North Carolina Ghost Town

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 27, 2015

You can still see part of the boiler room and a few intact boilers from the old cotton mill in Mortimer if you know where to look. There’s also a white maintenance building built by the CCC during the 1930s, and some other CCC building foundations remain behind it. Today these silent remnants welcome hikers and campers at the entrance to the Mortimer campground in the Pisgah National Forest. What a story they hide!

Original caption reads: "Edgemont Baptist Church 1940's--Old Man in front in suit with bible in left hand is the preacher--standing to his right is Archie Coffey." Collection of Arnold and Tommy Sue Walker, Walnut Bottoms, NC.

Original caption reads: “Edgemont Baptist Church 1940’s–Old Man in front in suit with bible in left hand is the preacher–standing to his right is Archie Coffey.” Collection of Arnold and Tommy Sue Walker, Walnut Bottoms, NC.

 

Mortimer, NC had been built rapidly to house workers for the Ritter Lumber Company, which had bought the land for timber in 1904. Ritter Lumber Company’s sawmill and a small textile mill provided jobs for the community’s 800 residents. Substantial logging took place between Wilson and Steel Creeks, and the trees were hauled to the mill via Ritter’s narrow gauge railroad, which followed Wilson Creek much of the way before ending in the village of Edgemont. The Hutton-Bourbannis Company operated various other narrow gauge logging railroad lines fanning out from Mortimer.

There was a company store, a blacksmith’s shop, a church, a school, a hotel, and numerous houses. By 1906, the newly incorporated town even had a motion-picture facility and the Laurel Inn, which Teddy Roosevelt reportedly visited.

Then disaster struck. In 1916, a fire burned from Grandfather Mountain to Wilson Creek, and was immediately followed by a flood, which destroyed the logging railroad and the Lake Rhodhiss Dam, and devastated the Ritter Company’s operations. The company left the town entirely about a year later. The flood is considered to be the worst in Caldwell County history.

United Mills Company, a cotton mill, opened in 1922 and revitalized the town for a brief period. The Civilian Conservation Corps opened Camp F-5 at Mortimer during the Great Depression, and by 1933, had repaired many buildings damaged in the 1916 tribulations. In 1934, O.P. Lutz started a hosiery mill in the cotton mill buildings, but it never really succeeded. The Carolina & Northwestern Railway brought in mail every other day, but closed in 1938.

Original caption reads: "Mortimer CCC Warehouse & the Forest Service office with the 1940 flood waters were decreasing -- Truck was flooded with water." Collection of Arnold and Tommy Sue Walker, Walnut Bottoms, NC.

Original caption reads: “Mortimer CCC Warehouse & the Forest Service office with the 1940 flood waters were decreasing — Truck was flooded with water.” Collection of Arnold and Tommy Sue Walker, Walnut Bottoms, NC.

Then, on August 13, 1940, Wilson Creek jumped its banks again (this time prompted by a coastal hurricane.) The creek reached a flood stage of 94 feet and engulfed the town. This second flood, coming only 24 years after Mortimer’s first horrific experience, was enough to drive most remaining families from the area.

The CCC hobbled along until the arrival of World War II in the 1940s. The railroad that used to run through Mortimer was taken up during WWII and melted down for the war effort. After the railroad was removed and the CCC left, the valley was left essentially unchanged for the next several decades.

Today, there are only about 16 permanent families living along the stream. Much of the mountain property in the northwestern part of Caldwell County is public land held by the U.S. Forest Service.

 

sources: www.ghosttowns.com/
www.tarheelpress.com/CNW5.html
www.mountaintimes.com/summer/auto_day_trips.php3
web.utk.edu/~jeparks/HDREdgemont.pdf
www.tarheelpress.com/blacksatchel.html

Related posts: “Appalachia’s Katrina”

3 Responses

  • Jim Rada says:

    If you’re interested in ghost towns, I have an article in the July/August 2010 issue of Maryland Life about western Maryland ghost towns, primarily in Garrett County. These are old company towns that surrounded the mines in coal mines in the area. All that’s left of many of them are slag heaps and the remnants of some structures. I’ve visited some of them and it can feel like you’re in the Old West as you walk along the streets.

    Jim Rada
    historyarchive.wordpress.com

  • Kristy Fite says:

    I’m from there—lived 30 mins away. It’s a very special place to me. I have never been really big on history, but I swear that place every time I go, which is very often, I I can still see the old town. I’ve found the ruins to the old hotel where the president stayed. I so wished that I could have lived in those days! That place will always be my home away from home :) no other place like it.

