Monday, June 18, 2018

History of the Gloucester Township



The Gloucester Township covers approximately 57 square mile in northwest portion of Transylvania County.  It is roughly triangular in shape with Hogback and Eastatoe townships to the south, Cathey’s Creek and Brevard townships to the east and Jackson and Haywood counties on the west. 

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs inside the far northeastern edge of the township for about two-and-a half-miles.  Highway 215 passes through Gloucester Township from Hwy 64 outside of Rosman to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Jesse McCall was one of Vanderbilt's foresters.  The McCall family
lived in one of the forest lodged located in the Gloucester township.
In the late 1800s George Vanderbilt purchased thousands of acres in Western North Carolina for his country estate.  His land stretched as far as Gloucester Township in Transylvania County.  Later Joseph Silversteen’s Gloucester Lumber Company logged much of the former Vanderbilt lands and surrounding area.  Silversteen built an extensive rail network into the area to haul timber to his mill at Rosman.  The main line ran along the North Fork of the French Broad River nearly to Devil’s Courthouse, with numerous spurs along Diamond, Lamance, Tucker, Shoal, Indian, and Courthouse creeks.

A Gloucester Lumber crew constructing a railroad trestle
in the Silversteen area.
The largest community within the township, and the only one with a post office, is Balsam Grove.  The Balsam Grove School was among the last rural schools in the county to close when students were sent to Rosman beginning with the 1957-58 school year.  Today the community of Balsam Grove includes an active community center, volunteer fire department, and McCall’s Grocery and Gas.

The Silversteen community roughly includes the area around Silversteen, Macedonia and Kitchens Loop roads.  By the 1840s enough families had settled in the area to establish the Macedonia Baptist Church. In the early-to-mid 1900s many local men worked in the logging industry to help support their families.  Silversteen donated property to build a large, three-room school that served the community for over 30 years before consolidation.  The school and community became known as Silversteen and the name remains today.

Gloucester Township was also the home of the Rosman Satellite Tracking and Data Acquisition Facility, locally known as the Tracking Station, from 1963-1995.  Since 1999 it has been the Pisgah Astronomic Research Institute (PARI) offering hands-on educational and research opportunities for a broad cross-section of users in science, technology, engineering and math.

Gloucester is the third largest township in land area in Transylvania County but is the most sparsely populated.  Much of the Gloucester Township is part of the Pisgah National Forest.

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, June 11, 2018

Overview of the Eastatoe Township

The Eastatoe Township covers approximately 50 square miles in south central Transylvania County.  It is bordered by Hogback Township to the west, Gloucester and Cathey’s Creek townships to the north, Dunn’s Rock Township to the east and South Carolina to the south.

The Eastern Continental Divide runs along the boundary between Transylvania County and Greenville County, SC before heading north and west through Eastatoe and Hogback townships.  Above Lake Toxaway the divide turns west and south.  This means a portion of the area drains south and east into the Toxaway River and Savannah River Basin.  The rest of the region flows into the tributaries of the Middle and East Forks of the French Board River and then the French Broad.

Much of the township lays within the disputed Orphan Strip area.  As white settlers began moving to the area following the American Revolution, North Carolina and Georgia engaged in the little known Walton War over the exact location of the state boundary.  Georgia claimed the territory as Walton County, while North Carolina claimed it as part of Buncombe County (today Transylvania County).  During the early 1800s there were some major confrontations that lead to at least one death and the militia being called in for protection.  By the time Georgia finally admitted defeat there were already numerous families settled in the area.

The first census after the establishment of Transylvania County was taken in 1870.  It lists 351 residents in 72 households in the Eastatoe Township.  Within just ten years the population nearly doubled to 674 residents in 132 households.

Jackson Gillespie was a grandson of John and Jane Gillespie.
He was postmaster at East Fork from 1875-1879.
When Joseph Silversteen brought his tanning and lumber businesses to Rosman, which lies partially within the Eastatoe Township, there was another growth spurt.  By 1940 the population was 1169 in 228 households.

