Monday, October 15, 2018

Shadows of the Past

In the preface of his book, “Shadows of the Past: Return to Reba”, Ed Comer wrote, “Long before the Connestee Falls community existed, its land held pockets of hardy souls that built their homes here, tilled its rocky slopes, raised families and generally went about their lives in an independent and self-sufficient manner.”

In 2007, work on a hiking trail revealed traces of earlier residents within the current Connestee Falls community. The discovery prompted Comer to research who these residents had been and to learn more about their lives.

Carson Creek School, 1907
Comer provides an overview of early settlement, the construction of roads and even the dream of a rail line through what is today a gated residential community in the Dunn’s Rock and Eastatoe Townships of Transylvania County.  He tells of the little community of Reba, which officially existed as a post office from 1898 to 1907.  The Bagwell, Batson, Beasley, Clark, Garren, Hubbard and Raines families all lived in the area that also included Carson Creek Church and Carson Creek School.

The initial home site uncovered turned out to be the remains of a cabin belonging to Thomas M. Beasley.  A collapsed stone chimney, a couple of logs that had likely been support beams, foundation posts and hundreds of nails helped determine the location and size of the cabin. 

Beginning in the early 1800s, the Beasley family lived in the East Fork area on and off, with occasional moves to Pickens County, SC.  Alston Beasley, father of Thomas, was a partner in a silver mine located near the present day Blue Ridge Parkway in Transylvania County beginning in 1834.  At his death the property went to Thomas and was eventually sold in two parts in 1912 and 1915. 

Batson family at their home in present day Connestee Falls.
Back: Fred and Maggie Hogsed Batson, daughters Mayo and Corrine.
Front: Son, Milton; daughter, Bonnie; and son, Russell.
Research on the Beasley site led to the discovery of what remained of the Fred Batson place.  An intact stacked stone chimney, debris of the collapsed cabin and other artifacts of a past life were all discovered.  Fred Batson was the third generation of his family to live in the Carson Creek area.  Batson moved his family to a small farm near Island Ford Rd. in Dunn’s Rock by 1925.

 “Shadows of the Past” offers a picture of the Connestee and Carson Creek area from the late 1800s into the mid-1900s.  It is available to be checked at the Transylvania County Library.

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, October 8, 2018

'Transylvania Memories' Captures Oral History

Transylvania Memories, published in 2011, captured the stories of some of Transylvania County’s older residents through oral interviews. Peggy Hansen recorded their memories of growing up in the 1920s, local life during the Depression and into the 1940s and then compiled it into a book. Each chapter offers a unique perspective of growing up in what they all agree was a simpler time.

L.C. Betsill's father, Victor came to Brevard to at
Transylvania Tanning in the early 1920s.  He opened his own
barbershop, pictured here, on Carver St. in 1924.
L.C. Betsill shared his experiences growing up in the African-American community of Rosenwald. When asked about segregation of schools and businesses Betsill stated, “People accepted a lot of things because it had always been that way, but that didn’t mean they was satisfied.” He went on to talk of the respect children had for their elders, the strong work ethic and the sense of community.  These were common themes throughout the memories.

Jeraldine “Jerri” Raxter Paxton stated, “Children were more responsible back then. You were expected to do things the right way.  That was the only way.  You did what you were expected to do.  The older kids would teach the younger kids their manners.” Paxton told of the many chores she and her siblings had but also of the fun and games.
Employees at Silversteen's Transylvania Tanning located on the south side of Brevard.

Dalice Gravley Powell agrees regarding people’s work ethic and strong family bonds. Her family, like Betsill’s, came from South Carolina for the jobs Silversteen’s timber and tanning industries offered. Even during the Depression her father had a job and the family all worked on the farm to put food on the table.

The people interviewed included those who grew up in the towns of Brevard and Rosman, as well as those from the rural areas around Balsam Grove, Cedar Mountain, Cherryfield, Dunn’s Rock, Lake Toxaway, Middlefork, Old Toxaway, Pisgah Forest, Rosenwald and Silversteen. Regardless of where they were raised though, all spoke with pride of the community they called “Home.”

Many of those interviewed for Transylvania Memories have since passed away and are reminders of the importance of capturing the stories of loved one now. The book is available to be checked out at the Transylvania County Library.

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, October 1, 2018

Stinson's Stories Give Readers A Picture of Mountain Life


Vera's father was the caretaker at the Cedar Mountain
Hotel not far from Caesar's Head for the
first thirteen years of her life.
Vera Jones Stinson was born into a family of storytellers and was a natural storyteller herself. She was born and raised in Cedar Mountain, where her father was the caretaker at the hotel at Caesar’s Head.  As a child, Vera would take visitors to the distinctive landmark and shared stories of the rock and the valley below.

After graduating from Brevard High in 1928, Vera attended Western Carolina Teacher’s College in Cullowhee. She taught for a year in the one-room school she had attended as a child and then in Winston-Salem for several years. Vera married George Stinson in 1943. They raised two children in his home state of Ohio where she taught for many more years.

