Will Allen Dromgoole and the Writing Life

DromgooleDromgoole didn’t start writing until after her mother died in 1884. Her first book was The Sunny Side of the Cumberland, which was published in 1886. It received a slight, but positive reception. She also gained minimal recognition with her articles on the Melungeons and the Tennessee Mountaineers in the late 1880s.

Scandal arose on the Senate floor in 1889. The January session was underway and it was time again for her to be elected to the engrossing clerkship position she’d held several years, a position she kept easily with the majority of votes in both 1885 and 1887.

Unfortunately, her writing on the peoples in Eastern Tennessee was so inflammatory and libelous that Dromgoole was essentially stripped of her position. Wikipedia states her Melungeon articles came out in 1890 and 1891, however her trouble in the Senate happened in January of 1889. This was after a number of inflammatory articles on the fabled “mountaineers” in 1888. Considering the Senators reported to be angriest were from the northeastern mountainous counties, it’s more likely her initial writings on the mountaineers and Melungeons came out prior to 1889.

Several senators from the region declared Dromgoole was against the mountains, so the mountains were against her. Newspapers and magazines across the country had sent letters to the respective counties to ask about the “Melungeons” that they read so much about. Nearly all publications received angry responses from Tennesseans that stated Melungeons did not exist. Dromgoole had the nation believing that all of Tennessee’s eastern residents were barefoot and couldn’t even speak proper English.

Once the controversy died, media attentions on her writing followed. She didn’t see much success at all until she published Fiddling His Way to Fame, in The Arena magazine. Her story The Heart of Old Hickory was widely enjoyed across the nation and she was given a lengthy biography in the Detroit Free Press around 1893. Dromgoole was raised in Murfreesboro, but stated her summers were spent exploring the mountains at her family’s summer cabin on the Elk River.

The 1890s is also the decade where Dromgoole found her own stereotypes turned against her. Despite her vocal and literary emphasis she was not from the mountains she wrote so much about, other publications labeled her as being from the mountains.

Her father died in the cabin around 1895. Dromgoole was so crushed she gave up writing for a decade. She still performed readings and gave lectures, but she didn’t produce anything. Her first story after this period of mourning was The Blue China Bowl, which came out in 1904.

Some of Dromgoole’s stories (all published in the Arena unless otherwise noted)

  • A Day in Asia
  • From Dan to Beersheba (Storyteller #1)
  • A Bleeding Heart
  • A Fair Advantage
  • The Harp of Life
  • Engineer Connor’s Son (1890)
  • Ole Swing-a-Low
  • Uncle Ned’s Christmas
  • Light of Liberty
  • The War of the Roses (1892)
  • Fiddling His Way to Fame
  • The Cane Sugar Industry (1894)
  • Sweet Lasses (1896)
  • Christmas Eve at the Corner Grocery (1898)
  • The Blue China Bowl (1904)
  • Who Broke Up de Meet’n?
  • George Washington’s Bufday


Book List (Commonly Known Titles as well as Unknown Texts)

  • Sunny Side of the Cumberland (1886)
  • Heart of Old Hickory (1891)
  • The Farrier’s Dog and His Fellow (1897)
  • The Adventures of the Fellow (L.C. Page Company, 1898)
  • Further Adventures of the Fellow (1898)
  • Valley Path (1898)
  • Three Little Crackers from Down in Dixie (1898)
  • Hero Chums (1898)
  • Rare Old Chums (1898)
  • A Boy’s Battle (1898)
  • Cinch, and Other Tales of Tennessee (1898) [Many resources mistakenly call this “Cuich” for some reason.]
  • A Moonshiner’s Son (1898)
  • Harum-Scarum Joe (1899)
  • The Battle on Stone River (1899)
  • The Island of Beautiful Things (1912)



Series Navigation<< Will Allen Dromgoole (1860-1934)Ghosts in Dromgoole’s Closet >>
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