  • Granitefall Paranormal Investigators would love to do some paranormal work to find even more history there and see if some spirits are still there and talk to some of them. Please call us on this. Our number is 828 640 8519.

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The Sleeping Giant – an Indian Legend from AL

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 26, 2015

Many years before the white man penetrated the forests of Alabama, there dwelt a happy, thrifty tribe of Indians in the central portion of the present county of Talladega [ed.- Conchardees, of the Creek, or Muskogee, nation].

The chief of this tribe was the great Choccolocco; a man of vast possessions.  He had only one daughter, the Princess Talladega, whom he treasured above all possessed.

Fountain statue of Princess Talladega carrying her water pot; statue in Talladega, AL.

Fountain statue of Princess Talladega carrying her water pot; statue in Talladega, AL.

Talladega, as every princess should be, was the most beautiful maiden in all the realm.  Choccolocco, realizing that he could not continuously keep Talladega within the walls of his selfish heart and domain, began to cast about for a suitable mate for his treasured daughter.

Now, in those days, as well as in these, one had only to think a thing, and the world anticipated the unspoken thought, and ran away with it.  It so happened that great chiefs, mighty and rich, old and young, from far and near, began to make offers of handsome gifts to the stern old Choccolocco for the hand of his daughter.

Some found favor in the sight of Choccolocco, but Talladega said:    “Nay.  Give me time.  The right companion will come  along some day, who loves the things that I love, and we can be happy wandering through life together.”

Time passed on, until one dawn of an April day, Talladega wandered down a winding path to the sparkling spring at the foot of the hill.  The world seemed lovely in spite of the scheming father.  Suddenly she heard a song in the distance.  It was beautiful.  The song grew nearer and nearer, and more beautiful, until the singer burst into view, as Talladega dipped her earthen pot into the water.  She met the dark eyes of a comely young warrior, and at that moment she knew that in some way their future would be linked together.

Thus began, in the spring of that year, an affair which clandestinely grew beyond the imagination of Choccolocco.

Each morning a song was answered, a friendship ripened, and a love was strengthened.  The wooing progressed, until one day Talladega, approaching her cabin, heard voices.  Her name was mentioned.  To her dismay she realized that Cheaha, an ugly old chief from an adjoining province, was bargaining with Choccolocco.  As she caught the glowering eyes of Cheaha, she immediately knew that she would not submit to wedlock with this eagle-eyed suitor.

'Cheaha, an ugly old chief from an adjoining province, was bargaining with her father for her hand in marriage.' 'The Creek Indian,' by Frederic Remington, c.1906

‘Cheaha, an ugly old chief from an adjoining province, was bargaining with her father for her hand in marriage.’ ‘The Creek Indian,’ by Frederic Remington, c.1906

After Cheaha left, Choccolocco informed Talladega that he was the favored chief, and that she would probably soon follow him to his province.

Talladega slept none that night, and soon after dawn she was out awaiting the song of her young lover, Coosa.

It was indeed a sad morning they spent together.  Coosa possessed no property, and he was so overcome with the helplessness and pathos of their situation, that he plunged into the woodland, where he wandered up and down the banks of his favorite stream for days.

His thoughts were only of Talladega.  He could see her reflection in the still waters; hear her voice in the rapids; and to this day the stream that bears her name still echoes the voice, and reflects the beauty of Talladega.

After Coosa had wandered for days, he decided that he could stand it no longer, and he went back to speak to Choccolocco.  Coosa found him alone and he immediately stated his business.  He told him that he was not a man of property, yet he was young, and taller, swifter and stronger than any warrior of the province; aside from this, he knew where valuable minerals were stored in lands unpossessed, and he would direct Choccolocco to them, whereby the latter could enrich himself more plentifully than any chief in all the land.

In fact, he pleaded so appealingly, and painted a picture so enticing, that Choccolocco listened with growing interest.

“If you can bring me samples of valuable ores, and assure me of the possibility of ownership,” said Choccolocco, “I shall consider your proposition more fully.”

There was never a happier being since the world began than was Coosa at this hopeful remark.  Turning, he found that someone else had joined them, and from the scowl on his face, he discerned that this was the erstwhile acceptable suitor, who had overheard the latter part of Choccolocco’s remarks.

