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Spooks Branch, a human history story

Spooks Branch was a singular place in settlers’ loreby Rob NeufeldImportant editorial note:This is a significant historical story that is also, in parts, personal and controversial.  It is about a few families who settled a particular cove and played out their heroic and complex legacies in ways that interacted with place and time.  You don't read this kind of story much because people don't like to expose themselves or stir up trouble, even a little.  This caution makes history classes boring…See More
Dawn Trowell Jones updated their profile
City Lights Bookstore posted events
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The Rise of Asheville by Marilyn Ball

History of the "Asheville 1000" and the 1970s renaissance                       Let’s not miss the history of Asheville’s renaissance, Marilyn Ball’s new book, “The Rise of Asheville,” advocates.            She’d come here in 1977, making her one of the advance guard of “artists, entrepreneurs, and off-the-grid…See More
Nov 20
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Century-ago woman's apple cake recipe

Mmm, them apples in Beaverdam coveIn 1972, Helen Nelon wrote about the traditions of old-time Spooks Branch, off Beaverdam Road.  Here's what she said about her use of apples in a cake.(The full story of Spooks Branch will appear soon.)There were apples for delicious cider cooled in the spring "dreem" (drain), apples for frying for cold winter days, and for special days there were dried apple sauce fruit cakes.These cakes were made of very thin, sweet dough with dried apple sauce spread between…See More
Nov 18
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Nov 16
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Dignity is the key to Richard Russo's inspiration

So funny, and yet so exposing--Richard Russo's geniusSnakes on the lane            In Richard Russo's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Empire Falls, the protagonist, Miles recalls the time his father, driving, had accelerated into a box on a highway.  “What if that box had been full of rocks?” Miles asks.  Unfazed, Max quizzes his son about what he would do about the box.  Max says he'd stop and look in it,  “What if it was full of rattlesnakes? “ his father asks.            The verbal match…See More
Nov 14
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Nov 13
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Nov 12
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Humanize the history--especially with Civil War--writes acclaimed author

Writer illuminates tangled web of Civil Warby Rob Neufeld             David Madden has written a book, “The Tangled Web of the Civil War and Reconstruction,” that deserves special attention.            First, there’s Madden’s background.  In 1992, he founded the U.S. Civil War Center in New…See More
Nov 12
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Nov 11
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Nov 10
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Coming attraction--Singleton at Malaprop's & City Lights for Calloustown

George Singleton's latest collection of stories, Calloustown...features the folk who try to survive in a place that has little to offer besides a Finger Museum and a taxidermy petting zoo,It's funny, but also tragic and angry.  The review, "Love-hate humor cries in Calloustown," appears in the Asheville Citizen-Times, Sunday, 11/15/2015.  Singleton's at Malaprop’s Bookstore, 7 p.m., Wed., Nov. 18; and at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, 3 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21.Here's an excerpt from the…See More
Nov 10
Lockie Hunter posted an event

Juniper Bends Quarterly Reading at DownTown Books & News

November 13, 2015 from 7pm to 8pm
Our very special Autumnal edition starts at 7PM and is sure to be a lively and vibrant set, with featured writers Randi Janelle, Tina FireWolf, Logan Parker, and Annabelle Crowe. Two of our readers have new books out, and as always there is wine flowing by donation. Hosts Lockie Hunter and Caroline Wilson look forward to seeing you there----remember, your wellbeing depends upon it.See More
Nov 9
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Love and Mercy ~ Up On Roan Mountain

My family lived and loved up on Roan Mountain and in the surrounding mountain areas, and this is their story. It's woven into a tapestry that weaves down through the years, before the days of the Civil War and up to present day. They were…
Nov 9
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It's All Relative--50 WNC women write about family

Family life as perceived by 50 WNC authorsby Rob Neufeld             If you have biases against small press books or anthologies of local writers’ work, I recommend you lay them aside and take a look at “It’s All Relative” (Stone Ivy Press), 52 stories and poems by 50 WNC women authors writing about family.           …See More
Nov 6

2nd Amendment protects need for militias? How has that worked?

Armed citizen conflicts included rash acts in WNC

by Rob Neufeld


            A member of “The Read on WNC” has linked me to a YouTube video, “The Battle of Athens: Restoring the Rule of Law,” which he says is “the real reason why we have the 2nd Amendment.”

            The video re-enacts the illegal seizure of ballot boxes by a McMinn County, Tenn. political boss who wanted to avoid losing the race for sheriff in 1946; and the reclamation of those boxes by returning war veterans by force of arms.

            In the wake of the most recent mass shootings, and the strengthened call for gun control, the militia justification for personal arsenals has gained prominence.  Though the 2d Amendment protects arms ownership because “a well regulated militia” is “necessary to the security of a free state,” the concept of a militia has been expanded to any insurrectionist group opposing an oppressive government.

            Two test questions arise.  How oppressive does a government have to get for armed resistance to be justified?  And, do supporters of militias support the right of all oppressed groups to go to war against those whom they see as oppressors?

