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Celtic Connections: The Celtic Republic of Appalachia, USA

By: Celtic Bard Jeff

The Celtic Republic of Appalachia is a state of mind. It is comprised of those who are interested in preserving and celebrating Celtic culture in the Appalachian region of the United States, where so many Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and Cornish immigrants settled and where their descendants live today. Their Celtic traditions live on in the history, languages, art, music, and spirituality of this region. ¹

Appalachia is a cultural region in the Eastern United States that stretches from the Southern Tier of New York to northern Alabama, Mississippi 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. As of the 2010 census, the region was home to approximately 25 million people, containing the major cities of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Knoxville, Tennessee; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; and Asheville, North Carolina.

European migration into Appalachia began in the 18th century. As lands in eastern Pennsylvania and 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.

An estimated 90% of Appalachia's earliest European settlers originated from the Anglo-Scottish border country— namely the English counties of Cumberland, Westmorland, Northumberland, County Durham, Lancashire and Yorkshire, and the Lowland Scottish counties of Ayrshire, Dumfriesshire, Roxburghshire, Berwickshire and Wigtownshire. 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. In America, these people are often grouped under the single name "Scotch-Irish" or "Scots-Irish". ²

Sources: ¹; ² Wikipedia

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