Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

English Rhetoric and Composition, PhD

Committee Chair

Schneider, Stephen

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Clukey, Amy

Committee Member

Clukey, Amy

Committee Member

Johnson, Timothy

Committee Member

Webb-Sunderhaus, Sara

Author's Keywords

appalachia; rhetoric; public memory; Hillsville, VA shootout; terministic screens; appalachian rhetorics


This dissertation examines rhetorical rememberings of the 1912 Hillsville, Virginia courthouse shootout. It begins with an overview of the historical event, then through four chapters focuses on different rememberings that take up the event. Using Burke’s terministic screens, the study presents several lenses through which to view these rememberings. Chapter One presents the national and local newspaper constructions of the shootout in three terministic screens: the violent mountaineer, the gangster, and the uncolonized other. These three screens predate what is now the hillbilly image of the mountaineer. Chapter Two analyzes performative actions of the shootout. The ballads about the event demonstrate the bifurcation of the town: “Sidna Allen” uses the dangerous mountaineer terministic screen whereas “Claude Allen” presents a more sympathetic, humanistic account of the shootout. Recent plays written by Hillsville local, Frank Levering, reveal the shootout participants and their families with sympathy and humanity, especially in scenes that acknowledge that these plays are performed in the historic courthouse where the shootout occurred. Chapter Three presents how the three local museums continue to engage with these terministic screens. The Carroll County Historical Society and Museum demonstrates a local vernacular remembering of the event as it concentrates on the local families involved whereas the Mt. Airy Museum of Regional History argues for a national view of the shootout that still engages with stereotypical terministic screens. The last museum located in the Harmon Western Wear Store contains purely vernacular remembering of the shootout. By relying on local and national newspapers and various other artifacts of the shootout, the exhibit encourages patrons to create their own version of the shootout. Chapter Four centers on new portrayals of the shootout through the mostly unheard voices of the women in Hillsville who were left over when their husbands and sons either died or were incarcerated by the state of Virginia. This chapter explores how these mountain women demonstrated resilience through refusing to talk about the event. In addition, it explores recovered women’s through nonfiction and fictional rememberings of the shootout. These chapters demonstrate how the shootout contributed to the Appalachian identity that continues to develop in today’s America.