Episode 10: Moving On

Pioneer Cabin Model

In 1781, folks were living and loving one day at a time, as always. The good news of King’s Mountain and Yorktown would be remembered forever, but the well-being of family and community was still a daily struggle. After the Dysarts lost James, the head of their household, along with his son William at the Battle of Cowan’s Ford, the oldest son, John, stepped up. He had plenty of leadership experience, having served under Captain William Moore guarding the frontier until 1776, and then transitioning to Captain Robert Patton’s company for six months and also serving under Captain Samuel Woods. In the local battles against the Tories, John Dysart marched with Colonel McDowell’s militia. After he lost his first wife, Martha Patton, he married Martha Woods, and he had a conglomerate of twelve children. Eventually he moved to Lewisburg, Tennessee, so one of them could take care of him. He died there in 1842, according to Burke County Heritage, Vol 1, page 163. (Dysartsville was part of Burke County until 1842 when McDowell County was created with land from Burke and Rutherford counties.)

James Dysart’s second son was named James Young Stewart Dysart. JYSD liked his name so much that when he and his wife Jennet Woods had a son, they named him James Young Stewart Dysart, Jr., but Senior outlived Junior and two other sons. Senior JYSD lived in Dysartsville his entire life. Another son, William Samuel (named after JYSD’s brother William, killed in battle, and their uncle Samuel who had come to Burke County with JYSD’s Papa James) had five children. His three sons were named, James, John Samuel, and William F. If I am correctly keeping up. Since the two daughters married men whose first names were Francis, I wouldn’t be surprised if William F. was a William Francis! The older daughter Margaret, named after grandma Dysart, married Francis P. Glass. (I’m thinking his family had a mill that later became the John A. Daves Mill around 1910.) JYSD’s and Jennet’s second daughter, Elizabeth, named after her Aunt Elizabeth, married Francis Morrison (a big local property owner.) Poor Jennet didn’t get to use her own creative name, but maybe she had a niece named after her. Then JYSD Jr’s daughter Henrietta married Francis A. James! Like putting too much onion in the stew? Complicated to say the least.

But names became more diverse as the neighborhood grew with George Hodge, Decatur Daves, and Elijah J. Kirksey. Although W. L. Christy and W.T. Landis may have been Williams also, Joseph B. Landis (1832-1887), who bought the Hemphill place, named his son Wayne so maybe Joe’s father was a Wayne not a William. On the other hand, on 3 April 1889, a William L. Landis, age 24, married H.E. Dysart, age 22. Witnessed by J.L. Dysart and J.W. Laughridge. And a William Edwin Landis, Sr. invested in Western Furniture in Marion in 1900! There were at least two or three Williams and Johns in each generation of the same family. Maybe they had nicknames.

In the early 1800s, new blood came from Scotland: Samuel David Laughridge sailed into the Charleston harbor. According to Edith Laughridge Davis in McDowell County Heritage, North Carolina, edited by JoAnne Johnston, pg 228, Samuel Laughridge was “brought to Morganton by Christian Bartles who ran a wagon with livestock and produce to Charleston.”

I haven’t found any reason for his move. There was a Renaissance going on in Scotland, population of 1,608,000. A massive road project was underway under the direction of Thomas Telford. The first Gaelic language version of the Bible was published in 1801. “Charlotte Dundas” was the world’s first steam-powered tug and later the world’s first practical steamboat. There was no potato famine–yet–and the Radical Rising was not until 1820. But maybe Samuel wanted an opportunity to have land; maybe he just wanted to see the new world, America.

Through Ancestry.com, I found a North Carolina marriage contract which looks very much like a Bill of Sale: “Know all Men by these prefects, that we, Samuel Laughridge, and Charles Bartels in the state aforesaid, are held and firmly bound unto the Governor of the State of North Carolina for the time being, in the just and full sum of Five Hundred Pounds current money of this state, to be paid to the said Governor, or his successors or assigns: To the which payment well and truly to be made and done, we bind ourselves, our Heirs, Executors and Administrators. Sealed with our Seals (squiggly pen marks) and dated the 23 day of April Anno Domini 1811. The Conditions of the above obligation is such, That whereas the above bounder Samuel Laughridge hath made application for a License for a Marriage to be celebrated between him and Sally Antony Bartles (Bortles) of the county aforesaid: Now in café it shall not appear hereafter that there is any lawfull cause to obstruct the said marriage, then the above obligation to be void, otherwise to remain in full force and virtue. Sealed and Delivered in the presence of us. Bondsman Christian Bortl”

I didn’t find Samuel David on the 1810 Census. Ms Edith Laughridge Davis reports in her article that he enlisted in the 1st Regiment from Burke County in the War of 1812 until 1814. I did find a record of a marriage of Samuel Laughridge to Sall Bealler on 23 April 1817 for 500#. Same guy? Possibly since the name continues in our neighborhood. Remember, we were Burke County until 1843. I also found a marriage date of 23 April 1811 between Samuel Laughridge and Sally A. Bortles, but somebody had edited the spelling to Lochridge. And by the way, her name was Sarah. Her nickname was Sally.

We will ignore the problems and move forward with a new dynasty, new names to remember. Samuel Laughridge, born in 1829, represented Burke County as a Private in the Confederate Army. John David Laughridge, born in 1873 represented the area in WWI, his nearest relative signing for him as Jennie Frank Laughridge, witnessed by Herbert Daves. (I noticed that his description was black hair and blue eyes.)

