Sam Brinkley just purely got tired of shaving. At 26 years old his beard grew so fast that he had to shave several times a day to be presentable. At that point he said enough was enough and was determined never to shave again – and he famously kept that promise. Brinkley was born in Yancey County in 1850, but shortly thereafter, his family moved to Snow Creek in Mitchell County, then Sam married Vista Street and settled in Magnetic City – as Buladean was called at the time. Sam’s beard quickly grew to an unimaginable length. In fact, by age 42, it had grown to 54 inches in length. He had to find a way to make it more manageable so his wife made him a silk pouch in which he could “store” his beard and tuck it into his shirt. Brinkley was known far and wide in the Toe River Valley. The late Spruce Pine Mayor David Blevins said he could remember seeing Sam Brinkley and his famous beard as a child. Brinkley was a wise man in that he saw his famous beard could be a money-maker. According to Blevins, Brinkley charged .10 cents for an individual showing and .25 cents for a group. “That was a lot of money in those days”, said Blevins. Sam Brinkley and his beard were by now becoming so well known that word got to P.T. Barnum and J.A. Bailey. Brinkley would travel far wand wide with the Barnum and Bailey Circus and was billed as “The Man With The Longest Beard In The World”. He even met King Edward VII on his tour of the British Empire. For twenty years, Brinkley toured with the circus during the summer, then return to Buladean to be with his family and teach school during the winter months. He was said to “have been as proud of his teaching and he was his beard”. Brinkley died at the age of 79, on December 13, 1929, one of Mitchell County’s Legends!
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