Cheaha turned without a word.  An idea was brewing.  He hastened to put it into action.  He had brought with him two young warriors, whom he immediately dispatched, one for a famous medicine man of his tribe, and the other to follow Coosa.  The medicine man had discovered an herb that would put the strongest of men immediately to sleep, and he could not be aroused until the antidote was administered; that antidote being known to none but the medicine man himself.

Along about nightfall the young warrior who followed Coosa returned with the information that he had pitched camp at the west end of the valley.When Cheaha and the medicine man arrived they found Coosa peacefully sleeping, with arms folded on his breast and his face turned to the heavens.

The medicine man stealthily crept to the sleeping Coosa and quickly administered the drug.  When he assured Cheaha that the drug had taken the desired effect, Cheaha cruelly turned on the medicine man and killed him on the spot.

In the meantime Choccolocco, becoming disgusted at the delay of Coosa, ordered wedding preparations for Talladega and Cheaha.

Talladega had discovered her sleeping lover, and made many secret visitsto him whenever chance permitted.  She became so depressed and unhappy as the wedding day approached, that Cheaha decided that it would be wise to tell Talladega that Coosa could never be awakened.  Talladega said nothing.

She only sat motionless and gazed into space.

When the wedding day arrived, no bride was to be found.  The woodland was searched, the hills and valleys scanned, but no bride was to be found.

In the midst of the turmoil an Indian lad burst into the group with the dramatic news that Talladega had been discovered, lying dead on the breast of her sleeping lover.

Sleeping Giant Mountain, Talladega County, AL.

Sleeping Giant Mountain, Talladega County, AL.

Although the drug was so powerful as to keep Coosa always sleeping, it also carried the power to make him grow, and while lying there sleeping, he has grown through the centuries until the mighty figure has become a great giant, now forming a mountain many miles long, where he can be seen from many roadsides.

Mother Nature has lovingly covered him with earth, to protect him from the cold.  She has planted trees and shrubs to shield him from the hot summer sun, and she has scattered flowers here and there, and each year birds flock to the Sleeping Giant to herald the coming of Spring.

And there he lies, still dreaming of his beloved Talladega, “The Bride of the Mountain.”

 

Early records speak of the mountain also as “The Giant at Rest” and the “Resting Giant.”  The above portion of the “Sketch of Talladega County” can be found in E. Grace Jemison, Historic Tales of Talladega (Montgomery, AL: Paragon Press, 1959), pp. 1-3.

online at http://files.usgwarchives.org/al/talladega/history/sleeping.txt

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Happy Memorial Day!

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 25, 2015

memorial_8119c

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Agricultural education in WV, a 1923 update

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 22, 2015

Agricultural education throughout the State, and scientific farming, have developed within the last fifty years. Most of the progress has been made within the last decade. These developments are closely related to the College of Agriculture at the West Virginia University, founded in 1867.

Very few courses in agriculture were taught at the university in the earlier years of its existence. The university catalog of 1872 listed William E. Fontaine as the first instructor in agriculture. He taught chemistry and natural history in addition to all the agriculture. Woodville Latham, who succeeded Mr. Fontaine, taught agriculture, physics and chemistry.

First Agricultural Experiment Station, West Virginia University

First Agricultural Experiment Station building, remodeled from West Virginia University’s Armory, 1888-89.

In 1885 A. R. Whitehill was appointed instructor in agriculture, chemistry and physics. In 1890 T. C. Atkeson was appointed professor of agriculture, and later became Dean of the college.
The first student who received a bachelor’s degree in agriculture was John W. Johnson, in 1894.

The school gradually developed until it now has 307 students and more than thirty instructors, some of whom are dividing their time between teaching and research work. For 1921 the number of graduates with the bachelor’s degree in agriculture was thirty-four.

The State Agricultural Experiment Station was organized in 1888 with John A. Meyers as first director. The Experiment Station was established for the purpose of conducting investigational work in various branches of agriculture. Most of the investigational work is conducted in laboratories and on the State farms near the College of Agriculture. These farms contain about a thousand acres of land and are devoted to livestock, dairy, agronomy, poultry and horticulture. Experiments for the purpose of determining the best methods of farming are performed on each of these farms.

The State Board of Agriculture was organized in 1891 and continued until 1912, when it was abolished. In 1891 the State legislature adopted the policy of making annual appropriations to aid in conducting farmers’ institutes and other work for promoting agricultural interests and industries.

Perhaps the most important work of the Board of Agriculture was the support and direction of farmers’ institutes, the first of which was held at Buffalo, Putnam county, in 1895. In 1920
126 fanners’ institutes were held with an attendance of nearly 11,000 people.

