Water ran rippling and singing a merry song

Posted by Dave Tabler | July 1, 2016

Not far from the towns of Boone, Blowing Rock, and Asheville, deep inside Humpback Mountain below the Blue Ridge Escarpment, lie Linville Caverns, North Carolina’s only publicly accessible caverns. For 30 million years, as the nearby Catawba River ate away at the valley between the Humpback and Linville mountains, the water-filled caverns have slowly drained from the top.

Linville Caverns were discovered by Henry E. Colton and his local guide, Dave Franklin, in 1822. Mystified by what appeared to be fish swimming out of the mountain, they followed their pine-knot torches into the opening. “Having procured a guide, a little after 9 o’clock we entered the cave, and after proceeding about a quarter of a mile, came to water,” said Colton of the experience in Mountain Scenery, published in 1859.

Linville Caverns“Previous to this, nothing of a very remarkable nature had met with, but now began the wondrous splendors of that hidden world. Stooping through a low passage, in which the coldest of water ran rippling and singing a merry song, which echoed back a thousand times from the dark dismal arched roof of the unmeasured space which stretched itself before, behind, and above us, we emerged into an immense passage, whose roof was far beyond the reach of the glare of our torches, except where the fantastic festoons of stalactites hang down within our touch.

“It looked like the arch of some grand old cathedral, yet it was too sublime, too perfect in all its beautiful proportions, to be anything of human, but a model which man might attempt to imitate.”

Legend has it that the caverns were a popular hiding place with soldiers from both sides of the Civil War and a workshop for a resourceful old man who made and mended soldiers’ shoes. Traces of campfires were found in the cavern’s central chambers. Local lure tells that eventually smoke from these fires made it out of the mountainside and so betrayed the soldiers.

Thomas Edison once sent a team of explorers to the caverns hoping to find platinum — an element at the time thought vital in the production of incandescent lamps. They returned empty handed.

John Q. Gilkey bought the property in 1937, built walkways, enlarged the entrance, and opened the doors for tours on July 1, 1939 – one of the cave’s larger chambers is named after him. He only lived another year.

Linville’s formations are a rainbow of hues: iron oxide creates a pinkish orange color; black from manganese; blues from zinc and cobalt, white from calcium carbonate, green from algae and moss.

One of Linville Caverns’ most famous formations, the Wedding Scene, features a shelf-like stage with a priest wearing a long robe. A bride and groom can also be seen kneeling at the altar, all created naturally.

During the winter and early spring the eastern pipistrelle bat hibernates in the cave. The fish living in the cave are speckled, brown, and rainbow trout. None are true cave animals, but only cave visitors.

sources: Mountain Scenery. The Scenery of the Mountains of Western North Carolina
and Northwestern South Carolina
, by Henry E Colton, W. L. Pomeroy, 1859



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Paving paradise

Posted by Dave Tabler | June 30, 2016

The Blue Ridge Parkway is the longest (469 miles), narrowest national park in the world and is the most visited unit in the US National Park system. The parkway runs from the southern terminus of Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive in Virginia at Rockfish Gap to U.S. 441 at Oconaluftee in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, North Carolina.

Begun during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, the project was originally called the “Appalachian Scenic Highway.” Most construction was carried out by private contractors under federal contracts under an authorization by Harold L. Ickes in his role as federal public works administrator. Work began on September 11, 1935 near Cumberland Knob in North Carolina; construction in Virginia began the following February.

On June 30, 1936, Congress formally authorized the project as the “Blue Ridge Parkway” and placed it under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. The project would take over 52 years to complete. Some work was carried out by various New Deal public works agencies. The Works Progress Administration did some roadway construction. Crews from the Emergency Relief Administration carried out landscape work and development of parkway recreation areas. Personnel from four Civilian Conservation Corps camps worked on roadside cleanup, roadside plantings, grading slopes and improving adjacent fields and forest lands.


“The charm and delight of the Blue Ridge Parkway lies in its ever-changing location, in variety. And of course there is the picture it reveals of the Southern Highlands, with miles of split-rail fence, with Brinegar cabins and the Mabry Mills. These are evidences of a simple homestead culture and a people whose way of life grew out of the land. around them. Provincial life, gee! The mountaineer buildings we acquired to preserve within the holdings of the Parkway itself have resisted the whitewash brush, the Sears Roebuck catalog, and the tar paper of Johns Manville. They are as interesting a part of the Blue Ridge as the natural scene around them.”