Drucilla Independent Fundamental Church 2017

In an earlier post, we established that Drucilla Presbyterian Church grew out of the Muddy Creek Mission in 1780, making it one of the oldest churches in the area, along with Siloam Presbyterian in the Greenlee community near Pleasant Gardens of the McDowell and Carson families. In Morganton newspaper News-Herald on 16 July 1962, Curtis Patton wrote a history of the “white church with stained glass windows” now on Drucilla Church Road north of Dysartsville Township. It has been built a couple times but his article pointed out that “Yankees burned the church and contents,” and locals rebuilt the church, then called “Hebron.” The story I heard was that a Confederate soldier with smallpox stayed in the church until he died; that is why the church was burned and rebuilt. An unconfirmed story by Mr. Patton was that the first person to be buried in the cemetery in 1710 had “cramp colec,” and the grave is elevated one foot with rocks at the far end of the cemetery. Actually that sounds like the grave of James Hemphill recognized by others as a Celtic cairn. It seems that the more years accumulate, the more stories are available to twist and turn. I get confused.

Nonetheless, there are veterans from five wars keeping each other company in the Drucilla Church Cemetery: the War Between the States in 1861, the Spanish-American War of 1898, WWI in 1914, WWII in 1939, and the Korean War in 1950. Hundreds of graves, of which possibly, “many have been mutilated due to age,” according to Patton’s article.

Thermal City Miner
by Ramona Nanney 1990
Images of the Blue Ridge

But no war could match the excitement of the discovery of gold in 1828, nor could any war attract the number of participants gathered by a gold strike in the neighborhood. The number of named wide places along Vein Mountain Road grew quickly, towns so close it was difficult to know where one stopped and the next began. In a fifteen mile stretch, there were groups of new residents in Brackettown (Deming), Dealsville, Placerville, Pattonville, Hildrup, Jeanstown, and upper and lower Jamestown.

The invasion of thousands of unruly miners competing for unlimited wealth may have necessitated additional spiritual guidance. According to Jennie Lee Laughridge Owens, in The Heritage of Burke County, a body of deacons and the pastor of First Broad Church in Rutherford County sponsored the new congregation of Dysartsville Baptist Church in 1857 on US Hiway 226. Certainly the quiet Dysartsville paradise was interrupted, and The Battle of Cane Creek was old news.


Copyright@ Georgia Wilson

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Episode 9: A Colonial Christmas

When I was busily selling books at a Christmas bazaar benefitting a domestic violence shelter, I encountered my friend Amanda Finn, Director of the historic Carson House in McDowell County, who told me about a candlelight tour that very night. Even though it was a long drive after a “hard” day, I convinced my husband that a Mexican dinner and a Colonial Christmas were an appropriate combination. Neither of us was disappointed, even though my expectations were scattered.

The Biltmore House, Asheville
FB page First Snow of the Year, 12-08-2017

I confused my time periods. I was expecting decorations of Victorian elegance and overindulgence and awesome beauty, like what we could have found at The Biltmore in the next county. Instead we found a simple warmth and welcome, hospitality with history, very much to my delight.

What should I have expected? Harold Gill, Jr. wrote about Christmas in Colonial Virginia on website: http://www.history.org/almanack/life/christmas/index.cfm

“Christmas is come, hang on the pot; Let spits turn round, and ovens be hot; Beef, pork, and poultry, now provide; To feast thy neighbors at this tide; Then wash all down with good wine and beer; And so with mirth conclude the Year. (Virginia Almanac Royle 1765)”

In this same article Gill wrote: “Not all English settlers celebrated Christmas. The New England Puritans declared observation of Christmas illegal.” I think his point was that “Virginia settlers tried to recreate the ambiance they had known back home.” In 1762, Thomas Jefferson wrote “Christmas was a day of greatest mirth and jollity.” Love that word jollity.

So I should have had visions of turkey and wine, not sugarplums.

Our first host at the Carson House was Jim Haney, in period costume with tall black hat, and he immediately said that in the early 1800’s the pioneer Christmas celebration was low key: no tree, no nativity scene, and no greeting cards. But there was lots to eat and drink and festivities shared with slaves and guests. Colonel Carson gave his servants practical gifts like shoes, cloth, sugar, and coffee.

Photo of Elk in 2017 at Cherokee Reservation in western NC

On display was an exceptionally large jug Colonel John Hazzard Carson filled with peach brandy to share with his guests. No doubt, lots of them were political acquaintances since he served in different leadership positions from justice of the peace to delegate for the Constitutional Convention. President Andrew Jackson was a close friend whom the Colonel entertained with horse races and cockfights. Probably not at Christmas, but this season was an especially good time for hunting parties that extended the visitation two or three weeks. Guests were stocking the larder faster than depleting it.

Historic Carson House
FB Photo 12-3-2014

In addition to soft candlelight, the Carson house was decorated with fragrant pine boughs and cones, holly, nuts, wood shavings, and corn husks. A docent in the Carson House parlour, Anne McNutt, told us that the slaves were tasked with procuring the largest yule log they could find because their holiday would be as long as that fire burned. She also pointed out a beaded screen about 18″ long that hung on a stand next to an armchair. Women’s makeup was heavy and tended to melt in the heat of a fire, so if a lady wanted to warm her toes, she needed to keep her face from running. (And she needed to wear a heavy shawl if fashion demanded bare shoulders while the men stayed warm in shirts and jackets.)

Round Hill Gravesite on Marion Greenway

Carson’s first wife died about 1795, and he married the neighbor, Mary Moffit McDowell, widow of Joseph McDowell of Pleasant Gardens. Although Colonel John had named his house “Garden Hill,” when Mary moved the four miles down the road, she brought slaves, furniture, and the name “Pleasant Gardens” which is still the name of the neighborhood. (See my book The Bear Hunter’s Son). Mary needed a lot of servants since she immediately had five children in addition to the seven already there. Mary gave birth to Samuel Price (1798-1838), Matilda (1799-1824), William Moffitt (1801-1863), George M. (1804-1863), and Jonathan Logan (1807-1866).

