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Archive for the ‘Everyday life’ Category

The men in Mildred Kelly's family worked with the railroad for generations.

The men in Mildred Kelly's family worked with the railroad for generations.

The McDowell community of Graphite, or Graphiteville, is located just down the mountain from Ridgecrest and takes its name from the mining activity that took place there around 1900.
Mildred Kelly has lived in Graphite her entire life,  as did her mother and grandmother before her. Her home is located just across the yard from the house where she was born.
A few miles southeast of Graphite, the citizens of Old Fort dig out after the 1916 flood. (Photo courtesy of Peggy Silvers)

A few miles southeast of Graphite, the citizens of Old Fort dig out after the 1916 flood. (Photo courtesy of Peggy Silvers)

Mrs. Kelly welcomed us to her front porch to talk about the 1916 flood, the depression years,home remedies, the railroad,  and the observations she has made in her 80+ years. (You’ll also hear the sounds of a late summer morning, the chickens in the yard, and Buddy the dog doing battle with a persistent flea…)

To drive up to Graphite or to see it on a map, you’d be forgiven for thinking that  it is one of the most isolated places in western North Carolina. But as you can see in the photo to the left, which was taken from Mrs. Kelly’s porch during our interview, she has had good reason never to feel isolated at all.

Listen to Mrs. Kelly using the media player above.

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LakeTahomaSteakhouse

For decades, a major draw for visitors to McDowell County was the Lake Tahoma Steak House and adjacent cabins. Before the interstate was built, this spot at the junction of Highways 70 and 80 was a hot spot for locals and tourists alike. The restaurant offered one of the first buffets around and the cabins were considered to be so unique and charming that some couples traveled to McDowell County to spend their honeymoons in them. LakeTahomaCabins

Bill Gibbs (whose photo with the bear “Smokette” is part of the header of this website) built the business and his son Pete ran it for many years.  Pete, along with his wife Betty, talk about the steak house, his dad, and those famous bear suppers.

 

Listen to Pete here:

(Little Siena Restaurant has now operated in the Lake Tahoma Steak House location for decades. You can find out more about them at their website.)

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We’ve all heard the old saying “A woman’s work is never done”, and that was especially true on a farm or plantation in the old days. Dr. James Haney of SpinningWheelthe historic Carson House takes us on a tour of an exhibit in one of the upper rooms of the home devoted to “women’s work”.  He talks about the use of the loom, spinning wheel, quilt press, and even a somewhat intimidating-looking tool called a shuck hackle.

(As you will note if you spend much time exploring this website, Dr. Haney was very generous with his time and expertise for this project. We thank him profusely.)

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In the schoolyard in the 1930s. Mr. Burgin is third row, second from the left.

In the schoolyard in the 1920s. Mr. Burgin is third row, second from the left.

Willard Burgin makes his home on land originally cleared by his great-grandfather in the upper reaches  of the Crooked Creek community, barely this side of the Buncombe County line.  He’s just up the road from the old Mount Hebron Bible Institute where his parents met and where he briefly went to school himself.  Nestled peacefully at the foot of the mountain, his home is a refuge from the rush of the modern world.  We visited there for almost two hours, and only one car passed the entire time!
Mr. Burgin proudly displays his medals from WWII.

Mr. Burgin proudly displays his medals from WWII.

Mr. Burgin is a treasure-trove of memories and stories:  from cutting wood for the tannery in Old Fort when he was a child, to seeking emergency assistance from the “snake doctor”, to searching the hillside behind his house so he could milk the family cow, to planting by the signs, to loading ammunition boats in Iceland during World War II.

Listen to our conversation with Willard Burgin here:

(It may take a moment for the audio to load.)

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Members of the CCC from Camp Jim Staton on Curtis Creek

Members of the CCC from Camp Jim Staton on Curtis Creek (Photo courtesy Dee Daughtridge/Old Fort Library)

When Franklin Roosevelt became President in 1933, nearly one-fourth of Americans were unemployed. FDR set about immediately establishing the programs of the “New Deal” to address this critical problem. Two of the most successful were the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). The WPA put men to work constructing public buildings, parks, bridges and roads while the CCC concentrated on natural resources conservation.  Terrell Finley, Administrator of the Mountain Gateway Museum in Old Fort, talks about the profound impact that both organizations had on McDowell County:

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The view from Freddie Brown's front porch
The view from Freddie Brown’s front porch

Due to the rugged terrain and distance from the closest towns, the North Cove and Ashford communities in the northern tip of McDowell County remained relatively isolated until the mid- twentieth century. Electricity didn’t arrive until 1947, and telephones were rare until about 1960.  Nearly everyone farmed and the community was tight-knit.

