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Julia Nunnally Duncan Featured at High Country Writers Meeting at Watauga County Public Library

June 14, 2018 from 10am to 12pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will be the featured presenter at the High Country Writers Meeting on June 14, 10 a.m.-12 noon at the Watauga County Public Library in Boone. She will discuss her inspirations and the process of becoming a published author. She will present readings from her latest books A Part of Me and A Place That Was Home and give a preview of her forthcoming poetry collection A Neighborhood Changes. A book signing will follow her presentation.See More
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A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories at Black Mountain Center for the Arts

April 21, 2018 from 7:30pm to 9pm
Saturday, April 21, 2018 at 7:30 pm, join nationally celebrated storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, as she hosts her "Taking the Stage" workshop participants, for an enchanting evening of storytelling in picturesque Black Mountain, NC. You'll enjoy a variety of stories and storytelling styles featuring tellers Jane O Cunningham from Rome, GA; Gabriele Marewski from Black Mountain, NC; Christine Phillips Westfeldt - Fairview,…See More
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Writers Circle around the Table

We are located in Hayesville, NC. In April we begin our new season with outstanding Poet Mike James. Mike will read at Writers' Night Out in Blairsville, GA on Friday evening April 13. On Saturday, April 14, he will teach a class at my studio.Formally SpeakingThis class will focus on different types of traditional poetic forms such as the sonnet, the villanelle, and the sestina, and will also include other verse forms such as erasures, found poems, prose poems, and last poems.Contact Glenda…See More
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Rachel Carson, Silent Spring Chautauqua History Alive at UNC Asheville, OLLI Reuters Center, Manheimer Room

April 15, 2018 from 3pm to 4:30pm
Step inside the revolutionary book, Silent Spring as its author Rachel Carson reveals the reckless destruction of our living world. Written more than 55 years ago Silent Spring inspired the Environmental Movement and has never been out of print. And now you have a chance to ask the author, Rachel Carson, how this came to be. But these aren’t just performances. They’re a chance to step into Living History – to ask questions and go one on one with a women whose books shaped our country and our…See More
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She was working on the "About the Authors" section of "Echoes Across the Blue Ridge" when I captured this one morning. Though you can't see it, her coffee cup was within gentle reach that morning. Roxie is at her feet.
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Feb 15

Zachariah Candler and Waightstill Avery were first land-buyers

by Rob Neufeld

 

            “In mid-2010, while compiling the descendant chart for the Zachariah Candler family,” Charles Haller writes in “Pushing the Indians Out,” his book about first developers, “I became interested in Zachariah’s obsession with accumulating land grants issued by the State of North Carolina.”

            Zachariah was one of the resident landowners who jumped on the big post-Revolutionary War land sale. 

            Many of the early developers were non-resident speculators, who bought immense tracts, which overlapped with those of smaller claimants, who had to file pre-emption claims to hold onto what they had.

            John Burton—buyer of 400 acres that included what became downtown Asheville—had been one of those pre-emption claimants.

            The speculators, by the way, didn’t fare too well in certain cases.  They often borrowed money for their purchases and then ran into problems—for instance, delays caused by lack of roads and wars that prevented immigration of settlers.

            Speculators Robert Morris, John Nicholson, and James Greenleaf of the North American Land Co. of Philadelphia exceeded their acreage limits by using false names.  They bribed officials, overpriced shares, ultimately defaulted, and ended up, Haller writes, in the “infamous Prune Street Jail, a Philadelphia debtor prison.”

            Nicholson died in prison.  Morris spent 41 months there, was released thanks to a new bankruptcy law, and died five years later at age 72.  The two of them owed $3 million to 61 creditors.  Greenleaf got out of prison after a year, having declared bankruptcy.

            Meanwhile Candler, living in the area of his holdings, Haller states, moved “progressively down the French Broad (from present-day Transylvania County) with each stage of new acquisitions.”

 

Waightstill Avery

 

            “Eventually,” Haller reveals, “I learned that Waightstill Avery, Burke County’s top frontier lawyer, exceeded Zachariah Candler in his pursuit of acquiring early land grants.

