Mitchell County Historical Society https://mitchellnchistory.org Bakersville, NC Tue, 10 Nov 2020 20:32:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 https://mitchellnchistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/cropped-MCHS-Site-Icon-32x32.png Mitchell County Historical Society https://mitchellnchistory.org 32 32 W.G. Honeycutt – A Mitchell County Hero https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/11/10/w-g-honeycutt-a-mitchell-county-hero/ https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/11/10/w-g-honeycutt-a-mitchell-county-hero/#respond Tue, 10 Nov 2020 20:31:25 +0000 https://mitchellnchistory.org/?p=5022 Veterans Day is a holiday created to celebrate our real-life heroes.  When we think of heroes, they often seem larger than life and we tend to forget they are real people. One real-life hero from our very own Mitchell County was WWII Veteran, William Gibbs Honeycutt Jr, or “Dub” as he was known to many.  […]

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Veterans Day is a holiday created to celebrate our real-life heroes.  When we think of heroes, they often seem larger than life and we tend to forget they are real people. One real-life hero from our very own Mitchell County was WWII Veteran, William Gibbs Honeycutt Jr, or “Dub” as he was known to many.  Honeycutt was the first man drafted in World War II from Mitchell County and served from before the war started to the very end in 1945.

W.G. was born on July 13th, 1915 to William Gibbs Honeycutt Sr. and Birdie Honeycutt in the community of Honeycutt and preceded two sisters, Madeline and Doris Honeycutt.  The area labeled “Honeycutt, NC” was located on Hwy 226 between Harrell Hill Road and Pine Root Branch south of Buladean and named after W.G. Honeycutt Sr..

The Mitchell County that W.G. grew up in was growing rapidly thanks to our proximity to the railroad and direct access to fruitful mines.  W.G. was a soft-spoken man who didn’t say much about his childhood however, he did fondly reminisce about searching for the silver mine on Unaka Mountain and his love of animals, specifically, horses.  During his teenage years, W.G. also worked in the CCC camps run by the US Army during the Great Depression. The CCC’s paid young men from the ages of 18-25 to plant trees and build recreational areas in our National Parks and Forests.  W.G often commented, “the CCC camps helped get me ready for the Army.”

Although America had drafted men in the Civil War and WWI, for the most part our military had always been a volunteer force.  In response to the war clouds gathering over Europe in the late 1930s and pressure from Pres. Roosevelt, Congress enacted the first-ever US peacetime draft in 1940 by one vote.  The Selective Service and Training Act required all men between the ages of 21 and 45 to register for the draft. If selected, you were required to serve in the military for one year.  At 25, W.G. was one of the 10 million men who were selected to fight for our country.  In late 1941 with his year almost done, WG was literally counting the days until he was discharged by marking X’s on a calendar beside his cot.  He was stationed in Texas with less than a month to go, but things changed drastically from that time forward when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.  After getting that news, he and many of the other young men hitch-hiked home to see their families, knowing they would soon be going overseas.  He especially wanted to be with his fiancé, Pearl Whitson, who was working at the Tennessee Eastman in Kingsport, TN.  Pearl continued working there during the war and until they were married in 1945.  Like many men from the Buladean area through the war, W.G. made it to the train station at Forbes which was just below the Red Hill Bridge, and hitchhiked home for what would be the last time to visit his family until the late fall of 1945.

W.G. soon returned to the Army and embarked from New York, NY, on the Queen Elizabeth, an ocean liner that secretly transported soldiers and landed in England on June 30, 1942.  From there he sailed for North Africa in October of 1942 to take part in the first offensive action against the Germans.  During his service he was given credit for five amphibious assaults and he participated in nine campaigns including North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, Rome, Southern France, the Rhineland and Central Europe.  His unit helped supply communications between the 64th Fighter Wing and the 45th Infantry Division. His most vivid memories of his military service centered around the Anzio Campaign and his many weeks spent there under intense enemy fire from January to May 1944. When telling his cousin, Loyd Bailey about the war in Italy, Mr. Honeycutt mentioned that one of his friends was shot to pieces while sitting beside him in a Jeep.

He was personally given a commendation by Brigadier General J. R. Hawkins, the commanding officer of the 64th Fighter Wing. The citation reads, “For exemplary behavior, display of courage, and devotion to duty during the period of 22 January to 29 February. The manner in which you have performed your duties, at the Anzio and Nettuno beach-head, while all of our installation, roads, and bivouac areas were subjected to intense artillery fire and bombing attacks is worthy of the highest praise. The courage you have shown has contributed much to the success of this operation.” From reading this you can tell that Mr. Honeycutt was a courageous and highly respected man who served his country with distinction.

Honeycutt departed for the United States on September 19, 1945 after serving for 3 years, 2 months and 17 days in the European Theater of Operations with the 439th and was discharged at Fort Bragg, NC.  His Service ribbons worn included the Presidential Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal, European Campaign Medal with nine Bronze Service Stars and one Bronze arrowhead.

After WWII, Mr. Honeycutt lived a quiet, simple life and married his fiancé, Pearl Whitson on the 29th of November, 1945. They soon welcomed two new members to their family, daughters Barbara and Eloise.  For a short time, Honeycutt worked at Kodak Eastman in Kingsport, Tennessee and Maryland however, he lived the bulk of his post-war years farming in Buladean under the shadow of Roan Mountain.  He loved animals, especially horses and in later years had a horse named Fanny, which was one of his pride and joys.  Fanny and Mr. Honeycutt did lots of farming together, as she helped him disk the soil. The horse was very gentle, and he often let his grandchildren take rides on the horse.  He was a loving father, husband, grandfather, cousin, and friend, and rarely let his war experiences interfere with his daily life.

Like many combat veterans, Mr. Honeycutt suffered from PTSD. Though he controlled it extremely well, the things he saw during WWII lived in his mind for the rest of his life.  Perhaps one of his most harrowing memories is the liberation of the Concentration Camp at Dachau.  It was hard for Mr. Honeycutt to share his times in battle and he seldom told stories. He almost never spoke of war memories with his friends and family but when he did, they could see him struggling to hold back tears and emotions.  Mr. Honeycutt left his time at war locked not only in his head, but in his footlocker, that remained untouched and stowed away up until shortly before his passing. When the chest was finally opened, it revealed many records, images, and patches that were filled with information about this part of his untold life away from home. Suddenly, this secret door of Mr.Honeycutt’s life was open to his family.

