A CARSON HOUSE TOUR
From the Historic Carson House website: “If the walls of this house could speak, they would tell a story of North Carolina mountain heritage spanning more than two hundred years.
The Carson House, a massive three-story structure with log walls at its core, was built by two generations of Carsons. Col. John Carson began constructing his log home on Buck Creek in 1793, and his plantation became one of the largest and most productive in the region. Upon Colonel Carson’s death in 1841, his youngest son, Jonathan Logan, inherited the homeplace and oversaw extensive renovations which resulted in the structure that survives little-changed today.
The same generations that built the house played prominent roles in local politics and society. Col. Carson and three of his sons served in the state legislature. One son, Samuel Price, served four terms in the United States’ Congress and went on to become first Secretary of State of the Republic of Texas. McDowell County was formed in 1842 and the Carson House served as the first courthouse. The Carsons donated land for a permanent seat named “Marion” and county court moved there in 1845.
Besides being a hub of local politics and society, the house served as a popular roadside inn and tavern for nearly a century. History notes that Davy Crockett was a friend and visitor at Carson House. Likely another towering figure, Andrew Jackson, strode its halls. Endless stories remain within these walls—frontier politics and a duel for the sake of honor, gold-mining boom times, a Civil War siege, a rich African-American heritage still vibrant in the beautiful quilts in the Carson House collection—timeless tales just waiting to be told.”
STONEMAN’S RAIDERS VISIT THE CARSON HOUSE
In the early 1860s, while the Carson House was occupied by Jonathan Logan Carson and family, a private school for young ladies operated there as well. 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 a riveting account of the ordeal in 1885 at the urging of many of her students.
Listen to Miss Rankin’s story read by actress and former McDowell resident Ellen Pfirrmann here:
THE GHOSTS OF THE CARSON HOUSE
Louise Bryon was the caretaker at the Carson House for nearly 14 years, and in that capacity lived in the cottage just behind the main house. She became good friends with Nina Greenlee, reknowned McDowell historian and champion of the restoration of the historic site. Louise also had a front row seat for some of the ghostly happenings at the house.
Now employed at the Mountain Gateway Museum, Louise sat down with us one morning before the museum opened to relate some memories of Nina Greenlee and to tell us a few Carson House ghost stories. Oddly enough, while we were talking, historian Anne Swann (who also used to work at the Carson House) stopped in to relate a chilling ghost story of her own.
Listen to our conversation with Louise here:
“PIECES OF THE HEART”: CARSON HOUSE QUILTS
In 2009, the Carson House hosted an exhibit of historically significant quilts. Dr. Haney takes us on a tour of the exhibit and shares some fascinating stories about the quilts’ makers, including slaves Kadella and Fatima.
The collection at the Carson House also includes gold mining artifacts and rare currency that date back to the pre-Civil War gold rush that took place in McDowell County. You can discover those on our gold mining page.