Stanley Abbott, Resident Landscape Architect and Acting
Superintendent for the Parkway 1933-1944


Sources: http://www.ncptt.nps.gov/pdf/2000-18.pdf

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Our noblest deeds and characters are forgotten, or misrepresented. How different in New England

Posted by Dave Tabler | June 29, 2016

University of South Carolina
Columbia, S.C.
June 29, 1889
O.P. Temple, Esq
My dear Judge
I have read with great interest every word of the Knoxville Journal, concerning John Sevier, etc. The occasion was on of deep historic interest. I hope you will send me the more permanent publication which will doubtless be issued hereafter.
Your own contribution is of special value & beauty. Allow me to suggest that you should devote some of your leisure to the composition of a History of East Tenn. No living man is perhaps so well qualified as yourself for this work. At least you might select some special topic, if no more. Ein kind regard to your family. We are well.
Yours very truly, Ed. T. Joynes

letter to Oliver Perry TempleUniversity of South Carolina
Columbia, S.C.
July 11, 1889
Dear Friend –
Your most interesting letter recd. Let me hope you may yet carry our your plans, if only on the narrower lines such as you suggest. It is a deficit in our southern people that they will not write their own history nor even prepare materials for the future historian. Hence our noblest deeds and characters are forgotten, or misrepresented. How different in New England. Regard G Flemming If I can run off for a week, I shall come to Knoxville this summer if only for a planning visit with him and a talk with you
very truly Ed. S Joynes

Oliver Perry Temple (1820-1907) did indeed carry out the plans referred to in the second letter. He took the idea Joynes proposed about writing histories of East Tennessee and went on to author ‘The Covenanter, the Cavalier, and the Puritan (1897)’; ‘East Tennessee and the Civil War (1899)’; and ‘Notable Men of Tennessee,’ which was published posthumously in 1912.

Joynes was well qualified to spot writing ability in his friend. By the time he wrote the above letters, he’d already published “Introductory French Lessons,” “The Education of Teachers in the South,” and “A German grammar for schools and colleges.” He went on to publish 10 more books, mostly in the same ilk.

In the preface of his first book, Temple introduces himself as ‘OLIVER PERRY TEMPLE, For twelve years one of the Equity Judges of Tennessee,’ and dedicates the book ‘To the Scotch-Irish Society of America, which is doing so much to rescue from oblivion the history of the Covenanter People.”

The Covenanters were Scotsmen who in 1638 signed the National Covenant, a covenant confirming their opposition to the interference by the Stuart kings in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

Temple named his estate ‘Melrose’ after the ruined abbey in Scotland near which his wife had been born. All his maternal ancestors were from Scotland. Scotch-Irish issues were personal.

“The publication of this little book in its present form is due to an accidental circumstance,” he continues. “The matter it contains was prepared as a part of a larger and perhaps more important historical work, on which I am now engaged, and which I hope will soon be in print. Happening to show some of the chapters to a friend, in whose judgment I had great confidence, he said to me : Why not publish these chapters as a separate book?

“The matter they contain is only remotely related to that of the main book, and the two should not appear together. It happened that my own mind was running in the same direction, and had nearly arrived at the same conclusion. The publication of this book, in its present form, is, therefore, mainly due to that interview. It is, as it were, a leaf torn from another book.

“The chief reason for writing so fully, or at all, about the Covenanters is given in the opening sentences of Chapter IV of this book. The error and injustice there referred to are remarkable, indeed amazing; but it is not too late to correct them by letting in the light of history. A brief comparison of the record of the Covenanters with that of the Cavaliers and the Puritans shows in how remarkable a manner the former people have been neglected and ignored in the history and the public thought of the country. If I shall be able to quicken the interest in this great race, already existing, awakened by the noble efforts of The Scotch-Irish Society of America, I shall feel that I have, indeed, done a good work.”

Sources: The O.P. Temple Papers/University of Tennessee Special Collections Library


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They drove the circus back over the mountain and the elephants and giraffes had no problem

Posted by Dave Tabler | June 28, 2016

“Uncle George Wynn did all the thrashing on the east side of the road that goes through Burke’s Garden, north and south. John D. Greever did all the thrashing of wheat on the west side of this road. You know the biggest population was on the east side of that road, all the big families there. The Repass’s, Alfred Repass. Grubbs, lots of Kitts, the Kitts, they kind of moved out and then the big bunch of Lamberts came in there, like a drove of sheep pretty near.

