Appalachian Women You May Have Never Heard of…
In 1986, Wachacha was named one of 100 American Heroes by Newsweek and received the Distinguished Women of North Carolina Award. She was given the revered Cherokee title of Beloved Woman in 1978.
Throughout her life, Wachacha was an indefatigable teacher and promoter of the Cherokee culture, and she is still known for her efforts to preserve and teach the Cherokee language and for her extensive knowledge of traditional foods and plants.
‘Aunt’ Samantha Bumgarner was an acclaimed early country and folk music performer from Dillsboro, North Carolina. She won much praise for her work with the fiddle and banjo. In 1924, accompanied by guitarist Eva Davis, she traveled to New York City and recorded about a dozen songs for Columbia Records. The recordings are also notable for being the first use of a 5-string banjo on a recording. She was a yearly staple at Bascom Lamar Lunsford’s Mountain Dance and Folk Festival from 1928 until shortly before her death in 1960.
Folksinger Pete Seeger has credited Bumgarner as his inspiration for wanting to learn the five-string banjo. “He learned (he says) to play the banjo after first hearing one played by a mountain girl named Samantha Bumgarten [sic]—came from the Great Smokies”.
Bumgarner, at the invitation of President and Mrs. Roosevelt, was also among the artists who played before George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England at a June 1939 White House concert of American music.