New information from Dennis Yancey of the Nanney Clan who maintains the Nanney Family Archives page at:http://yanceyfamilygenealogy.org/nanney_archives.htm


Now Available on Amazon

I have written a book about the landmark Lake Tahoma Steak House in Carolina. It is a collection of memories of bear suppers, curb service at The Grill, a real service station that checked oil and tires for free, lodging in little rock cabins, breakfast or beer with neighbors, and trading guns, pottery or furniture with Pete Gibbs and his sons. Some of these events our children could never imagine. It was before the era of the interstate.

Pete’s legacy was the McDowell Childrens Ministry, and it was an honor to write.

The Bear Hunter’s Son: A True Story (By Georgia Ruth Wilson)

Introducing Four Historical Fiction Tales Set in Marion, North Carolina:

DEAD MAN HANGING, about the Flood of 1916, STRONG ENOUGH recently published in the Malice Domestic Anthology, SUMMER OF DYNAMITE, about the 1929 textile strike where six workers were shot by law enforcement, and HOME, SWEET HOME, a light romance with a 1969 backdrop–oh yes, it’s also a murder mystery.

Four Historical Short Stories
Available on Amazon

My story “The Mountain Top” is included along with 19 other stories from writers such as Stephen King and Elmore Leonard




Check out my story “The Mountain Top”

Selected as one of the best mystery short stories published in 2016.





Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

James Dysart of Dysartsville

I have written about Dysartsville’s gold rush in the Bracket Town Saga, and recently about fire and schools. You might ask how did this little “ville” originate, and who was Dysart? Good questions, and I have spent some time to come up with an answer.

The story starts in Normandy, according to McDowell County Heritage, North Carolina, 1992, pg. 171. The Dysart family migrated to England, Scotland and Northern Ireland seeking religious and political freedom in the 1500s.

As an interesting sidenote, the 1st Earl of Dysart was William Murray, then Lord Huntingtower, (Love that name). His Uncle Thomas Murray had taken young William to court when just a boy, about the same age as Prince Charlie, and Uncle educated them together so they became close friends. When Prince became King, William Murray was made one of the “Gentlemen of the Bedchamber.” (I do not love that name.) The king also leased him Ham House, an abode close to the palace in London, according to Wikipedia. William was known as a commoner until 1651, even though Charles I created a title for him in 1643. The title did not receive the official “seal of approval” until Charles II stamped it in 1651. Just before William died in 1655.

Historic Ham House of the Earl of Dysart on the River Thames in Ham, near London. 2007, courtesy of Wikipedia

His descendants benefitted. The Peerage of Scotland were titles created by the King of Scots before 1707 when the Treaty united the island under “Great Britain.” There have been only 13 Earls/Countesses of Dysart since then. When our James Dysart (Soon to be the impressive Earl of Dysartsville, North Carolina!) came to America in 1744, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Earls of Dysart were all named Lionel Tollemache, the name passed down until 1799. Then it was William Tollemache, and then the first woman Earl who was called Countess Louisa, then another Lionel Tollemache, and his grandson William John Tollemache (whose father William spent his fortune before he inherited so Earl Lionel gave his fortune and Earlship to William John.) Thanks to William John, the historic Ham House on the River Thames was rescued from demolition.

Then there were three Countesses in a row with cool names like Wenefryde Agatha and Rosamund Agnes. And of course Katherine (Grant). The current Earl of Dysart is John Peter Grant of Rothiemurchus, whose son is heir apparent with the same name, and heir apparent’s son also has the same name. I can’t decide if this makes genealogy more difficult or easier. But it is what it is.

Our North Carolina James Dysart was born in Londonderry, Ireland, in 1727, and came to America in 1744. He settled in Chester County, Pennsylvania, married Margaret in 1747, moved to Mecklenberg, NC. and had five children. Before 1776, James and his brother Samuel moved to the southern part of Burke County (now McDowell County), according to Burke County Heritage, Vol 1, page 163. James and his sons John and William served in the Revolutionary War. Major James Dysart, his son William, and son-in-law Robert Patton were killed in battle at Cowan’s Ford on September 12, 1980. They are buried at the Drucilla Presbyterian Church in Dysartsville as is James’ daughter Elizabeth, Robert’s wife, who died in 1813. William left five children, his sons having the repetitive names of James, John, and William, giving researchers heartburn.

