Monday, December 4, 2017

Growing, Decorating Christmas Trees Provided Cash, Fun

Checking the tree crop on a Balsam Grove farm in 1961.
The modern Christmas tree, which found its way to the United States with German immigrants in the early 1800s, dates from 16th century Germany. 

By 1900, one in five American families decorated trees during Christmas.  An article on the front page of the December 1, 1905 Sylvan Valley News advises setting the tree in place the day before it is to be used.  Strings of popcorn and popcorn balls should also be prepared a day ahead as well.  On the day of the Christmas party everyone joined in to put on decorations including tiny twinkling bells, golden stars, shiny tinsel, and gleaming candles. 

Beginning in 1906 Joseph and Elizabeth Silversteen held an annual Open House at their Rosman house for the community.  A description on the 1908 event states, “The tree was beautifully trimmed and the yard under the tree was larger than ever before, and contained tiny toy fowls and animals which greatly pleased the children.  The little green and red picket fence surrounding it, gave a touch of completeness to the whole.  All the children and old people received oranges and Christmas stockings filled with candy and Mr. Aiken very kindly entertained the callers with his excellent phonograph.”

This undated photo shows children at a Baptist church Christmas program.
Contact the Local History Room staff at the Library if you can identify
any of the children.
The first mention of a community Christmas tree in Brevard was for the evening of December 24, 1907 at the court house. 

Many of the local churches and schools also had a Christmas tree and entertainment for children and the communities they served.  The presentations typically included readings, songs, plays, and a visit from Santa Claus who brought children a small treat bag, as well. 

Brevard High School Christmas Pageant, 1955.
C.M. Siniard was one of the first to make a profit from the growing popularity of Christmas trees.  In 1912 he advertised, “Holly Christmas trees and trimmings delivered to any part of town.  Rates reasonable.” 

The Christmas tree industry grew quickly until nearly every family had one by 1930.  By the mid-1900s Christmas trees had become a cash crop in the mountains of Western North Carolina. 

Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library.  Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs.  For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at marcy.thompson@transylvaniacounty.org or 828-884-1820.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Christmas parades are Local Traditions

Santa arrives downtown at 6:30 pm on Friday, December 1, 1950
on a Brevard fire truck.
Community-wide holiday festivities have long been an important part of small town traditions.  In Transylvania County both Brevard and Rosman light up their main streets and hold an annual parade with floats, marching bands, and the arrival of Santa Claus.

In Brevard Christmas parades became a part of the holiday season following WWII.  In 1947 the Ecusta Band escorted Santa as he rode in on the new fire truck to open the festivities.  He greeted children, receive their wish lists, and gave out candy.   Christmas carols were enjoyed and stores stayed open late for shoppers.  This was the practice for the next four years.  

Floats were added to create a full-scale Christmas parade in 1952.  The first floats were on large flat-bed trailers that were elaborately decorated.  
With the addition of floats in 1952 Santa's reindeer and sleigh
made their debut in the Brevard Christmas parade.

The Community Development Clubs from eight Community Centers in the county constructed this float for the 1962 parade.  Riding on it were young ladies from each community including Mary Owen--Balsam Grove,
Evelyn Barton--Cathey's Creek, Barbara Jane Foote--Cedar Mountain, Gaye Whitmire--Dunn's Rock,
Virginia Powell--Eastatoe, Martha Sue Mackey--Little River, Paulette Farmer--Pisgah Forest, and Sandra Smith--Sapphire.
Following a short gap when it appears there was not a Christmas parade in Brevard the current run of annual Christmas parades sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, local merchants, and later the Heart of Brevard, began in 1971.

The first Twilight Tour featuring carolers, musicians, carriage rides, a visit from Santa, and special sales at downtown stores was organized in 1987.  Twilight Tour grew quickly and in 1990 the annual Christmas Parade and Twilight Tour were combined.

Rosman’s annual Christmas parade dates back to at least the mid-1960s.

This 1970 Cathey's Creek Community Center float was in the Rosman parade.
If you have photographs from past parades in Brevard or Rosman, particularly of floats, that you would be willing to share please contact the Local History Room at the Library.  We can scan your photos and return them to you. 

Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library.  Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs.  For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at marcy.thompson@transylvaniacounty.org or 828-884-3151 X242.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Receipts Reveal Some Basic Costs From Years Ago

This Brevard Institute receipt shows a breakdown of
possible expenses.
This week Picturing the Past continues to feature items from a collection of County Commissioners documents of the early 1900s by looking at the contents of a few specific items.

A Brevard Institute tuition receipt dated February 28, 1910 shows fees of $30.25 paid in full for a twelve week term for Donnie Mae Wilson.  Brevard Institute offered four years of standard high school work in home economics, agriculture, business, music, college preparatory, and normal education in preparing teachers from about 1900 through 1933.  There is no indication who paid the fees or why this item would be in with Commissioners papers. 