In my last post, I mentioned Samuel Price Carson’s duel with Robert Vance. At the Carson house candlelight tour, we heard the famous story, reminding me that THE David Crockett was Samuel’s second for the duel, and his picture hangs in the hallway. Subsequently, Samuel followed Davey to Texas, both of them probably exasperated with Washington politics. On the parlour wall were paintings of Samuel and his wife, Sarah Catherine Wilson. Married in 1831, the couple had one daughter, Rebecca Rachel, and adopted Sam’s illegitimate daughter Emily, according to Wikitree.com, edited 11-29-2017. Samuel’s descendant, Marion native Moffitt Sinclair Henderson, wrote a book in 1972 about the duel, A Long, Long Day in November, and worked with the Greenlee sisters in researching the history on the Carson House.

When Samuel died in Arkansas in 1838, Sarah returned to Pleasant Gardens and the Carson House. She married Sam’s younger brother, William, who lived nearby in a red brick home that still stands on now Lake Tahoma Road.

Historic Carson House
FB Page Photo:
Governor Stokes’ (Governor of North Carolina from 1830-1831) Turkey Platter on display

Jonathon Carson, the youngest son of Colonel John, inherited the family home and framed in the back porch downstairs with imported wood paneling used on the interior walls in a board and batten style, if I heard correctly. Our docent for the master bedroom, Martha Jordan, opened a cupboard-size door cut into the wall for tour purposes to show us the original logs. Jonathon did not favor the log cabin look. In the dining room, the horizontal log walls are painted to resemble a marble design popular in his time. Not my favorite facade, by the way. Nor did Carson add closets because the homeowner was taxed on the number of framed doorways in the structure. Martha is a Conley descendant whose family donated a handsome breakfront that survived the 1916 flood when the Conley house slid down a mountain of mud.

When I was researching for The Bear Hunter’s Son, I interviewed William Brown (Pete) Gibbs’ cousin Dr. Henry Seawall Brown of North Cove. Of the same generation, they are related to the Brown family who lived in the Carson House in the early 1900’s. The North Cove family took over the Carson Mill, and the name changed to the Brown’s Mill, but the Carson House retained the name from Colonel John. Dr. Brown showed me postcards of that time that were curiously postmarked “Garden City” from an aunt in that area.

Dr. Brown told me of his family’s tradition of everyone gathering at Grandma Brown’s house in North Cove for a week at Christmas. That family lived near each other and were so close that Dr. Brown said he only went to Marion about six times before he left home for college. Everything they needed was right there in the family village. Church, school, and general store. “When my dad was growing up, he and Uncle Dewey and maybe my Granddad, hitched a team to a wagon and they’d go to town. They’d leave early in the morning, go down the old Linville Highway, (that went around the base of the mountain, not straight down the valley like 221 does now) get into Marion, park behind the courthouse, do their shopping or trading. Then they would come back. By the time they got half way, it was night, so they camped out and come on home the next day. Going to town was a two-day trip.”

“A lot of us lived here on the farm, and we’d get together every Sunday afternoon, for Sunday lunch. My first cousin, Uncle Dewey’s oldest, would sometimes spend Saturday night down here then we’d walk a mile to church. By the time we walked back here, the dinner would be out and my uncles and aunts and cousins would be here and we’d sit around and talk. That was our social life, the family.”

He told me how they celebrated Christmas when he was a youngster, and I imagine it was somewhere between the Victorian decorations and Colonial mirth and jollity. They would start on Christmas Eve. “By then we had all the corn shucked and put in the corncrib. In the afternoon we went to get the Christmas tree, come back to decorate it. Go home to milk the cows, feed the chickens, and stuff, and come back down here, have supper and wait on ole Santa Claus. We stayed down here (Grandma’s house where he now lives) except for going home to take care of the livestock, until New Years Day. We went home that afternoon, a full week. That was what we had.” Indeed, they had a lot.

Dr. Brown showed me photos of his extended family making molasses with the mule turning the press. (Uncle Dewey lived a half mile up the road.) “Molasses-making time was a celebration. People would come around with fruit jars, wanting to get some molasses. Hog killing was a dirty job, but a celebration. Thrashing wheat, people would come in from all over, and they would go to their neighbors and help out. There were a lot of events we did at the farm that turned out to be a celebration, like shucking corn. People would come in at night, and we’d go into the barns, go up in the loft and shuck corn. The air would be full of ears of corn and shucks behind; you had to keep the shucks pushed back. And Christmas Eve, we had to crib all that corn; we’d just shove it in the barn.”

I mentioned that it was ironic that the Brown name stayed with the mill, not the Carson name, and I asked if some of the employees took on the Carson name as the slaves did long ago. Dr. Carson had a photo of a boy named Horace who worked as a field hand. “At that time, they gave all the field hands ten cents an hour and their dinner. In fact when I was growing up, they were still paying that in the 1930s. Money was hard to get in those days.” And the house didn’t have electricity or running water until after Dr. Brown bought it from his Aunt Bea in 1965.

“At ten cents a day, you got a dollar every day working for my grandfather. And he had several workers. When this guy was working down here on Granddad’s farm, he was Horace Brown. When he went up to work on grandmother English’s farm, he was Horace English. He took on both names. He slept upstairs here in this house in a bed at the upper end of the hallway toward the little portico up there. It was just a little 3/4 size bed but around Christmas time, all of the kids would fight over who got to sleep in the Horace bed.”