Another difficulty in accurate reporting was a second battle with the same name. The Battle of Cowan’s Ford in Mecklenburg County was on February 1, 1781, on property now owned by Duke Power. I understand there were two battles, both on land then belonging to the John and Joseph Cowan family. In our area (Burke, now McDowell) we changed the name to the Battle of Cane Creek with an official Highway 64 marker. This property is now owned by a farmer with cows. Col. Charles McDowell encamped near here, according to a Loyalist’s report, about a quarter mile from the base of South Mountain in a forested area surrounded by soft swamp. After the skirmish, the British army retreated to Gilbert Town (now Rutherfordton). From there they moved on to King’s Mountain, where the Patriots defeated the British under Patrick Ferguson in a battle that changed the momentum of the Revolutionary War. The first Monday of each October, we celebrate the  ride through here made by the Overmountain men who reenact the story at the Dysartsville Community Club. (See Chapter 5 of the Nanney Saga.)

Major James Dysart’s son John Dysart, born Christmas Day, 1749, married Martha Patton in 1773. John served in Capt Wm. Moore’s company that guarded the frontier until 1776, and then served six months in Capt. Robert Patton’s company until October of 1776. It seems he made a good decision to transfer to Capt. Samuel Wood’s company and march with Col. McDowell in 1781 to the victorious battle at King’s Mountain. John Dysart was given a grant of land “at the crossing of the main East-West and North-South roads.” (McDowell County Heritage.) This site became Dysartsville in Burke County. McDowell County was not established until 1843.

When Martha Patton Dysart died, John married Martha Wood. (An odd pattern to be related to his commanding officers?) He died in Lewisburg, TN, in 1842, leaving 12 children from both marriages. Some descendants remained in the county, one becoming a judge in Marion, the county seat, one a manager of the local fish hatchery. Harold Dysart married Mary Margaret Johnson at the well known Greenlee family home called “the Glades.” He gave up his job as a Dupont chemist to move back to McDowell County and work as a builder in Pleasant Gardens. (The manse of the Siloam Presbyterian Church and other homes.) He was on the McDowell Board of Education for seventeen years, as told by Sarah Elizabeth Dysart Dalton and Harold Ernest Dysart, Jr.

James’ third son was James Young Stewart Dysart who was 12 when his dad and brother were killed at Cane Creek. He and his mother lived all their lives in Dysartsville. James Y.S. married Jennet Woods in 1791 and left two daughters. Margaret married Francis P. Glass and Elizabeth married Francis Morrison. The Morrison family was a big landowner back then.

Are you getting an idea of a close-knit community, everyone related? That’s how it was in Dysartsville. And the church cemeteries of Drucilla Presbyterian and Trinity Methodist tell the story.

However, the first settler in the area was William Hamilton Moore, who settled during the 1700’s near the foot of Pilot Mountain on property owned and farmed by Mr. Bill Owens, a well-to-do and respected black man from Brackett Town down Vein Mountain Road. (See my Bracket Town Series) I’ll leave you with that homework and chase down more details.

There are no Dysarts living in Dysartsville listed in the phone book. If any readers know one, I would like to hear their story.


Copyright@2017 Georgia Wilson

Posted in Dysartsville Saga, McDowell County | 2 Comments

Appalachian Authors at Carson House

Signing for The Bear Hunter’s Son, A True Story of McDowell County

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Clear Creek Fire Update with Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all. So sorry those who are northwest of Marion, NC, are suffering unhealthy air quality. The mountains are supposed to be the place to go for fresh air.

Clear Creek Fire on November 26, 2016

Clear Creek Fire on November 26, 2016

The fire at Clear Creek, west of Lake Tahoma Road and south of the Blue Ridge Parkway is now consuming 3,000 acres. This photo is on the Clear Creek Facebook site and gives updated info. Thanks to all of our firefighters, everyday heroes.

My family was able to circumvent the fire the day after T-Day to progress north into the mountains around Linville. We tramped the trails in mild weather with dozens of other holiday folks. However, we are looking forward to the rains promised on Monday night, long overdue for this area.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fire Update

Advisory: Investigators in search of suspect setting roadside fires: Call 652-4000 or 65-CRIME with info; cash reward offered.

A shelter is now open at Nebo Crossing Church for those suffering from smoke inhalation difficulties. About 186 acres are burning. The fire at Curtis Creek may be contained at 60 acres.

Local fire investigators need the public’s help in identifying a person they believe is setting wildfires in McDowell County, North Carolina.

In two weeks, there have been roadside fires started in Woodlawn, North Cove, Pleasant Gardens and Marion. Some have been extinguished within hours. Others, like the Clear Creek Road blaze that approximately 100 local, regional, state and federal officials continue to fight, have lasted days.

