Category Archives: North Carolina
A few weeks ago, I wrote about buying a painting at a fundraiser for the Appalachian Barn Alliance, a group dedicated to documenting historic barns in this part of western North Carolina.
My husband and I decided to take one of their self-driving tours and visit the barns of Walnut Township in Madison County. Once in Madison County, we followed winding country roads for about two hours to nine different barns the preservation group researched, including the one featured in our painting. There were many other old barns and farm buildings along the route, turning our drive into a sort of barn-treasure-hunt.
A few of the barns were not exactly where we thought, but the directions got us close enough to figure it out. Most of the structures were eventually used for tobacco drying of some sort, and many were originally built to house livestock. The history of each barn was as interesting as its deteriorating appearance and we could soon spot the distinctive monitor roof and gambrel roof designs. Along the way, we learned about many used as flue-cured tobacco barns and converted in the 1920s to air-cure burley tobacco (used primarily for cigarette production). Many early barn-owners sold (or bartered) their barn roofs for advertising . . . maybe our first billboards? Does anyone else remember those “See Rock City” barn ads?
The group has several self-guided tours. guided van and private tours, and other special events you can read about on their appalachianbarns.org website.
It was a wonderful way to spend a beautiful day.
In the North Carolina High Country, I have never seen so many hummingbirds flying in and out of the trees to the feeder and nearby flowers. Dipping and diving too fast to get a good still photo. They were magical.
St. John’s Episcopal Church is a little gem tucked away in the woods down a gravel road in Sugar Grove, NC. Not far from its parent church The Church of the Holy Cross Episcopal* in Valle Crucis, St. John’s was built in 1862. It came about through the fortitude and aspirations of William West Skiles who gave his life to the church and was deaconate in Valle Crucis. He served the people of this mountain region from 1847, often on horseback, until his death in 1862, just after the new church opened. Read the rest of this entry
You can’t drive through the green, pastoral country roads of Western North Carolina without seeing barns. It’s always fun to see a barn. Barns of all types and styles. Barns mostly in a state of disrepair. Barns that aren’t going to be in existence for the next generation to enjoy. I can’t imagine these mountain landscapes without barns.
The Appalachian Barn Alliance was created to preserve the memories of these barns and document their significant role in the history and development of this rural region. Through architectural drawings, photographs, and data collection the group has documented about 90 historic barns in Madison County, North Carolina. Read the rest of this entry
See unparalleled views of the Linville Gorge from Wiseman’s View, near Marion. NC. Looking down across the deepest gorge in the eastern U.S., you can clearly see the Linville River snaking through the forest 1500’ below. The trail itself is an easy, paved, 0.4-mile, handicap accessible path that even has a permanent port-o-potty-style bathroom at the trailhead. But, oh boy, the ride there is an adventure. It’s only four miles on a gravel road, but with the washouts and potholes around most turns, it seems much longer. You will need a 4×4, high off the ground, with good wheels. A Jeep, Range Rover, or F-150 will do the trick.
It finally looks like fall in the beautiful NC mountains. The sky is Carolina Blue, the air is crisp and clear, and temps are in the high 50s and low 60s. We celebrated with a foraging tour in Hendersonville. With the expert guidance of Jillian from No Taste Like Home, we ventured into the woods on and off the trails at Bullington Gardens in a search for edible mushrooms as well as edible plants, berries, and nuts.
We’d had so much rain recently my expectations were low, I expected anything to be worth eating to have washed away, but I was pleasantly surprised by the variety and quantity we found. During the 3-hour tour, the company claims they want to take you “out to eat” and they aren’t kidding. We touched, tasted, and smelled. From the creamy Kousa Dogwood berry, wintergreen scented Sweet Birch twigs, the pleasant Wood Sorrel clover-like ground cover, to Plantain leaves (not the banana-like plant), and Smartweed we sampled much of what nature, and even own mountain yard, has to offer.
After an interesting orientation, we set off with basket and brifes in hand. A “brief” is a real thing – a tool that combines a brush and a knife. They are used to dig up or cut the mushroom and brush off any dirt or insects. Jillian lives daily with her foragers’ philosophy and was well-versed on the medicinal qualities of herbs – pointing out plants with unique healing characteristics. She also made delicious acorn cookies for us to sample; they were similar to ginger snaps.
We even had a little time to hunt on our own.