“Course Pierce Lambert, some of those Lamberts spelled their name different than others, some Lampert, and some Lambert. All the same I think, they all came from over around Bland. Now Uncle George Wynn he had some daughters that married into the Neel family. I think there was two of them, one married a Bud Heldreth, and one married Tiden H. Short. He had 4 boys.

“Morgan Wynn, Uncle George’s oldest son, see Uncle George was married twice. First he was married to a Rhudy, John Rhudy’s sister. Then next he married a Henry, Mag Henry, she had a daughter who married a Helmadollar out at Tazewell and then she had a son Will Henry who died in World War I. He is buried down there where my little brother Hubert is buried. So is his mother Mag Henry Wynn. Down next to where the Hoges are buried.

Road through the gap to Burkes Garden VAPostcard view of the road through the gap to Burke’s Garden, about 1915. Title continues: … ‘The road today is twice as wide and the bank twice as high.’ Courtesy of Louise Leslie.

“This Morgan Wynn when he got married to the old lady Aunt Mag, she was pretty mean to those boys and they all left. Morgan joined the Army and he stayed years and years, until he was pert-in-near dead and they sent him home. He went down to ole Tiden Short’s to see Maggie, Mag to live with his sister. He was crazy about buttermilk, and he was sick, they had churned and he drank so much buttermilk that he died, maybe from too much pressure on his heart.

“Levi Wynn, was I guess next and he was a holy roller preacher out there at Tazewell, I mean at Bluefield, Virginia. He was a singing master, too, in Burke’s Garden. He used to do a lot of singing there in Burke’s Garden. We all sang there. We lived near Laurence Felty’s near an old woodshed. Do you know where the old wood shed is? We had it first we sold it to Hoback, then Mr. Gose bought it. Do you know at one time Mr. John Gose owned more property in Burke’s Garden then any other man?

“Aunt Belle was there, we called them ‘aunt’ but they were not, just Aunt Letti, Uncle Fed’s wife that was really our aunt. There was three of those girls, Aunt Belle stayed there all the time and Aunt Org married a Foglesong and they had land over in the east end over by Horse Snaps.

“We lived over there where Snaps owned that place in the east end at one time across the hill from Uncle Morg Wynne, from where Betty Meek lived. At that time it belonged to Mr. John Fox, Uncle Frank’s daddy. One time Mr. John Fox put a bunch of oats in and they craddled it, and shucked it. Morgan and George were doing the tying. They always worked together, the four of them. After Uncle Pete Fox left there course Mr. John Fox was never satisfied there.

“They went down to Christiansburg and I guess they died and didn’t get the place paid for. My dad always said that Uncle Fed Wynn always had the poorest place there was in Burke’s Garden. They had so much pea gravel on the place. See my dad used to work for Uncle Fed Wynn when he had the sawmill. See Uncle Fed would go out and cut the trees down, bring in the logs and saw the logs, then build the building!

“He did it all, Uncle Fed Wynn. My dad used to work on the Fed Wynn place and it was the poorest place. He (Fed Wynn) bought the place from Mr. Pat Davis (William Patterson Davis). That’s Leon Davis and Add Davis’s daddy. So, Tyler Boling used to live—the road used to come through there where Harvey Dillo—and turned and went down and turned the corner by Davis’s place where Mr. Mckenna lives now and over by Mr. Rush Moss’s place and come out at the corner down there where Mr. Sam Meredith lives. Now we used to live right across the road from Sam Meredith. East of Sam’s. There used to be a big wild cherry tree there. At one time there was a circus at Little Creek and they drove them back over the mountain to take them back and elephants and giraffes had no problem and ate the cherries/leaves.

Greever women in Burkes Garden VAMargaret Greever, born 1879, second from left, being photographed with sisters or friends at the Greever homeplace in Burke’s Garden June 28, 1899. Albert S. Greever may be the photographer under the hood. Courtesy of Edgar Greever.

“That saw mill that Grandpa Wynn bought was brought over there with 6 yoke of oxen, I mean 6 head of oxen, three yokes to pull that saw mill over there. Had to bring a stationary engine. Over the old road where Mary Lou Volun’s place now it belongs to Dupont, in that field over there where it joins Bent Moss’s place on the side, used to be a big chestnut orchard there. You can still see the old road that used to go up there. We used to live on the corner there.

“I used to catch rides to town on horseback at that corner from Uncle Pete and Mr. Fox and they used to pick me up. I had a blue serge suit, I was in school then, not really in it, but went and they used to pick me up take me to the store with them.