“We’ve seen a recent rash of this, and it needs to stop,” said Fire Investigator Craig Walker of McDowell County Emergency Management. “Fire conditions are very serious right now, and this person is putting people’s lives and property in danger.”

Restaurant in Bryson City, NC, Nantahala Natl Forest

Restaurant in Bryson City, NC, Nantahala Natl Forest

In the western part of the state, fires are covering much more acreage. However, it seems they are not growing in spite of the high winds. Our brave firefighters are winning the battle. Thanks to Brian Supan’s post on FB for this shot at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

Posted in Dysartsville Saga, McDowell County | Leave a comment

Episode #5: Burning Dysartsville

From my hilltop, I have been looking at hazy mountains to the north for two weeks. Some days, we are unable to see Grandfather Mtn, and never Mt. Mitchell. Where do they go? They are hidden by smoke.

It all began on Friday, November 4, when benign gray plumes arose about 5 miles away. I could see them wisping and waving all day as I sat in my loft office. Not to worry, I thought, since the fire department was only a mile from there, toward the eastern end of the valley. When the winds picked up, I checked on them frequently. We have not had rain in a month, and I live in a log house surrounded by colorful dead leaves.

The wind increased, as did the width of the smoke. My neighbor called the fire department, “just to make sure someone knows.” Another neighbor emailed the location of the fire, and it was closer than I thought, so we jumped into the car to make sure we would have a back door “just in case.” No worries, the fire was actually where I thought it was but the smoke was deceiving.

However, in the dark of night, the red glow could not be hidden. I checked on the fire until I was certain it was diminishing. I also emailed my friend Richard Buchanan who owns a historic farm in that area. I imagined his gold miner’s cabin going up in flames. He assured me it was fine, and he had driven his tractors to a safe distance, “just in case.” A couple days later, our “little” fire that consumed only 30 or so acres became unworthy of news. It was overshadowed by Fires, the kind that make the forest animals panic.

Party Rock Fire Photo by Cathy Anderson

Party Rock Fire
Photo by Cathy Anderson

Historic Esmeralda Inn on Lake Lure in Jeopardy from Fire 11-11-16

Historic Esmeralda Inn on Lake Lure in Jeopardy from Fire 11-11-16

To our west, Party Rock at Lake Lure was ablaze on Saturday, November 5. The cause is being investigated. By November 15, about 3,537 acres had burned and it is only 20% contained. The historic Esmeralda Inn was in danger at one point, but since the winds have died down, her future looks good due to the diligence of the fire fighters who have come to help from all over the country. The Village of Chimney Rock was

Lake Lure Fire at Party Rock November 13

Lake Lure Fire at Party Rock November 13

evacuated, according to WLOS, News 13. Four hundred firefighters are working to save this area.

Fire at Chestnut Knob in the South Mountains November 12, 2016 Thx to Sandy Hancock for the photo

Fire at Chestnut Knob in the South Mountains November 12, 2016 Thx to Sandy Hancock for the photo

From Ron @FB, who lives in Charlotte:

“Firefighters from Charlotte and several neighboring towns have deployed to western North Carolina, where a rash of wildfires has destroyed more than 23,000 acres. Chimney Rock is under mandatory evacuation, and boating is discouraged on Lake Lure, as an unpredictable blaze in that area remains largely uncontained. Gov. Pat McCrory declared an emergency for 25 counties late last week, extending into the western reaches of the Charlotte region, and smoke from the fires has impacted air quality even in the Queen City.”

To our east South Mountains is on fire. Chestnut Knob where we had hiked this summer with family and neighbors caught fire on Sunday, November 6, and this fire is also under investigation. To date, 4,600 acres have been lost, and only 30% contained. I just heard, on Nov 16, that the Bob community is being evacuated to Morganton. (Edit: 5,689 acres per News Herald reporter on Thursday morning, November 17.)

The Charlotte Observer reported a code orange air quality alert on November 14 due to the “44,000 acres burning in western North Carolina.” Most of these are in the Nantahala Forest in the far western corner. Today, on November 16, it is now red.

Fire on Boy Scout Property November 13, 2016

Fire on Boy Scout Property November 13, 2016

This past Sunday, a friend from another development sent me news that the Boy Scout camp was on fire in Dysartsville. Remember the sign that stands where the old post office used to be? I told you about it last month: at the corner of Vein Mtn Road and Hiway 226. My contact in Charlotte posted a photo of it on FB. Fortunately only one building was engaged, and nobody injured.

Our local volunteers at the fire department have been busy this fall. They deserve the “new” facility they have, and we are grateful for their service. Two years ago they responded quickly to a fire on the next hill. A log home was lost, along with several acres, but no other structures were damaged. Grandparents, kids, and baby got out safely. At the last second, but safe.