Chain gangs were used for road construction in the early 1900s. 
Presumably the dynamite was used to break up rock
for clearing the roadway.
A March 1, 1915 Brevard Hardware receipt showed that L. Ashworth purchased 100 sticks of dynamite for the county chain gang.  The Annual Statement of Expenditures for Transylvania County in the Sylvan Valley News on December 17, 1915 shows total expenses of $2,572.82 for Chain Gang Claims during the fiscal year ending November 30, 1915 for items such as clothing, equipment, food, camp supplies, animal feed, and a guard. 

On January 4, 1928 F.F. Bagwell received $20.30 for groceries
purchased for the County Home.
There are a number of Brevard Banking vouchers for expenses paid by the county beginning in 1927.  Included are many for supplies for the County Home and assistance to those in need who did not live at the County Home.  The State Board of Public Welfare mandated that “county commissioners have the duty of providing for the poor, either in county homes or in such way, as they deem best.”  Generally this population was made up of the elderly without family support or those with disabilities.

These items offer a look at county government services at different times.

Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library.  Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs.  For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at marcy.thompson@transylvaniacounty.org or 828-884-1820.



Monday, November 13, 2017

Documents Add to a Family's Story for Genealogists


The Local History Room at the Transylvania County Library has a rather random collection of County Commissioner documents from 1899-1940 that include a variety of papers.  There are bills, certifications, invoices, notices, petitions, receipts, reports, and numerous miscellaneous items.

In 1910 J.J. Miner was the manager of the
"only newspaper in Transylvania County", the Sylvan Valley News.
Most of the information is handwritten on plain writing paper.  However numerous documents are on printed letterhead, stationary, or forms.  These offer information about the agency, business or company.  For example Transylvania County Register of Deeds stationary from 1899 includes the name of W.M. Henry as the Register, a receipt from 1910 W.E. Bishop lists his services as plumbing, sewer building, tin and sheet iron work, products include hardware, stoves, etc. 

A 1910 statement from Dr. A.E. Lyday contains a printed address of Broad Valley, NC but it has been marked out and changed to Penrose. The Broad Valley post office only operated for one year between June 1902 and June 1903 so that indicates he had the statements printed during that time.

Another 1910 invoice for “services as night watchman” has the name of Coleman Galloway and the year of 1906 printed on it.  However the name and date are crossed out.  A.M. Paxton is written above Galloway’s name.  The date range penciled in is February 2, 1910 to March 3, 1910.  Paxton’s fee was $1.00 for the entire month.

The Miller Supply Company had one of the fancier receipt
forms.  It was printed in color and advertised that they
carried The Tubular Cream Separators.
There are numerous receipts from Miller-DeVane Supply.  A search of the Sylvan Valley News indicates J.A. Miller and Frank DeVane were in business by March 1906.  They had a warehouse on N. Caldwell St. and sold everything from metal roofing to lace curtains.  Advertisements list items including barb wire, blankets, and buggy whips.  A Certificate of Dissolution was taken out by Miller in January 1910.  Apparently DeVane was ill and unable to continue in the business.  Miller Supply continued to operate for several more years.

While these items often seem insignificant they can offer an interesting addition to a family’s story for genealogists.

Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library.  Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs.  For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at marcy.thompson@transylvaniacounty.org or 828-884-1820.

Monday, November 6, 2017

West Main Was Always Prominent


This photograph was likely taken in the mid-1890s.
Alexander England (right) died on March 6, 1896.
The early photograph of Main Street in Brevard looking west toward Bracken Mountain shows wooden storefronts along a wide dirt street.  The three men in the photograph are identified as Jim Paxton, Wait Gash, and Alex England. 

England, L.S. Gash (father of Wait Gash), and B.C. Lankford sold 50 acres to Transylvania County for $1.00 to establish the county seat of Brevard on June 8, 1861.  Because of the Civil War and its aftermath the town was not incorporated until July 1868.  Over the next 20-30 years it grew slowly with the stores and businesses being built near the new brick court house and westward along Main Street.

The large house on the north side of the street, located where the Proper Pot is today, was originally the home of Nathan and Lizzie McMinn.  It also served as one of the early boarding houses in Brevard.   After Nathan McMinn’s death in 1902 his son, Nat owned the property but leased it to various proprietors.  A 1904 notification for a new manager described the house as having 11 bedrooms, bathrooms on both floors, a parlor, an office, and two large sample rooms.  A sample room was a place for traveling salesmen to display their merchandise for local storeowners who may be interested in selling it in their stores.

In 1907 Nat McMinn sold the house to his brother, John who also owned the Aethelwold Hotel just down the street.  Advertisements for the McMinn House and announcements of guest staying there are plentiful through 1910.  In early December 1910 several different groups held oyster or chicken suppers at the McMinn House.

However, a November 10, 1910 announcement in the Sylvan Valley News stated that J.M. Kilpatrick would soon tear down the old McMinn House.  By late December all that remained was the lumber which the Shipman, McMinn, Weilt Company used to build three cottages.  The group built a new three-story brick building on the site of the former McMinn House.

Don Voltz's photograph shows West Main Street with its
early 20th century brick buildings as it looks today.
Downtown Brevard was booming and large brick structures were replacing the smaller wooden storefronts and old homes along Main Street.

Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library.  Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs.  For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at marcy.thompson@transylvaniacounty.org or 828-884-1820.