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Home North Carolina Surry County City of Pine Ridge Historical Markers Hardin Taliaferro 1811-1875

Hardin Taliaferro 1811-1875

NC-89 at Pine Ridge Road, Pine Ridge, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 36° 29' 56.8716", -80° 43' 2.0388"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Humorist, minister, and editor. Wrote Fisher's River Scenes (1859), a collection of folk tales with local settings. He was born 2 miles N.W."
      Two North Carolinians figure prominently in the school of writers known as “Old Southwestern Humorists.” Together the group, which also included Augustus Baldwin Longstreet of Georgia and Thomas Bangs Thorpe of Arkansas, gave to Southern humor a satiric, bitter edge that came full flower in the work of Mark Twain. The Tar Heels were Johnson Jones Hooper, Wilmington-born creator of “Simon Suggs,” and Hardin Edward Taliaferro of Surry County.

      Taliaferro (1811-1875) portrayed the mountain people amongst whom he grew up in a more sympathetic light than was typical of the genre. Young Taliaferro (pronounced “Tolliver”), born and raised on Little Fisher’s River in Surry County, worked as a tub-boy in the grist mills of the relatively isolated area, where storytelling was a principal form of entertainment. He moved at age eighteen to Tennessee where he married and six years later moved to Talladega, Alabama, where he worked as a tanner during the week and a preacher on Sundays. Soon all other work “was distinctly secondary to his passionate commitment to the ministry of Christ.” In 1855 he became editor of the South Western Baptist. He would remain an editor until his retirement back to Tennessee in 1872.

      In 1857 Taliaferro paid a return visit to Surry County where he began to write down sketches and anecdotes about his old neighbors. In 1859 Harper and Brothers of New York published the work under the title Fisher’s River (North Carolina) Scenes and Characters By “Skitt,” “Who Was Raised Thar”. Taliaferro had a particular talent for catching the local dialect. His narrations used the ironic, mock-heroic tone typical of humorists of his day and later of Mark Twain. The publisher commissioned thirteen steel engravings to accompany the tales. Aside from nine other sketches published in the Southern Literary Messenger between 1860 and 1863, the book accounted for the whole of his non-religious writing. His work received little critical comment until its rediscovery in 1934 by folklorist R. S. Boggs. In 1937 Guion Johnson drew on the sketches to portray life in antebellum North Carolina.

Raymond C. Craig, ed., The Humor of H. E. Taliaferro (1987)
Richard Walser, “Biblio-biography of Skitt Taliaferro,” North Carolina Historical Review 44 (1978): 372-92
Cratis D. Williams “Mountain Customs, Social Life, and Folk Yarns in Taliaferro’s Fisher’s River Scenes and Characters,” North Carolina Folklore 16 (1968): 143-152
Heinrich Bettich, “Hardin Edwards Taliaferro: Life, Literature and Folklore” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1983)
Ralph Steele Boggs, “North Carolina Folktales Current in the 1820s,” Journal of American Folklore 4 (1934): 261-288
Hardin Taliaferro 1811-1875 Historical Marker Location Map, Pine Ridge, North Carolina