“In fact Uncle Dewey and his boy, Bill, during Christmas time would sleep in the Horace bed. And one Christmas, my Uncle Gene, the youngest boy in Granddad’s family was sleeping in a bed right up there. Home from WWII, Bill had gone a half a mile up the road to call on a girlfriend that evening after supper, so we started to go to bed, and Uncle Gene said, “Let’s fix him a trap.” So he got a string and tied it across the stairway. Then the other end of it was to an old dishpan hanging up on a shelf. I heard the door open, and creak, creak, creak coming in. It was dark and everyone asleep. All of a sudden, Bam, Bam, Bam. Uncle Gene raised up in bed and hollered. “Bill, is that you?” Cousin Bill continued up the stairs without pretense. Everyone was awake. Stomp, stomp, stomp. “We had a lot of fun.”

These are the Christmas memories that we share and the reason to get together with family, no matter the year, no matter the inconvenience. The closest ties of the heart are made at home, where you are all that you can be.


Copyright@2017 Georgia Wilson




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Episode 8: After the Battle of Cane Creek

I thought I was ready to publish this post but I usually let my words cool for a day or two in case I have to eat them. I don’t like to go back and edit especially to correct an error, as in Episodes #6 and #7. Sometimes, I just add new details. So glad I waited, because Insomnia got me up early, and I was looking for something to read. I had finished a good Michael Connelly murder mystery, and had started an Elizabeth Berg novel but it didn’t fit my 3:00 am mood, so I perused my bookshelves. Of course! Anne Landis Swann’s The Other Side of the River: The Struggle for the McDowell County Frontier!

On page 224, I was reminded of the amusing incident related by Nina Greenlee in Stories Not Told in History Books. The story was about Elizabeth Patton Hemphill, the wife of James Hemphill who bought Capt Jack’s property, today the site of a Boy Scout Camp at the corner of 226 and Vein Mountain Road. And I’ll tell you about that later.

Cane Creek had Personality

Back in 1780, the Tory soldiers were raiding the herds of the locals in order to feed their soldiers. Presumably, the families who supported the Crown donated to the menu freely, but James Hemphill was a Rebel serving under Col Charles McDowell. He was not home when Ferguson’s men stole his sheep; Hemphill had been killed at Cane Creek. However, his wife was not dead and not shy, possibly seeking revenge for her husband’s death on September 12. Elizabeth drove herself over to Ferguson’s camp and gave him what-for. (Maybe she rode or walked, but I am thinking of the movie Driving the feisty Miss Daisy). Ferguson relented, as the story goes, to return half of her sheep and allowed her to select the ones she wanted. All she had to do was pick the leader, called the bellwether. When she left, the entire flock followed her home. For some reason, maybe he was busy, Ferguson didn’t retaliate. (Greenlee’s story does not give a date, but the sheep could have been seized on Sept 20 since Ferguson was still in their area.)

This reminded me of another story from Nina Greenlee, The Duel–between Robert Vance and Samuel Carson in 1827. Stories Not Told in History Books, pg 209. Almost fifty years after the Revolutionary War but the result of an incident in 1780.

It was a political contest, and there were poor choices in words. Imagine! Robert Vance cast aspersions upon the character of Sam’s father, the venerable Col. John Carson of Buck Creek, Pleasant Gardens. Sam’s mother was the widow of Gen. Joseph McDowell of Pleasant Gardens. Sam had a shiny pedigree. After the loss to the Tories at the Battle of Camden in 1780, Colonel Carson, Benjamin and William Davidson and others, were designated to take protection (from Cornwallis) and thus save many valuable herds of cattle from the grasp of the Tories, according to Lyman Draper, King’s Mountain and It’s Heroes, pg 150. Draper writes, “while they accomplished the object they had in view, their motives, in the course of time, were unjustly misjudged and impugned.” There was a vehement difference of opinion among the leaders. “Captains Thomas Lytle and Thomas Hemphill, Robert Patton, and Hunting John McDowell absolutely refused to engage in any such course and stated that they would drive all the stock they could collect into the deep coves at the base of the Black Mountain.” And so years later, Robert Vance was so desperate to retain his Congressional seat, he attacked Samuel Carson by referring to his father’s actions as treasonous. After winning the election, Sam Carson challenged him to a duel. Carson also defeated Vance in the duel, but was never the same, according to Silas McDowell who told the story. It was as though when Sam killed Vance, he killed himself, “driven to the bottle and an early grave.”

Ms Swann’s book also reminded me that Kenneth Robinson had mentioned in his Cane Creek presentation a couple weeks ago the skirmish at the Loyalist Allen property. Lyman Draper quotes Lt. Allaire’s report that the Tories stayed at “one Allen’s to refresh ourselves,” after the Cane Creek incident. North Carolinians were politically divided, and it appears Allen was a supporter of the Crown. From there, Ferguson took his troops north to ford the Catawba at Buck Creek hoping to surprise Col. McDowell on September 16, but the Patriots had already gone. The British journalist, Allaire, wrote, “Pleasant Gardens is a very handsome place. I was surprised to see so beautiful a tract in the mountains. This settlement is composed of the most violent Rebels I ever saw, particularly the young ladies.” Kings Mountains and It’s Heroes, pg 508. They continued to make a visit to Major Davidson’s place but he was gone to the Watauga settlements also. The Tories returned to Gilbert Town on September 23. Battle of King’s Mtn was October 7, 1780, in South Carolina. Soldiers on both sides did a lot of hiking in those two weeks.