            Collateral consequences of an armed citizenship are not the subject of this article.  It should be noted, however that, in the “Battle of Athens” movie, the warfare is caused in part by two irresponsible weapons discharges—first the shooting of a poll watcher by an overanxious deputy; and then a premature firing on the county jail, where the lawmen are holed up.  The movie does not show the brutality and murders caused by an anti-government mob that the veterans could not control after deputies had surrendered.

            History is the subject of this article.  Examples of citizen-at-arms in the region help to broaden the subject.


The Regulator Movement


            Many ancestors of Western North Carolinians opposed the state colonial governors in the 1760s and 70s when tax and debt collectors pulled the kind of greedy tricks that Robin Hood had opposed going up against the Sheriff of Nottingham.  The farmers in what had then been known as the western counties (Rowan, Anson, Orange, Granville) formed the Regulator Movement.

            In 1768, the Regulators sacked Hillsborough, and symbolically put human waste on the judge’s seat and a long-dead slave at the lawyer’s bar in the courthouse.  Eastern politicians summoned the militia. 

            The conflict came to head at the Battle of Alamance, May 16, 1771, when the state’s well-regulated militia overwhelmed the Regulators’ not well-regulated one.  Each side suffered about nine deaths.  Seven Regulator leaders were executed; the rest, pardoned.


Polling day in Marshall


            In Madison County, when people were voting throughout North Carolina for or against secession on May 13, 1861, the Sheriff got drunk, bullied Unionists, and brandished a gun, writes William R. Trotter in “Bushwhackers.”  “Huzzah for Jeff Davis!” was met by cries of “Hurrah for Washington and the Union!” 

             The sheriff shot at one Unionist, who dove away, and the Unionist’s son was killed.  The sheriff ran to the second floor of a house, and said, bring it on.  The Unionist fired and wounded the sheriff.  The constable raced up the stairs, followed by the father, who pushed past the constable and finished the sheriff off. 


The Kirk-Holden police action


            In June 1870, the Republican governor, William Holden, commissioned Col. George Kirk, the notorious Civil War guerilla raider, to lead a militia unit, composed of WNC and East Tennessee men, to take over the town of Yanceyville in the wake of Klan violence (including an assassination and a lynching) against Reconstruction officials.  Asheville Republican leaders opposed Kirk’s appointment.

            Kirk arrested suspected Klan conspirators in fields and homes, ignoring habeas corpus.  When Holden heard that Kirk had tortured one man for information, he wrote Kirk forbidding such action.  The Federal government eventually enforced habeas corpus, freeing most prisoners.  Holden was impeached on Dec. 14, 1870; and removed from office, March 22, 1871.  The Republicans lost power for many years.


Shoot-out at Highlands Inn


            In 1885, the town of Moccasin, Ga. declared war on Highlands, N.C. when a Federal revenuer impounded two Moccasin bootleggers in the Highlands House (now Inn).  Armed volunteers from Moccasin bivouacked behind the Central House across the street, and warfare proceeded for three days.  A Highlands sniper killed a Georgia man from a roof, and the Georgians went home, vowing revenge.

            Highlands recruited gunmen from surrounding towns.  Moccasin responded by cutting off the trade route.  Joel Lovin, a Confederate veteran, left Highlands to resolve the stand-off and came upon the Billingsley boys in Georgia, who passed without incident.  “Uncle Lovin returned with supplies from Walhalla,” Randolph Shaffner writes in “Heart of the Blue Ridge.”


The Will Harris murders


            On Nov. 13, 1906,  Will Harris, an African American war veteran and Asheville worker, killed five men around Pack Square, fled, and was killed by a posse in a barrage of bullets.  His body was displayed in a South Main St. (now Biltmore Ave.) funeral home window.


Violence against African-Americans in Spruce Pine


            On September 26, 1923, 200 white citizens of Spruce Pine, led by a sheriff’s deputy, marched to the feldspar miners’ shanty town to evict every black citizen from the area.  News had spread that John Goss, an African-American, had escaped from a prison road crew at about the time that a 75-year old white woman reported having been raped.

            Governor Cameron Morrison called in the National Guard to enable the return of African-Americans.  African-American labor was essential to the area’s booming new industry.  Goss was sentenced in a rushed trial and executed.


The Marion textile mill strike


            ‘’For God’s sake, stop, men.  Don’t kill any more,” “Time” magazine reported McDowell County Sheriff Oscar F. Adkins shouting as his deputies shot strikers at the Marion Mill on Oct. 2, 1929, killing six. 

            Brutal conditions at the mill had led workers to engage the United Textile Workers; and they were joined by Clinchfield millworkers.  Negotiations fell apart when Clinchfield president B. Mabry Hart walked out.

            Adkins deputized anti-union factory workers, including one who had gone on a shooting rampage against factory workers in their village, Mike Lawing reported in his book, “The Marion Massacre.”

            The deputies had rifles; the workers, sticks and stones.  The first shots came from the mill gate, where deputies were stationed.  In the end, the lawmen were acquitted and union organizing did not return to Marion.

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