Back from our independent foraging, we gathered to sort the edible from the non, and learn more details. Jillian’s assistant Hannah began sautéing some Leatherback Mushrooms and we enjoyed a delicious treat. We had enough of the wonderful Chanterelle Mushrooms to each bring back a stash to cook on our own* as well as a couple of recipes to try.
I learned a lot, but mostly I will continue to respect the intricacies of nature and let the experts direct what we should select from the forest. Among our harvest were many inedible varieties. Some, even though not edible, are beautiful and I felt lucky to find a striking Turkey Tail Mushroom that I am content to simply observe.
My dinner guests, however, may see Wood Sorrel garnishing their plates in the future . . . .
*several Asheville restaurants will cook-up a complimentary appetizer with the foraged goodies, but you need to plan to drop them off the day prior and return for a meal the following day
For details and a tour schedule check out http://www.NoTasteLikeHome.org
Note that locations for the foraging experience vary but are all near Asheville, NC; registrants are provided details about where to meet a couple of days earlier. The day before our tour, guests foraging near the Grove Park Inn shared the woods with a Black Bear.
Tours are morning or afternoon. We went in the afternoon and since we were foraging in Hendersonville lunched at Never Blue – a delightful, eclectic, funky spot right downtown. The food was wonderful.
Just imagine. The year is 1780. The Revolutionary War is at a stalemate, no end is in sight and the fighting has moved south with the British conquest of Charleston. The King of England decreed no white men were allowed to claim land west of the Appalachian Mountains, but some had settled in the area.
This week marks the 238th anniversary of a sentinel battle of the Revolutionary War – many say the turning point. In school, we never learned about the rag-tag mountain militia who chased the British to Kings Mountain and fought for freedom. Dubbed the Overmountain Men, they also battled nature as they pursued British Major Patrick Ferguson and his well-armed forces. Ferguson had successfully recruited “loyalist” troops from colonists in the Carolinas to fight for the British crown.
Marching from Virginia, through Tennessee and the Carolinas conditions were harsh. The men had to wade through a deep early snowfall, forge rivers, and try not to succumb to hunger and the effects of steady rain. The Colonels all agreed William Campbell would be their leader. The men had a lot to lose. These self-provisioned, self-armed troops relied heavily on their honed hunting skills and burning desire for freedom to “soldier on.”
One thousand men led by Cols. Campbell, Sevier, Shelby, and McDowell met up at Sycamore Shoals (today in Elizabethton, TN) and marched on to meet-up with the Carolina men at Quaker Meadows (now a golf course) in Morganton, NC. A total of almost 2,000 patriots set out on what would become a 330-mile trek.
On October 7, the Patriots finally found Ferguson and his loyalist recruits and winning the Battle of Kings Mountain became a turning point in the war. With Ferguson dead, the British abandoned their goal of taking North Carolina and retreated to South Carolina.
Loyalists were either killed or captured and the Patriots lost 28, with another 62 wounded. One of those wounded was Robert Sevier, brother of Col. John Sevier. Sevier didn’t make it home and dying in NC on the way. He and Revolutionary War veteran Captain Martin Davenport are buried near Spruce Pine, NC.
Every year the Overmountain Victory Trail Association reenacts portions of the 330-mile march in cooperation with the National Park Service. As just one part of the re-creation, they meet-up with about 400 NC school children to visually tell the story of the men and the battle, as well as visit the graves of Sevier and Davenport.
The children are taken up to the remote, tiny Bright’s Cemetery in small groups to pay homage to the memory of those who died for our freedom. The site is on the property of the Sibelco Schoolhouse Quartz Plant and is only open once a year when the company/mine sponsors the event and hosts the kids with lunch and other creature comforts (think tents, porta-potties, and even bug spray). It’s a 2.5-mile trek to the gravesite and back to the parking lot.
As a member of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), it was a privilege to attend. Local DAR members were instrumental in finding and restoring the gravesites in the early 1950s. The Overmountain Victory Trail Association members did a fabulous job capturing and telling the stories of 1780.
Three Top Leaders:
Lines were blurry between state boundaries at that time; in fact, many states had yet to be officially established. Shelby went on to form the State of Kentucky and become its first governor. In the meantime, Sevier was busy forming the short-lived State of Franklin which he served as governor. After Franklin dissolved, Sevier was instrumental in creating the State of Tennessee, becoming its first governor, the first of four terms. In 1781, just before the battle of Yorktown, while still serving, Campbell died in Virginia after a short illness.