            Avery, North Carolina’s first Attorney General, bought up 151 blocks in Burke and Buncombe Counties starting in 1778, and moved to his estate, Swan Ponds, west of Morganton, in 1781.

             Many of those tracts came into his hands while he was confined to a chair.  In 1801, he’d been thrown from a horse, shattering both legs in a way that could not heal sufficiently.

            He was 60 at the time.  His son, Isaac Thomas Avery, a teenager, came home from studying law to take care of his father and run the plantation.

            Retired from politics and courtroom law, Waightstill “continued to wear the colonial style of dress until his death,” the UNC Libraries webpage for the Avery Family papers notes.  Perhaps he dressed for work and meetings, as he was busy buying land around the Linville and Toe Rivers, where he had hopes of finding gold.

 

Listen up

 

            Educated at Princeton, after growing up in Connecticut, Avery made education one of the top causes in his career.  The part of the N.C. Constitution that established schools and teacher salaries in Nov. 1776 is said to have been in Avery’s handwriting, Edward Phifer Jr. states in his history of Burke County.

            He had children around him, four of own, mostly grown; five of his younger brother, Rev. Isaac Avery, who died in 1799; and later in life, grandchildren.

            His library was the largest in Western North Carolina, Governor David Swain said, according to Samuel A’Court Ashe’s “Biographical History of North Carolina.”

            British General Charles Cornwallis burned Avery’s Charlotte law office down in 1780.  Avery had been colonel of the militia of Jones County (north of Wilmington); and in 1775, participated in the writing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, a precursor to the U.S. one.

            Eleven Connecticut Averys had died at the Battle of Fort Griswold in Groton at the hands of Benedict Arnold, Waightstill learned from his brother, Solomon, the great-grandfather of John D. Rockefeller.

            For 30 years, Waightstill bought thousands of acres of land around Grandfather Mountain, hoping in part to discover gold.  He sent his slaves, of which he had 24, to dig mines, Haller recounts.

            One of the most colorful stories is about his duel with Andrew Jackson.

 

False as hell

 

            In 1788, Avery was a 47-year-old lawyer with the oldest and largest practice in this region.  In Jonesborough, Tenn., he was opposed in a case by 21-year-old Andrew Jackson, who had just gotten his license and moved to Jonesborough the year before.

            According to sources consulted by John Allison for his 1897 book, “Dropped Stitches in Tennessee History,” Jackson was losing.

            Avery cited “Bacon’s Abridgement,” the top authority on modern English law, a copy of which, bound in buckskin, Avery always carried with him.  Jackson ridiculed Avery’s pet source, and Avery responded with a sarcastic remark about Jackson’s ignorance.

            “Jumping to his feet,” Allison relates, “he (Jackson) exclaimed, ‘I may not know as much law as there is in Bacon’s Abridgement, but I know enough not to take illegal fees.’”

            Apparently a new schedule of fees had been issued by the state, and Avery had taken two pounds instead of one pound six shillings.

            “It’s false as hell!” Avery hissed about the charge.

            Jackson tore a page out of a law book, wrote a challenge to a duel on it, and handed it to Avery.  Avery accepted.  Later, they shot their pistols into the air, as agreed.

            There’s another version of this story, funnier, and more of a credit to Jackson.

            In this account, Jackson had the upper hand in court.  Avery, surprisingly, had forgotten his green bag with “Bacon’s Abridgement” in it, and asked for a recess until the next day.

            Jackson took an opportunity to sneak into Avery’s room and substitute a book-sized slab of bacon, wrapped in buckskin, for the book.  When in court, Avery went to produce the book out of his bag, out tumbled the piece of bacon.  Amid the laughter, it was Avery who challenged Jackson to the duel.

            The versions of the tale varied with the geography of the teller, Allison had discovered.

 

BOOK

Pushing the Indians Out: Early Movers & Shakers in Western North Carolina & The Tennessee Territory by Charles Haller (Money Tree Imprints trade paper, July 2014, 288 pages, $24.95).  The book includes authoritative appendices on the early land grant claimants, their descendants, and their grants.  It is available through Amazon.

 

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