are viewed by many Americans as uneducated and unrefined, resulting in culture-based stereotyping and discrimination in many areas, including employment and housing.
Such discrimination has prompted some to seek redress under prevailing federal and state civil rights laws.
Appalachia, and especially Kentucky, became nationally known for its violent feuds , especially in the remote mountain districts. They pitted the men in extended clans against each other for decades, often using assassination and arson as weapons, along with ambushes , gunfights , and pre-arranged shootouts.
The infamous Hatfield-McCoy Feud of the 19th century was the best known of these family feuds. Some of the feuds were continuations of violent local Civil War episodes. In reality, the leading participants were typically well-to-do local elites with networks of clients who were fighting for local political power.
Logging firms' rapid devastation of the forests of the Appalachians sparked a movement among conservationists to preserve what remained and allow the land to "heal".
In , Congress passed the Weeks Act , giving the federal government authority to create national forests east of the Mississippi River and control timber harvesting. By the s, poor farming techniques and the loss of jobs to mechanization in the mining industry had left much of central and southern Appalachia poverty-stricken.
The lack of jobs also led to widespread difficulties with outmigration. Beginning in the s, federal agencies such as the Tennessee Valley Authority began investing in the Appalachian region. The commission's efforts helped to stem the tide of outmigration and diversify the region's economies. There are growing IT sectors in many parts of the region. Most of these were from families who had been resettled in the Ulster Plantation in northern Ireland in the 17th century,   but some came directly from the Anglo-Scottish border region.
While various 20th century writers tried to associate Appalachia with Scottish highlanders , Highland Scots were a relatively insignificant percentage of the region's early European immigrants. Although Swedes and Finns formed only a tiny portion of the Appalachian settlers it was Swedish and Finnish settlers of New Sweden who brought the northern European woodsman skills such as log cabin construction which formed the basis of backwoods Appalachian material culture.
Germans were a major pioneer group to migrate to Appalachia, settling mainly in western Pennsylvania and southwest Virginia. Smaller numbers of Germans were also among the initial wave of migrants to the southern mountains. The Melungeons , a group of mixed African, European, and Native American ancestry, are scattered across northeastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky, and southwestern Virginia.
Christianity has long been the main religion in Appalachia. Religion in Appalachia is characterized by a sense of independence and a distrust of religious hierarchies , both rooted in the evangelical tendencies of the region's pioneers, many of whom had been influenced by the " New Light " movement in England.
Many of the denominations brought from Europe underwent modifications or factioning during the Second Great Awakening especially the holiness movement in the early 19th century. A number of 18th and 19th-century religious traditions are still practiced in parts of Appalachia, including natural water or "creek" baptism , rhythmically chanted preaching, congregational shouting, snake handling , and foot washing.
While most church-goers in Appalachia attend fairly well organized churches affiliated with regional or national bodies, small unaffiliated congregations are not uncommon in rural mountain areas. Protestantism is the most dominant denomination in Appalachia, although there is a significant Roman Catholic presence in the northern half of the region and in urban areas, like Pittsburgh.
The region's early Lowland and Ulster Scot immigrants brought Presbyterianism to Appalachia, eventually organizing into bodies such as the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
The Appalachian dialect is a dialect of Midland American English known as the Southern Midland dialect, and is spoken primarily in central and southern Appalachia. The Northern Midland dialect is spoken in the northern parts of the region, while Pittsburgh English more commonly known as "Pittsburghese" is strongly influenced by Appalachian dialect. Early 20th century writers believed the Appalachian dialect to be a surviving relic of Old World Scottish or Elizabethan dialects.
Recent research suggests, however, that while the dialect has a stronger Scottish influence than other American dialects, most of its distinguishing characteristics are American in origin. For much of the region's history, education in Appalachia has lagged behind the rest of the nation due in part to struggles with funding from respective state governments and an agrarian-oriented population that often failed to see a practical need for formal education.
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Search the world's information, including webpages, images, videos and more. Google has many special features to help you find exactly what you're looking for. Appalachia (/ ˌ æ p ə ˈ l æ tʃ ə, -ˈ l eɪ tʃ ə /) is a cultural region in the Eastern United States that stretches from the Southern Tier of New York to northern Alabama and Georgia. While the Appalachian Mountains stretch from Belle Isle in Canada to Cheaha Mountain in Alabama, the cultural region of Appalachia typically refers only to the central and southern portions of the range.