Smokey Bear says, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.” Please do.


Copyright 2016 Georgia Wilson



Posted in Dysartsville Saga, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Episode #4: Learning Dysartsville

Few people in this community remember that a Dysartsville Post Office used to be next to a service station on the juncture of Highway 226 and Vein Mountain Road, where a large Boy Scout Camp sign is now posted. Of course that was back in the mid 19th century when Dysartsville was a destination for all the gold miners flocking into the area, and there was money for public buildings. Those days are long gone. Now our little community club suffers from lack of attention.

Even fewer people know that at the corner of Vein Mountain Road and Macedonia Church Loop, there was a log school built in 1888 and replaced in 1908 by a frame structure, operating until it burned in 1930. J.J. Sprouse of this blog’s Brackett Town Saga was instrumental in enhancing the financing of this early subscription school when the state tax only covered a school term for 3-4 months. Gretchen Griffith writes in her Lessons Learned on page 16 that “The earliest state supported schools were funded by a tax levied and collected by the sheriff of the county. Schools were built through the North Carolina  Literary Fund starting in 1825,” and the school year ran “as long as the money held out.” For instructing 20-30 children ranging in ages from 5-19, teachers received $15-$25 per month. Surely these angels of knowledge received extra gems in their heavenly crowns for their earthly  labor. According to pg 54 of Images of America, McDowell County, NC 1843-1943, compiled by James Lawton Haney and the McDowell County Historical Preservation Commission, Brackett Town was a progressive community and in 1909 became the first in the county to approve a school tax for public schools.

And how many of my neighbors knew that there were three schools on Vein Mountain Rd that were consolidated when the Dysartsville school was built in 1926 on Trinity Church Loop?

One was the Macedonia School mentioned, and another one was located at the opposite end of Vein Mountain next to the cemetery on 226 across from the mythical service station. My friend Mary Sue Dillard remembers that when Elijah and Bill Blankenship bought the house, there was a second story which they removed. It had been a two story school for all grades.

Sandy Flat School in October of 2013

Sandy Flat School in October of 2013

The third school was Sandy Flat at the corner of Vein Mountain Rd. and Guffey Road. This building became Mary Sue’s home. The state was selling old school houses in 1930, and her granddaddy bought one so Mary Sue’s family could move here from Rutherford County. There were only four rooms, so they had to live in a house across the street (now just a burned out chimney) while daddy built on a dining room and kitchen. “He was never a carpenter, but if he wanted something or other, he done it.” He also made two rooms upstairs in that old Sandy Flat school, and Mary Sue’s mother boarded two school teachers, a man and woman who worked at the new Dysartsville School.

This was Depression time, and these folks had a can-do attitude.

At the same time, neighboring Glenwood community was also consolidating their smaller schools. A two-room public school had opened in 1904 with two teachers, Lafayette Bright and Bertie Crawford, according to Images of America. A third room was soon added, and in 1913 the rooms were partitioned to accommodate more students. In 1915 and annex was added, and in 1920 an eleven grade brick school was built.

On 2-8-2017, I had to add a description of the school buses that I read about in the Glenwood School 1904-1972 history published in 2006 and 2013 by The History Press in Charleston, SC. , pg 37. Evidently the design of the interior encouraged altercations among the riders. (I can hear my own children who complained from the back seat. “Mom, she’s looking at me. And punching and pinching broke out like war.)

In the 1940s, the “jitneys” had two high parallel benches along the outside of the bus for the older riders. In the middle of the bus, the younger children sat back to back on two lower benches. There were often fistfights that required stopping the bus. See prior posts in the Brackett Town Saga about the adventures of the Sprouse school bus drivers, sixteen-year old students.

A little known Cowan school had been built on Bill Cowan’s property where Pierce Road off Landis Lane meets Walker Road, according to a new friend Walker Toney. On page 62 of the Glenwood School history, compiled by James Lawton Haney with help from Richard Buchanan, Jeanette Rumfelt Jarrett, and Nora Sprouse Worthen, there is a photo from ca 1924 of several students, many of them with the last name of Walker. The teacher’s name was Annie Cowan Mashburn. I need to see if she was related to a gentleman I met last week at the Mashburn’s Bostic General Store in Rutherford County. He had been the undertaker for years, servicing his clients in a building next door to the store before laying them out at their homes before burial. Until he convinced his wife it would be more convenient to bring them all to their home across the street. They made an apartment to live upstairs in the family’s lovely Gothic revival homeplace and continued until he sold the business. But it worked so well, that the new owner was slow to transition into his own building. Edward Mashburn deserves his own blog post so I will have to work on it.