In a review of her book a former student from the early 1960s recalled the fond memories of stories shared and used in classes.  After retiring to Cedar Mountain, Vera continued the practice of sharing her vast knowledge of the history and culture of the mountain people.  Through her “Living Appalachia” class at Brevard College’s community college program and regular talks for various local clubs and groups the larger community came to appreciate her gift for storytelling.
Stinson said, "When I look back over the span of forty-five years of teaching
in Winston-Salem and Cincinnati, I remember the little mountain school in
Cedar Mountain as the most gratifying."

She typically ended her stories with, “I’m going to put that in my book.” Encouraged by her children, who had grown up loving these tales, she began writing them down at the age of 90. Her book, Stumbling Blocks Were Stepping Stones in Appalachia, was published six years later in 1996.

Stinson writes the stories as she told them, giving readers a picture of true mountain life.  She shares the stories of her childhood in Cedar Mountain and the stories of her ancestors. She was a descendant of Solomon Jones on her father’s side and Hugh McCrary on her mother’s side.  Readers will come away appreciating a different time and lifestyle.  The book can be checked out at the Transylvania County Library.

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, September 24, 2018

'Mountain Doctor" Is The Story Of Dr. Gaine Cannon, His Medical Work And Reverence For Life



Dr. Cannon often used short wave radio to communicate
in the remote areas of the county, 1961.
Mountain Doctor by LeGette Blythe is the biography of Dr. Gaine Cannon and his work to provide medical care for the people of the more isolated areas of Transylvania and Jackson counties in the mid-1900s.

Cannon was born in Rosman and raised in Pickens, South Carolina.  His father, Dr. James Cannon was a physician in Pickens but often returned to Rosman to provided medical care for the people in the western part of Transylvania County.

Dr. Cannon preparing medication in the hospital pharmacy, 1961.
Blythe briefly covers the years of Cannon’s youth, his education, time in the Army and early private practice.  As a young man, Cannon came to be a great admirer of Dr. Albert Schweitzer.  He had stumbled onto an article about Schweitzer’s work in Africa during a time when he was questioning his personal religious beliefs.  This led to a lifelong study of Schweitzer and a shared philosophy for life that would affect Cannon and his patients.

Years later, when Cannon’s hectic life demanded he slow down he came home to the mountains to recuperate—“to think and ponder, to consider nature and man and God, the attributes of each, the role of each in the grand scheme of existence.” 

Dr. Cannon and a nurse inside the obstetrics ward at the
Albert Schweitzer Hospital complex in Balsam Grove, 1961.
But when the local people learned that a doctor was living nearby and flocked to his little cabin Cannon immediately returned to work.  He soon had a busier schedule than ever. Cannon stated, “My office hours are day and night throughout the week.” He served the people around Balsam Grove no matter what time they arrived at his door or called and never turned away a patient who was unable to pay.  He believed that by caring for those with limited access to medical care he was, in a small way, following Schweitzer’s model for the reverence of life.

Blythe tells of Cannon’s compassion, dedication and respect for the people of the Balsam Grove area and their love, support and respect for Doc Cannon and his dream of building a hospital in their community.

Mountain Doctor was published in 1964, two years before Gaine Cannon’s death.  Copies of the book are available at the Transylvania County Library.

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, September 17, 2018

'Voices of Our Mountain Kin' Features Family Stories That Reveal Details of Everyday Life


Over the next several weeks Picturing the Past will be featuring books about the people and places that make up Transylvania County’s history.

Voices of Our Mountain Kin shares the stories of the ancestors of members of the email group, MountainKin and was edited by Jerry Owen, Linda Anders and Pamela Yarborough.  The first volume, published in 2006, contains contributions from descendants of families who settled in the upper part of what is today Transylvania County. 

While many of the stories focus on the Owen family, other longtime mountain families are also featured.  The stories stretch beyond the boundaries of Transylvania County throughout Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina and northeast Georgia.

Owen family reunion at the Jesse Owen home place in September 1939.
Many of the stories have been passed down through families from generation to generation.  As Jerry Owen explains, these family traditions occasionally become altered through retelling.  Owen and his brother chose to research the details of their family stories to paint as accurate of a history as possible.  Owen sites an example were research led to a shift in who the family moonshiner was and even whether or not it was a legal operation.

The book also includes Civil War letters and memories, remedies for ailments, stories of everyday life and even a few ghostly happenings.

One humorous story tells of a prank Rufus Owen and his son played on a neighbor at dusk one evening.  Owen attached a wire to the neighbor’s porch post and stretched it tight to a nearby hiding place.  When his son plucked the wire it produced an eerie sound.  The man came to the porch to investigate but in the near dark was unable to see anything unusual.  The trick was repeated several times until the man no longer came to the door.  When Owen paid a visit later that evening the man shared that they had been hearing noises that they attributed to a ghost.  Owen didn’t divulge the true cause of the mysterious sounds.

These brief tales and those in a second volume, published in 2009, make for a quick and enjoyable read.  Both are available to be checked out at the Transylvania County Library or for browsing in the Local History Room at the Library.

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.