“Those Foxes liked to brag on their stuff, I was great at that and I always liked old people anyway. That was always my delight if I got with old people, I love it. Old Mr. Steve Mahood, the old fellow that lived right down there over by the Snap’s silo in the east end, there. Mr. Steve Mahood lived there. He raised a boy, they raised a boy by them, I think he was related to Aunt Ann, I think his name was Crismond. I know his name was Crismond, Doc Chrismond. Old Mr. Steve Mahood, they raised him. He got to be a railroad man and married old man Grubb’s daughter, Nannie Grubb. They went to school the same time Dr. Shawver went to school in Burke’s Garden. Nannie Grubb, Carl Grubb and Kate Fox.”

Bill Brown
January 23, 1981

Edited transcript from an audio tape made by William T. Brown of Burke’s Garden, VA. Brown was born there November 21, 1902, lived there until 1917 with his family, and went back to live there at a later date.

source: www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~vatazewe/Burke.html

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The man who gave his life to name NC’s highest peak

Posted by Dave Tabler | June 27, 2016

One of the first geologic explorers of North Carolina’s Black Mountains, Elisha Mitchell, gave his name to the region’s highest peak, the one that claimed his own life on June 27, 1857. The Connecticut native was born in 1793 and attended Yale University as a theology student. Mitchell studied the work of Andre Michaux, a French botanist who collected and cataloged over 2,500 specimens in a 1789 trip to ‘la Montagne Noire.’

Mitchell came to the region in 1825 as part of the North Carolina Geologic Survey. He later taught Chemistry, Mineralogy, and Geology at the University of North Carolina while simultaneously serving as a Presbyterian minister.

In 1827, he first saw the Blacks and commented even then that they seemed higher than Grandfather Mountain, which Michaux had proclaimed as the highest peak in the region. The next year Mitchell climbed Grandfather to better compare the two elevations.

He was certain enough that the Black Mountains were higher that he noted in an 1829 geologic report that he felt the Blacks were the highest peaks between the Gulf of Mexico and New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Ever the rigorous scientist, Mitchell returned to the region in 1835 to climb the peaks of Roan Mountain, Grandfather, Table Rock, Celo Knob, and Yeates Knob, then finally the steep slopes of the high peak itself. Using barometric pressure gauges and temperature readings, he calculated the crest of the Black Mountains to be 6,476 ft, the highest point in the United States measured at that time.

Elisa MitchellMitchell climbed the slopes for his final time in 1857 in an effort to defend his title as discoverer of the high peak. In September 1855, United States Congressman Thomas L. Clingman ascended several peaks of the Black Mountains and took his own set of measurements. He immediately claimed to be discoverer of the high peak, “Clingman’s Peak,” and published his claim. Upon reading Clingman’s claim, Mitchell was determined to defend his own discovery, and the ensuing controversy ultimately cost Mitchell his life.

By this time Mitchell was 62 years old, and his memories of the 1838 and 1844 trips to the region were less than clear. As a result, Clingman was able to use Mitchell’s own accounts to discredit him, and it seemed for a time that he would win the honor of being the discoverer of the high peak. To defend his claims, Mitchell made several trips to the Blacks in hopes of retracing his route up to the summit and re-establishing his claim.

For the 1857 trip, Mitchell went to the peak with a small party that included his daughter, son, and two others. On June 27th he set out alone for the upper Cane River Valley, perhaps to talk to a former guide who lived there. Mitchell hiked to the top of the ridge where he had been in 1835, on the high peak itself, and became lost on his return from the top.

A sudden storm descended and in the darkness Mitchell tried to follow a creek, walking the treacherous rocky terrain. There were no trails, and the terrain is rugged and dangerous, with frequent drop-offs of 20-60 ft. He slipped on the dark ridge above a waterfall and fell forty feet. He hit his head as he fell and drowned in the deep cold pool below.

It was many days before his remains were found by Big Tim Wilson, a noted tracker and hunter familiar with the area. Wilson traced Mitchell’s final journey back down the mountain from where he had left the ridge to where Mitchell’s body lay in the water, his watch stopped at 8:19 PM.

The 1881-1882 U.S. Geological Survey upheld his measurement of Black Mountain as the highest peak and officially named it Mount Mitchell.

sources: Diary of a Geological Tour by Elisha Mitchell, Kemp Plummer Battle, Univ of NC, 1905




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