(The old Dysartsville School is now an assisted living facility because the students were later consolidated into the Glenwood system in the 50s. The photo above was taken a few weeks before the power company demolished Sandy Flat.)


Copyright October 2016 Georgia Wilson Edited 2017


Posted in Dysartsville Saga | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Episode #3: Gold Plus

Gold Trommel

Gold Trommel

At Thermal City Gold Mine, you can pan for gold as seen in our last post. Or you can operate a small gold trommel (from the Dutch word for drum.) which can reprocess trainloads of dirt if you are up to it. But you have to do your own work like a real miner. This experience costs $60 for a bucket load of material in the hopper, a little over a ton. Owner Lloyd Nanney told me, “The customer feeds in the dirt that water washes down a flume into a rotating sieve. Anything larger than the holes in the drum goes right through and falls into a wheelbarrow to be rolled away. Anything smaller than the holes runs down into the sluice box that jigs back and forth. Probably when operated correctly it’s 98% efficient for anything less than a 50th of an inch.” Lloyd said they have rebuilt the machines, worn them out and rebuilt them again and again. They’re better than new.

High Banker

High Banker

Other equipment available to customers has no moving parts except for the pump. A scoop of material is dumped out behind the “high banker,” and a customer has 3 1/2 hours to run it, shovel into it, with water going into a stationary sluice box. There are two shifts scheduled daily, 9-12:30 and 1-4:30. (See their website http://www.thermalcitygoldmine.com) Lloyd tells me some people bring their own machine and just buy the dirt. “Back in the old days, there’d be 15 of ’em on a Saturday morning.”

Lloyd took me to the back of his property and pointed out a big pit where he had dug for ten years. Several years ago, he bought 39 more acres just to ensure they wouldn’t run out of dirt.

Thermal City Gold Mine sits on the county line across the street from Lloyd’s old homeplace. His brother Bruce runs a mechanic’s shop nearby. Lloyd recommends him, since he’s got “all the modern stuff, computers, four inside lifts, and one outside lift that I’ve had that big dump truck on.” The old house burned in 1957. Their father rebuilt it close enough to the same site so that he could use the same spring. Paul worked for the State, building roads for 37 years, and then went to work for Lloyd’s uncle Johnny Dowdle, almost 80 now, and did grade work on a dozer for ten years. “Then he came up here and hauled material for five years. He was a worker. I mean (he) wanted to work, run a machine. On toward the last his eyes got messed up, and he couldn’t see level.”

“My dad was not a talker, and I never knew about that copperhead thing.” (Chapter 41 of the Nanney Saga). But one day they did get to talking, and he told Lloyd a story that nobody else knew. In 1942, Paul and his granddaddy Perminter were “working in that field where the highway runs now, and he asked him about the ditch coming down the edge of a bank.” Paul knew it went up that valley, but it didn’t make sense to a 14 year old. Lloyd said, “Dad was told that the ditch was dug by the old gold miners, and it was explained to him that they went up that creek a good ways to get enough height and dug that ditch down here where that house trailer is now and built a flume across the river to their operation.” (Close to Lloyd’s ten year old pit.) They did all of that because they didn’t have the 5hp Brigg & Stratton pump. They were right there at the river, but they were 15′ higher than they needed to be.” So they dug for weeks and weeks to overcome the grade. And Lloyd knows that story was not unusual. “There was a long ditch line up here at Rhomtown that came down almost 18 miles. People didn’t back off for anything. There was no “we can’t get water”.” No excuses.

Easy Second Broad River, kin to French Broad and First Broad

Easy Second Broad River, kin to French Broad and First Broad

The campground at Thermal City Gem Mine has several RV’s spaced throughout a wooded area. The campground also has rentals available. Most of the people I saw on my tour were here long term, even yearly. Some come to relax as did one retired couple who have a very nice camper. They once lived on a 50′ boat and travelled the intra-coastal, and Great Lakes, etc. and now they have a peaceful spot on the Second Broad River. One guy comes up from South Carolina three times a week. Another is from PA.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

And some people enjoyed their stay here so much, their families wanted them to be forever remembered in a small memorial on site. Such as the Russian guy who came for several years with his wife. Another was a hippie guitar picker whose tribute reads: peace, love, music.

Truly these are satisfied customers. Not just looking for gold for extra cash. They are looking for lasting value.