William G. Honeycutt died on a Saturday morning, the 3rd of May, 2003 at the Mountain Home VA Medical Center, in Johnson City, Tennessee at 87 years of age. Like a superhero with a secret identity, Mr. Honeycutt lived a life after war in silence, but had a legacy that spoke louder than ten thousand voices, which will live on forever. His daughter Barbara Jenkins summed up her father with these words. “We have no idea of the pain and suffering our sons and daughters, mothers and fathers experienced both during the time of war and for many years afterward. Daddy was VERY proud of his service but couldn’t talk about the traumatic events that took place during his war years, while we were young.  He would tell a lot of the funny escapades he & his buddies got into but it was not until the last few years of his life that he began telling us about seeing his best friend step on a landmine right in front of him and many other such tragic events.  He wanted to tell everyone about his years overseas, but would begin crying every time, even though this was more than 50 years after he lived it. He kept all of these painful images deep inside him but they were still there, doing their damage to his peace of mind. The last two years of his life, his memory began to fail and thankfully so did these heartbreaking memories. We always felt it was by God’s Grace that he made it home to Mitchell County and was blessed to raise a family he loved so much. This was why he & so many others were willing to fight, to be wounded both physically & mentally and to even die for the rest of us. It was because of their Great Love for the people and the land we call Home, the United States of America.”

Mitchell County is very proud to claim Mr. William G. Honeycutt Jr. as one of its own, and we would like to take this Veterans Day to remember this wonderful man and pay our deepest gratitude to the sacrifices he made for our country.

Mitchell High School Advanced Placement US History students

Zayda Carver

Jacey Dale

Cassidy Gentry

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James Oliver Young: World War II and Christian Hero https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/11/10/james-oliver-young-world-war-ii-and-christian-hero/ https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/11/10/james-oliver-young-world-war-ii-and-christian-hero/#respond Tue, 10 Nov 2020 20:26:05 +0000 https://mitchellnchistory.org/?p=5019 James Oliver Young was born to William Patrick Henry and Dora Sina Buchanan Young 31 August 1910 in the Clarissa community on Cane Creek. His siblings included Ethel Eve, Robert N, Moses Lafayette, Josephine Leah, and Paul Edward Young. After graduating from Bowman High School, he went to Akron, Ohio where he worked for a […]

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James Oliver Young was born to William Patrick Henry and Dora Sina Buchanan Young 31 August 1910 in the Clarissa community on Cane Creek. His siblings included Ethel Eve, Robert N, Moses Lafayette, Josephine Leah, and Paul Edward Young.

After graduating from Bowman High School, he went to Akron, Ohio where he worked for a time in the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company factory. Apparently, he preferred pursuing an academic path and entered Appalachian State Teachers College about 1934 and completed a B.S. degree with a double major in History and English. He excelled and received academic honors as well as being a member of the Debate Team, International Relations Club, Alpha Sigma Gamma Honor Society, Forensic Society, YMCA, National Economics Club, Social Scient Club, and was President during his Senior year.

He came back home and taught first in the one-room Roan Mountain School, where he had attended. He then taught at the Altapass School in Mitchell County, Dobson School in Surry County, Maxton in Scotland County, back home to Tipton Hill High, and finally to Bowman High. Obviously, Oliver was engaged in community affairs as indicated by his winning a men’s beauty pageant sponsored by the American Legion post and Social Service committee in Laurinburg 7 November 1938 while teaching 7th Grade at Maxton. At Bowman he took a role in the faculty play, coached the school’s winning debate team, and was a founding member of the Bakersville Junior Civic Club.

When the US entered World War II in 1941, Oliver believed that it was his duty to serve and left teaching and enlisted in the Army 17 February 1942. Most likely, he completed basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Apparently, he was assigned or volunteered to serve in the 52nd Chemical Processing Company and was stationed first at Camp Bowie, near Brownwood., Texas. There, during a rest period after an overnight march he composed “Iris by the Roadside” which was published by the Moody Monthly in July 1942.

IRIS BY THE ROADSIDE

In the cool quiet shade

By the road, where we marched

In grime and sweat and dust,

A clean and peaceful iris bloomed alone,

And shed its beauty on a world enslaved by hate.

Six purple petals-three toward heaven curled

And three in weeping mood it held,

As if to pray for the folly of man.

0 solitary flower-touched with sorrow

And poised in gesture of unbounded faith,

Unheeded, you plead with a hating, striving world

To make way for the way of God.

He remained in Texas until 10 August 1942, then to New York, NY on 13 August until 21 September when the Company moved to Camp Pickett, VA where he remained stationed until 22 April 1943.

It is not known at this time when Oliver first met Viola Elizabeth Mann of Pittsboro; however, both were graduates of Appalachian State Teachers College and were teaching in nearby schools in 1938. Oliver was teaching 7th grade in Maxton, N.C. and Viola was an elementary school teacher at Gibson about 17 miles away.

However, during his time at Camp Pickett, Oliver took a leave and came down to Pittsboro to marry Viola 22 December 1942. After a honeymoon in the WNC mountains, Oliver returned to Camp Picket and Viola to Gibson, NC.

Although the United States did not use chemical weapons during the war, the military was constantly aware of the potential for others to do so. His Company’s specific responsibility was to treat uniforms, shoes, and other clothing items to be chemically resistant or at least tolerant.

From 13 May 1943—31 December 1944 Oliver served in NATO or the European Theater of Operations and 31 Dec 1944—29 May 1945 in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. In May he was admitted to the hospital with Bronchiectasis and chronic Sinusitis where he remained until he was discharged in December 1945 then he was retired with a disability from the Army.

Oliver believed that he was called to the ministry before he entered the service and now retired, on 3 February 1946 he was ordained in a service conducted by the Reverend Julius Henline in the Roan Mountain Baptist Church. This is the church for which Oliver’s Third Great Grandfather, Moses Young and his wife Elizabeth sold the land to William Burleson and Ephram Buchanan, Trustees “for the purpose of a Baptist Meeting house” in 1874.

