Part 2: Settlement of Brackett Valley

Pioneer Cabin Model

Pioneer Cabin Model

Near the valley where the Brackett family was farming in the late 1700’s, civilization was creeping as close as kudzu. Many of the early settlers in the 1740’s were Scotch-Irish who first settled in other states before coming to the Blue Ridge foothills, according to historian Mildred Fossett. This included James James who settled Jamestown, and John Dysart of Dysartville. No doubt these were folks who were willing to work hard and get along with others. Why else would a village be named after them? Maybe they were the first politicians in the area.

Information on file at the Carson House Museum in Marion, suggests that Edward Upton, born in 1735, may have been “pressed on board a man-of-war,” along with his brother John (or George according to The Upton Encyclopedia, America Upton Family #5) after running away from their London home. When the ship anchored in New York, they swam ashore. Edward settled on the Broad River before making his way to the South Muddy Creek in the Bracketts’ valley.

In 1760, Edward built a log cabin on a stacked rock foundation, huge beams, wide doorways, twelve-inch exterior walls and nine-foot ceilings, and a sleeping loft. Today this home is reported to be the oldest continuously lived in house in McDowell County. Brice Sprouse told me, “Granddaddy built on to it, and my daddy built on to it. Now my sister (Ann) is building on to it. It was about 24×24 when the Uptons had it.”

Edward Upton enlisted in the Continental Army and was present at the surrender of Cornwallis. In 1793 Benjamin Brackett married Edward’s daughter, Elizabeth Upton, and their son Jobe Brackett would later be active in the gold mining of this area. Benjamin and his son Jobe were buried in the Brackett Town cemetery, as was Edward Upton. Pioneer communities like this were stretching from sea to sea, neighbors blending histories for mutual benefit. (One of Edward’s sons founded Uptonsville, Kentucky.) Edward’s youngest son Jobe Upton acquired more land and slaves and left a sizeable Upton estate to his only son James, born in 1807.

About twenty miles to the north, Irishman John Carson built his log home in 1793 in the Catawba River Valley.( He had taken part in securing the wilderness against uprisings of the Cherokees who protested the invasion of their homeland. (See my first post: Joara) Seven years earlier, the family of James Logan hustled to the Pleasant Gardens Fort when they heard rumors of Indians in the area. Mr. Logan went back to get the cow and bury his gold. He didn’t return. His neighbors buried his scalped body. The cow was okay, but no sign of his gold. Could still be buried around there.

When Carson’s wife Rachel McDowell died, he kept the family united by marrying the widow of Colonel John McDowell. (Their son, Jonathon Logan Carson, later donated the land for the city of Marion, the county seat named after his mother’s first husband. McDowell County, all in the family, somehow.)

The foothills of North Carolina grew steadily in popularity. A stampede of newcomers began in 1799 when a twelve-year-old in the central Piedmont east of Charlotte found a seventeen-pound pretty rock down by a creek. He brought it home and his daddy agreed, it was a pretty rock and would make a dandy door stop. Conrad Reed’s father eventually took it to town and asked the jeweler’s opinion about its value. He was given $3.50. When Mr. Reed later found out that rock was gold and worth $3,500, he renegotiated. The jeweler gave him $1000 more. The Reed Gold Mine still operates today in Midland, North Carolina.

Closer to this blog’s valley of interest, gold was discovered in 1828. Ten miles to the east of Brackett valley, a disillusioned Connecticut gold miner walked the turnpike between Rutherfordton and Morganton, NC. After giving up his search for fortune in South America, Sam Martin had docked at a port in Alabama and was headed home empty-handed. A hole in his shoe was wearing out his last nerve. When he spotted the sign tacked on a tree at the side of Pilot Mountain, “Bob Anderson, Shoemaker,” he stopped for a repair of the sole, and ate supper while he waited. What could be better than that? Finding gold while hanging out? Oh, yeah.

Sam told Mr. Anderson he knew gold when he saw it, even though he had seen little of it in South America. But soon they agreed on a 50-50 split of the profit from mining Brindle Creek, and six months later the downtrodden hiker who walked in, rode off as a wealthy man. The story was sad for the cobbler because he and his children blew their money, and were buried as paupers.

The story was also sad for the Native Americans. In 1830 the Indian Removal Act was the law of the land, forcing the relocation of 16,000 Cherokee Indians in this area to leave their homeland and walk/ride to their government-chosen home in the new “Indian territory” of present day Oklahoma. The infamous Trail of Tears of 1838 when thousands died along the way. Without the gold.

I think most of them just wanted to preserve their ancestors’ lifestyle. Individual rights attracted many to America’s shores, but I have noticed that not everyone can get along well with others, a necessity for peace. We all know that he who has the gold has the power to make the rules, as in eminent domain. In other words, if a strong man can’t persuade somebody to give up their money, their land, their freedom, etc., he takes it by force. The world is much smaller now, without new frontiers to fence. No place to run. More folks are standing strong for individual rights, perhaps guided by the knowledge of the past. (Georgia Ruth) After all, you don’t know a line is crooked until you compare it with a straight one. (C.S.Lewis)

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