What is a Hillbilly?

What is a hillbilly? The Celtic Ozark history on hillbillies is kind of fascinating. Not many people know where the term “hillbilly” came from. So, let’s find out more.


The term comes from a kind of “urban legend” that surrounds a couple of Irish brothers that lived in the 1800’s, here in the Ozarks.  They were the kind of archetype for hillbillies, i.e. they hunted, fished, made moonshine, got into trouble with the law of the day, loved a good scrap, etc. There was not much good to say about the Billy brothers.


In many ways, though, the represented the Celtic history and heritage that is the Ozarks. The first white settlers to the Ozarks came to here around 1810-1815.  At the time, the Osage Indians also lived here.  The original settlers came into the Ozarks via the White River.


The original hillbillies were a rough and ready group of Scots-Irish, Ulster-Irish, people that had become very successful in making a life for themselves in Tennessee and Kentucky. The group married with the English and the Indians, who were also here in the day.


The people who settled here brought their old world habbits, culture, and music with them. So, it should be no surprise that good hillbilly music sounds like good old Irish music.  The wines, beers, and yes distilled spirits brewed in the Ozarks were based on recipes and practices brought from Ireland, England, Wales, and Scotland.


The Indian culture taught the early hillbillies a lot about edible plants, good wood for building homes, bows, tools, etc.  It is almost taken as a joke in the Ozarks, at times, that everyone claims roots to some Indian tribe.  Well, the myth is most likely true.  Sadly, most claim heritage to the Cherokee nation, when actually, many may be kin to the Osage Indians.


So, thanks to the Billy Brothers for helping us start the Celtic Ozark history on hillbillies. And thanks much to the many Celtic and Indian people who gave us our heritage.

Ray Province

The Celtic Ozarkian

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