The region in North America
characterized by the Appalachian mountain
chain. The Appalachian Mountains
feature rounded tree topped peaks and isolated humid valleys called 'hollows'. While the mountain chain itself stretches from southern Georgia
to eastern Quebec
, the regional name 'Appalachia' is often understood to refer to a smaller geographic and cultural area, stretching through the central and western Carolinas, western Virginia
, West Virginia
, eastern Ohio
, and western Pennsylvania
The geographic and cultural description 'Appalachia' as commonly understood refers to the mostly rural, largely impoverished communities that are scattered throughout the areas described above. The areas were inhabited originally by Cherokee Indians, and were settled most prominently after the American Revolution by the Scotch-Irish, who brought their rural frontier traditions with them directly from the Old World. Many of the unique and stereotypical cultural traits of the region can be traced to this heritage, including whiskey brewing and the notorious 'family feuds' of popular lore. The settlement of Appalachia also featured a high amount of interbreeding with the indigenous Indian population, a unique feature in the United States. Due to the mountainous terrain of the region and mostly poor soil, farming was and is restricted to small scale operations, unlike the East Coast to the East and the Midwest and plantation South to the West. Appalachia thus never achieved a large population density and did not industrialize with the adjoining East Coast and Rust Belt. Thus it was and is a characteristically rural and isolated region.
Throughout much of Appalachia, the major economic activity was and is mining coal from the mountains. This potential employment attracted various immigrants, including the Irish. Tobacco developed as a characteristic agricultural crop.
During the Great Depression, and especially in the decades after the Second World War, the impoverished population of Appalachia engaged in a huge out-migration to industrial urban centers, profoundly changing the characteristics of cities and towns throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the rest of the Rust Belt, especially Cincinnati and Dayton, where perhaps a majority of the population now has Appalachian origins, but also Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Columbus, Louisville, and others. There were and are sizable populations of Appalachian origin in the Chicago and Detroit areas as well.
The region itself has yet to diversify its economy or population, and remains much the same as it was in the past, a beautiful, sometimes haunting rural land with mining and tobacco cultivation the primary sectors.