Historical Marker on Highway 226 south of intersection with US 64

After the Whig victory at King’s Mountain, emotions skyrocketed. The Patriot leadership had the difficulty of escorting several hundred prisoners somewhere, some way, and tasked with feeding them and controlling tempers.  Allaire wrote in his Diary, an appendix to Drapers’s account, in October, “Wednesday, the eleventh, the (Patriot) army marched twelve miles, and encamped at Colonel John Walker’s.” A footnote on page 325 reports that Walker had purchased, for a doubloon, a fine tract of four hundred acres five miles northeast of Gilbert Town, from the mouth of Cane Creek on the east side to a mile below the present Brittain Church. Walker had been a Judge of the Court for the Colonial government for many years but was one of the first to “pledge resistance to British encroachments.” A month earlier, Ferguson’s troops had swept through Walker’s property. The farmland had already been stripped of provisions because of this war, and the hungry Whigs were of no mind to cook for their enemies. The best fare offered to prisoners was raw pumpkins and corn still on the cob.

On October thirteenth, Colonel Campbell issued an order dividing the Patriots with some of them staying back with all the wounded who could not march. According to Draper, that day the troops and prisoners moved six miles northeast to “Bickerstaff’s Old Fields, since known as the Red Chimneys, where a stack of chimneys long stood after the house had decayed and been demolished” on Robertson’s Creek. Colonel Campbell came down hard on Patriot deserters and those who ravaged the little food and property left to the farmers. His officers called his attention to the abuse that their own troops had endured under the Tories, including the hanging of Patriot prisoners at Camden, at Ninety Six, and at Augusta. Maybe it was time for retribution, as some of these Tories were now Patriot prisoners. Colonel Campbell obtained a copy of North Carolina law, “authorized two magistrates to summon a jury, and forthwith to try, and, if found guilty, to execute persons who had violated its precepts” of murder, arson, house-breaking, riots, and other criminal offences. The prevailing wisdom was to assure the Tories still fighting in other counties that their crimes would be punished. According to Annals of the Army of Tennessee, 1878, thirty-two were condemned. And then the Colonels weighed in. Colonel Shelby, Colonel Cleveland, Colonel Williams, Colonel Brandon, etc, along with Major McDowell and Captain McDowell, and on pages 329-339 of Draper’s book, you can read the opinions and arguments of early democracy at work. By nightfall, decisions were made and a sturdy oak tree selected, hereafter called the Gallows Oak. Draper described the event based on memoirs: “It was a singular and interesting night scene, the dark old woods illuminated with the wild glare of hundreds of pine-knot torches: and quite a number of the Loyalist leaders of the Carolinas about to be launched into eternity.” Nine were hung.

The rest of the story: you’re gonna love this part!!!

The plan was to hang three at a time, and the next group was assembled, tied up, and waiting their turns. A boy approached and asked permission to say goodbye to his brother, Isaac Baldwin, who had been convicted of gory violence against his neighbors in Burke County. “He threw his arms around his brother, and set up a most piteous screaming and lamentation as if he would go into convulsions, or his heart would break of sorrow. While all were witnessing this touching scene, the youth managed to cut the cords confining his brother, who suddenly darted away.”…”Although he had to make his way through more than a thousand of the best marksmen in the world, yet such was the universal admiration or feeling on the occasion, that not one would lift a hand to stop him.” Draper, King’s Mountain and It’s Heroes, pg. 342

Shelby put a stop to further executions.

At two in the morning, one of those spared made his way to Colonel Shelby to tell him that British Colonel Tarleton would be there in the morning. He had failed to reinforce Ferguson at King’s Mountain, because “the County of Mecklenburg…and the adjoining County of Rowan were more hostile to England than any other portion of America.” And, he was sick with a fever. Draper, pg. 364.

Colonel believed the report, and at 5:00 am, the Patriots were hiking again in an effort to cross the Catawba River during a torrential rain before Tarleton could catch them. They made it. Ironically, Tarleton was running the other way, in fear of the mountain militia.

Mrs. Biggerstaff and neighbors were left to bury the dead. Captain Aaron Biggerstaff had served under Ferguson and had died at King’s Mountain with him.

For some reason, that community is now called Sunshine.

And as a postscript, I should tell you that Isaac Baldwin was eventually caught and killed when he returned to the scene of his crime.


Copyright Nov 2017 Georgia Wilson



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Episode 7: Dysart Family, Continued

On May 4 of this year, I introduced you to the Dysarts of Dysartsville. As there are none left in the area, I cannot share memories from interviews. I have edited some of my earlier findings that may have been untrue. This past summer I did meet a John Dysart who grew up in the Mackey Mountain area of Pleasant Gardens, where Pete Gibbs of Lake Tahoma Steak House legend lived. (The Bear Hunter’s Son) Although, Mr. Dysart denied knowledge of family in Dysartsville, he claimed relation to the Greenlees, and they were all involved in the gold mining era that came to Dysartsville in the 1800’s. However that will come later in my story. For now, we are tracking down the James Dysart family, and I have contradicting information, probably because there was an abundance of James and Johns.

In fact, a James Dysart from Donegal, Ireland, came to Philadelphia in 1761, and settled around the Little Holston River area in Tennessee. He married Mattie Beattie and had three sons and three daughters who stayed in Tennessee and Kentucky. However, this James Dysart answered the call of the Overmountain Men and fought at King’s Mountain in 1780 where he was badly wounded; his hand was crippled for life, according to Lyman Draper, pg 404 of King’s Mountain and It’s Heroes. He died in 1806. Ironically our James Dysart was there as well, but he died in 1781, at the Battle of Cowan’s Ford.

