If you’ve ever taken a drive up Highway 221 North from Marion toward Linville Falls, you’ve probably noticed the large rocks and boulders that dot the fields and pastures on both sides of the road. All those tons of rock tumbled down the mountainside and to their current resting place during the cataclysmic flood of 1916.
One of the many homes to be ruined by the flood. Others totally washed away, leaving hardly a trace that they had ever stood at all. (Photo from the Carson House Library)
Much of western North Carolina was devastated by the event, especially along the McDowell and Mitchell County line and down into North Cove. The Orchard at Altapass sits almost astride the continental divide, which was ground zero for this disaster. Bill Carson from the Orchard tells the story of the flood through the eyes of someone who lived through it.
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 TwoPart Three:
Blan Swofford and some of his buddies in the Phillipines during World War II. Blan is at top left, wearing the cap.
Linder “Blan” Swofford has recently returned to his family’s land in the North Cove community after decades of traveling the world and the country. He first left western North Carolina when he was drafted into the service during WWII. Here, he talks about going from the cool mountain environs to the sweltering tropics and lays out a scholarly WWII timeline in the process.
Listen to Blan Swofford here:
POST SCRIPT 11/23/10: Word has just come to me that Blan Swofford passed away on 11/1/10. He was a very gracious and kind gentleman, and I am very glad that I was able to record his story. I’ll never forget the fun tour he gave me of the area on his “four-wheeler” after we completed our interview. -Kim