The Rev. Young immediately entered the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky where he earned the Bachelor of Divinity degree after having spent one summer at the Divinity School of Duke University.

He spent one year as associational missionary in the Mitchell and Avery Associations before being called to the Bakersville Baptist Church, his first pastorate, in September of 1949 where he remained for four years. He was active in the community with membership in the Lions Club and Bakersville Lodge No. 357.

Next, he was called to Woodlawn Baptist Church in Charlotte 1 March 1954 and remained for eight years. During this time, he served as president of the Baptist Pastor’s Conference of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, Secretary of the Mecklenburg Associational Board, Program Chairman of the Mecklenburg Ministerial Association and in numerous other community activities.

Throughout his ministry, Oliver conducted devotional services on television and radio, preached   in mission centers, taught at youth camps and retreats, visited in hospitals and prisons, counseled with individuals, and taught Seminary Extension classes.

Health issues forced him to leave the ministry yet in the fall of 1962 he enrolled at Appalachian State Teachers College to earn his Master’s degree in English in order to teach in a church related college. This he did not realize but continued to serve as an interim and supply pastor; moderator of the Three Forks Baptist Association; Director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at ASTC for a year; and, as active as his physical condition would allow, participated in programs of the First Baptist Church in Boone.

The Reverend James Oliver Young died 19 December 1967 and was laid to rest among his ancestors in the Green Young Cemetery in Mitchell County. Viola rests there as well, following him 14 April 2012.

The writer is grateful to Viola Mann Young for making sure that the basic transcript of Oliver’s book, A Baptist Looks Back, was published in 1968 from which a great deal of the information here was gleaned. The book also is the best available history of the Baptist Church in Mitchell County. Also, to Mary Lee Barron whose notes, files, and remembrances of one of her most favorite and loved cousins added to both the book and this article.

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Honoring Mitchell County’s WWII Heroes: Arthur Ray Buchanan https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/11/10/honoring-mitchell-countys-wwii-heroes-arthur-ray-buchanan/ https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/11/10/honoring-mitchell-countys-wwii-heroes-arthur-ray-buchanan/#respond Tue, 10 Nov 2020 20:16:20 +0000 https://mitchellnchistory.org/?p=5015 Speaking of Ray Buchanan, folks will say admiringly with a shudder, “Oh, yes, he was a survivor of that awful Bataan Death March.” This does not come close to what 17-year-old Arthur Ray endured for 3 and a half incredibly brutal years. Ray was born in the Clarissa Community on Cane Creek as the youngest […]

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Speaking of Ray Buchanan, folks will say admiringly with a shudder, “Oh, yes, he was a survivor of that awful Bataan Death March.” This does not come close to what 17-year-old Arthur Ray endured for 3 and a half incredibly brutal years.

Ray was born in the Clarissa Community on Cane Creek as the youngest son of James Blaine and Dora L Buchanan on 12 June 1922. He had 4 brothers and 4 sisters and attended Roan Mountain school.

He joined the Army in 1940 at age 17 and was assigned to the 8th Bomb Squadron of the 3rd Bomb Group, Savannah, Georgia. In October 1941 he volunteered for service overseas and was promoted and transferred to the 27th Bomb Group of the 91st Squadron. He left Savanna on the USS President Coolidge on 21 October, arrived at Pier 7, Manila on 20 November, and set up in Fort William McKinley.

A massive 14th Japanese Army attacked the Philippines on 9 December two days after Pearl Harbor. The ground echelon of the 27th still in the Philippines was evacuated south from Luzon on 25 December to the Bataan Peninsula, arriving to form the 2nd Battalion (27th Bombardment Group) Provisional Infantry Regiment (Air Corp).

For 120 days and despite a lack of supplies, American and Filipino forces managed to fight the Japanese, engaging them initially in a fighting retreat southward. Much to the displeasure of General McArthur, on 9 April Major General Edward King Jr., realizing the futility of his position, surrendered to Colonel Mootoo Nakyama of the 14th Japanese Army.

Ray, suffering from shrapnel and a rife shot to the leg, was among a group of soldiers who tried to escape to the hills. Apparently, with the idea to join the Filipino guerilla fighters; however, most of those, including Ray, were captured and put in with 10,000 other Americans for the march north.

After the surrender, Americans and Filipinos were marched, regardless of their condition, practically without food or water, in successive groups ranging from about 500 to 1,500 to San Fernando. The men walked for six days between 65 and 140 miles.

The “Code of the Warrior,” according to Japanese tradition, meant fighting to the death; therefore, they considered those who surrendered to be cowards and treated them accordingly. During this “Death March” many were forced to go barefoot and hatless over the hot rocky roads. Some were fed one time with a saucer of rice and many were decapitated, their heads put on bayonets, and paraded in front of the prisoners. The men endured continuous harassment, stopping occasionally in barbed wire enclosures with no toilet facilities and hardly room to sit.

At San Ferando, Ray along with others in groups of at least 100 were put into box cars each with a capacity of only 25-50 and moved to Capiz. Then in columns of 4 they were marched to Camp O’Donnell where over 2,000 died. There he remained from 17 April until 6 June 1942 when they were moved to Camp Cabanatuan which had a death rate of over 50/day, often with bodies being left lying in the hot sun.

At both camps the prisoners were forced to work; however, in May of 1942 only 20 of every company of 200 were well enough to do work of any sort. Ray worked in the corn fields, escaped, was recaptured, and tortured.

Beginning in September 1942, many prisoners, able to work, were moved from the Philippines to Japan. Ray was moved to the transitional Bilibid Prison and on 23 July 1943, he was put on the “hell ship” Clyde Maru. The men were packed in the wooden kennel-like structures on the lower ‘tween’ deck of the freighter and arrived at Moji, Japan 15 days later on 10 August. Ray was taken first to Camp Fukuoka #17. Later he was transferred to the Niigata camp were prisoners were forced to work. Wearing only a G-string, Ray worked 14/15-hour days barefooted in the Mitsui coal mine. A cave-in covered him for 3 days, he recovered, but had back and leg problems the rest of his life. Here he stayed for two years until the Japanese surrender and American forces liberated the prisoners.

