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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
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Nov 21
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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 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 10
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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
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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

A rosette and a mountaintop recall a Civil War murder

by Rob Neufeld

See video.


Trip to the site


            The road to Noland Gap in Haywood County ascends 800 feet in a mile and a half, leading to a crest where Ultima Junaluska Development of Atlanta has recently constructed the subdivision, Avalon at Junaluska Highlands. 

            Here, the realtors’ website entices, you can experience “what ‘sitting on top of the world’ really means.”

            The landscape has changed.  Now, at the entrance to the new community, Signature Row Boulevard forks from Valhalla Cove to travel via the greenery of Tapestry Trail to Sleepy Hollow Drive, formerly connected only by a ridge along Utah Mountain.

Same place, generations ago

            In 1860, sitting on top of this world meant the families there could live and farm in peace, and, according to family lore, turn corn into liquor, which historically involved evading taxes imposed much more heavily on whiskey than on wine.

            That year saw the completion of the Cataloochee Turnpike, built by Jonathan Valley farmers to move livestock from East Tennessee and the Cataloochee area to eastern markets.

            The turnpike, Hattie Caldwell Davis notes in her book, “Cataloochee Valley,” was completed “just in time to be used by Teague’s Scouts” during the Civil War.

            “Captain Albert Teague of the Home Guards and his Scouts had been active in raids on the Union sympathizers, especially in the Big Bend section…where it was mostly prounion in sentiment in at least ten or twelve families.  Several of these were known as outliers.”

            The myth of Unionist sentiment in Western North Carolina stems from changes in loyalty late in the war, due to conscription and the course of the war; attempts to get federal benefits during Reconstruction; and one erroneous, much-quoted source (“Knocking at the Door” by Alexander Hamilton Jones).

            However, if there was one region where Unionism was strong, it was along the Tennessee-North Carolina border, a battleground for loyalty and east-west supply routes.

Cold Mountain fear

            When, in 1862, the Confederacy enacted conscription, draft-dodgers hid in caves, supplied by their women.  Teague’s men followed the women to the lairs and, in one famous incident, found and shot three men, “George and Henry Grooms and a simple-minded man named Mitchell Caldwell,” an article in the Fall 2007 issue of “Great Smoky Mountains Colloquy” stated.

            Before being executed, Henry played “Bonaparte’s Retreat” on his fiddle.  (Clark Medford said, in his 1961 “The Early History of Haywood County,” that it was Anderson Grooms, not Henry, who was present.  Some accounts say the fiddler was the dim-witted one.) 

            The story made it into Charles Frazier’s novel, “Cold Mountain,” with the location moved, and the names Grooms and Caldwell changed to Stobrod and Prangle.

Remembeing the shot sheriff

            Now, we are back at the entrance to Avalon, Jan. 24, 2013.  Lynn Noland, a Haywood County attorney, has brought family members and local lawmen together to transfer a framed rosette to Bobby Suttles, the Sheriff of Haywood County.

            Noland had received the rosette from Chuck Jenkins of Rockport, Washington, who revealed it had belonged to his great-grandfather, John Phillip Noland, Sheriff of Haywood County, who’d been murdered on September 22, 1862 when he’d followed JoAnn Robinson up what is now Breckenridge Road from the old county jail, where she’d been visiting her husband, Bud, arrested for draft evasion.

            John Franklin, a Robinson neighbor, was the sheriff’s target.

            “Sheriff Noland was attired in a black hat, long black frock coat, black trousers, a white shirt, and a black “string” or “bow tie,’” Lynn writes in his family history.

            “On his left lapel he wore a crimson fabric ‘rosette’ as his badge of office.  The original official sheriff’s badge had been donated for its metal in furtherance of the Confederate war effort.”

            As JoAnn Robinson neared the crest of the ridge, she gave a pre-arranged signal to her kin, hiding in the laurels, Lynn relates, having heard the story from both Jenkins and Lourena Troutman, granddaughter of Phillip Noland, in 1982.

           “The words from the old hymn, ‘How Firm a Foundation,’ floated through the clear mountain air…A heavy lead ball struck Philip Noland in the throat, knocking him from his horse.  He died there in the high ridge gap that now bears his name.”

Guilty go free, and othe legacies

            The county arrested James H. Franklin as one of the outliers who caused Noland’s death, and sentenced him to death in a week devoted entirely to capital offenses in mid-October, 1862.  There is no record of the sentence being carried out.

            Several Robinsons, including Bud and JoAnn, fled west.  Some family members changed their name to Roberson to distinguish themselves from the assassins.  In 1868, the Union Army dropped charges against the Unionist killers.

            Noland family members continue to live in the Rogers Cove and Jonathan Creek areas. 

            Lindon Nichols, Philip’s great-grandson, worked for many years installing septic tanks and water lines for developers, sometimes having to park a bulldozer in front of his backhoe to avoid slipping downhill as he dug into the stony soil, which offered little dirt for fill.

            A four-time-great-grandson of Philip Noland tells about his love for fishing and how now he is sometimes picked up by police for trespassing on streams he’d used to fish unbothered.

            Lynn Noland relates how, in staging the ceremony on Noland Gap, he is fulfilling Jenkins' wish  to  honor the “memory of all Haywood County law enforcement officers who have given their lives in the line of duty.” 



See a video of the pilgrimage and ceremony.


Family members and lawmen gather at the spot where Sheriff Philip Noland had been shot and killed in 1862.  Lynn Noland is holding the framed rosette; Lindon Nichols holds a portrait of Philip; and Sheriff Suttles is to Nichols’ left.


Sheriff Philip Noland, photo courtesy Lynn Noland.

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