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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
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
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
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
Martha Arrowood Pelc posted a photo

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
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Turkey hunter lore from Jim Cassada

Jim Casada's book on legendary turkey huntersJim Casada, our premiere Great Smoky Mountains outdoorsman/writer (see his newsletter) has written a new book, Remembering the Greats: Profiles of Turkey Hunting's Old Masters.“I knew several great turkey men, and every one of them was passin’ quair," Jim Cassada's grandfather had once told him.Following this aphorism, leading off Chapter 2 of his book, Cassada launches into the story of…See More
Nov 3

Olive Tilford Dargan, great writer, took refuge in Almond

Literature survived loss for a great mountain writer

by Rob Neufeld


            In the late 1930s, children in the Swain County town of Almond saw an old bag lady walking around, muttering to herself.

            The woman was the celebrated playwright, poet, and novelist Olive Tilford Dargan.  The bag contained gifts she gave out to local kids.  The muttering was poems she recited in the act of composition.

            Perhaps one of the poems she was turning in her head was “Annie’s Garden,” which appeared in “The Spotted Hawk” years later.  It expressed the solace Dargan had taken in her West Asheville refuge, Bluebonnet Lodge (located at the end of Balsam Avenue, since razed) before having to leave it for a while because of dark clouds of suspicion.


The rain it raineth every day

From skies of wrath and rue,

But I’ve a garden where I play

Whatever skies may do.


            While living in West Asheville, Dargan had published the novel “Call Home the Heart,” and its sequel, “A Stone Came Rolling,” in which the author had followed her beloved mountain characters to the mills in Gastonia, wrote about it, and gotten labeled a proletarian writer.

            She used a pseudonym, Fielding Burke, but a New York reviewer blabbed her identity.

            The folks in Almond saw Dargan as a person, and not as a public figure.  They loved her short stories about them, published first as “Highland Annals” and republished with Bayard Wootten photos as “From my Highest Hill.”

            “Nobody knew anything about it and no one cared,” Almond resident Sylvia Latshaw recollected about Dargan’s blacklisting.  “We weren’t even reading the daily papers.  We don’t get them out there.  And we didn’t have time to read them if we did.  There she (Dargan) stayed until the hue and cry died down.”

            Eventually, Dargan returned to Bluebonnet Lodge.   She lived there for thirty more years, dying in 1968 at age ninety-nine.

            In 1944, Dargan sold her Almond land, and loggers stripped it of trees.   At the same time, the Tennessee Valley Authority was flooding much of low-lying Almond to construct Fontana Dam.

            At age 87, Dargan published two more books, including the award-winning volume, “The Spotted Hawk.”

            In her last years, Dargan sold a couple her Bluebonnet House with the stipulation that she could continue to live on the top floor.  Though she willed her papers and library to the University of Kentucky at Lexington, her native home, her death was followed by the accidental disposal of her material.

            Dargan is buried in Green Hills Cemetery in West Asheville.  A state highway historical marker was erected in front of the West Asheville Library in 2000.

            Her legacy is her published work.  One poem in “The Spotted Hawk,” titled, “Vain Rescue,” imagines her death amid woodland wonders:


But rising now no inner fires outflow,

No gleam around me save a pale moon’s haze.

I know a wood of beech and birch and snow

That waits my step.  And come the June-warm days,

Where two brooks wed I’ll find a lulling seat,

And stir white pebbles with my slow, bare feet.



A thirty-page account of Dargan’s life and career by Neufeld appeared in “May We All Remember Well, Vol. II,” with twenty photographs.



Olive Tilford Dargan’s grave in Green Hills Cemetery

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Rob --As a native of Swain County, I've always been fascinated by Olive Tilford Dargan.  Perhaps the most amazing thing about this unusual woman--local folks described her, accurately, as "quair"--was the manner in which she managed to become close with folks living in the Round Top area.  Her political and social views were in many ways about as far removed from those of the local folks as one could imagine, yet she got on quite well with her neighbors.  I've got a world of Dargan lore stored away in my feeble mind and have writte about her a bit, but sharing one anecdote will give a good indication of her scatterbrained nature.  It was passed on to me by my good fishing buddy, Marty Maxwell, who is also a fine source of Graham County history and lore as well as an authority on Horace Kephart.  His mother grew up at Almond and knew Dargan quite well.

One morning Dargan stopped by the house where Maxwell's mother lived (this was when she was a child and long before she married) and asked if the young girl wanted to go to town (Bryson City) with her.  Amazingly, she was adamant about not wanting to go, never mind that a trip to town was usually considered a great treat.  Finally her mother took her in another room and asked her what in the world was wrong with her.  "Momma," the young girl said, "I don't want to go with her because she has her dress on backwards."  Such was indeed the case.

On a different note, Rob, thanks for sharing my tribute to Dad.  His 101 years were full and for the most part joyful ones, and except for the first five of them (he was born in Clay County) and two short spates of work away from the mountains before he married, he spent all of them in Swain County.  That included a boyhood growing up truly "back of beyond" in what is now the Park.

Jim Casada 


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