Fortunately for Ray, the city of Niigata was one of four possible targets for the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki; however, weather and distance considerations cancelled that site.

Liberated, on 5 September 1945 he was taken by train to Yokohama and there on the docks he registered on 9 September to return to the states by way of the hospital ship, Missouri. Ray came to Moore General Hospital in Swannanoa on 28 October 1945.

After 3 and a half years, Ray had a broken left hand, shrapnel in his left leg, and a broken left arm. He also is reported to have been the victim of the sadistic and incompetent medical officer, 2nd Lt. Hiroshi Fujii.

Ray was awarded 4 purple hearts, a bronze star, and distinguished unit badge with oak clusters.

Surviving the Death March was only the beginning and this very brief chronology does not come close to describing the horrors that Ray witnessed, endured, and overcame as he turned 21. In June 1947, he married Mary Will Stamey who died in 1986 and then married Emma Lee Staton. He died 11 February 1988 at the age of 66 and is buried in the Cane Creek Cemetery.

Thanks especially to Joyce Boone’s 1988 articles in the News-Journal and daughter Janie Campbell for her files and insights. There is so much more to his story.

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Silent Witness – The Mitchell County Courthouse Ghost https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/10/27/silent-witness-the-mitchell-county-courthouse-ghost/ https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/10/27/silent-witness-the-mitchell-county-courthouse-ghost/#respond Tue, 27 Oct 2020 23:54:59 +0000 https://mitchellnchistory.org/?p=5008 The Historic Mitchell County Courthouse has been a landmark in Bakersville since 1907. For over one hundred years, the courthouse has served the community in many different aspects. It kept life records of Mitchell County citizens and oversaw many significant events in the history of Mitchell County, including the end of both World Wars and […]

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The Historic Mitchell County Courthouse has been a landmark in Bakersville since 1907. For over one hundred years, the courthouse has served the community in many different aspects. It kept life records of Mitchell County citizens and oversaw many significant events in the history of Mitchell County, including the end of both World Wars and the Bakersville fire of 1922. Today it is the home of the Mitchell County Historical Society, serves as a polling location during elections, and many other public gatherings.

While there is no doubt that the courthouse is home to history, it is also the residence of a restless spirit. Over the years, the courthouse ghost has been known to speak to courthouse workers, open doors, descend up and down stairs, and wander throughout the building. In the November 22,1995 edition of the Mitchell New-Journal, district judge Bill Leavell recalled his encounters of the ghost. In his own words, the first experience came on a Sunday afternoon. “I was up here one Sunday afternoon, and I heard a door slam. I went to see if someone was here. I looked through the whole building, and no one was here. I thought it might have been a draft, but all the windows were closed. I couldn’t figure out why that door had slammed.”

Judge Leavell’s second experience came during a trial. “I was reading the jury instructions. I was about halfway through when I heard someone say, ‘Objection!’ It’s really not proper to object during jury instruction, so I looked out to see who had said it. Nobody had said it. It was really odd. I didn’t recognize the voice, just out of nowhere. I couldn’t tell whether it was a man’s voice or a woman’s voice.”

Longtime Clerk of Court Butch Woody recalled hearing the Ghost speak to her. “Now I don’t remember when I first started hearing it. All it says is, ‘Butch,’ and I can’t distinguish if it’s a male or female voice. At first I thought the other girls were calling me, and I’d say ‘What?’and look around. I don’t know if I do or don’t believe in ghosts, but someone is calling my name, and I don’t hear it anywhere but in this courthouse.”

Sheriff Vernon Bishop reported hearing the Ghost while working late one night. “I was in here at 10 o’ clock one night. I heard someone walk down the back steps in the building. I went out to see who it was, and there was no one there. There wasn’t anybody in this building. And that’s the truth.”

Windle Young also heard the Ghost while working late at night. “Back when I worked at night, I’d hear a door slam and then I’d wait for somebody to come in. At three or four in the morning, it’d slam. I’d hear steps and wait for it to continue, but nothing.”

Kay Woody was the only one to actually lay eyes on the Ghost. “As I was walking down the hall, in the second office, I saw a man standing there at one of the file cabinets. I went by, then thought, ‘Who was that?’ I backed up, and he was gone. I circled through all the offices and there was nothing, no one.” She claimed what she saw wore a white shirt and gray pants.

The historic 1907 Mitchell County Courthouse.

No one knows who or what the Courthouse Ghost is. It is true that many associated with the courthouse over the last century have died untimely deaths, leading to endless possibilities of the identity of the spirit. Perhaps one day the Ghost will finally find what it is seeking and will receive its long waited eternal rest.

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George Rufus Dale Built an Ideal Community https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/10/27/george-rufus-dale-built-an-ideal-community/ https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/10/27/george-rufus-dale-built-an-ideal-community/#respond Tue, 27 Oct 2020 23:35:32 +0000 https://mitchellnchistory.org/?p=5001 On June 17, 1940, an article appeared in the Asheville Citizen entitled “Mitchell County Farmer Uses Own Family to Build an Ideal Community.”  The piece, written by Mrs. Romulus (Constance Jolley) Duncan of Spruce Pine, a frequent contributor to local and regional publications, was about George Rufus Dale. Two sons of Henry Dale and Elizabeth […]

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George Rufus and Elvira Fullwood Gibbs Dale

On June 17, 1940, an article appeared in the Asheville Citizen entitled “Mitchell County Farmer Uses Own Family to Build an Ideal Community.”  The piece, written by Mrs. Romulus (Constance Jolley) Duncan of Spruce Pine, a frequent contributor to local and regional publications, was about George Rufus Dale.

Two sons of Henry Dale and Elizabeth Poteet of what is now McDowell County moved up the mountain to raise families; the older was John H. Dale (1827-1865), who married Sarah Olivia Hall (1831-1897).  The other son was George Rufus Dale, born about 1833, who worked at George Greenlee’s Store in the Grassy Creek community.  According to the story his son told journalist Connie Duncan, as G.R. Dale came up the mountain towards Gillespie Gap, he would often see a young girl hanging out clothes to dry or doing other tasks.  He assured a companion, “That good-looking young woman may someday be my wife.”  She was Rachel Mace (1837-1919), the daughter of Newsome and Susannah McFalls Mace.

