Monday, August 13, 2018

History of Manufacturing Industry in Transylvania Co.

When the Transylvania Times published a special Centennial Issue in celebration of Brevard’s 100th anniversary the local economy was tied to industry and construction.

During the early 1900s the local economy and jobs were centered on the logging and lumber industry.  Joseph Silversteen was considered a pioneer industrialist when he began Toxaway Tanning in 1902.  His businesses grew to include Gloucester Lumber, Rosman Tanning & Extract and Transylvania Tanning.  Louis Carr opened his lumber company in 1912 and logged thousands of acres in the Pisgah National Forest.  At one time Carr Lumber had the largest sawmill operation in Western North Carolina. 

Both Silversteen and Carr had employed hundreds of workers over the course of several decades but by 1968 both were deceased and their businesses closed.  Carr’s son, Frank continued to operate Carr Builders’ Supply and Silversteen’s son-in-law Albert Weiss had purchased the former Transylvania Tanning property for his machine company.  Weiss employed 24 people making machine parts for local businesses and national corporations such as General Electric.

The 1940s and 1950s saw the addition of Transylvania County’s two largest manufacturers.  In 1968 the Ecusta Paper Corporation, which had begun in 1939, was now part of the Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation and had 3000 employees at their Pisgah Forest plant.  Ecusta was credited for bringing big industry to Brevard.

Brevard’s DuPont Plant opened in 1957 to manufacture silicon but soon switched to x-ray film.  Through an innovative program of pre-training, employees were able to transition from their jobs in silicon production to the film industry without losing a day’s work.  The plant employed about 1500 people in 1968.

Myers Dining Hall at Brevard College was one of Bryant Construction's
numerous building projects.
Jack Bryant had started Bryant Electric in 1952 as a solo operation.  Fourteen years later Bryant Corporation included separate electrical and construction companies and was the largest contractor in the county with jobs throughout the southeastern U.S.  The Bryant Corporation employed 150 people and subcontracted with an additional 300.

The American Thread plant under construction in 1964.

Newer companies included American Thread and Mitchell-Bissell both located in the Rosman area.  The American Thread Company constructed a large modern plant to manufacture cotton thread and yarn in 1964.   Four years later they employed 300 people.

In 1961 the Mitchell-Bissell Company, which had been in business since the late 1800s, built a modern facility to manufacture wire guides.  They soon expanded to other metal parts and assembly and had 90 employees.  Now Known as M-B Industries, they are the only Transylvania manufacturer from 1968 that remains in operation 50 years later.

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, August 6, 2018

The Transylvania Times Publishes Centennial Issue

On July 18, 1968 The Transylvania Times published a special Centennial Issue of the newspaper commemorating Brevard’s first 100 years.  It was the largest newspaper published by the Times up to that date, with 74 pages in nine sections including numerous old photographs, stories from the past and news of the day.  Now as the Town of Brevard celebrates 150 years Picturing the Past will take a look back at some of the stories from that issue and where we are today.

The history of several civic, fraternal and veteran organizations were featured.  While their missions differed local clubs shared a commitment of service to the community. They also played a significant role in the social lives of their members.

The Masonic Temple on East Main St. as it looked in 1964.
The oldest of these organizations was the Dunn’s Rock Masonic Lodge, first established in 1865 by local soldiers who had joined Military Masonic groups during the Civil War.  In the early 1900s they began raising funds to build a temple in Brevard, however due to the Depression and then WWII constructed was not undertaken until 1950.

Woodmen of the World at a flag raising at Rosman High School.
Woodmen of the World, another fraternal organization, was formed in September 1907. They promoted fraternal, civic and patriotic service through programs to groups such as the Boy Scouts and in the schools.  In 1968 there were approximately 400 members in the local chapter. 

Following WWI the first local veteran’s organization, the Monroe Wilson Post of the American Legion, was created.  They met at the City Hall, Courthouse, or other locations until they were able to acquire a piece of property from the City.  The American Legion building on Jordan St. was dedicated on July 10, 1948.  The American Legion routinely sponsored and supported youth activities, such as a Boy Scout Troup and sports teams.