At the western foot of Pilot Mtn that stands alone
South Mtn range to the right

In the McDowell County Library research room, there is a prized historical scrapbook put together by Nina Greenlee, a noted historian. She records that Captain Bill Moore was the “first white settler west of the French Broad River.” Before that, he had a cabin on the South Muddy Creek in the area to be Dysartsville. Moore’s Fort surrounded at least one large log building that served as the “Muddy Creek Mission,” a community meeting place for worship among other uses. His first residence in North Carolina, on property later sold to “Mr. Bill Owens, a well-to-do and well-respected black farmer from Brackett Town.” (from My Father’s Folks: Laughridge Family, an article by Jennie Lee Laughridge, 1906-1992, in Burke Co library) Mr. Moore bought two grants, making a total of about a thousand acres at the foot of Pilot Mountain. Mr. Charles McFeeters was an adjoining landowner. William Higgins, Morrisons and Pearsons were also neighbors.

Bill Moore’s standing rock chimney was said to be on the old Bridgewater Road (Dysartsville Rd) two miles north of the “Crossroads.” It might be found in the fork of Mills and Muddy Creek, close to Rhom Duncan’s current house, which is said to be on former Owens land. William Hamilton Moore’s family gave land to build the Drucilla Presbyterian Church, also north of this area, and within its cemetery rest settlers and soldiers from the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and WWI and WWII.

Here is another possibility for confusion. Mr. Draper wrote in 1881 about a Mr. William Moore from Washington County in Tennessee from the Watauga settlements who came down the mountain to fight at King’s Mountain in 1780. He was so badly injured there that his leg had to be amputated. His pioneer wife came down to fetch him in the family wagon and carry him back to the Holston area. This was in November, not a good time to travel over a mountain. Mr. Moore hung on until 1826, receiving his invalid pension for 37 years.

Our Dysartsville Captain Moore married Margaret Patton, daughter of Benjamin Patton, one of the signers of the Mecklenberg Declaration of Independence, (Charlotte) and that seemed to be worthy of four grants to 1200 acres on both sides of Hominy Creek. The census of 1790 showed Captain Bill living on South Muddy, but in 1794 he gave up the questionable “safety” of civilization and moved up the Blue Ridge to Hominy Creek. He was 68 years old. Soon other settlers joined him, and the area became Asheville and Buncombe County where his family has flourished for over 200 years. Folks in western North Carolina put down deep roots. Captain Bill’s tombstone reports death visited him on November 12, 1812. His descendant, Daniel Moore, would be governor of North Carolina, 1965-1969, when governors could only serve one term, but he then served on the NC Supreme Court, 1969-1978.

Another pioneer who came to Dysartsville in 1776 was Hampton Cowan, who owned property adjoining Moore’s land on both sides of the road (now US-64) that meandered from Quaker Meadows (now Morganton), to Gilbert Town (now the county seat Rutherfordton) of Rutherford County. Captain James Jack was another early settler in the area on what was later known as the Hemphill place. According to Jennie Lee Laughridge, Captain Jack carried the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence to Philadelphia on horseback in 1775. His sister Charity married Dr. Cornelius Dysart, son of James and Margaret Dysart. Other property owners in 1776 were Robert Patton, John Dysart, and John’s mother, Margaret Dysart, all located close to the South Muddy Creek and the road that would become Hiway 226. The intersection of two roads here gave the settlement its first name of Crossroads.

Historical Marker on the west side of 64 and Cane Creek

What better way to resume the history of my neighborhood than to attend a presentation at the McDowell library about the Battle of Cane Creek, often confusingly called the Battle of Cowan’s Ford. But I explained this in the last episode. The historical marker now reads Battle of Cane Creek, and we will go with that. Archaeologist Kenneth Robinson, whose mother Evelyn Daves Robinson was born in Dysartsville in 1926, was hired by the Foothills Conservancy which obtained an American Battlefield Protection grant from the National Park Service to investigate the site of the battle that took place on September 12, 1780. This was less than a month before the crucial Battle at King’s Mountain in South Carolina that many say changed the momentum of the Revolutionary War.

Looking North where 64 cuts through a mountain over the probable battle area on a now tame Cane Creek

Robinson first examined the area of concentration for the project, the Upper Crossing of Cane Creek, south of Bedford Hill where today’s US-64 is cut into a steep slope of the South Mountains and its foothill on Fortune Road. Bedford Hill is close to the grassy field where Overmountain men camped on their way from Quaker Meadows to King’s Mountain in 1780. Back then, the road had a steep grade. Robinson suggests that the mountainous terrain would have offered possibilities of retreat, especially in the dense forest.  On September 11, The Patriots were returning to Watauga settlements for a meeting, but when they heard Ferguson was giving chase, they picked a suitable place for an ambush, near the crossroads where Cane Creek seemed to follow a volcanic fault line in a gorge west of the highway toward the old Marshall place. The exact spot of battle has not yet been determined. According to Anne Landis Swann, The Other Side of the River, pg 228, the William Marshall property was purchased in 1859 by Jonathan Walker, and later by her ancestor Joseph B. Landis, Jr, to whose family a portion of the land still belongs.

The British officer leading about 150 Tories had brought forty men from New York and New Jersey with him, but the larger part of his force was from local communities in South Carolina and North Carolina. I don’t often think of the Revolutionary War as neighbors fighting neighbors, but they were. J.D. Lewis has an online site on which he has compiled the names of those who fought. The Goforth kids from Rutherfordton wiped each other out, and that is just one family’s story. I can hear mamas crying.

