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Ann Miller Woodford posted an event
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Ann Miller Woodford at Gospel Singing program: Liberty Baptist Church, Sylva, NC & Exhibit; WCU Mountain Heritage Center

February 19, 2017 from 3pm to 5pm
WCU's Mountain Heritage Center and curator, Ann Miller Woodford, will present an exhibit on African-American far western NC community, music, and history, based on Ann’s book, When All God's Children Get Together: A Celebration of the Lives and Music of African American People in Far Western North Carolina.The exhibit is based upon Woodford’s book of the same name, which examines musical traditions of the African-Americans as practiced at home, work, churches and schools.The exhibit examines…See More
Feb 16
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Feb 15
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
Feb 15
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy Rytson

Tyson’s Emmett Till book probes darknessby Rob NeufeldEVENT: Timothy Tyson discusses his book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 6 p.m., Wed., Feb. 15.  828-254-6734.             The headline about the publication of Timothy Tyson’s new book, “The Blood of Emmett…See More
Feb 13
Tipper posted a video

Kudzu Kickers - Waltz Clog

In case you didn't know-we dance too! Our clogging team is called the Kudzu Kickers. In this video we were practicing for an upcoming festival. The Pressley ...
Feb 11
Tipper posted a blog post

Memories and Food

Each of us have memories that are connected to food. Typically those remembrances are directly related to our childhood, you know the things we ate around the family table like the chocolate gravy I told you about earlier this week.A few years ago I…See More
Feb 11
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Feb 8
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Jewish Studies special events March 23-26

Center for Jewish Studies 35th Anniversary Events from press releaseUNC Asheville’s Center for Jewish Studies (CJS) will celebrate its 35th anniversary with a series of special events on and off campus March 23-26. Rick Chess talk and readingUNC Asheville Professor of English Richard Chess has been director of the CJS for the past 25 years and will deliver the 2017 Phyllis Freed Sollod Memorial Lecture on the celebration’s opening night. A poet and essayist, Chess will offer a vision of Jewish…See More
Feb 7
Julia Nunnally Duncan updated their profile
Feb 7
David E. Whisnant updated their profile
Feb 6
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
Feb 4
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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David Joy Presents His Second Novel at Jackson County Public Library

March 3, 2017 from 6:30pm to 8pm
The Jackson County Public Library and City Lights Bookstore are co-hosting an event with David Joy on Friday, March 3rd at 6:30 p.m. He will present his second novel, The Weight of This World, in the Community Room of the Jackson County Public Library. Set in the Little Canada community of Jackson County, The Weight of This World is a story of three people haunted by their past. A combat veteran returned from war, Thad Broom can’t leave the hardened world of Afghanistan behind, nor can he…See More
Feb 4
Tipper posted a blog post

Hiccup Cures

Do you ever get the hiccups? Every once in a while I do. If I have them once during a day-I always have them again before the day is over. My record is 5 different times in one day.We've all heard drinking water or holding your breath is the remedy to stop hiccups. According to John Parris saying this tongue twister will cure them:Hickup, snicup, rise up, right up! Three drops in the cup are good for…See More
Feb 4
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The German experience settling WNC

The German migration to Western North Carolinaby Rob Neufeld PICTURE CAPTION: An immigrant family comes down the Philadelphia Wagon Road in the mid-18th century, as had the George Schuck family done, and as this Scots-Irish family is doing in an 1872 “Harper’s Weekly” illustration, titled, “The…See More
Feb 3
Nancy Werking Poling posted an event

Nancy Werking Poling at Black Mountain Library

March 6, 2017 from 7pm to 8pm
The launch of Before It Was Legal: a black-white marriage (1945-1987).In an eleven-day interview Daniel and Anna Winters looked back with honesty on a marriage challenged by moving from Indiana to Mexico City. The book is about an independent white woman, a talented black man, and the times in which these two remarkable people lived.See More
Feb 3
Tipper posted a blog post

How About Some Chocolate Gravy?

A few weeks ago Granny called me one Saturday morning to tell me she had sausage, eggs, biscuits, and chocolate gravy ready if I wanted to come down and eat. It tickled her to death when I told her she was calling me too late - I had already made and eaten my own ham, eggs, biscuits, and chocolate gravy. I grew up eating chocolate gravy on Granny's biscuits. We didn't have chocolate…See More
Jan 30

A worker’s view of tannery work in Rosman

by Rob Neufeld

 

            Haskell Luker was 11 when the Flood of 1916 caused his dad, Americus Alfred Luker, to leave the farm where he worked and take a job with an acid (tannin) plant in Pisgah Forest. 

            “Daddy was going down there to make big money—you know how they talk,” Luker explained to Rowell Bosse in a 1991 interview. (The recorded interview is held by Transylvania County Library’s North Carolina Room, which is named after Bosse.)

            “Well,” Luker continued, “we went down there and stayed about a month,” and then the company shut the plant down “because the feller that done the oilin’ down in the engine room got killed one morning about 3 o’clock.  And after he got killed, why the people wouldn’t work of a night. They claimed they could see him down there.”

 

The engine of profit

 

            There are a lot of ghost stories about tragic lovers and vengeful victims in our folklore, but they barely rise above sensational value in the historical record.  However, the lingering ghosts of early 20th century industrialism in our region resonate with significance.