In 1945 the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) also organized a post in Brevard.  Named for Lewis E. Jackson, the first Transylvania soldier killed in WWII, they met in various locations until constructing their current building on Nicholson Creek Rd. in the mid-1960s.  In 1968 they had 310 members and like several other groups sponsored youth events and sports teams.

Civic organizations included the Kiwanis Club, Lions Club and Rotary Club.  The Kiwanis, an international organization whose motto is, “Serving the Children of the World” support human service projects.  The local chapter was established in 1926.  They sponsored Boy Scout Troop 701 for 80 years before the Brevard Kiwanis Club was disband in 2006. 

The Lions Club was created by businessmen to use their skills not only for themselves but to serve their communities. The Lions, whose slogan “Liberty, Intelligence, Our Nation’s Safety” gives them their name, are dedicated to assisting the visually impaired.  For several years the Brevard Club, which was organized in 1937, operated a mattress factory managed by Clarence Owen and a News Stand run by Phillip Price.  Both Owen and Price were blind.

The Brevard Rotary Club’s first president, Transylvania Times editor, John Anderson pledged that each member would practice the motto of “Service Above Self” in accepting its charter in 1947.

Since the late 1900s the popularity and membership of service clubs has dwindled significantly. Today the local chapters of most of these organizations are much smaller.

Next week Picturing the Past will look at the major industries featured in the 1968 Centennial Issue.  A copy is available in the Local History room at the Transylvania County Library to browse.

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, July 30, 2018

DuPont's Fotofax Provided a Wealth of Information

In September 1956 the E.I. DuPont Company purchased thousands of acres in Transylvania and Henderson counties to build the first full-scale silicon plant in the United States.  Located north of the Cedar Mountain community, the area provided unpolluted air and clean water from the Little River which was required for the production of hyper-pure silicon.

Methanol Condenser being moved into place by a crane.  The gearbox at
the lower left is for the extruder that force polymer through the filters.
Silicon was used for electronic devices such as radios, televisions and telephone switchboards.  It was a booming industry in the late 1950s.  However, within just a few years demand was down and DuPont decided to close its silicon production.  Rather than closing the site though, they expanded and constructed a larger plant for x-ray film which officially began operation in May 1964.  

DuPont continued to grow over the next three decades with several major expansions throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.  At its peak in the 1980s DuPont employed nearly 1500 people.

In mid-1968 the Brevard DuPont Plant began publishing a company newsletter sharing information about the facility, its products, the employees and the surrounding community.  A contest was held to name the newsletter.  The most frequently suggested name was “The X-Ray”.  “Photo Facts” was the second most suggested, but the winner was a variation by Maintenance Foreman Tom Walker who submitted, “Fotofax”.  


The Continuous Polymerization area enclosed with as the result of
climatological data failure--colder than anticipated temperatures.
It was permanently enclosed in 1964.
The lead story in the first issue covered the 10 year anniversary of the Brevard Plant and included numerous photos of employees sharing their work with their families.  The issue also included “From the Banks of Brandywine to a Brevard Mountain Top” the story of how Eleuthere Irenee du Pont de Nemours, a French immigrant and the company’s founder, got his start manufacturing gunpowder in Wilmington, Delaware in the early 1800s.

Future issues tell of company improvements and expansions, safety measures, cost reduction programs and employee retirements or promotions.  There are also stories about the care and management of the property including controlled burns, reforestation projects and the role of the company forest ranger.

A major part of employees’ life centered around not just their jobs but enjoying the opportunities offered to them and their families through the Plant and the extensive property.   The DuPont Employees Recreation Association (D.E.R.A.) planned activities ranging from bowling teams to the annual company picnic.  They administered the use of the Guion property and designated hunting and fishing areas.  “Fotofax” is full of information and photographs about activities and events.

The publication never had a regular schedule—issues varied from two to twelve per year, with four to six most years.  In June 1988 they published FOTOFAX 100, the one-hundredth and final issue.  Recently all issues have been made available online at digitalnc.org.  Whether reliving memories or learning about this era of the DuPont State Recreational Forest’s history this resource provides a wealth of information.

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, July 23, 2018

Little River: Home to Hogs and Gladiolas

Little River Township, located in southeastern Transylvania County, is bordered by Boyd, Brevard and Dunn’s Rock townships, as well as Henderson County and South Carolina. 

