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Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Walk Till the Dogs Get Mean--Appalachian Outsiders tell all

Southern Appalachian outsiders tell allby Rob Neufeld             “Who was that woman...on the trail, the rain-matted one, the one covered in mud?”            A woman who was following her wants to know.  She’s out there in the rain, too, headed toward a cave where women were known to disappear forever,…See More
City Lights Bookstore posted an event

Carolina Writers at Home: Kathryn Byer & Thomas Rain Crowe at City Lights Bookstore

November 6, 2015 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Kathryn Byer and Thomas Rain Crowe have been included in a collection of true stories showcasing the houses where some of the most notable Southern authors have forged their writing lives. They both will be at City Lights Bookstore on Friday, November 6th at 6:30 p.m. to sign copies ofCarolina Writers at Home.  The homes in these twenty-five essays range from the classic bungalow and mid-century modern ranch house to wilder locales: a church, a trailer, and a sparsely-inhabited barrier island.…See More
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

The Land Still Speaks film and Culture Vulture fest, Oct 30

Culture festival features film about mountain eldertsfrom press releaseThe Center for Cultural Preservation presents a film festival that highlights mountain heritage, Jewish heritage and African-American heritage on October 30th at the Thomas Auditorium at Blue Ridge Community College.   The festival will feature three films, including the world premiere of a new film, The Land Still Speaks to Us which includes the voices of mountain elders throughout WNC.  There will also be music by local…See More
Mark de Castrique posted an event

Malaprop's Bookstore at Malaprop's

November 9, 2015 from 7pm to 8pm
Presenting new Sam Blackman mystery A SPECTER OF JUSTICESee More
Oct 3
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

A Chronology of Asheville and WNC Events in History

                                   IMPORTANT DATES IN ASHEVILLE HISTORY                                                                 by Rob Neufeld 1000: The Cherokee, who’d introduced maize agriculture to the region, began cultivating beans. 1540: Hernando De Soto led troops to East Tennessee through either the Hickory Nut or Swannanoa Gap, finding gold and copper and inspiring a succession of Spanish miners. 1663: Charles II bestows territory between the 31st and 36th parallels in America…See More
Oct 3
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Root-diggers of Appalachia

People in the Lost Provinces were herb-gatherersby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Three herbal products offered by S.B. Penick’s, once the world’s largest herb distributor, its largest warehouse located in Asheville.             “Last week, during a research trip to the ‘Lost Provinces,’” Luke Manget said about the landscape…See More
Oct 3
Mark de Castrique posted a video

A Specter of Justice Preview

A Preview of the new Sam Blackman mystery to be released November 3, 2015
Oct 1
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

"Us versus Them" does not help fight against racism; worsens sectionalism

“Us versus them” is not good historyby Rob Neufeld             Writing about history and the complex lives that play out within it does not sell as well as team spirit, especially in this age of clicks and likes.            I recently confronted this truth when I wrote my article last week about the minds of our leaders in 1851. The word “slavery” was added to the headline to alert people to its relevance.  Seeing that term connected people to a cause they felt strongly about, particularly in…See More
Sep 27
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Player of Games and the Millennial Mind

Player of Games reveals today’s game-changing mentalityby Rob Neufeld             There is something big happening in Millennial Generation literature, and I thought I’d try to get a handle on it.            To give an idea of one aspect of current thinking: I was at a gathering recently, plenty of youngsters, and I…See More
Sep 27
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan Book Signing at MACA Building

October 10, 2015 from 9am to 1pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will sign her books at the McDowell Arts Council Association (MACA) Booth at the annual Mountain Glory Festival on Saturday, October 10 from 9-1.See More
Sep 22
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 22
Ann Miller Woodford shared their photo on Facebook
Sep 21
Ann Miller Woodford posted a photo

Deacon Chrisenberry -Berry- Howell (1855-1938) on horseback. From the collection of Purel Miller (2)

My maternal great grandfather, Chrisenberry Howell, who was called "Berry" Howell in Swain County. From the Purel Miller collection. Submitted by Ann Miller Woodford
Sep 21
James D. Loy posted a blog post

The skull merchant, the dead ape, and the narcoleptic mortician

Hello "The Read on WNC" readers:     I'm posting this note to announce the publication of vol. 3 in my "Loy's Loonies" series.  This one is called The Mortician's Road Trip and it's a bit more of a mystery than my earlier books. Here's a teaser for the story.     Upstate New Yorker Baz Rathbone makes ends meet by selling human skulls. By contract, he should cremate them, but he doesn’t. His little business comes to the attention of the FBI when a woman spots her late husband’s skull being used…See More
Sep 20
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 19

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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