Bear Went Over the Mountain Available as Download on Google Books

Donald Yates’ classic genealogy book The Bear Went Over the Mountain (Princeton:  Cherokee Press, 1995) is now available for purchase as a download. Published over 15 years ago, it has been out of print for nearly 10 years. Many people over the years have written to the author and begged him to republish it.


The Bear Went Over the Mountain

Story of The Bear

Bear Went Over the MountainYates was born July 9, 1950 in a north Georgia town where his grandparents were farmers and his father ran a grocery store. He was the fourth of five children. His genealogical memoir The Bear Went Over the Mountain draws on stories (“an exalted type of gossip”), courthouse records and then-scarce family history publications in the days before the Internet, as well as literary sources like W.J. Cash’s The Mind of the South. In various state chapters, ranging from Virginia to Georgia , Alabama and Florida, sketches of pioneer life are inspired in part by the writers of the 1930s Work Projects Administration series, when the Federal government hired out-of-work writers to pen travel and history guides, just as it commissioned painters to produce murals in post offices across the country.

“One reason why the South has such a store of family history and culture is that families lived in close proximity to each other for generation after generation,” Yates writes in the preface to The Bear Went Over the Mountain. “Sunday afternoon visits, dinner on the grounds, weddings and funerals provided occasions for affirming a rich oral tradition. When I moved to the North (where I have lived for most of my life), I realized what I had lost. I am persuaded no Southerner who has not experienced exile from the mother culture can adequately represent it” (p. xv).

Appendix III, “Southern Language,” surveys the roots of Appalachian storytelling and comments on a number of proverbs and sayings Yates recalls from his youth.

“Traditional Southern long stories, endless table talk at coffee-shops, marathon political speeches and hours-long Baptist sermons are of a piece,” suggests Phillip B. Anderson, a professor of English at the University of Central Arkansas. “The truth is, your Southerner really does like language—not as a tool or a means of communication, but as a way of expressing and creating” (p. 249).

Above:  Author at age 2, from The Bear Went Over the Mountain