Most of the creeks and streams within the township feed into the Little River before entering the French Broad River.  The Little River actually originates in the Dunn’s Rock Township, crosses beneath Hwy 276 near the Sequoyah Woods subdivision and then runs on the west side of the highway.  It does not cross back to the east until beyond the intersection of Cascade Lake Road with Hwy 276 behind the Cedar Mountain Fire Department.

The Little River valley provides land for both crops and grazing.
The Little River runs through DuPont State Recreational Forest where it tumbles over Bridal Veil Falls, High Falls, Triple Falls and Hooker Falls.  Along the way it picks up the waters of numerous creeks including Reasonover, Grassy and Hooker.

Further downstream, near the confluence with Merrill Creek the former Cascade Power Company dam forms the base of Cascade Lake.  From Cascade Lake until it reaches the French Broad River the Little River meanders through a wide valley.

Hogs gave the Little River area its nickname of Hogtown.
The Little River Turnpike connected Crab Creek Road in the valley to the Jones Gap Road, which led into South Carolina.  It was a major route for drovers taking hogs and other livestock to market during the 1800s.  Near the intersection of present day Crab Creek and Cascade Lake roads, drovers could pen their stock overnight leading to the area becoming known as Hogtown.

Early settlers were attracted to the fertile lands around the French Broad and Little rivers.  They grew corn, grain, hay and vegetables.  Chickens, hogs and cattle were the typical livestock.  The Little River Community Club scrapbooks, covering the years of 1952-1995, show the continued importance of agriculture to the Little River community during the mid-to-late 1900s. 

Gladiolus being loaded at the Thomas Farm in Little River.
In 1952 there were eight dairies and seven farms that raised cattle, three with chickens and two with turkeys in the Little River community.  The main crops included corn, hay and tobacco.  There were also apple orchards and tree farms.  By the 1960s millions of gladiolus were being grown on the Thomas farm.  The farm also had packing sheds where flowers and bulbs were packaged to ship to market.

Sixteen of the Little River Community Club scrapbooks can be viewed online at digitalnc.org.

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, July 16, 2018

Brief Timeline History of Boyd Township

The old Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway was located
at the northern edge of Boyd Township.
Boyd Township covers the northeastern part of the county and, like several other Transylvania townships, over half of it lies within the Pisgah National Forest.  The northern boundary runs roughly along the Blue Ridge Parkway from mile marker 407 to 413.  The Pisgah Inn, Pink Beds and Cradle of Forestry are all in Boyd Township.  Popular trails in the area included Buck Springs, Cantrell Creek and Turkeypen Gap.  The South Mills River and its tributaries provide drainage for much of its national forest lands. 

The populated portion of the township is bisected by the Asheville Highway (Hwy. 280) and the Hendersonville Highway (Hwy 64).  As settlers began to arrive in the region following the American Revolution there was a need for roads.  In 1790 the local militia company was ordered to build a wagon road following the Estatoe Path from the Swannanoa River to the Davidson River.  This road would be known as the Boyleston Road, the Asheville Highway and Highway 280 through the years.


The southern boundary of Boyd Township runs along the French Broad River from the mouth of Glade Creek to the Henderson County line placing Highway 64 from the Blue Ridge Memory Gardens cemetery to the county line within the township.  The railroad connecting Brevard to Hendersonville also ran through this same area with stops at Davidson River (near Everett Rd.), Penrose, and Blantyre.

Highway 280 appears as a graded county road on the 1930 North Carolina
Road Survey of Transylvania County.  The hard-surfaced road to
Hendersonville was Highway 28 at that time.
When North Carolina’s highway system was in its infancy in the 1920s a road ran from Murphy to Bat Cave, passing through Transylvania County.  This was originally known as Hwy 28.  In the early 1930s the highway number was changed to 64.  Old highway maps found on the North Carolina Maps website https://web.lib.unc.edu/nc-maps/ show the evolution of the highway system over a period of years.  A 1924 state highway system map shows the portion passing through Transylvania County from Boyd Township to Rosman as hard-surfaced, west of Rosman is just a graded road.  Highway 280 through Boyd Township does not appear on these maps until 1930 and is not hard surfaced until the mid-1930s.

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.