George Rufus Dale and Rachel Mace married about 1855 and were the parents of 4 children:  Jane Augusta McKinney, James G. Dale, Susan Elizabeth McKinney, and George Rufus Dale, (born 8/26/1862.)  G.R. Dale, Sr., according to one source, served during the Civil War with South Carolina Troops, in Co. D 6th Regiment.  He died 2/28/1862, whether in battle or from illness, 6 months before the birth of his namesake.  Rachel remarried, to James Alfred McBee (1845-1929), and had 7 more children.

On 12/26/1880, the younger George Rufus Dale married a girl from a neighboring family; she was Elvira Fullwood Gibbs, born 11/4/1864, the daughter of William Fullwood Gibbs and Mary Hollifield Gibbs.  The couple’s first 3 children, sadly, succumbed to colitis according to Duncan’s article; they were Augusta Jane, James, and Bessie.  However, 8 children grew to maturity.  Charles Sexton (1887-1963) married Melissa Glenn, Tull Washington (1890-1979) married Lula Jane Washburn, Dessie Demona (1892-1973) married Lindsey Gouge, Fred D. (1893-1954) married Agnes Washburn, Carl Lindsey (1896-1988) married Hattie Washburn, Hattie (1898-1976) married Grady Hollifield, Allie (1900-1992) married Dewy Collis, and Clark Hariot (1910-1973) married Irene Burleson.  Lula Jane, Agnes, and Hattie were sisters, daughters of John M. and Mourning Ella Hollifield Washburn.

George and Elvira Dale first settled on 50 acres of land in the Little Switzerland area, deeded to him by his mother.  He farmed, raised cattle, and traded horses, and because he was “a born trader with a keen insight into the future,” he became prosperous enough to acquire some of “the rich, level lands of Grassy Creek.”  There Dale continued his modern farming practices and thrifty habits, accumulating considerable property.

“Desiring to see his children prosper and enjoy their gifts during his lifetime rather than leave his fortune to them at his death,” Jolley wrote, Rufus Dale deeded his land to them; in addition, he gave them cash in order to encourage and help them along so each would be “comfortably settled and happy in his surroundings.”

The families who settled near their scion were also industrious, progressive, and lived in good homes; the community, while not incorporated, became known as Daletown.  Jolley described it as a neighborhood “where the county agricultural agent was a familiar figure and where the children go to college.”

In 1940, the Citizen-Times asserts, Mr. and Mrs. Dale enjoyed “splendid health.”  Duncan wrote that Dale “arises each morning at daybreak and goes to the barn to feed his stock.  And he is often found on the backside of the mountain pasture, supervising the building of new fences.”  The family had come through bouts with typhoid fever and smallpox, but besides the 3 babies who died of colitis, most were hearty.  Rufus Dale declared he’d had only one serious illness – when he had gone to Statesville for an appendectomy.

George Rufus Dale died 12/30/1942, less than 18 months after the Asheville Citizen article.  He was buried in the cemetery of Grassy Creek Baptist Church, where most of his family attended.  In fact, Connie Duncan wrote, “The entire population of Daletown is Baptist;” further, she stated, “they are almost solidly Republican.”  Dale’s obituary noted that he had served 2 terms as a Mitchell County Commissioner.

Elvira Dale died 11/6/1945, just 3 years after her husband’s death.  Her obituary gave the count of grandchildren as 53 plus 11 great-grandchildren.  As the photograph of a family reunion from 1972 shows, the Dales progeny were numerous.  In addition, the community established by the George Rufus Dale family continues to be a vital section of Mitchell County.  It’s sometimes still referred to as “Daletown.”

 

Dale Family Reunion 1972

 

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Seven Harrell Children, Seven College Graduates https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/10/27/seven-harrell-children-seven-college-graduates/ https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/10/27/seven-harrell-children-seven-college-graduates/#respond Tue, 27 Oct 2020 23:14:22 +0000 https://mitchellnchistory.org/?p=4996 Harrell Hill Farm Family See Seven Children Graduate from College Despite numerous hardships, residents of the Toe River Valley have long placed great value on education; this is exemplified by a family from Mitchell County’s Harrell Hill community.  “The life-long goal of Mr. and Mrs. Luther Harrell was to put their seven children through college,” […]

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Harrell Hill Farm Family See Seven Children Graduate from College

Mrs. Arizona Byrd Harrell with college diplomas earned by her seven children.

Despite numerous hardships, residents of the Toe River Valley have long placed great value on education; this is exemplified by a family from Mitchell County’s Harrell Hill community.  “The life-long goal of Mr. and Mrs. Luther Harrell was to put their seven children through college,” according to a 6/14/1959 article in the Asheville Citizen-Times.  The youngest of the couple’s 7 children, Carol, had recently graduated from Appalachian State.

Luther B. Harrell (1890-1957) was the son of Aden and Anna Byrd Harrell.  In 1913 he married his childhood sweetheart Arizona Byrd (1898-1976), daughter of Kimsey and Eliza Hughes Byrd.  The article referred to her only as Mrs. Luther Harrell, as was common mid-20th century, never by her given name.

Both Luther and Arizona completed high school.  Luther attended the Stanley McCormick Academy in Burnsville at age 19, and then spent 2 years at Berea College, working in the school dairy, where he conceived his love for dairying.  Arizona went to school in Harrell Hill and then attended Bowman Academy and the summer teaching Institute there.  An undated article (likely Spring/Summer 1948) by Arthelia “Tillie” Brooks described how young Arizona was inspired by Professor R.T. Teague, who taught at Bowman Academy.

The Harrells owned about 75 acres of land on Byrd Road in Harrell Hill, with some 25 acres under cultivation and the rest in pasturage and woodland.  Parts of the house they lived in had been built by Luther’s great grandparents, James and Mary Ingram Harrell, born about 1795 and 1796.  While Luther had kept flocks of sheep on the land, by 1959 the farm’s chief income was primarily from dairy cattle.  He also cultivated alfalfa and tobacco.