            The tycoons who came to these mountains when its natural resources opened up to them exhibited remarkable energy and ingenuity; as well as various degrees of enlightenment.  In all cases, cheap labor was one of the attractions, and profit a necessary bottom line.

            Joseph Silversteen came to Toxaway and established the Toxaway Tanning Company in 1902.  Behind him was his parents’ escape to Pennsylvania from Russian pogroms; and his entry, as a young apprentice, into the stench-filled industry of tanning.

            By age 23, he was ready for entrepreneurship.  He and new wife, Elizabeth, moved to Transylvania County, which they made their adopted home, benefitting it in numerous ways.

            Dateline: 20 years later.  “Transylvania’s great industries reveal real American story,” the Brevard News trumpeted. 

            “The story of industry in the Brevard section is closely linked with the progress of four large plants by Joseph S. Silversteen, these plants being the Transylvania Tanning company, at Brevard; the Toxaway tanning company, Rosman extract company, and the Gloucester Lumber company, all located in Rosman.”

            The Rosman companies employed about 600 people.  The tanners produced 500 hides a day; the lumber people, 30,000 board feet; and the extractors, 175 barrels.

 

Bottom of the ladder

 

            “I went out there at that old acid plant (the tannin extract company) and asked for a job and (the boss) told me, ‘Well, I'll let you work if I get permission from your daddy,’” Luker said about his first job interview after dropping out of school at age 15.

            He got hired as water boy, making the rounds delivering drinking water to the blacksmith shop; the pan house, where the syrupy extract was finished; the boilerplate room, where wood was boiled; the chipper shed; and the engine room.

            One day, a boy who oversaw the boiling was killed.  “One of them tanks they call the boilerplate...well the bottom blowed off it and killed that boy. And that scared everybody and they wouldn’t work in there.  Boss asked me if I’d work in there.  Well, I’d been around there a whole lot you know and seed what they done and everything, and I told him I didn’t mind it.” 

            Despite the dangers, the new job involved sitting around half the time doing nothing except making sure the pressure valves didn’t pop.  Plus, it was warm in the winter.

            The lighting was very poor, supplied by two home-made lamps powered by the plant’s steam engine.  Particulates gummed up the drain in the tank, causing explosions.  Two more workers died, blown through the roof after climbing the tanks.

            The turnover in the extract company was high, as men from South Carolina had enough after about three paydays, Luker said.  Pay was in scrip, which could be exchanged for 75% of its value in cash.

            Luker, who worked 12 hours a day when he was young, stuck with the company for 25 years, taking a break for the Navy, and stopping when the operation ended for lack of chestnut wood.

            He then worked many more years at a tire company in Pickens, until he was 65, at which point he said he “wasn’t going to do a thang in the world but hunt and fish.”

            The flip side of Luker’s work life had been his leisure time in the woods with his buddies.

            “A man can go right here to the river and catch fish any time,” he said about the old days.  “But when they’d wash out all those tubs up at the acid plant, the river would be just as red as it could be where they’d washed that, and (it all) settled in the bottom there.”

            “Everything went in the river,” Luker noted—dead animals; trash; outhouse waste.

            In 1905, North Carolina passed a law prohibiting tanneries or tannic acid plants from discharging waste into Richland Creek in Haywood County.  But it took a long time for protections to become real in any place; and residents often felt unaffected, calling themselves “stout” and going on with their activities, relatively free to roam.

            “Ever since I was big enough to carry a gun, I’ve hunted and fished,” Luker said.  He and his friends got a quarter for every possum skin, which they invested back in shells.  He hunted coons with his dad, following their dogs.

            Sometimes, they got wind of society passing them by.

           “It’s about like the joke they told on a feller up there on East Fork about the motorcycle,” Luker related.  The man “was out on the porch and heard the motorcycle coming up the road there. Said he ran into the house and got his gun, came back out...Said he hauled off and shot at it. They asked, ‘Did you kill it?’ ‘No, but I made it turn that man loose.’”

 

Rob Neufeld writes the weekly “Visiting Our Past” column for the Citizen-Times.  He is the author of books on history and literature, and manages the WNC book and heritage website, “The Read on WNC.”  Follow him on Twitter @WNC_chronicler

 

PHOTO CAPTION

 

Toxaway Tanning Company employees, 1920s. 1. Calvin Galloway.  2. E.D. Randolph.  3. Will Jackson.  4. Unknown.  5. Archie Rogers.  6. Roy Watkins.  7. Garfield Duncan.  8. Robert Holden.  9. Unknown.  10. Wilborn Galloway.  11. Paul Rogers.  12. Elmer White.  13. Oscar Barrette.  14. Calop Murphy.  15. Will Mosley.  16. Daddy Harry Scott.  17. Unknown.  18. Lueller Powell.  19. Unknown.  20. Bill Jackson.  21. Burnice Owens.  22. Weldon Morgan.  23. Fred Stroupe.  24. Jorden Whitmire.  25. Anderson Revis.  26. C.L. Cantt.  27. Dee Morgan.  28. Carl Hednrix.  29. George Hendrix.  30. Coy Whitmire.  31. Lee Morgan.  32. Dar. Crowe.  33. Elmer McClain.  (Photo courtesy of the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library)

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