Although most of the township remained relatively sparsely populated a few small communities did have official post offices.  The longest operating were East Fork from 1875-1908 and Galloway from 1887-1914.  Brona, Eunice, Rio, Rosy, Sassafras Gap and Tex were post offices that existed for less than five years.

John and Jane Gillespie were among the earliest settlers in the Eastatoe Township.  John made long rifles at his mill on the East Fork River.  He also trained his three sons in rifle making.  Several of Gillespie’s grandsons were also rifle makers.  Gillespie family members served as post masters at East Fork for 29 of its 33 years. 

After the old East Fork Baptist Church was destroyed by fire on
December 13, 1956 the congregation constructed a new
brick building.
The oldest church in the township is the East Fork Baptist Church established in the 1840s by members of the Gillespie, Glazener, Heath, Hines, Kennemeur, Lance, Paxton and Whitmire families.  Early East Fork Baptist Church records on available on microfilm 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.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Historical Perspective of Hogback Township


Hogback is one of eight townships in Transylvania County.  It covers approximately 60 square miles in the southwestern potion of the county.  The area is bordered by Jackson County to the west and Oconee County, South Carolina to the south. 

According to Mrs. H.D. Lee, who compiled a brief history of Hogback for Transylvania County’s Centennial in 1961, the first permanent settlers came into the area from South Carolina in the 1840s.  They called the area Hogback because Mount Toxaway reminded them of Hogback Mountain in Greenville County.  The 1870 federal census lists just 46 households with 113 male and 129 female residents in the entire township.

Settlements in the rugged mountainous area included the Bohaney section west of the Thompson River and the Auger Hole are located between the Horsepasture and Toxaway rivers.  

Henry Scadin was an early photographer in the Hogback region.
Although the family is unidentified this Scadin photo labeled
"A Mountain Home" is representative of the settlers throughout the area.
The people who made their homes here were hardy and self-sufficient.  They hunted, fished, raised hogs, and farmed.  They grew squash, corn, and other vegetables.  Fruit trees, mainly apple and peach, were grown.  In the low areas along the Toxaway River sugar cane was raised.  However, hauling fresh crops to market was nearly impossible so sugar cane became molasses, apples and peaches were turned into brandy, and corn made into moonshine.  In addition to being easier to transport these products had a higher cash value. 

Early residents gather galax, ginseng, and mountain laurel and collected honey from bee gums to sell.  There were also some small mining operations in the area, chiefly for lead, corundum, mica, clay, feldspar, and lime. 

At the beginning of the 20th century Hogback Township experienced an economic boom.  The rail line was extended from Rosman making the area much more accessible, the Toxaway River was dammed creating Lake Toxaway, and the exclusive Toxaway Inn was constructed.  This brought income producing jobs to the area through construction and then the tourism industry.  In addition Joseph Silversteen, Carl Moltz, and other brought lumbering jobs to the area in the early and mid-1900s.

The population of Hogback Township steadily grew, reaching 206 households with 939 residents by the time of the 1940 U.S. Census.  Most of the growth was in the upper portion of the township along Hwy 64 and around Lake Toxaway though.  Even after the dam broke and the inn closed in 1916 that portion of the township experienced growth.

The Boyanee and Auger Hole regions continued to be sparsely populated.  Beginning in the 1940s Duke Power and Crescent Resources acquired much of the area.  This would lead to the creation of Lake Jocasse at the junction of the Toxaway and Whitewater rivers in 1973.   Today the southern portion of Hogback Township includes Gorges State Park, the federally designated Wild and Scenic Horsepasture River, the Toxaway Game Lands, and national forest lands.

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, May 28, 2018

War Memorial Dedicated at Camp Straus



Memorial Day, also known as Decoration Day, is a day to remember those who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces.  The tradition of decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers dates back to ancient times.  Although the practice did occur in the U.S. before the Civil War it was not until 1868 that Decoration Day was regularly held on May 30. 