Their children who grew to adulthood were Helen Bryant (1914-1997), A.D. Harrell (1916-2012), Mildred Smith (1918-1969), Bruce Harrell (1923-2013), Edna Ham (1926-2017), Juanita Harbour (born 1933), and Carol Harrell (1936-2015.)  Luther and Arizona saw each of them finish high school, and then move on to post-secondary education.  Arizona Harrell told the reporter in 1959 that she had never given “a second thought” that her children would go on to college.

Although given a choice of what college to attend, all the children “yielded to Mrs. Harrell’s persuasion to attend Appalachian State Teachers College,” as ASU was then called, and each sibling graduated with a degree in education.  Appalachian was the preferred option because it was “not far away and they would have a better opportunity to come home on holidays.”  Mrs. Harrell also admired Dr. B.B. Dougherty, who with his brother D.D. Dougherty began Appalachian Training School in Boone.   Dr. Dougherty was not only a source of encouragement for the Harrell children, he also saw they had financial assistance “when crops failed and there wasn’t enough money to meet college expenses.”

“It takes people with a purpose to send seven children to college with the income from a mountain farm,” wrote Tillie Brooks, but each of those children was accustomed to hard work growing up in a “modest but industrious farm family” and helped to support themselves during their college years.  They had also been raised in the church, the family being members of the Pleasant Grove Church of the Brethren near their farm.  “My husband and I agreed that we would rather our children had good character than anything else,” Mrs. Harrell proclaimed.   She and her husband are buried in the church cemetery.

All the Harrell children spent at least part of their careers in education.  At the time of the article, 1959, Helen taught in Tipton Hill and Bruce in Bakersville, Mildred and Edna in Ashe County, NC, Juanita in Moore County, NC, and Carol in Lee County, NC.  A.D. taught and coached at Tipton Hill High School before he took up dairy farming full time after his father’s death.

Arizona Byrd Harrell, mother of seven college graduates, had spent many long hours, “planting tobacco, tending corn, shocking hay, tying oats, and helping her husband mind sheep or the dairy herd.”  Despite the hard work and the financial burden, she stated she had just one regret as she saw Carol graduate in 1959, marking 36 years since her oldest, Helen, had entered first grade.  She was sorry only that she didn’t “have another child to send.”  In fact, she said she planned to choose a child at the orphanage in Banner Elk and help him or her finish school and go on to college.

 

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Brad Ragan ~ Spruce Pine’s “hard-driving, cigar-chomping businessman.” https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/10/06/brad-ragan-spruce-pines-hard-driving-cigar-chomping-businessman/ https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/10/06/brad-ragan-spruce-pines-hard-driving-cigar-chomping-businessman/#respond Tue, 06 Oct 2020 22:00:05 +0000 https://mitchellnchistory.org/?p=4948 Bradley Eugene Ragan was born 14 May 1915 in Coleman, Georgia, the son of W.E. and Lillian Brown Ragan.  Ragan was the founder and Chairman of the Board of Brad Ragan, Inc., (BRI) the “largest tire retreading company in the world” and “parent company of Carolina Tire, with over 100 outlets around the world” according […]

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Brad Ragan 1915-1979

Bradley Eugene Ragan was born 14 May 1915 in Coleman, Georgia, the son of W.E. and Lillian Brown Ragan.  Ragan was the founder and Chairman of the Board of Brad Ragan, Inc., (BRI) the “largest tire retreading company in the world” and “parent company of Carolina Tire, with over 100 outlets around the world” according to a Tri-County News article which marked his death in 1979.  Ragan’s corporation earned over $153 million the year before he died.

Ragan’s story is a “rags-to-riches tale that outdoes Horatio Alger because it’s true” (Charlotte Observer 2/16/1975).  In 1943 he borrowed money from his grandfather and invested $3500, opening a tire store on Upper Street in Spruce Pine as a Goodyear franchise.

According to a 1973 Tri-County News article, Ragan patented a “Band Lug” retreading process centering “on the sale and servicing of large tires used on loaders, graders, scrapers, and earth-moving equipment employed by the construction, mining, and steel industries.”  Ragan’s process was a superior method which could retread the largest of huge equipment tires up to 18 feet in diameter; the company’s hook was that the retread tires cost 40% less than new tires and lasted just as long.

During the 1972-73 fiscal year, Brad Ragan Inc. reported $51.2 million according to the Tri-County News article noting the company’s 30th anniversary.  Executives of Goodyear Tire and Rubber came to Spruce Pine to celebrate the occasion and recognize the corporation’s largest independent dealer.  Ragan was presented a “Friendly Relations” plaque recognizing his relationship with Goodyear and honoring his contributions to the tire industry.

While it was Ragan’s style “to come on like a country boy,” one business associate called Ragan “one of the sharpest businessmen” he had ever had the pleasure to meet. By 1975, Brad Ragan, Inc. employed over 1900 people worldwide at 42 retail outlets and 62 off-the-road sales and service locations (Observer 2/16/75).

Brad Ragan was a traveling tire salesman when he bought a struggling car and tire dealership on Upper Street. He combined it with operations in Mooresville and Salisbury, NC to form Carolina Tire Company. His operations grew worldwide and was based in Spruce Pine until his death in a plane crash in 1979.

To build BRI from a “from a one-outlet retail tire dealer in Spruce Pine into a world-wide integrated tire operation,” Ragan said he had followed 2 rules.  One was keeping a strong balance sheet.  “’The balance sheet is the bible of business,’ he said, pounding his fist on the desk for emphasis.”  Ragan’s other rule was to remember advice given him years ago by a former president of the Northwestern Bank.  “‘Don’t get too far from shore,’ the late Edwin Duncan Sr. told him when he went to borrow a quarter million dollars to finance a new project” (Charlotte Observer 2/16/1975).

Ragan and his first wife, Joyce Fallow, were parents of a son Brad Ragan, Jr., born in 1946 in Rowan County, NC.  Ragan and his second wife, Florence Bullock (3/2/1919-9/15/2011), married in 1969.  The couple had a home on Hillcrest Circle in Spruce Pine.