On page 50 of Draper’s book, he described Ferguson’s outstanding capabilities. “He invented a new species of rifle, which could be loaded with greater celerity, and fired with more precision than any then in use. He could load his newly constructed gun at the breech without using the ramrod, and with such quickness and repetition as to fire seven times in a minute. He was regarded as the best rifle shot in the British army, if not the best marksman living.” He was also goal-oriented as evidenced by his determined recovery from a wound that would have sent other men back home. Ferguson’s right arm was shattered and rendered useless by an opponent’s bullet. He had to learn how to shoot and use a sword with his left hand while astride his valiant white steed.

Ferguson also used a brief charisma to appeal to a moral superiority shared by some local Carolinians. “We come not,” declared Ferguson, “to make war on women and children, but to relieve their distresses.” (King’s Mountain and It’s Heroes, page 72) Unfortunately, not all of his troops got the memo.

Captain Patrick Ferguson was a worthy foe, but his pride ignored the expertise of the American frontiersman who used their rifles to feed their families.

However, the initial confrontation with Carolinians started out badly for the home team in July of 1780. There were three skirmishes in which the Tories prevailed over the Patriots led by Colonel Charles McDowell from Quaker Meadows in Burke County. In the third encounter, Colonel Andrew Hampton lost his son and forever held McDowell accountable since he had refused to post sentries. Noah Hampton and his friend were run through with bayonets as they woke up. This attack was in retaliation for an earlier bloodless raid on the Loyalists by the Patriots.

Ferguson was camped in Gilbert Town, and it looked as though everything was going his way. On the coast, Charleston had fallen, and a British victory near Camden in August made Cornwallis appear to have conquered South Carolina. But power was laced with cruelty. If a suspected Whig (Patriot) fled to escape an insult, the whip or the rope, followers of Ferguson and Tarleton often burned his house down and raped his women. If sons refused to betray parents, they were hung. The criminal Tories probably were a small minority, but their atrocities were real. We must remember our history so we do not repeat it. Erasing it fosters ignorance.

From a British journal written by Lt. Anthony Allaire from New York, we know that Ferguson got his troops in motion at two o’clock that morning and marched up Cane Creek in Rutherford County, near the 2nd Broad River, all the way to its headwaters in the next county at daylight. About 15 miles. According to Robinson’s presentation at the library , it was very common for soldiers to move at night because they were avoiding the sun’s heat that would drain their energy. The Loyalists had to cross Cane Creek 19 times because it was so crooked. (Since then it has been straightened.) Mr. Robinson also pointed out that Lt. Allaire might not have looked favorably upon the locals. In his journal he reported that a Mrs. Bowman who lived near Cane Creek had a young child who had smoked tobacco for three years. Fake news? Or history?

Draper’s account reports the Patriots awaited the arrival of the British, and “an indecisive fight transpired. The enemy, after receiving the unexpected fire of McDowell’s backwoodsmen, rallied, and beat back the Americans, killing, among others, one Scott, of Burke County…By the heroic efforts especially of Major Joseph McDowell–the Colonel’s brother–Captain Thomas Kennedy, and one McKay (often pronounced Mackey), the Whigs were brought again into action. Major McDowell was particularly active, swearing roundly that he would never yield, nor should his Burke boys–appealing to them to stand by and die with him, if need be. By their united bravery and good bushwhacking management, in which their real wickedness was concealed, and by their activity and well-directed rifle shots, they succeeded in inflicting considerable execution on their antagonists–killing several, and, among others, wounding Major Dunlap.” (Draper, King’s Mountain and It’s Heroes, pg 148-149)

Two British journalists have similar accounts of the Patriots loss, one fatality and seventeen prisoners, along with seizure of 12 horses and all ammunition. The reports were supported by two Patriots when they filled out their pension applications years later. According to Robinson, Richard Ballew remembered that, “We had battle on Cane Creek, and Hemphill was killed. We got whipped.” Hemphill is buried at the Drucilla Presbyterian Church in Dysartsville. Robinson also said that in John Dysart’s pension application, he admitted, “We were rather defeated.” Truth to them, and not forgotten. History to us.

After Cane Creek, Ferguson was anxious to complete his victory lap and emboldened to the point of arrogance. He released prisoner Samuel Phillips with a message to be delivered to the officers on the western borders at the Watauga settlements, Nolachucky and Holston. This is where Col Charles McDowell and Col Andrew Hampton had taken their 160 men after the fight at Cane Creek. There was a rendezvous planned at Sycamore Flats at the Shoals in Tennessee on September 25.The men were demoralized, and since the Patriots at the edge of the frontier had crops to tend and Indian threats, the month of October might have been a well-needed rest for the militia.

The message that Ferguson unwisely sent was his death warrant served at the Battle of Kings Mountain on October 6, 1780. He told the settlers, “if they did not desist from their opposition to the British arms, he would march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay their country waste with fire and sword.” (Draper citing three references in King’s Mountain and It’s Heroes, pg 169)

The resistance of 160 men became a furious force of thousands. The rest is our history.

Surrender at Yorktown 1781
Artist John Trumbell/courtesy of Wikimedia Common


Copyright @2017 Georgia Wilson Edited Nov 26, 27, 28, 29


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William Brown (Pete) Gibbs II

On June 7, 2017, the line of mourners from the casket at the alter of the historic First Presbyterian Church ran along the right hand aisle and down the steep steps outside in Marion, NC. Hundreds showed up to show their respect for a man who spent his entire life in service to others. His large family mingled with neighbors and those who travelled from far points on the map to celebrate the life of Pete Gibbs.

