WNC HISTORY

On this Day

August 8, 1913: Chestnut Blight

August 8, 1913: Chestnut Blight

On this day in WNC history: On August 8, 1913, the Jackson County Journal reported the dangerous “Chestnut tree bark disease” destroying timber in the Northeast and threatening the forests of southern Appalachia. With a recently discovered case in Guilford County, NC,...

read more
July 30, 1943: Road to Nowhere

July 30, 1943: Road to Nowhere

On this day in WNC history: During a period of immense change and wartime sacrifices, a promise was made to residents of Swain County in 1943 to build a road around the new Fontana Lake. The federal commitment ultimately ended with much lingering consternation and a...

read more
July 13, 1962: New Asheville Speedway Opens

July 13, 1962: New Asheville Speedway Opens

On this day in WNC history: Engines roared and an estimated 5,000 fans cheered drivers as NASCAR first visited the “New” Asheville Speedway on this evening in 1962. By this point, racing fever had swept across many parts of the country. We have previously detailed...

read more
July 10, 1915: George Masa Arrives in WNC

July 10, 1915: George Masa Arrives in WNC

On this day in WNC history: Travelling overland by train from San Francisco to St. Louis, and ultimately to Asheville, Masahara Izuka arrived in WNC for the first time on this day in 1915. We typically know him better by his adopted name – George Masa. Masa was a...

read more
June 6, 1991: The Last of the Mohicans Began Filming

June 6, 1991: The Last of the Mohicans Began Filming

On this day in WNC history: Western North Carolina has served as a film location for numerous movies large and small. But perhaps no production has shown its range of scenery and famous landmarks to the degree of The Last of the Mohicans, which began filming on this...

read more
June 6, 2006: Marion Livermush Festival

June 6, 2006: Marion Livermush Festival

On this day in WNC history: In 2006, a new festival opened in Marion celebrating a food with much older roots in the Piedmont and foothills of North Carolina. Livermush is a food that some love, and some may find gross from the name alone. Similar to scrapple—which is...

read more
April 30, 1988: MerleFest Began

April 30, 1988: MerleFest Began

On this day in WNC history: One of the most popular music festivals in WNC, honoring one of its most beloved musicians, began on this day in 1988. The Merle Watson Memorial Festival, now known as MerleFest, has been held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in...

read more
April 19, 1784: Morganton, first town in WNC, chartered

April 19, 1784: Morganton, first town in WNC, chartered

On this day in WNC history: At a 1784 meeting of the NC General Assembly, representatives chartered the first town in western North Carolina: Morganton. Their actions created a judicial and political center and acknowledged the growing influx of settlers into and over...

read more
April 17, 1985: Cherokee Beloved Woman, Lula Owl Gloyne, Dies

April 17, 1985: Cherokee Beloved Woman, Lula Owl Gloyne, Dies

On this day in WNC history: Lula Owl Gloyne, a Cherokee Beloved Woman and a lifelong advocate and public servant of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) passed away in 1985 at age 93. She was the first EBCI registered nurse, a WWI veteran, and a critical...

read more
April 6, 1865 – Battle of Asheville

April 6, 1865 – Battle of Asheville

On this day in WNC history: On April 6, 1865, just three days before Robert E. Lee’s army surrendered at Appomattox, war came to Asheville. This conflict outside the city along the French Broad River ultimately amounted to an hours-long fighting standoff, where Union...

read more
March 27, 1911 – USFS Purchases First Lands in WNC

March 27, 1911 – USFS Purchases First Lands in WNC

On this day in WNC history: Following the passage of the Weeks Act on March 1, the U.S. Forest Service authorized the first purchase of timberlands for eastern national forests on this day in 1911. Of seven areas announced, five were located in WNC, with approximately...

read more
March 15, 1952 – WNC Historical Association Founded

March 15, 1952 – WNC Historical Association Founded

On this day in WNC history: Seventy years ago, on a cold, snowy night, representatives from fifteen mountain counties gathered at a dinner meeting in Waynesville to form the Western North Carolina Historical Association (WNCHA). By May, the group had elected officers...

read more
March 9, 1965 – Appalachian Regional Development Act Signed

March 9, 1965 – Appalachian Regional Development Act Signed

On this day in WNC history: On March 9, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Appalachian Regional Development Act into law. This act lumped 360 counties from 11 states (including 29 in North Carolina) into another designation of “Appalachia” and created an...