“Ragan was known in Spruce Pine as a civic-minded man.  In 1972 he donated securities worth $586,000 to help build Spruce Pine Community Hospital” (Charlotte Observer 12/23/1979)

Another Charlotte Observer article (2/16/1975) detailing a deal to build a retreading installation in Saudi Arabia called Ragan “a Carolina businessman with a bit of mule trader in him… <who> will go anywhere in the world there is a profit.”

Also in 1975, lawsuits were filed accusing BRI of giving tires to purchasing agents as an incentive to buy, a practice common in the tire industry at that time; there was also an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission into BRI’s stock market activities.  Both enquiries were settled with financial payments but no admission of wrongdoing.

Ragan was killed in a plane crash on 21 December 1979, on a snowy flight from Denver to Salt Lake City.  He was headed to Provo to spend Christmas with his wife and his stepdaughters.  The pilot of the small plane, Hal White of Spruce Pine, was also killed.  Ragan is buried in Spruce Pine Memorial Cemetery.

His obituary in the Charlotte Observer (12/12/1979) described Ragan as “a hard-driving, cigar-chomping businessman who rose at 5:00 AM and pushed himself and his employees to strive for their limits.”

Brad Ragan, Jr., (10/1/1946-1/1/2017) took over as President and Chairman of the Board of BRI following his father’s death.  Goodyear acquired a controlling interest in BRI in 1985 and moved its corporate headquarters from Spruce Pine to Charlotte in October 1986; Goodyear became sole owner in 1999 and 2 years later, “the Akron tire maker phased out the Brad Ragan name by either selling those stores or converting them to Goodyear Automotive Service Centers.”

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The School Beneath the Roan https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/09/22/the-school-beneath-the-roan/ https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/09/22/the-school-beneath-the-roan/#respond Tue, 22 Sep 2020 23:48:06 +0000 https://mitchellnchistory.org/?p=4940 In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Mitchell High School class of 2020 took part in a historic graduation at Lavonia Crest. As they rolled through their parade on their way to becoming alumni of MHS, the graduates may have noticed the old gray building on the left, a building that is the home […]

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Glen Ayre School in 1953

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Mitchell High School class of 2020 took part in a historic graduation at Lavonia Crest. As they rolled through their parade on their way to becoming alumni of MHS, the graduates may have noticed the old gray building on the left, a building that is the home of school memories long ago. According to the 1953 yearbook, the beautiful building of the Glen Ayre Administration Building was established in 1940. Twelve years later in 1952, Glen Ayre became one of the first standardized elementary schools in Mitchell County.

As noted in the yearbook, librarian Mae P. Slagle was in charge of 1,166 books, all of which were classified according to the Dewey Decimal System. The school lunchroom was established in 1947. The school cooks, Mrs. Gladys Ollis and Miss Ruth Stevens were in charge of feeding an average of 108 students per day, all while ensuring that it always maintained an A Grade rating. The lunchroom at the time was valued at $3,000.00.

The 1-7 grade school was led by Principal Holden Edwards who also taught 7th grade. Extra-curriculum activities at the school included a basketball team and a 4-H Club. The 7th grade class of 1953 was represented by Class Colors: Blue and White, Class Flower: Pink Roses, and the Class Motto: “By the ropes of the past we ring the bells of the future.”

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Clarissa Baker Buchanan – The Epitome of A Strong, Courageous, Mountain Woman https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/09/16/clarissa-baker-buchanan-the-epitome-of-a-strong-courageous-mountain-woman/ https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/09/16/clarissa-baker-buchanan-the-epitome-of-a-strong-courageous-mountain-woman/#respond Thu, 17 Sep 2020 01:53:43 +0000 https://mitchellnchistory.org/?p=4923 Driving up Cane Creek Road in eastern Mitchell County there is a community called Clarissa. (Most people may pronounce it “Claircey”.) The story of how the name of this settlement came about dates back to the era of the Civil War. Clarissa Baker, daughter of Senator Thomas Baker and Susannah Wiseman Baker, was born in […]

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Driving up Cane Creek Road in eastern Mitchell County there is a community called Clarissa. (Most people may pronounce it “Claircey”.) The story of how the name of this settlement came about dates back to the era of the Civil War. Clarissa Baker, daughter of Senator Thomas Baker and Susannah Wiseman Baker, was born in 1812. In 1836 she married Arthur James Buchanan, the son of Joseph Benedictor Buchanan and Sarah Jones Buchanan. Arthur James was a large landowner whose holdings stretched from Sandy Branch to Hawk. Together they had ten children, six girls and four boys, Susannah, Sarah Ann (Sally), Nancy, David, James Henderson, Joseph, Thomas, Caroline, Mira, and John. Clarissa taught all of her children to read and write using the Bible and the Blue Back Speller as textbooks. Although Clarissa and Arthur were large landowners, they were opposed to slavery. Life during the Civil War was difficult for the family, and to make things worse Arthur died in 1863, leaving Clarissa to raise this large family in the middle of the conflict. When the war broke out and men of fighting age were being conscripted, she was able to slip two of her sons, Joseph and David, by the Confederate lines to Union forces as they didn’t want to fight for the Confederacy. “Her intelligence, leadership ability and speaking ability were feared by the Confederate Home Guards who illegally confiscated property, livestock, and food from the families who fought with the Union” according to the plaque dedicated to her at the Clarissa Community Center. After making it through the Civil War, Clarissa continued to show her fighting spirit and ingenuity. Having to be the head of the household as her husband had died, she not only took care of the daily tasks inside the home, but outside as well. One day while she was out looking for her livestock she discovered a huge piece of mica out of which she made a sun bonnet. A visiting miner from New York heard about this and asked to see the place where it came from. Thus began the Clarissa Mica Mine, one of the three oldest mica mines in Mitchell County along with the Horse Stomp Mine in Little Switzerland, and the Sink Hole Mine near Bandana. She later sold the mine to a company from England around 1870. Mica from this mine was used until the 1950’s. Clarissa died on January 15, 1877 at the age of 64 and was buried beside her husband in the Chestnut Hill Cemetery in, of all places, Clarissa, North Carolina.

