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WNCHA Presents: Narrow Gauge Logging Railroads of the Champion Fibre Company

11/23/2021 @ 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM


Join the Western North Carolina Historical Association on Zoom Tuesday, November 23 at 6PM as we bring you this virtual event featuring guest Gerald (Jerry) Ledford.

In 1905, paper manufacturer Peter Gibson Thomson came to western North Carolina in search of pulpwood and a suitable location for a mammoth pulp mill that would provide pulp for his Champion Coated  Paper mill at Hamilton, Ohio. He also planned to build a large chestnut extract plant. This is the story of Thomson’s 420,000 acre timberlands and the railroads the Champion Fibre Company built to transport the wood to the pulp mill and extract plant at Canton, North Carolina. This PowerPoint presentation will feature historical photographs, track maps, and show several of Champion’s railroads that became hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Also included will be the story of the settlement with Champion Fibre that was the key to the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

About the Presenter:

Gerald (Jerry) Ledford earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Mars Hill College in 1977. He earned a Master of Science in Music Education degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign in 1979. Mr. Ledford retired in 2013 from the North Carolina Public Schools after a 32 year career. He has taught high school and middle school band in Cumberland, Graham, Swain, Transylvania, and Henderson counties.

As a boy, Jerry spent many hours down at the station at Canton, NC, where his maternal grandfather, Gerald Fish, worked for most of his 42 year career for Southern Railway on the Murphy Branch. He also had a great uncle who spent his working for Southern on the Murphy Branch. His paternal grandfather Lewis Ledford worked as a mill superintendent for his brother-in-law Louis Carr at Norwood Lumber at Forney Creek and Carr Lumber at Pisgah Forest. Several of his great uncles were employed by the lumber mills during the lumber boom of the early 1900s.

He resides in Etowah, North Carolina with his wife Julie. He and Julie have 3 children and are grandparents to Shannon and Clark Ledford. In retirement, he enjoys hiking old railroad grades. He has been researching the logging railroads in western North Carolina for over 45 years. With Ron Sullivan, he is co-authoring a planned eight volume book series of the history of logging railroads in western North Carolina titled, If Rails Could Talk….. The first 5 volumes are currently in print. He has also provided information and photographs for several authors as well as the Ken Burns Public Television series, “The National Parks; America’s Best Idea.”

Author Gerald Ledford

Tickets: Free for WNCHA members/ $5 for General Admission. We also have no-cost, community-funded tickets available. We want our events to be accessible to as many people as possible. If you are able please consider making a donation along with your ticket purchase. These donations are placed in our Community Fund, which allows us to offer tickets at no cost to those who would not be able to attend otherwise. Registrants will receive a Zoom link with which to view the program. It will also be recorded and later available on our website. 

For questions email Trevor Freeman at [email protected]

(Image: “Shay Locomotive Number 8” courtesy Western Carolina University, Hunter Library Digital Collections)

Western North Carolina Historical Association received an American Rescue Plan Humanities Grant from North Carolina Humanities, www.nchumanities.org. Funding for this grant was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the American Rescue Plan Act economic stabilization plan. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of North Carolina Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.


6:00 PM - 7:00 PM
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Western North Carolina Historical Association (WNCHA)
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