From Ohio History Central

Elderly Man and Woman in Work Clothes.jpg
Photograph of an elderly man and woman in work clothes by traveling photographer Albert J. Ewing. The photograph was likely taken in southern Ohio or

West Virginia, ca. 1890-1910.

Appalachia is a geographic region within the eastern portion of the United States. It includes all of West Virginia and parts of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Ohio, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Within these thirteen states, a total of 397 counties are Appalachia counties, encompassing almost 200,000 square miles of land and including approximately twenty million people. Twenty-nine counties in southeastern Ohio are part of Appalachia. At the start of the twenty-first century, this portion of Ohio ranks as the poorest economic region in the state.

In Appalachia, the major geographic feature is the Appalachian Mountains, which run in a roughly northeast to southwest direction from New England to the American South. Much of this area is mountainous, but other parts of Appalachia include rolling foothills. The area tends to be heavily forested and rich in natural resources, especially coal, iron ore, and natural gas. There also is a tourism industry in parts of Appalachia, especially in higher elevations, where ski resorts operate during the winter months.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Appalachia experienced an economic boom. Industrialization gripped the United States, and factories required the region's coal and iron ore. Railroads transported the raw materials to the nation's industrial centers, including northern Ohio cities, such as Akron, Cleveland, and Toledo, where the steel and eventually the automobile industries flourished. While the region experienced tremendous economic growth during this period, most of its residents did not, as the mine and other business owners usually paid poor wages and provided limited benefits to the workers.

By the 1910s and 1920s, economic conditions had deteriorated in Appalachia. Oil began to replace coal in many industries, causing numerous mining businesses to cease operation. Also, as coal resources declined in various parts of Appalachia, many mining companies moved their operations to either other parts of Appalachia or to other regions of the United States. Entire towns ceased to exist as mining companies moved away. Work was no longer available for some Appalachia residents, causing a migration from this part of the country to the nation's industrial centers, including northern Ohio, Michigan, and several other states. This migration peaked during World War I and World War II, as thousands of American men either volunteered for or were drafted into the military, creating jobs in the factories. For example, from 1910 to 1920, Akron's population increased by nearly 150,000 people, many of them from Appalachia. The migration dwindled during the Great Depression, as factory workers faced high unemployment rates. The economic situation in Appalachia continued to suffer during the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, as few large employers were willing to establish businesses in this region. In recent years individual state governments and the federal government have attempted to alleviate the economic situation in Appalachia by encouraging businesses through tax incentives to move to the region and by funding highway construction projects, making the region more accessible.

See Also