read more
February 27, 1890 – Nantahala River Full of Logs

February 27, 1890 – Nantahala River Full of Logs

On this day in WNC history: The Swain County Herald reported in 1890 that the Nantahala River and several nearby streams were filled with logs that were beginning to run. It is hard to imagine a more dangerous or environmentally destructive way of timbering, but this...

read more
February 21, 1828 – The Cherokee Phoenix Debuts

February 21, 1828 – The Cherokee Phoenix Debuts

On this day in WNC history: On this day in 1828—the year the Cherokee Nation ratified a constitution, and seven years after Sequoyah completed his syllabary of the Cherokee language—the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper first appeared in circulation. This was the very first...

read more
February 17, 1917 – The Life of Tempie Avery

February 17, 1917 – The Life of Tempie Avery

On this day in WNC history: On a Saturday in 1917, one of Asheville’s oldest residents, and perhaps one of the most widely-known African American women in her community passed away. Tempie or Temperance Avery, widely heralded as a midwife nurse for both white and...

read more
February 10, 1874 – Rumbling in the Hickory Nut Gorge

February 10, 1874 – Rumbling in the Hickory Nut Gorge

On this day in WNC history: The mountains of WNC occasionally experience earthquakes, which often pass without much notice or damage. In 1874, however, the mountains at the eastern edge of the Hickory Nut Gorge began to thunder and shudder the day after a self-styled...

read more
February 1, 1889 – Asheville Streetcar Opens

February 1, 1889 – Asheville Streetcar Opens

On this day in WNC history: Just three years after Scranton, Pennsylvania created the nation’s first fully electric streetcar system, the newly-booming Asheville inaugurated its own electric streetcars on this day in 1889. Since the 1830s, horse-drawn streetcars...

read more
January 21, 1926 – Buxton Hill Demolition

January 21, 1926 – Buxton Hill Demolition

On this day in WNC history: One of the only constants in a city is change; 1920s Asheville was a prime illustration. On this day in 1926, excavators and trucks were at work literally transforming the landscape of the city, removing Buxton Hill and preparing to develop...

read more
January 20, 1964 – Martin Luther King Visits WNC

January 20, 1964 – Martin Luther King Visits WNC

Though Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made many public visits to central North Carolina in the 1950s and 1960s, including to Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, and Rocky Mount, he only made two known visits to western North Carolina – in January 1964 and August...

read more
January 16, 1849 – Polk County Repealed

January 16, 1849 – Polk County Repealed

On this day in WNC history: In previous posts, we have discussed the creation of some WNC counties, but did you know that one was created, then repealed, then reauthorized, all in an eight-year span? On this day in 1849, the NC General Assembly passed an act repealing...

read more
January 7, 1922 – Bicycle Trip for the KKK

January 7, 1922 – Bicycle Trip for the KKK

One hundred years ago today, two women - Florence Deering and Evelyn Morey - and their dog, Buddie, left Asheville pedaling across western North Carolina and into eastern Tennessee on their way to Nashville. The women were on a transcontinental bicycle (and hiking)...

read more
January 6, 1787 – Rutherford County Expands

January 6, 1787 – Rutherford County Expands

On this day in WNC history: Meeting in Fayetteville, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a new law in 1787 transferring a chunk of land from Burke to Rutherford County. North Carolina’s western county boundaries created during the colonial era often imposed...

read more
January 4, 1839 – Cherokee County Established

January 4, 1839 – Cherokee County Established

Just a few short months after the last forced Cherokee removal to Oklahoma, North Carolina established its westernmost county—Cherokee—on this day in 1839. Formed from lands “lately acquired” from the Cherokee, the new county comprised the western portion of Macon...

read more
December 14, 1804 – The Walton War Turns Deadly

December 14, 1804 – The Walton War Turns Deadly

On this day in WNC history: Simmering tensions in the Walton “War” between North Carolina and Georgia finally turned deadly on this day in 1804. Following the American Revolution and the loss of their British alliance, the Cherokees were forced into a series of land...

read more
November 23, 1893 – Waldensian Arrivals in Valdese

November 23, 1893 – Waldensian Arrivals in Valdese

On this day in WNC history: After a rough ship crossing of the Atlantic and a lengthy train ride from New York, a group of 161 immigrants arrived in the WNC foothills in 1893. This group travelled from Italy to Burke County, joining nearly three hundred fellow...

