Feeds:
Posts
Comments

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:

 

Joe Williams (left) and Mark Hall (in blue) with fellow Fort supporters and re-enactors

In October of 1781, the Revolutionary War ended when the British surrendered at Yorktown. But, much of the groundwork for that final American victory had been laid at Davidson’s Fort, located near the present town of Old Fort. The largest volunteer militia of the war gathered there and many historians say that the grit and determination of that force turned the tide in the settlers’ favor in their fight for independence.

Davidson's Fort replica by Lissa Silver

In this segment, Joe Williams and Mark Hall of Davidson’s Fort Historic Park explain the historical significance of the fort, talk about the earliest origins of the town of Old Fort and discuss their organization’s vision for an interactive recreational and educational park.

Listen here: .Joe and Mark refer several times to important information gleaned from soldiers’ pension applications.  You can read some of those applications here.

In the early days, everything at The Ramble Rack was do-it-yourself, even the ads.

In the early days, everything at The Ramble Rack was do-it-yourself, even the ads.

Nowadays, outlet stores and discount centers are common features of any town’s retail landscape. But in the 1960s, the concept was still a novel one, especially in a small town like Marion.

In 1963, after years of dreams, delays, and being required to jump through hoops to get a bank loan, Ellen Brown and her sister-in-law opened The Ramble Rack. Soon, just about every mother within a 50-mile radius (and beyond) made the pilgrimage to Marion to shop for back-to-school outfits, Easter dresses, play clothes and grown-up clothes.  Mrs Brown recalls her husband reminding her at one point, “You never know until you try.”   She did try and was successful for 25 years.

Listen to the story here:

RobertHawkinsMailman

Robert Hawkins has deep family roots in McDowell County and was a mailman from 1954 to 1990. He sat down in his rocker by the fireplace in his Marion home to tell us about  his father’s eyewitness account of the 1894 fire that destroyed nearly all of downtown, his grandmother’s story of Union raiders passing through her family’s farm during the Civil War and his own remembrances of delivering the mail (and other things) for 36 years.


Listen to the interview here:

Jessie May Roper on the family's Dysartsville farm
Jessie May Roper on the family’s Dysartsville farm

Jessie May Roper Groves was a child in the East Marion mill village, lived on a farm in Dysartsville, worked as a cook on a Mississippi river boat and can trace her lineage back to Sir Thomas More. She also loves a good ghost story. In this segment, she tells the story of the ghost of John Allen. (A written version of this tale was featured in Stories Not Told in History Books, compiled by Nina Greenlee.)

 

Click here to listen:

The tannery shortly after it opened in 1905, and the flume line that brought logs down from the Curtis Creek area.

The tannery shortly after it opened in 1905, and the flume line that brought logs down from the Curtis Creek area.

“I’ve been going to work in the same building for 62 years”, laughs Old Fort resident Bud Hogan. Here, he discusses the history of Old Fort from a businessman’s point of view. From the days of the tannery to the fading of the textile industry in recent decades, Mr. Hogan has had a front-row seat. But, it’s not just his head that has ruled his work life… his heart has played a large role as well, as you’ll hear near the end of the clip.

N Rhinehardt 2

 

Mrs. Nona Justice Rhinehardt of Marion graciously shared her impeccable archive of family photos, stories and geneology with the Oral History Project.

Here, she reads an excerpt from C.J. Justice’s book,  The Story of My Life and Family Tree describing life for her family in the western North Carolina mountains during the Depression.

 

 

 

 

Listen to Nona here:

Blan Swofford and some of his buddies in the Phillipines during World War II. Blan is at top left, wearing the cap.

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.

  
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

 

EmmaRankinHeader

The Carson House is located on Highway 70, less than five miles west of Marion. Construction of this three-story historic residence began in 1793 by Colonel John Carson on the banks of  Buck Creek. In the early 1860s, while the home was occupied by Jonathan Logan Carson and family, a private school for young ladies operated there. It was at that time that Stoneman’s Raiders made their march through the region. As news of their approach was received, all of the students fled, leaving teacher Emma L. Rankin remaining  with the Carsons, their children, and the servants.

Miss Rankin wrote this riveting account of the ordeal in 1885, at the urging of many of her students.

Hear Miss Rankin’s story read by actress and former McDowell resident Ellen Pfirrmann:

The Wesleyan Church as it looked in 1970, around the time that it received a most distinguished visitor

The Wesleyan Church as it looked in 1970 close to the time it received a most distinguished visitor.

It seems you never know who you’re going to find standing out in the snow in front of the gas station at the I-40 interchange in Old Fort!

From 1966 to 1972, Reverend Richard Stanley Jr. was the pastor at the Wesleyan Church just up the street from the station. Here, he shares the story of  unexpectedly welcoming the most famous evangelist in the world to his church. Click on media player below:

Donald Anderson's grandfather takes the family for a wagon ride in 1915. The farm was on land inundated by the construction of Lake James a few years later.

Donald Anderson's grandfather takes the family for a wagon ride in 1915. The farm was flooded by the construction of Lake James a few years later.

Donald Anderson recalls that “Most of my time as a youngster was spent hoeing corn”, and he comes from a long line of farmers.  His grandfather farmed land in the community that is now covered by Lake James and his father was a tenant farmer just north of Marion until, as the recipient of the first FHA loan in the county, he moved the family to the Glenwood community. 

Donald Anderson's grandfather and father (right) mind the cane mill.

Donald tells us about the life of a McDowell County farmer in the early 20th century, about electricity coming to Glenwood, and about his years teaching Vocational Agriculture in McDowell County.

 

 

Listen to Donald Anderson here:

The first Little Switzerland store and post office

The first Little Switzerland store and post office

In the spring of 1909, Charlotte attorney Herriot Clarkson led a small group on a trip from Spruce Pine to Grassy Mountain  seeking a suitable location for a small summer resort. When they reached the top of Chestnut Ridge, the relatively flat terrain, plentiful springs and spectacular views convinced Mr. Clarkson that he had found what he was looking for.

Square dances are held every Saturday night in July and August at Geneva Hall in Little Switzerland.

Square dances are held every Saturday night in July and August at Geneva Hall in Little Switzerland.

“The Switzerland Company” was formed that fall and the next year The Switzerland Inn was constructed. A girls’ camp, Camp As-You-Like-It, came into being not long after.  By 1916 over a dozen homes had been built, mostly by Charlotteans fleeing the summer heat. An Episcopal church was soon established and a community center, Geneva Hall,  was built in the late 1920s. After the depression, better roads and the arrival of electricity brought more tourists into the area as well as an increased number of permanent residents.

Now, the population of Little Switzerland swells to around a thousand during the summer months but the “year-rounders” still number only in the dozens.  A group of Little Switzerland friends and neighbors got together during lunch at The Switzerland Cafe to reminisce and talk about why they consider Little Switzerland to be a very special place: (A big thanks to Ann Kernahan of The Switzerland Cafe for organizing the get-together!)