Monday, August 14, 2017

Complex Goes From Tracking Station to PARI

As NASA expanded its space exploration and satellite program a network to track satellites and the data they collected also developed.  There were Minitrack Stations in the U.S., England, South Africa, South America, and Australia but in 1963 the only data-acquisition facility was in Fairbanks, Alaska.  The purpose was to gather data from satellites and space craft.

This required a location with quiet surroundings—minimal outside noise, air traffic, radio interference and no nearby high-voltage electrical lines.  The 70 acre site near Balsam Grove provided this, plus was located in a secluded valley on national forest land.

The Rosman Satellite Tracking and Data Acquisition Facility, locally known as The Tracking Station, was constructed in 1963 and formally dedicated on October 26, 1963.  The enormous “dish” or ears picked up and tracked data from satellite locations to an astronaut’s blood pressure, as well as “other sounds” from outer space.  The tracking system could also send commands to satellites and space craft.  The staff of approximately 100 was mainly scientists, engineers, and technicians.

As technology developed and NASA’s communication needs evolved tracking stations were phased out in the early 1980s.  In 1981, the Rosman facility was transferred to the Department of Defense.   At its peak there were approximately 250 employees.  The work was highly secretive and employees were not allowed to talk about their jobs, even with family or friends.

In 1995, the Department of Defense closed the facility and returned the site to the U.S. Forest Service. 

In 1999, the site was purchased from the U.S. Forest Service and gifted to PARI for use as an astronomical research and educational facility.  Today PARI is known as a world-class research center, offering STEM educational opportunities from elementary school through post-doctoral.  PARI is open to the public for self-guided tours and offers scheduled guided tours.  Visit their website at www.pari.edu



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, August 7, 2017

Brevard Leaders Buried in Oak Grove Cemetery



B.C. Lankford
The Oak Grove Cemetery on the Asheville Highway across from Blue Ridge Community College is the burial place of two men who played a major role in the formation of the Town of Brevard.

When Transylvania County was established in 1861 a supplemental act stated that the county seat would be named Brevard and located within five miles of W.P. Poor’s store.  Commissioners were to “purchase, or receive by donation, a tract of land of not less than fifty acres” between May 10 and June 10, 1861.  On June 8, 1861 L.S. Gash, B.C. Lankford, and Alexander England sold 50 acres for this purpose to the Chairman of the Court of Pleas and Quarters of Transylvania County for $1.00.  

Braxton Caldwell Lankford was 37 years old in 1861.  He was a successful businessman and farmer.  His home and Valley Store, located across the road from Oak Grove Methodist Church and cemetery, was the site of the first meeting of the court for the newly formed county on May 20, 1861. 

Lankford family graves at Oak Grove Cemetery
Lankford would go on to hold various county offices, serve as Brevard’s postmaster from 1881-89 and mayor in 1892-93.  He was a Master of the Dunn’s Rock Masonic Lodge.  B.C. Lankford died on August 24, 1895 and is buried beside his first and second wives, who were sisters, at Oak Grove Cemetery.

The England family plot is at the door step
of the former Oak Grove Methodist Church.
Alexander England was 39 years old in 1861.   Although he lived on the same plot of land his entire life, England was born in Buncombe County, spent his early adulthood in Henderson County and was instrumental in establishing Transylvania County.  He served as mayor of Brevard in 1893-94.  England died March 6, 1896 and is buried at Oak Grove Cemetery. 

The cemetery, which is owned and maintained by St. Timothy United Methodist Church, covers less than 4 acres.  It includes the former Oak Grove Methodist Church and has approximately 1000 graves.  The oldest marked tombstone is Amanda Thomas Lankford, 14-month-old daughter of Braxton and Amanda Lankford.  She died on May 9, 1861.  Her mother died three years later and is buried beside her.

Family names in the cemetery include Aiken, Allison, England, English, Fortune, Lankford, Lyon, McMinn, Meece, Morris, Neely, Norton, Pickelsimer, Reece, Rogers, Siniard, Tinsley, and many more.  The privately owned “annex” on the southwest corner has about 49 gravesites.

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 31, 2017

Davidson River Is One of County's Oldest Cemeteries

The Davidson River Cemetery in Pisgah Forest is among the oldest cemeteries in Transylvania County.  It is just over 2.3 acres and contains approximately 600 graves.  The oldest marked tombstone reads, “Thomas Patton b. 1726, d. Mar 29, 1808.”  Many early settlers and county leaders are buried there.  Family names include Cagle, Clayton, Deaver, Davidson, English, Gash, Hamilton, Lyday, Mackey, Neill, Orr, Patton, Poor, Young and many more.

Smoke from the burning of cleared over growth gives the old cemetery
an eerie appearance.
In 1914 Glade Creek Baptist Church paid $100  for about 0.16 acres on the northeast corner of the cemetery for a place to bury African-American members of the community.

