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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
Nov 24
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Nov 21
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

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
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

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
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

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
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Nov 13
Rob Neufeld commented on Mark de Castrique's video
Nov 12
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

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
City Lights Bookstore posted events
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
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

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

How the New Year’s bells rang and tolled

by Rob Neufeld


            On Jan. 1, 1890, the new Swannanoa Country Club—an outgrowth of the Swannanoa Hunt Club—hosted a fancy ball in the old Battery Park Hotel, which had occupied, since 1887, a hill that had sloped down to present-day Wall Street.

             The hunt club had once started their fox hunts on the hill, before barbed wire had become a boundary feature.

            Edwin Wiley Grove razed the hotel and graded the hill in 1923 to remake that end of the city into a retail district, starring the Grove Arcade.

            In later years, youths roved the passages linking the Arcade to Patton Ave. playing the street game, fox-and-hounds.

            Another of Asheville’s major landscape-changers, George Willis Pack, used the New Year, in 1901, to announce his donation of land to the county for a new courthouse—a Romanesque behemoth, now gone.  It came with a mandatory public park.

            The city was ecstatic.  “We salute George W, Pack!” the Asheville Citizen proclaimed.  Public Square was renamed Pack Square; and the library, Pack Memorial.

            Funds finally flowed for the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville at the start of 1949, after a long delay caused by military spending priorities. The Authority’s first project, Lee Walker Heights, tucked behind Southside Ave., was intended for veterans.

            Eighteen years later, the vision proved to be troubled, as families fought ghetto conditions—drugs, crime, landlord neglect, and exploitation.  Residents banded together with those from Hillcrest to stage one of the most notable Civil Rights actions in Asheville history, the rent strike of 1967.

            President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, declaring all slaves in rebellious states free.  Most African Americans who intended to leave would wait until the Federal Army occupied their regions at the end of the Civil War.

            On Jan. 1, 1837, John Ridge and other Cherokees left their homeland before the Federal troops arrived.   The members of the Treaty Party—those who had agreed, at New Echota on Dec. 29, 1835 to resettle out west—did not wait for the round-up and forced march that has become known as the “Trail of Tears.”

            New Year’s Day evicted patients and staff from Biltmore Hospital (formerly the Clarence Barker Memorial Hospital) in 1921 when fire consumed the main building.

The wings survived, and became nurses’ quarters.  A new hospital was constructed in 1929, and merged with Mission Hospital in 1947, before closing in 1951.  (Mission merged with St. Joseph’s on Jan. 1, 1996, by the way.)

            There may have been a child or two who gave their parents New Year’s greetings in the original Biltmore Hospital’s obstetrics ward, 1919-1920, but their names and lives go untold on this page.

            We do know that to Caroline Lane and Jesse Swain was born in Beaverdam (now part of Asheville) on Jan. 4, 1801 a boy named David Lowry Swain.  He was Caroline’s youngest child by a second marriage (her first husband had died in an Indian raid), and her 11th in all.

            David, named after his mother’s first husband, would become a state legislator at age 23; and Governor at 31.  For 32 years, he would serve as President of the University at Chapel Hill, resigning when Reconstruction politicians took over.  He wrote an eight-volume history of the “British Invasion of North Carolina in 1776.”

            Not long after the “British invasion,” and American victory, Daniel Smith, father of Swain’s friend, James McConnell Smith, went with William Davidson from Old Fort to the Swannanoa Valley to avenge the murder of William’s brother, Samuel, by Indians.  Samuel had crossed the Blue Ridge with his family before the land had been ceded to the U.S. by treaty.  Daniel, a noted “Indian killer,” carried a rifle he named “Long Tom,” which the Smith-McDowell House Museum owns.

            James McConnell Smith was born in a log cabin on the Swannanoa on “January 7, 1794,” F.A. Sondley writes in his “History of Buncombe County” (1930), “the first white child born in North Carolina west of the Blue Ridge.”

            The oft-quoted “first white child” fact has been disputed.  The birthdate, at any rate, is wrong.  June 14, 1787 is the date that the Smith-McDowell House and genealogists give for James’ advent.  Smith’s wife, Mary “Polly” Patton, was the one born on January 7—in the year 1794.  The Patton and Smith families were related by marriage, business, and government service.



The old Battery Park Hotel built in 1887 by Col. Frank Coxe kicked off the year 1890 with a Hunt Club party.

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