When the Board of Agriculture was abolished its work was continued by the newly created State Department of Agriculture, whose duties are largely regulatory through police power in the field of agriculture.

Agriculture extension work was started in West Virginia in 1907 under the supervision of D. W. Working; and in 1912 the Extension Division of the College of Agriculture was formed.

Since 1891 considerable advance in agriculture has been made through the influence of farmers’ institutes, better communication, and various farmers’ organizations. In the decade after 1850 agricultural societies were formed in Marshall, Monongalia, Jefferson, Cabell and Ohio counties.

Crowds of people around market stands at unidentified Fair, ca. 1915. Photo taken from WV Agriculture Extension Agent Report. Collection of West Virginia and Regional History Center; image 048195.

Crowds of people around market stands at unidentified Fair, ca. 1915. Photo taken from WV Agriculture Extension Agent Report. Collection of West Virginia and Regional History Center; image 048195.

 

Within the last few decades farmers’ organizations have sprung up throughout the State. The Farmers’ Alliance was perhaps the first farmers’ organization of any considerable strength in West Virginia. But little of the work of this organization has survived to the present time. The Grange came next, and is still active in several sections of the State.

The organizations which have affected the farmers of West Virginia most — the Extension Service and the Farm Bureau — can be traced directly to a meeting of the State Horticultural Society at Keyser in 1909. At this meeting steps were taken to establish horticultural societies in the counties throughout the State, resulting in their organization in many counties.

In 1912, with the financial help of various business men’s organizations — such as the Board of Trade in Wood, Ohio, and Kanawha counties — county agricultural agents were brought into these counties to work with these county agricultural societies. The Extension Service of the College of Agriculture developed from this small beginning.

In 1922, the Extension Service had twenty-four members of the administrative staff and “specialists,” thirty-five county agricultural agents, eleven home demonstration agents, five men conducting cow-testing associations, forty-four agents of boys’ and girls’ clubs, and a few additional assistants.

The county Farm Bureau also evolved from the county agricultural societies. The West Virginia Farm Bureau Federation is composed of the county farm bureaus which (in 1922) have a membership of about 20,000. Each county farm bureau is composed of a number of local clubs — farmers’ clubs, farm women’s clubs, and boys’ and girls’ clubs.
The work of these various organizations may be summarized as “a country life movement in West Virginia.”

The work of the Extension Service has not been limited to teaching the rural people how to earn more money. It also encourages the things that tend to make a more satisfying rural life.

Home canning demonstration, Extension Department, West Virginia University. Report of WV State Board of Control, Vol. IV, Part II, 1916. West Virginia Historical Photographs Collection, image 017370.

Home canning demonstration, Extension Department, West Virginia University. Report of WV State Board of Control, Vol. IV, Part II, 1916. West Virginia Historical Photographs Collection, image 017370.

 

Excerpt from “History of West Virginia, old and new, in one volume, and West Virginia biography, in two additional volumes,” by James Morton Callahan, 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc., Chicago

 

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The persistent myth of ‘The State of Dade’

Posted by Dave Tabler | May 21, 2015

“This year notes the 65th anniversary of Dade County [GA] rejoining the Union through a ceremony that was held on the Courthouse Square in 1945,” says the article in the Sons of Confederate Veterans, State of Dade, Camp No. 707’s May 2010 newsletter. “Come celebrate the anniversary of the event at the “State of Dade” Heritage Festival May 21st and 22nd, 2010.”

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Here’s how the SCV told the story of the State of Dade:

“In May of 1860, the Georgia General Assembly was locked in debate at the State Capital in Milledgeville, GA.  Several days were spent hotly debating the question of Georgia’s secession from the Union.

“Up from his seat in the back of the Senate rose a representative from Dade County by the name of Robert H. Tatum. ‘Uncle Bob,’ as he was fondly called, gained the floor and shouted out the fiery speech, which has become both legend and law: ‘By the gods, gentlemen,’ the old man said,  ‘If Georgia doesn’t vote to immediately secede from the Union, Dade County will secede from Georgia and become The Independent State of Dade!!!’

“A few days later when Georgia had still not seceded from the Union, the fighter made good his promise. He hurriedly left the Capital and by trains, buggy, and then horseback, came to the village of Trenton, where he called for a public meeting. The countrymen and townspeople gathered on the Courthouse Square where Bob Tatum stepped up and told the crowd of the arguments and the endless debates going on at the Capital.