Below is a photo of Lloyd by gemstones that have been mined at Thermal City. He is wearing the company T-shirt with the logo sketched by his cousin Ramona, Wade’s daughter.

Trophy stones at Thermal City Museum

Trophy stones at Thermal City Museum

If I have not written this well enough for you to understand, you will have to drop by Thermal City Gold Mine and talk to Lloyd. He will be happy to show you around and answer your questions. http://thermalcitygoldmine.com

The Nanneys are a great American family. It has been a pleasure getting to know them.




Copyright August 2016 Georgia Wilson





Posted in Dysartsville Saga, Nanney Saga | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Episode 2: The Only Game in Town

We are talking about Thermal City, really more of a community than a city, and Thermal City Gold Mine is a place for visitors to try their hand panning for gold. Or get more involved/or relaxed for the entire day or week. Some stay a year. Those who are interested in the way things were (like moi) will enjoy a conversation with the owner, Lloyd Nanney.

Lloyd learned something about gold mining from a couple who moved here in the 1970’s from California. “She had inherited a little piece of land way up Rock House Creek, two miles from a power pole, and they bought a little cabin that used to be part of Ridgecrest Assembly, and brought it down there and set up housekeeping.” They even gave Lloyd a pan that he kept for 21 years–until someone walked off with it.

When he was between jobs building hospitals in 1992, Lloyd answered a newspaper ad about starting a prospecting club. He had noticed that interest in mining was increasing on outdoor TV shows, and he had the family property calling his name. (See last post)

“When the blizzard of ’93 tore down a whole lot of trees, I cut ’em up and hauled them up here and had Whitey Morgan saw them, and I built that first room over there and started a business.” The original building is now an office and two bathrooms for his campground.

“We started the store, and I had a few little gold pans and such as that. We were just selling a few knick-knacks, and then a couple came up from Georgetown, SC, to camp here for awhile. One day they came to me and said , “We talked it over, and this is where we want to be.” And they stayed for ten years. While the wife handled communication and sales, the husband helped Lloyd “Doin’ whatever. Diggin’. We used to handle a lot more dirt than we do now. We’d dig up and stockpile thousands and thousands of tons of material a year.” He points to a large pile, “Right there is 250 tons, and I’ve got two more of those.”

First Stop: Office

First Stop: Office

Inside the main building today are things you might see in a museum. Gemstones and small collectibles. And Lloyd loves to talk history. “The last mining that was done anywhere in this area was mica mining in WWII. They tried to get the mica in as big a piece as they could because they could get more money per pound so they were real careful about getting it out. I had a great uncle who was mining mica during the war. That was The Thing. He told me they got a piece right above the creek below our property line, and they had to trim it just a little bit to get it to lay down in the bed of a two-horse wagon!” That is a huge piece of anything.

According to Marci Spencer in her book Pisgah National Forest, mica was one of the region’s most valuable resources. “Strong but lightweight and flexible and heat-resistant, with insulating and reflective qualities, mica served many purposes. Sheet mica has been used in electronics, optics, and store windows. Ground mica is a filler for drywall compounds and plastics, and an anti-sticking agent in rubbers, roofing, and automobile braking systems.

Outside Treasure

Outside Treasure

One day a friend of Lloyd’s called to announce that he had purchased all the equipment out of the old Tar Heel Mica Company in Avery County, in the mountains north of McDowell. It had been closed for years, but a new owner wanted to try his hand at making a winery, (A very popular endeavor in this area now that seems to be replacing Christmas tree farms) Bob wanted to know if Lloyd was interested. And he was. He took his big truck and trailer and headed up the mountain to “a dungeon, a horrible place to work.” There wasn’t a flush toilet in the county when it was in business, but also that was back when people didn’t go to a middle man. Direct sales. Lloyd was captivated by the history. “Thomas Edison came to that building. Henry Ford came to that building.” In the loft of one of the company’s structures, Lloyd saw the generator that made the very first electricity ever produced in Avery County. Also, he found a shaft that was driving the punch press that punched out pieces of mica. “It was bolted to the ceiling up there in 1903.” He was like a kid in a candy store, and brought a trailer load of stuff home to add to his museum. Big stuff. An outside museum.