I tarried in that line and listened to conversations of folks who had known each other for years, as they renewed contacts and shared memories of school events, the Pleasant Gardens neighborhood, Marion history, and especially the Lake Tahoma Steak House and Gibbs Motel, the local trademarks of the family. Pete managed the restaurant until 1979 when it was leased as Little Sienna.

As author of Pete’s biography, The Bear Hunter’s Son, I had spent many hours listening to Pete’s reflections from his life, the happiest hours surrounded by his family and in service to his Lord. In the late 1960s, Pete and his wife, Betty, helped to open Life Mission that helped locally with food and clothing donations. In the 1970s and 80s, he served as a leader in the McDowell County Children’s Ministry, influencing lives in underprivileged neighborhoods. He has made a loving mark on many hearts, never to be forgotten. Two of his caregivers at the end were named in the book as being with him from the beginning of his children’s ministry.

Pete’s family allowed me the courtesy of visiting him in his final hours at his home, where he has lived since 1948, within a mile of his parent’s home and the restaurant. His funeral service was held in the Gibbs home church although Pete had been attending Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in the years since Betty passed on. No doubt the family chose the larger church to accommodate the crowd, but his pastor Michael Smith from Mt. Moriah gave the eulogy and sang the opening hymn. Most appropriate for this humble, devout Christian, the words rang true and pure:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll, Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for thee, for thy coming we wait, The sky, not the grave is our goal; Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord! Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!*

*penned by Horatio G. Spafford in 1873


RIP William Brown Gibbs II, July 3, 1928 – June 2, 2017


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Episode 6: 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 Mecklenburg Co, NC. and had five children. Before 1776, James and his brother Samuel moved to (Edited 12 Mar 2018) Mecklenberg County, according to Burke County Heritage, Vol 1, page 164. And page 163. (Edited) “Within a short time his wife and children settled in Burke County, in the area now known as Dysartville.” James and his sons John and William served in the Revolutionary War. Major James Dysart and his son William, were killed in battle at Cowan’s Ford on 1 February 1781. They are buried at the Drucilla Presbyterian Church in Dysartsville as is James’ son-in-law Captain Robert Patton, who died 18 March 1813, and  daughter Elizabeth Dysart Patton, who died 9 June 1844. Elizabeth and Robert had eight children. (Edited 12 Mar 2018) In a pension statement (revised Nov 2017) according to the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution website, Elizabeth applied for Robert’s pension, describing Robert as a “Captain of a Horse Company” at King’s Mountain. This bold soul also testified that Robert’s first tour of duty was as “Indian Spy” under William Morrison’s leadership in western North Carolina. According to her the name of Hominy Creek near Asheville came from an incident when these Indian hunters shot “a large Indian and discovered a quantity of hominy came out of the bullet hole.” Not politically correct, but that’s what is recorded. This was her truth, her words, her history. Elizabeth’s brother William was also killed at Cowan’s Ford on the Catawba River, twelve miles from her father’s house in Mecklenburg Co, where she was staying. She said she heard the gunfire. Her brother William was childless. (Edited 12 Mar 2018 by Ann Myhre: The posted map shows Cowan’s Ford marked. The Dysarts lived south of Rocky River near the county line, known in the deeds as the Barony Line. Although Ann thinks Dysart squatted on the land before he had title, she references two grants online at http://www.nclandgrants.com.) Cowan’s Ford is now under Lake Norman.

1789 Mecklenburg Co, NC

Another difficulty in accurate reporting is having two battles with the same name. The Battle of Cowan’s Ford in Mecklenburg County was on 1 February 1781, on property now owned by Duke Power. I understand both battles were 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 journal, about a quarter mile from the base of South Mountain in a forested area surrounded by soft swamp. After the skirmish on September 12, 1780, 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 on October 7  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.)

James Dysart’s son John Dysart, born Christmas Day, 1749, married Martha Patton in 1773. Edit 12 March 2018 per Ann Myhre: The Pattons came from Scotland to PA and moved to Mecklenburg Co and then to Burke Co. 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. Sgt 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 Township 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?) (Edit from Ann Myhre 12 Mar 2018: Three Dysart marriages were celebrated in Garrard Co, Ky: John married Martha Woods 1 April 1800, John’s daughter Charity married John Woods 18 Nov 1799, and his son Robert married Susannah Denny 11 March 1801.) John Dysart died in Lewisburg, TN, in 1842, leaving 12 children from both marriages.

Of the descendants remaining in McDowell County, one became a judge in Marion, the county seat, and 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 Cowan’s Ford. James YS and his mother lived all their lives in Dysartsville. He 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. (Edit: Researcher Ann Myhre believes that the Dysarts who stayed in North Carolina were from James YS and Jennet.)

Edit 12 Mar 2018: James YS Dysart, Sr, was preceded in death by his three sons having the repetitive names of James, John, and William, giving researchers heartburn. The children of his deceased son, William, were: Jane A., James, John, William F., and Ann. More heartburn. Edit 12 Mar 2018: I am including more information here because of a recent reader’s interest in the Halliburtons. Daughters of James YS Dysart, Jr. were Jane Caroline who married Benjamin Logan Burgin; Sara Louise who married Thomas Hallyburton. One of their children was William Fletcher who was remembered as “Uncle Billy Hallyburton.” And the third daughter was Henrietta who married Francis A. James. (I mention her elsewhere.) One of their children was William W. James, the grandfather of Nell James Elmore who wrote the article for Burke County Heritage, Vol 1, p. 163.

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 later sold to 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 (Edited November, 2017, and March 2018)


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Appalachian Authors at Carson House

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

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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.


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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.

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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



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