“A vote was taken that very day on Trenton’s Courthouse Square and led by Bob Tatum; Dade County seceded from the state of Georgia.”

On July 4, 1945, over 4,000 people attended a celebration at Trenton when Dade graciously struck the Confederate banner, raised Old Glory and rejoined the Union.  This celebration attracted national attention and even a congratulatory telegram from President Harry S. Truman.  Everyone enjoyed the occasion and it left a lasting impression in the minds of Georgians.

One of these minds belonged to E. Merton Coulter, one of Georgia’s most respected and best-loved historians.  In “The Myth of Dade County’s Seceding from Georgia in 1860,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 41, Dr. Coulter looked very carefully at the records and concluded that this most popular story was not true.

Unidentified woman sitting on the steps of the Dade County Courthouse displaying both an American flag and a Confederate flag during the 1945 Fourth of July celebration in Trenton, GA. Courtesy Kenneth Rogers Photographs, Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center.

Unidentified woman sitting on the steps of the Dade County Courthouse displaying both an American flag and a Confederate flag during the 1945 Fourth of July celebration in Trenton, GA. Courtesy Kenneth Rogers Photographs, Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center.

In point of fact, Dade’s two delegates to the secession convention did vote against the secession.  However, Dade County did not secede from either the Union or the state of Georgia.

When the state as a whole seceded from the Union in January 1861, Dade Countians immediately joined the Confederate Army in quantity. They served their new nation well in units like the Yancey Invincibles, the Lookout Dragoons, the Dade County Invincibles and the Raccoon Roughs, who wore coonskin caps.

During the Civil War more than 40,000 soldiers traveled through the area on their way to Chickamauga, building themselves a road to carry their equipment and munitions. The Battle of Chattanooga resulted in some minor skirmishes in the county. Dade County men saw action at Manassas (1st and 2nd), Fredricksburg, Cold Harbor, Gettysburg, Vicksburg and most of the major battles.

Rep. Bob Tatum remained in the Georgia state legislature through at least 1863. In a June 29, 1863 letter responding to backers (published in Southern Confederacy, Atlanta, GA, Vol III, No 122) who were encouraging him to run for another term, he stated “At the close of the last session of the Legislature the state of the health of my family and the absence of my sons in the army, who have also been in bad health, determined me to retire from public life and give my entire attention to my family and my private affairs.”

As for the State of Dade, it did exist in a physical sense until 1940.  Dade is tucked into the northwest corner of the state behind the steep slopes of Lookout Mountain.  Until the completion of Georgia 143 (Old S.R. 2), Dade was accessible only from Alabama or Tennessee unless the traveler had the skill of a mountain goat.

E. Merton Coulter, "The Myth of Dade County's Seceding from Georgia in 1860,"

First page of E. Merton Coulter’s article “The Myth of Dade County’s Seceding from Georgia in 1860.”

“For a mountain county, the roads are fair,” noted George White about Dade County in his 1849 book Statistics of the State of Georgia. “Isolated from the world, the people seem to care for nothing except the supply of their immediate wants. Hospitality is eminently their characteristic. The stranger is greeted with a hearty welcome, and his conversation listened to with evident signs of pleasure. In this county, the refinements of polished society do not exist.”

Until the all-weather road went through, Dade had been tied to the economy of Chattanooga.  Maybe the celebration on July 4, 1945, was a belated announcement that the State of Dade was ready to join Georgia culturally, physically and economically.

Whether the story had a true basis or not may be irrelevant.  The story was believed, and continues to be believed, by enough people so that it has become viable cultural folklore, which is almost as good as history.

You can still find the SCV ‘State of Dade’ story quoted at the top today on Facebook. Currently it’s labeled: ‘Legend and Lore of Dade County’s Secession from the Union,’ followed by an article titled ‘Actual History of Dade’s Return to the Union’ which more clearly separates fact from fiction.

 

Sources: E. Merton Coulter, “The Myth of Dade County’s Seceding from Georgia in 1860,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 41 (December 1957): 349-64.

Retired Senior Volunteer Program, ed. and comp., History of Dade County, Georgia (Summerville, Ga.: ESPY Publishing Co., 1981).

Newsletter Of State Of Dade Camp No. 707, Vol 15, No 5, May 2010
online at www.stateofdade.com/pdf/MayNewsletter2010.pdf

http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2320

Tatum letter: http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/GADADE/2010-11/1290110668

Statistics of the State of Georgia, by George White, publ by W. Thorne Williams, Savannah, 1849.

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