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Toecane ~ The Commercial Center of Mitchell County https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/09/16/toecane-the-commercial-center-of-mitchell-county/ https://mitchellnchistory.org/2020/09/16/toecane-the-commercial-center-of-mitchell-county/#respond Thu, 17 Sep 2020 01:41:43 +0000 https://mitchellnchistory.org/?p=4920 Indigenous people came through the area where Cane Creek meets the Toe River at least four thousand years ago on their way to their hunting camp up Cane Creek near Sandy Branch. In 1540, de Soto came close to the area on his way to his overnight camp at Webb then on to Guaxule (Erwin). […]

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Indigenous people came through the area where Cane Creek meets the Toe River at least four thousand years ago on their way to their hunting camp up Cane Creek near Sandy Branch. In 1540, de Soto came close to the area on his way to his overnight camp at Webb then on to Guaxule (Erwin). But  the story of Toecane really begins with the Johnson family.

Between 1863 and 1870, Thomas (Thompson) and Margaret “Peggy” Forbes (Fawbush) Johnson purchased about 250+ acres of land on the Toe River from the Davises and Burlesons among others. In 1880, their son, William Johnson (32), listed as a farmer, and Elizabeth Gouge Johnson (33), as a housekeeper, with 4 children, C. Hunter, Timp, Tweetie, and William W. were recorded as living in the Bakersville Township. In 1881, William purchased 80 acres “on the waters of the Toe River” from Thomas and Margaret. Elizabeth died in June 1883 then William, in 1884, married Elmira Stewart, daughter of John C. and Mahala Gurley Stewart and niece of Francis “Frankie” Stewart.

In 1897 William and Elmira purchased an additional 10 acres “on the mouth of Cane Creek” from his brother Wilson Johnson and C. Garland making his total property holdings to be the approximate the size of what we know today as Toecane.

In 1900, William was listed as a merchant with 2 sons Roscoe (11) and Desoto (10) along with his father Thompson whose wife, Margaret, had died in 1887. William had opened one of the first stores that eventually were to be located in Toecane.

A new transportation system put William in a unique and important position as the land owner of a significant portion of Toe River front property. By 1893, the Charleston, Cincinnati, & Chicago Railroad Company, commonly referred to as the 3 C’s, had laid 20 miles of track between Johnson City and Chestoa (Erwin) on the way up the Toe River. The CC&C was the brain child of John T. Wilder, best known locally for having built the Cloudland Hotel on Roan Mountain; however, financial problems from the Panic of 1893 forced him to let the company go and it became the Ohio River & Charleston Railway Company which reached Huntdale in 1899. Apparently the company called the area near the mouth of the Cane Creek, Intermont Station.

In November, 1901, J. R. and S. L. Edwards “desirous of promoting the buildng of the O R & C” gave the company access to a 95 foot strip of  land on the north bank of the Toe River for $25.

In January 1902, William and Elmira, “desirous of promoting the building of the South Western Railway Company” sold a strip of land on the north bank of the Toe River. The name diffeerence resulted from George Carter who had purchased the tracks from the OR&C that year and named his line the South and Western Railway. In 1908, the line was rechartered as the Carolina, Clinchfield, and Ohio Railway (CC&O) then in 1924 it became the Clinchfield Railroad.

With the obvious developments, the area known as Intermont Station needed postal service; however, equally obvious, the local population preferred a different name for their community. In May, 1902, the first post office was established in Toecane with John Richmond Garvin as the first post master, perhaps in William Johnson’s store building.

By 1909, a reporter from the Charlotte Evening Chronicle said, “Toecane…is the centre of the greatest developed wealth along the entire line.” Until 1954, when railway passenger srvice ended and the post office closed, Toecane had a successful economic presence in Mitchell County.

In its heyday, Tocane had as many as 300 residents and trains stopped twice a day at the depot, one coming up and another going back. The depot had day and night shifts and three taxis came to Toecane daily. People often came from one of the other stops on the Mitchell County line to shop and then return the same day. Also, families all along the line conveniently would go over to Unicoi or nearby to visit relatives.

The Jordan Manufacturing Company, in the 1920’s, under the direction of A.D. Roper, established a production facility known as the “Bobbin Plant” which made “bobbins, cops, skewers, and clearer rolls” for the textile industry.

The first electric production service in Mitchell County was located in Bill Masters’ 3-story mill operated by a water wheel which turned a generator that Masters purchased from a company in Knoxville. The Bakersville Milling, Light and Power Company was located on S 166.77 of the rail line near the coal trestle in the 1920’s. Masters negotiated a special track that was laid to accommodate the mill. The building burned in 1933 and Masters rebuilt in the present location on the other side of Cane Creek.

Stores in Toecane have included the Hughes Brothers and Roscoe Johnson’s which also served many years as the post office. Grove Greene, Clarence Wilson, Brown Wilson, the Blevins brothers, Joe Johnson, and Phil Hight had stores. Warfield Brown kept a soda fountain in his store, Jess Johnson had a restaurant, D.O. Blevins owned the Gulf Oil Company, and Frank Canipe ran a movie house. There were 2 hotels which were busy throughout the year with salesmen from as far away as Chicago and travelers, some heading up to the Roan by hack to Bakersville. There was a barber shop and a dentist’s office.

Commercial products of all sorts were shipped in and out—cattle, lumber, horses, apples, herbs, flour, mica—anything that modern transportation could carry. In 1913, over 6,000 bushels of apples were shipped out.

In 1916, the Road Commissioners of Mitchell County accepted bids for the first macadam road between Toecane and Bakersville. In 1919, the first paved road in Mitchell County was begun following the same path, but with many enhancements.

Toecane was the center of commerce for Mitchell County at that time. The stores in Bakersville flourished with access to goods brought in by the trains, yet residents found a wider range of choices just 3 miles away. Residents up and down the line boarded the train to purchase everyday items regularly as well as “come down” at special times for Christmas shopping, new dresses and hats for Easter, or getting ready for weddings.

Today, two trains come thru Toecane, but they never stop. The depot is just a memory and only one of the existing store buildings, once operated by Emmitt Wilson, continues to contribute economically now as the art studio and gallery of the respected glass artist, Judson Guerard.

Thanks to Michael Joslin <michaeljoslin.com > for allowing the author to use information from his September 20, 1995, Mitchell News Journal.

 

 

 

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