Preservation of Industrial History

Preservation of Industrial History

Then he got a call from a friend who had retired and “moved to Yarnell, AZ, a neat little gold town south of Prescott.” He had tried for years to buy a 10 stamp mill from a lady in Virgilina, VA, and was finally successful. But now he needed help to transport it back to Lloyd’s place to store it. Lloyd drove over the NC border up to an old tobacco farm in Halifax County to look at it. That area was rich in copper at the turn of the 20th century, but gold and silver were mined at Red Bank Mining. Lloyd liked what he saw and later “rounded up a crew and took a loader and 2-3 trucks and trailers and such, and got half the load and the next weekend we went back and got the other half. Two weekends and eight truckloads.” Showing me his museum pieces, he said, “They made less than 30 of these machines in 1895 and 1896. And most of them probably went for the scrap metal drive for WWII. There is only one in the world that will run, and it stayed in NC at the Reed Gold Mine” where they have lots of parts and pieces. But Lloyd has the next biggest collection: cam shafts, mortar boxes, clutches with an 1888 date. This stuff is made to last. “There’s ten hammers. A hammer weighs somewhere between 750 and 1000 pounds, picks it up and drops it, picks it up and drops it. It’s neat.”

About his family property, Lloyd said, “For some reason or other, I’d got it in my head this was all mica mining. But it absolutely was not, because there is no mica mining in placer.”  Placer is a Spanish word meaning “alluvial sand.” So placer mining takes place in stream beds, alluvial deposits for minerals. And that is what Thermal City is all about.

The Canteen

The Canteen

Lloyd’s enthusiasm for mining has made his prospecting business a success. I asked him about a building with a huge exterior sign, “Nugget Café.” “Well, that’s where we eat. We spend so much time over here, we had to have a kitchen. And we also have get-togethers here ’cause we can fit 30 people in there. When things were hummin’ it wasn’t unusual to have 30 people for lunch. Once a month we do a potluck for the campers.”

Behind the office today, there are several guys panning in troughs filled with water. We jumped in a golf cart for a tour that I will share with you in the next post.

My grandsons in 2013 Panning for Gold at Thermal City Gem Mine

My grandsons in 2013 Panning for Gold at Thermal City Gem Mine



Copyright August 2016 Georgia Wilson

Posted in Dysartsville Saga, Nanney Saga | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Episode 1: Vein Mountain Road runs Nanney to Nanney

Thermal City Gold Mine

Thermal City Gold Mine

Since I have promised my near neighbors to include their stories in this blog, we must depart Nanneytown. However, we cannot cross the county line of McDowell and Rutherford without mentioning again the historical impact of gold mining in this area. Indeed, Thermal City Gold Mine owned by Wade’s nephew Lloyd Nanney, straddles the line, and the only way to get to Dysartsville from there is down a road named Vein Mountain. At the other end is Wade’s sister Ruby.

Miz Ruby Nanney's Peaceful Abode

Miz Ruby Nanney’s Peaceful Abode



I have already mentioned Vein Mountain Road because it runs under the railroad where the Sprouse ancestor rescued a young man along Baker Creek. See Part 7 of the Brackett Town series where this neighborhood tour began.)

After the stories from Brice Sprouse and his family, we listened to stories from Wade Nanney and his family which was so large that the tales started in Brackett Town in McDowell County, crossed the county line south into Rutherford, and came up Cove Road back into McDowell at Montford Cove. In 1839 some of the Nanneys helped to build Montford Cove Baptist Church and in 1840 some of them helped to build Round Hill Baptist Church on the eastern side of the mountain. Perhaps religious help was needed after gold was discovered. By 1832, according to http://goldfever.unctv.org/film, more than 50 mines were operating in NC, employing more than 25,000 people, an industry exceeded only by farming. Not everyone was sad when the hordes scuttled to the gold rush in California in 1849. The churches still stand strong.

Unifying the area in 1847, Pastor Perminter Morgan’s daughter Tempie of Montford Cove married Col. Amous Nanney of Round Hill in Dobbsville (later Crab Apple Gap, now Union Mills. See Chapter 10: Nanneytown) This strong religious vine continued over the centuries to weave its way through several family trees. (Chapter 22: The Bible Belt Tightens)

In Chapter 26 of the Nanney Saga, I wrote that Amous “purchased a tract of land along the main dirt road between Rutherfordton and Marion, the county seat of McDowell Co. It is now called NC Highway 221. Amous mined gold in the river bottom there near Vein Mountain in the years before the Civil War.” A handwritten deed of trust dated 1847, for 400 acres of worked-out mines sold on the courthouse steps for $20, is in the possession of Lloyd Nanney, the current owner of Thermal City Gold Mine. Very few families hang on to their property for such a long time. As I have mentioned before, the Nanneys can trace their roots back to an ancestral home in Wales.

A brief recap of my gold mining stories in the Brackett Town and Nanney Sagas: In the 1830’s and 1840’s, the rocky pastures northwest of Charlotte, NC, captivated the fantasy of the entire US. Gold was discovered. Newspapers told the world.