read more
November 14, 1972 – TVA Drops Dam Plans

November 14, 1972 – TVA Drops Dam Plans

On this day in WNC history: After years of concerned citizens input and activism, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) dropped its plans to construct fourteen dams on the French Broad River watershed in 1972. In the early decades of the 1900s, many dams were built in...

read more
November 5, 1827 – The Vance-Carson Duel

November 5, 1827 – The Vance-Carson Duel

On this day in WNC history: In a previous post, we discussed a reported WNC duel which was simply a rumor. On November 5, 1827, however, a famous duel did, in fact, leave a famous resident dead as the result of a political feud. Robert Brank Vance (uncle of Zebulon...

read more
October 31, 1919 – Pandemic and Halloween

October 31, 1919 – Pandemic and Halloween

On this day in WNC history: After a year disrupted by war and the 1918 flu pandemic, Ashevillians returned to their traditions and parties to celebrate Halloween in 1919. Halloween has been celebrated in the U.S. likely since the 1800s. Washington Irving famously...

read more
October 21, 1898 – Senator Pritchard’s Letter

October 21, 1898 – Senator Pritchard’s Letter

On this day in WNC history: As the contentious and pivotal election of 1898 drew near, Senator Jeter C. Pritchard sent two private letters to President William McKinley and his cabinet on October 21, urging them to send federal marshals to protect African American...

read more
October 13, 1976 – O’Henry’s Opens in Asheville

October 13, 1976 – O’Henry’s Opens in Asheville

On this day in WNC history: Popularly known as Asheville’s oldest gay bar, O.Henry’s (initially called the Skylight Room) opened on this day in 1976 at 59 Haywood Street. The bar and restaurant, the first to stay open past midnight downtown, was also one of the first...

read more
October 7, 1780 – Josiah Brandon at Kings Mountain

October 7, 1780 – Josiah Brandon at Kings Mountain

On this day in WNC history: With lead balls and cries of war filling the air around him, the young Josiah Brandon took part in the pivotal Battle of Kings Mountain, Oct 7, 1780. He was one of several hundred western North Carolinians fighting on this day when British...

read more
October 2, 1929 – The Marion Mill Massacre

October 2, 1929 – The Marion Mill Massacre

On this day in WNC history: On October 2, 1929, deputies fired into a crowd of striking workers in Marion, North Carolina. Six were killed and even more wounded at the Marion Manufacturing Company in one of the deadliest acts of strike-busting in the South. This year...

read more
September 25, 1933 – Black Mountain College Opens

September 25, 1933 – Black Mountain College Opens

On this day in WNC History: During the midst of the Great Depression, the Black Mountain College opened to students for the first time in 1933. Based on the principle of progressive education, this college offered a new model of learning, particularly in the liberal...

read more
September 18, 1924: The 2nd Battery Park Hotel Opens

September 18, 1924: The 2nd Battery Park Hotel Opens

On this day in WNC history: The second hotel to stand on this prominent hill, Asheville’s new Battery Park Hotel opened on this day in 1924. In 1886, Frank Coxe financed construction of the first hotel, a sprawling Queen Anne-style structure with 270 rooms and...

read more
September 8, 1946 – Asheville Blues Win Pennant

September 8, 1946 – Asheville Blues Win Pennant

On this day in WNC history: Defeating the Nashville Cubs 2-1 in a game at McCormick Field, the Asheville Blues of the Negro Southern League won their first official championship in 1946. The season was split in two halves and the Asheville squad won both, including...

read more
August 22, 1776 – Watauga Petition

August 22, 1776 – Watauga Petition

On this day in WNC history: Western North Carolina is a large region, comprising twenty-three counties. But did you know it was once even larger? On this day in 1776, the North Carolina Provincial Council received a petition from the residents of the Watauga...

read more
August 13, 1940 – The Second Great Flood

August 13, 1940 – The Second Great Flood

On this day in WNC history: Western North Carolina is no stranger to flooding. The flood of 1916 wreaked unimagined havoc, but twenty-four years later, another deluge spread destruction and death throughout the mountains yet again. The two catastrophes of 1916 and...