The date was first referred to as Memorial Day in 1882.  Following WWII the name Memorial Day was used more often and in 1967 it was declared the official name by Federal law.  Beginning in 1971 Memorial Day became a national holiday observed on the last Monday in May.

Today the Ecusta veteran's memorial is located at the
VFW on Nicholson Creek Rd.
On May 30, 1948 a War Memorial dedicated to the sixteen Ecusta employees who died in WWII was unveiled at Camp Straus.  The presentation consisted of an opening pray, the reciting of Sir Walter Scott’s poem, “Soldier, Rest! Thy Warfare O’er”, playing of the national anthem, a flag raising, and a brief speech by Harry Straus.  Straus emphasized the gratitude owed to those who “sacrificed their lives in the struggle for Freedom, Democracy, and Justice.”

An honor guard made up of Ecusta veterans laid wreaths at the base of the monument following its unveiling.  Those who died included Ted Bryan killed in the Pacific; William Heaton and Theodore Schepkowski killed in Germany; Hairman Merrill killed in England; and Christie Costanza, John Robert Jones, Jr. and Marvin Smith killed in France.  Kenneth Smith was lost at sea.  Lewis Sims, Jr. and Talmage Stockstill were killed in a separate plane accidents in the U.S.  Six Ecusta men were also reported missing in action.  They were Robert Corpening in France, Fred Gordon Fowler over Corsica, Charles Richard Hedge in the Near East, Isaac Wesley Keels, Jr. in the Pacific, Rex Willard Muse over Munich, and Joseph Albert Shook in Europe.

The Ecusta veterans’ memorial was located in a quiet spot on the west side of the lake at the company’s recreational park that was named Memorial Grove.  After Camp Straus closed the monument was moved to Ecusta.

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, May 21, 2018

WWI Had Impact on Entire Community



Homer Newton Batson (left) was a dispatch rider with the
Army's Motor Mobile Infantry.  Batson was born in Transylvania County
but moved to California with his family as a teenager prior to the war.
In 1918, a year after the U.S. officially entered WWI, Germany launched its Spring Offensive in France and Belgium.  They hoped to defeat the Allies before supplies and manpower from the U.S. arrived.  Although the Germans initially made headway, by July the tide began to turn.  The Allies’ Hundred Days Offensive, which began in August, successfully pushed the Germans back.  North Carolina’s 119th and 120th Infantry Regiments were among those who broke through the German’s defensive line, known as the Hinderburg Line on September 29, 1918.

North Carolina sent over 86,000 troops to Europe during the war but the state also played a significant role at home.  Three Army bases were established in the state.  Two would close shortly after the war but Fort Bragg would go on to be the largest military bases in the U.S.  The war itself came to North Carolina, as well.  During the summer of 1918 German U-boats sank eleven vessels, including the Diamond Shoals Lightship, off the coast in North Carolina waters.

A group of Transylvania troop.
All men in the U.S. from the age of 18 to 45 were required to register for military service beginning in May 1917.  Jan Plemmons’ book, I’m in the Army Now:  World War I Veterans of Transylvania County, NC provides biographical information about local men who served during the war.

Soldiers were not the only ones doing their part though.  Transylvania women knitted and sewed and collected supplies for soldiers, the Civilian Relief Committee assisted soldiers’ dependents at home, and thousands of dollars were raised locally for the Red Cross and Liberty Bonds.

Other effects on the home front included shortages of all kinds.  In August 1918, the U.S. government ordered all newspapers to reduce the use of paper by at least 15%.  The Brevard News, which varied in length from six to sixteen pages, cut down to six to eight pages.  They did not issue a longer edition again until July 4, 1919.

A traveling exhibit from the NC Dept of Natural and Cultural History will be at the Transylvania County Library from May 29 - July 3.   Visit the Robert’s Gallery and Local History Room on the second floor, Monday - Friday, to learn about North Carolina's role in WWI.

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.