Jason E BurlesonIn the early part of the Twentieth Century, Jason Burleson was known as the mica king of Mitchell County, and unbeknownst to most travelers today, “Burleson Hill” in Spruce Pine was named for him. He lived atop that hill in a large white house where the Spruce Pine United Methodist Church sits today, and the Burleson Mica Company sat directly across from his residence at the current entrance to the Spruce Pine Memorial Cemetery. Burleson was a leader in the community, holding several positions, not the least of which was representing Mitchell County in the North Carolina Senate. In 1916, the fledgling hamlet of Spruce Pine was always busy in the afternoons, which by now was quickly becoming the largest town in the Toe River Valley. On Wednesday afternoon, September 27, Mr. Burleson had no doubt come to Spruce Pine to conduct some business. Across the railroad tracks and the river from Lower Street was the large expanse of flat land that today makes up Riverside Park. Many festive activities would take place there over the years, (including being the Harris Football Field). On this September day, a hot air balloon launch was to take place. Mr. Burleson, along with many other of the town’s businessmen were sitting on the wooden porch of Mr. McCall’s Store. To begin the ascension, a .32 caliber pistol was fired. A few seconds later, Mr. J.E. Burleson came flying out of his chair, knocked by the shock to the wooden floor. He felt a stinging pain in his head. Taking off his hat, seeing a bullet hole, and noticing blood dripping from the head, he realized he had been shot! The descending bullet from the gunfire across the river had struck him in the head. Luckily, the wound was very painful, but not fatal. Mr. Burleson was quoted in several newspapers as thinking “people should use blank cartridges in announcing balloon ascensions hereafter.”

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