read more
August 2, 1881 – The Mountain Lily Steamboat is Christened

August 2, 1881 – The Mountain Lily Steamboat is Christened

On this day in WNC history: A steamboat in the mountains? As far-fetched as this may seem today, on August 2, 1881, the “Mountain Lily” was christened for the French Broad Steamboat Company with a barbecue and brass band. The short-lived steamboat transported...

read more
July 26, 1827 – Cherokee Nation Adopts Constitution

July 26, 1827 – Cherokee Nation Adopts Constitution

On this day in WNC history: On July 26, 1827, in New Echota (modern Georgia) the Cherokee Nation adopted a formal constitution, “in order to establish justice, ensure tranquility, promote our common welfare, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of...

read more
July 16, 1916 – The Great Flood

July 16, 1916 – The Great Flood

On this day in WNC history: In 1916, the worst documented flood in WNC ravaged the region, sweeping away people and buildings, isolating communities, and even changing the courses of rivers. At least twenty-five were killed in WNC, with Asheville and the Bat Cave...

read more
July 4, 1844 – James Smith Applies for His Father’s Pension

July 4, 1844 – James Smith Applies for His Father’s Pension

On this day in WNC history: On July 4, 1844 James Smith—first owner of the Smith-McDowell House—applied for a pension as heir of his father, Daniel Smith, who served in the American Revolution. Daniel Smith (1757-1824) was one of the first white settlers in WNC in the...

read more
June 27, 1857 – Elisha Mitchell Dies Measuring Mountain

June 27, 1857 – Elisha Mitchell Dies Measuring Mountain

On this day in WNC history: In 1857, Dr. Elisha Mitchell, a University of North Carolina professor, fell to his death descending the mountain that later bore his name. Mitchell was embroiled in a dispute with Rep. Thomas Clingman over heights of two peaks—modern Mt....

read more
June 19, 1865 – Juneteenth

June 19, 1865 – Juneteenth

On June 19, 1865, a Union commander in Texas issued General Order No. 3, freeing all remaining African Americans held in slavery within the state, some 250,000 individuals. This came two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation had freed (legally at least)...

read more
June 16, 1956 – McCormick Field’s First Stock Car Race

June 16, 1956 – McCormick Field’s First Stock Car Race

On this day in WNC history: In a previous post, we covered McCormick Field’s opening as a baseball stadium, but did you know it has served another sport as well? On this day in 1956, engines roared and 4,000 fans cheered as stock cars first took to the quarter-mile...

read more
June 4, 1906 – Edison Travels WNC

June 4, 1906 – Edison Travels WNC

On this day in WNC history: Crowds lined the streets of Rutherfordton and heard the low rumble of an automobile for the first time as Thomas Edison began his tour of western North Carolina on this day in 1906. Known as the “Wizard of Menlow Park,” the soft-spoken,...

read more
May 27, 1973 – Doc Watson Receives Honorary Doctorate

May 27, 1973 – Doc Watson Receives Honorary Doctorate

On this day in WNC history: On May 27, 1973, “Doc” Watson became Dr. Watson, awarded an honorary doctorate in folk arts from Appalachian State University before the audience of graduating students. He delivered the commencement address and played hymns and a version...

read more
May 18, 1916 – Kiffin Rockwell Downs a German Aircraft

May 18, 1916 – Kiffin Rockwell Downs a German Aircraft

On this day in WNC history: On May 18, 1916, Asheville transplant Kiffin Rockwell became the first American to down an enemy aircraft in the First World War. While the United States remained steadfastly against entering the “Great War” in Europe until 1917, several...

read more
May 11, 1961 – Sit-in Protest in Rutherfordton

May 11, 1961 – Sit-in Protest in Rutherfordton

On this day in WNC history: The sit-in movement that helped spark desegregation began in North Carolina, at a Greensboro lunch counter, in early 1960. These demonstrations grew over two years and included more than 70,000 Black and white non-violent demonstrators....

read more
May 7, 1929 – Lucy Morgan and the Penland School

May 7, 1929 – Lucy Morgan and the Penland School

On this day in WNC history: On May 7, 1929, western North Carolina native Lucy Morgan, director of the Penland Weavers and Potters school, spoke to an audience at the University of North Carolina, demonstrating the fine crafts of her students. Morgan established a...

read more