In 1976, Edna Street Reid was instrumental in creating the Davidson River Cemetery Board of Trustees.  Her interest stemmed from a desire to revitalize the cemetery where much of her family was buried.  Reid and others worked tirelessly to clean up trash and over growth, erase motorcycle paths, repair sunken graves, clean and repair headstones, and raise funds to support the once neglected cemetery.  They also undertook deed research to establish the property's boundaries.  The group won 2nd place in the Western North Carolina Beautification program for their efforts two years in a row.

The Waightstill Avery Chapter of DAR has worked to mark the graves of Revolutionary War soldiers, beginning with Thomas Patton’s grave in 1976.  There are also a number of veterans of the Civil War, WWI, and WWII, as well as others who served in the military buried at Davidson River.

In early 2017 David Reid donated his mother’s cemetery records to the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room to provide current and future researchers with access to this information.  Included is a three-binder containing the Board’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws, years’ worth of minutes and other records, plus correspondence.  An additional notebook provides a census of burials and information on unmarked graves.  A scrapbook kept by Mrs. Reid contains photographs and articles chronicling the journey to restore and protect the Davidson River Cemetery.

Clean-up reveals an important piece of Transylvania's history.
Over the next few week’s Picturing the Past will feature a few other Transylvania cemeteries.

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 24, 2017

Neighborhood Clubs Served Multiple Purposes

Community map of the Dunn's Rock area from the
Dunn's Rock Community Club 1955 scrapbook.  A
corresponding list identifies who resided at each
numbered location.
The Scrapbook Collection in the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room at the Transylvania County Library contains approximately 150 Community Center, Home Demonstration Club, and 4-H Club scrapbooks. 

In the 1950s rural neighborhoods organized community clubs to bring people together for educational, civic, and social purposes.  Each community club was encouraged to create an annual scrapbook featuring the people and places within their community through newspaper articles, photographs, and other memorabilia.  These scrapbooks have proven to be a wonderful record of life in Transylvania County from the late 1950s to the early 1990s. 

The scrapbooks were scanned by community volunteers.  A few communities decided to leave their books at the Library to be stored, while others took them back to their centers.  Only a small number are available online.  Sixteen Little River Community Club scrapbooks can be viewed at DigitalNC.org.  The others can be viewed at the Library with advance notice.

Photograph of Fortnightly Club members, circa 1920s, from a
Fornightly Club scrapbook.


Women’s Clubs and Garden Clubs also used scrapbooks as a way of recording their activities in the community.  Some of these groups have also donated their photograph albums, minute books, and other supporting materials to the Library to preserve a record of their organization and its work.  The AAUW, Fortnightly Club, Mathatasian Club, Waightstill Avery Chapter DAR, Wednesday Club, Sylvan Valley Garden Club, and Transylvania Garden Club are among those who have some records preserved in the Local History Room.

Changing lifestyles have led to less involvement in community and civic clubs throughout the United States.  Transylvania County is fortunate to still have several active community centers and clubs that connect us to our community and to have these records showing past activity.

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 17, 2017

Ecusta Collection Contains Articles, Photographs

Diagramatic drawing of proposed Davidson River site for
Champagne Paper Corp., March 11, 1938.
The Ecusta Collection consists of newspaper clippings, company publications, and photographs donated to the Local History Room at the Transylvania County Library by former employees and their families.  There is also a large amount of information collected by Brian Du Toit while researching his book, Ecusta and the Legacy of Harry H. Straus.  After publication Du Toit donated the material to the Library.
The newspaper articles range from site selection in 1938 to post plant closure.  Subjects include early construction, Harry Straus, the Olin era (1949-1985), the Glatfelter era (1987-2001), Unions and strikes, sale to Nat Pari, plant closure, environmental concerns, and general history.

The collection also contains numerous company publications--brochures, employee bulletins, manuals, memos, and newsletters.  Documents covering Camp Straus buildings and grounds, the landfill, the dam, and the water system are available as well.
Ladies in the Hand Booklet Department.  Do you recognize anyone?

The Ecusta Echo was the company’s monthly newsletter.  The first issue was published in February 1940.  For 15 years it served as the voice of Ecusta and the larger community.  It covered news and events from each department, recreational activities, and the lives of employees and their families.  All issues of “The Echo” are available in the North Carolina Room thanks to Fritz Merrill who donated his bound copies to the Library.  It is also available online at DigitalNC.org.

Ecusta often offered public tours of the facility.
In addition the Library has approximately 500 photographs of the plant both inside and out, people at work, and recreational activities.  Most of the pictures date from the Straus and Olin time periods.  We are interested in identifying departments, machinery, and work taking place, as well as individuals in these photographs.   If you would like to help please visit the Local History Room.

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.