Militias & Officers:
Virginia/ 400 men: Col. William Campbell
Tennessee/ 400 men: Cols John Sevier & Issac Shelby
Burke County/ 200 men-Col. Charles McDowell
Surrey, Wilkes & Caldwell Counties/ 350 men-Col Benjamin Cleveland & Maj Joseph Winston
Other Troops-William Chronicle
South Carolina: William Hill & Edward Lacey
Georgia: William Chandler
The Host Quartz Plant:
This area of North Carolina is the number one spot in the world for mining high-quality quartz. Quartz from this facility was used to make the lens in the Hubble Telescope.
For More Info:
National Park Service www.nps.gov/ovvi
Overmountain Victory Trail Association www.OVTA.org
TN – Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area www.sycamoreshoals.org
SC – Kings Mountain National Military Park www.nps.gov/kimo
NC – Historic Burke Foundation (Quaker Meadows) www.historicburke.org
VA – Abingdon Muster Grounds www.abingdonmustergrounds.com
Thanks to Hurricane Florence, New Bern has been in the news lately and not because it was the Colonial Capital of North Carolina. This charming historic town is not only the birthplace of yours truly, but also of Pepsi Cola.
It’s a lovely place, founded in 1710, by Baron von Graffenried from Bern, Switzerland and jam-packed with history. Four historic districts include more than 160 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are parks, gardens and about 2,000 crepe myrtles (the city’s official flower), a thriving sailing community, and the confluence of the Neuse and Trent Rivers. The setting for homes along the wide riverfront is absolutely beautiful. It is that unique and wonderful location that has caused them so many problems with this recent storm.
Keep everyone from New Bern in your thoughts as they clean-up and recover from Flo. Then, be sure to visit sometime in the near future.
In Western North Carolina, just a few miles south of the Virginia border is a little slice of mountain life that is good for the soul (and the stomach). Shatley Springs is a ramshackle collection of metal-roofed buildings and cabins, some dating as far back as 1923. Décor leans to early-barn, with colorful flowers planted in re-purposed kitchen pots and old equipment.
Built over springs reported to have medicinal powers, a typical Sunday finds a huge after-church crowd and (without being rude) lots of folks who appear to have very healthy appetites. If you don’t have a reservation you may have to wait, but just sit back in the porch rockers and enjoy the live music or wander around the grounds, check out the spring, buy some Ashe County fruit and bread, browse the shops, or chat-up some new friends. NASCAR is a popular topic I overheard being discussed during this most recent visit. The shops have an eclectic variety of items including jewelry, candy, and locally handcrafted goods.
Lunch and dinner are available after 11:30 and feature fried chicken and sugar-cured country ham. This was our first time trying the breakfast menu and we had a delicious meal. I like that you can forgo the trademark large family-style meals and order exactly what you want, including eggs made to order. The biscuits are amazing, and as long as I can get good country sausage gravy I am happy (a treat my Yankee husband just does not understand).
When you can’t eat another bite, your waitress will add “God Bless You” to your check and wish you a blessed day – and she will mean it.
If you drive over from Boone the Railroad Grade Road between Todd and Fleetwood is a beautiful drive along the New River.
Once at Shatley Springs, you will need to check in at the office; they will call your name to be seated. You return to the same area at the end of the meal to settle your bill. Keeping up with the times, they now take credit cards. Open daily 7 AM til 9 PM. Call for reservations.
407 Shatley Springs Road, Crumpler, NC 336.982.2236
For more details check out: www.shatleysprings.com
We returned to Lake Toxaway this year, at the invitation of good friends (thanks!) and once again had some wonderful new adventures. Who doesn’t love a mountain lake? And we enjoyed the hospitality of another Florida friend when he gave us a first-rate boat tour. It was interesting to learn about the history of some of the beautiful lake-front estates and even more interesting to hear current neighborhood tidbits. We even saw a bear scouting for food just below the deck of the house.
As a preservation advocate, I’m always up for anything historic and we visited the Cashiers Designer Showhouse, Fox Tail, presented by the Cashiers Historical Society. I wasn’t that thrilled with the showhouse, but enjoyed the 1920 cottage on the 42-acre property that was also open to tour. The Historic Lawrence Monteith Cabin was open as a joint venture with the Glenville Area Historical Society.
The three-bedroom house still has the original doors and windows with rope pulleys. The sawmill that provided the boards to build the house and the original farm fields were covered by Lake Glenville in 1941. Although electricity and plumbing were added in the 1940s, the three-bedroom home never had an indoor bathroom.
It was a nice glimpse into past mountain living.