Cousins and neighbors Clara McCall and Freddie Brown are members of two of the oldest families in the Cove. They came together at the old Brown house to reminisce about the railroad, the yearly arrival of the thrashers, kerosene powered refrigerators, memorable characters, grandma’s cooking and everyday life on the farm.

You can listen to Clara’s and Freddie’s conversation (in three parts) here:  
Part One: Part Two Part Three:

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Jeanette Harris' "Laughridge Corner" in her home. John Laughridge and his wife are in the large oval picture. Laughridge and some of his deputies are seen in front of the old courthouse in the photo on upper right.

John A. Laughridge was sheriff of McDowell County from 1910 to 1918. He is a legendary figure,  both for the way he discharged his duties as well as for his kindness and fairness to everyone he met. In this clip, his granddaughter Jeanette Harris shares some of her favorite stories about her grandfather. Plus, we’ll hear from Sheriff Laughridge’s daughter Mary Alice Laughridge Scroggs.

(Mrs. Scroggs was recorded nearly a decade ago on a mini-cassette recorder, so the sound quality will be noticably different. Our thanks to Jeanette Harris and her family for allowing us to use the recording.)

 

 

 

 

Listen to Jeanette Harris and her aunt Mary Alice Scroggs here:

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Rockett Motors in Old Fort (present location of Old Fort Mountain Music). Jep Gibbs was employed here early in her working life. (Photo courtesy of Bill Nichols, John's Market Collection)

Rockett Motors in Old Fort (present location of Old Fort Mountain Music). Jep Gibbs was employed here early in her working life. (Photo courtesy of Bill Nichols, John's Market Collection)

Jessica “Jep” Gibbs was born in 1913.  The majority of her life has been lived in the Old Fort area, and she currently resides just minutes from where she grew up. In addition to her other stories, in this clip she talks quite a bit about her friend Binkie Adams, daughter of the visionary Col. Daniel W. Adams. (A future post will be devoted to Col. Adams.) Binkie was a much-respected county historian and wrote many articles for the Old Fort News Bulletin.

Listen to Jep here:

To read a transcript of an oral history of Binkie Adams written in 1997 by Martha Stevens, student of Freddy Bradburn at McDowell Tech, click here: Binkie Adams. (Thanks to Old Fort librarian Dee Daughtridge for providing the transcript.)

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ClinchfieldMillLike many small southern towns, Marion was home to several textile mill villages beginning in the second decade of the 1900s. Labor unrest led to strikes and eventually to a bloody confrontation in East Marion in 1929. That violent episode has overshadowed much of the rest of McDowell County textile mill history, but the mill village also made for a strong community and life there was often pleasant, even idyllic.

Here, lifelong Clinchfield resident Mrs. Glenys Buckner Gilbert shares her fond memories of  growing up in the village and relates how her father narrowly escaped the scene of the violent showdown at the gates of  nearby Marion Manufacturing in October of 1929. (The 1929 strike is explored in detail in this post.)

Listen to Glenys Gilbert here:

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The Ledbetter House, built in 1826, bosts exceptionally intact interior features.

The Ledbetter House, built in 1826, boasts exceptionally intact interior features.

Stepping through the front door of the Albertus Ledbetter House could be the closest thing to stepping back in time you’ll ever experience. Lovingly restored by Arthur and Zee Campbell, the house  has all its original doors with the original locks and hinges.  The 1826 spring house, with rock retaining wall and sluice, has been brought back to life as well.  The farm is dotted with 19th and 20th century outbuildings, and today is known as Spring House Farm, hosting guests in rustic rental cabins.  This unique eco-retreat is also a site on the N.C. Birding Trail.

Harold McCurry spent part of his childhood at the Ledbetter House.  He joined us on the front porch to share some memories about growing up in Montford Cove.

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Dean Branch and this model car are of the same vintage- 1931.

Dean Branch and this model car are of the same vintage- 1931.

Dean Branch now lives in Marion and spent much of his youth in the mountains of Mitchell, Yancey, and McDowell counties. He’s a collector of historical oddities and a great spinner of stories. Here, he tells us about “Little Tom”, a mountain midwife who rendered his services in exchange for some “refreshment.”

 

Listen to Dean Branch here:

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Sheriff Oscar Adkins

Back in the 1930s, being sheriff of McDowell County meant that your entire family became part of the process.  Betty Adkins Gibbs, daughter of Sheriff Oscar Adkins, remembers how living in the courthouse just steps away from the jail cells and the court room got everyone in the family involved in some way (willingly or not).  In this clip, you’ll hear Betty urged on by her husband Pete, to whom she has been wed for over 60 years. 

Listen to Betty here:

 

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