Jeweler Christopher Bechtler emigrated here from Germany with his son and nephew. They recognized the lucrative potential of helping miners transform their awkward pocketsful of gold nuggets into a uniform item for standard trade. A private Bechtler mint went into business and produced the first $1 gold coin in the U.S. Between 1831 and 1840, Bechtler minted $2 1/4 million dollars in currency. Unfortunately for them, the US government opened a mint in Charlotte in 1837, closer to the deep mines. And of course, the big dogs could afford the newer steam-powered machines. The Bechtler mine closed in 1849.

Also unfortunately for them, it is suspected Christopher and his son Augustus died because of their successful business. I talked with Lloyd Nanney, a local historian like his Uncle Wade. “The Bechtlers did not die rich. He had a mine, and he had some patents on some mining machines, but his business was minting gold. It amazes me that they were working for 2%. You brought him gold, and he turned it into coins, or he would melt it and make an ingot and stamp it as to its weight and its fineness, so you had a bar of gold. You knew what you had. (Minting coins) was a long drawn out process and the uncle was the main one. His son took over from him, and very probably (both) died from mercury poisoning. They also made jewelry and all kinds of stuff. We got here locally a pistol that they made, and we’ve just acquired a long gun, very ornate on top of the barrel, inlaid in gold.”

Lloyd was reminded by this conversation about a piano owned by the Weavers, his neighbors to the southwest. This family could trace their roots back to the early 1850’s, when they purchased fields where they mined gold for two generations and then leveled it off and farmed. “Pete Weaver just died here about maybe five years ago. When Pete was a hundred, he disappeared one day. Couldn’t find him, didn’t know where he was at, and they were getting kind of worried about him. He come driving in the driveway. He’d been to town and got his driver license! I think he was 104 when he died.”

One of these days I will have to do more research on this Weaver family and the Thermal City Hotel in their front yard. But I have to finish my Bechtler piano story. Lloyd said that he had always heard the Weavers had a Bechtler piano . “Of course, how could you tell? They didn’t carve any initials in it! But I went down and talked to him about it. It had been in the same room for maybe 70 years. An upright grand, a square thing, odd looking. He was very receptive to donating it to the Bechtler museum.” Lloyd talked with the museum people. “Would you have an interest in owning the original Bechtler piano?” But they didn’t really believe him. “So I brought one of the ladies up here, and she got serial numbers off it and researched it. It was made in 1840, and the Weavers had a story about who had it after the Bechtlers and who had it after them, and the Weavers had it ever since.” The piano now sits in probably the same room it occupied when new. One happy ending for the Bechtlers.

And for Thermal City Gold Mine?

Entry from Hiway 221

Entry from Hiway 221

We walk outside, and Lloyd points to the surrounding hills hovering over us, the Second Broad River murmuring to our left. “From the base of that hill over there (right) to the base of that hill on the other side of the river (left) is all stream bed material, all washed in here. Today, the floor of the valley is in a very slow process of building up but it’s been a whole lot higher than it is now. It’s been as high as the top of these hills.”

Ever doubtful, I say, “Really, when?”

“Eons. And it has eroded down to form this valley. Those hills are left because they are basically rock. Granite. This material is from upriver, and there are 33 gold veins that cross the valley up here just a little ways, and this material makes its way down during flood time, the only time it moves. The river’s been there, it’s been here, it’s been over there, it’s been all over the place in different channels.”

Early mining pit

Early mining pit

Lloyd points to a deep depression. “This is probably one of the 1880 pits. I spent a whole summer digging ditches and connecting all these pits and put live water in them. That one over there goes at right angle to the valley, and I’m pretty sure it’s a very early digging, 1830? And I think what they did was dig a ditch and located the places where the old river beds crossed that ditch and then they trenched those out and processed the material. Where the river beds flowed for a good while, that’s your richer material. See, nobody knows…photographs didn’t come in ’til the Civil War. There’s probably not a photograph made here before 1900. It was not a picturesque place.

“There are seven of these pits down here. I think Perminter did them, or possibly even Amous did some of them. I know Perminter in 1885 was using his drag pan and dragging out these pits and mining gold.” When Lloyd started a prospecting business here, “there was nothing here but billions of mosquitos.”

So why did he come?

I asked him.

“Because it just seemed like the thing to do.”

(Our next post will update you on the rest of the story.) Homework: http://thermalcitygoldmine.com


Copyright July 2016 Georgia Wilson


Posted in Brackett Town Saga, Dysartsville Saga, Nanney Saga | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments