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East Asheville history and sites

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Feb 27.

The German experience settling WNC 1 Reply

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History. Last reply by Scott Dockery Feb 16.

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Aim for Beauty

In honor of my blog Plant Whatever Brings You Joy's 10th Blogiversary I've posted a chapter from my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden. This particular chapter was also excerpted in Fairview's GreenPrints magazine, which was greatly appreciated. Read more here: http://plantwhateverbringsyoujoy.com/aim-for-beauty/…See More
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McCrumb ghost-opened world in The Unquiet Grave

McCrumb sees stories behind haunting ghost by Rob NeufeldPHOTO: Sharyn McCrumb and her dog Arthur, 2017.  Photo by Laura Palmer, courtesy, Sharyn McCrumb In “The Unquiet Grave,” Sharyn McCrumb once again demonstrates her mastery at turning a folktale into something larger, different, and greater.The legend of the…See More
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James Vestus Miller

­HISTORIC PHOTO James Vester Miller James Vester Miller had been a boy when his mother, a Rutherfordton slave, had responded to Emancipation by taking her three children to Asheville and getting a job as a cook in a boardinghouse—some say Julia Wolfe’s boardinghouse, Old Kentucky Home.  Growing up, Miller hung…See More
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Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Dave Minneman and a sense of justiceby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Dave Minneman doing research at Pack Memorial Library.  Photo by author.            “One of the biggest things I did as a kid, in order to escape my father,” Asheville resident Dave Minneman says of his 1960s and 70s rural Indiana childhood, “was…See More
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Dellinger's Mill, Hawk, Mitchell County

Meet the 4th generation miller of a historic millby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Triptych of Dellinger Mill and Jack Dellinger in his mill, showing the hopper, the 1859 waterwheel, bags of cornmeal, and the National Historic Place plaque.  Photos and composition by Henry Neufeld.            I had written about…See More
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Tribute to Kathryn Stripling Byer at Jackson County Public Library, Sylva, NC

October 1, 2017 from 2pm to 4pm
On October 1, Sunday afternoon, 2 PM, at Jackson County  Library in the Community Room, NCWN and NCWN-West will honor the late Poet Laureate, Kathryn S. Byer . Everyone is invited to come. We will share her poetry and talk about her achievements and her legacy for writers and poets in NC. If Kay touched your life in some way, come and pay tribute to her. We all miss her and this is a way to share our mourning for losing her and show our appreciation for what she did for us. See More
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WRITERS CIRCLE IN SPRING

"On Saturday, September 9, 10:30 a.m., Richard Kraweic will teach a class at Writers Circle. He will teach how to organize a poetry book for publication. I know I need to learn that lesson. How about you?"
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WRITERS CIRCLE IN SPRING

"We have a memoir class going on now until the first Wednesday in September. Wish you could join us in a class at Writers Circle around the Table."
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East Asheville history and sites

A meaningful tour of East Asheville PHOTO CAPTION: View of Beverly Hills suburb, from a painting by Gibson Catlett that had once hung at subdivision offices.  Courtesy Special Collection, Ramsey Library, UNC Asheville.            I was walking in the Beverly Hills neighborhood the other day and noticed a few…See More
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Interview with Gail Godwin about Grief Cottage

Gail Godwin’s latest crosses a mental boundary by Rob Neufeld Asheville author Gail Godwin, now a Woodstock, NY resident, comes back home here Wed., June 14 to present her new novel, “Grief Cottage” at Malaprop’s Bookstore, 7 p.m. “Grief Cottage” is the story of an orphaned, sensitive, troubled boy, named…See More
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Julia Nunnally Duncan Poetrio reading at Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe

August 6, 2017 from 3pm to 4pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will be a featured Poetrio poet at Malaprop's Bookstore/Café on Sunday, August 6, at 3 p.m. Julia will be reading from her new book A Part of Me. Fred Chappell says of A Part of Me: "Duncan's every reader will be reminded of some person, place, or time important to recall in a quiet hour."See More
Jul 28

The Highland Messenger, Asheville's first newspaper, sought to improve the masses

Asheville first newspaper: a fascinating example of bad journalism

by Rob Neufeld

 

            “Our section of the country has been visited with an unusual flood of rain during the past week,” reported the Highland Messenger, Asheville’s first newspaper, as it launched its first issue, June 5, 1840.    It was the biggest downpour in 40 years.  Consequently, the editors noted, “We have had no mail from the east.”

            Editors Rev. David R. McAnaly, a Presbyterian minister, and Joshua Roberts depended on news from outside to edify their readership.

            We “shall do all in our power to benefit our readers,” they avowed, “to improve the mind and morals—to enable the ignorant to learn and the wise to improve their recollections.”

            Ministers held big sway over communities.  Women turned to them to temper drunkenness.  Upwardly mobile families turned to them for their children’s education.  Communities turned to them for social order.

            On June 16, the Highland Messenger noted ten days later, McAnaly presided over the equivalent of a royal marriage in these parts, that of Nicholas Woodfin to Eliza McDowell, daughter of Col. Charles McDowell.

 

Sentiment and bias

 

            In a literary style brimming with sanctimony, the Highland Messenger reiterated the sentiments of the Raleigh Register regarding their vision of family values.

“A Mother’s influence!  Alas!  I fear my feeble pen can but ill acquit itself of the task of portraying one of the most powerful, holiest, of all earthly influences.”

            In the political arena, the editors professed objectivity, but clearly supported Gen. William Henry Harrison, the Whig candidate for president, against Martin Van Buren, the Democratic incumbent.

            Presidential politics had only recently become two-party; and 1840 marked the first modern-style campaign.  The Highland Messenger helped defend Harrison against charges that he’d sold “poor white men for debt.”  It raised alarms about Van Buren wanting to support a standing, peacetime army.

 

News in the ads

 

            Locally, the editors promoted Asheville with the kind of hype generally associated with the post-railroad era forty years later. 

            “The road (the Buncombe Turnpike) is good—very good,” the newspaper stated.  It’s the best passage within a 100-mile radius.  The region “is the most healthy, romantic, and in many respects desirable to be found in the United States.”  Asheville has got six dry goods stores, two groceries, two hotels, and two academies.

            Only “criminal apathy” will prevent Asheville from growing rapidly and becoming wealthy.  Occasionally, hard news crept in, sometimes through ads, to confirm this opinion.

            That summer, R. Deaver let people know that his hotel, Sulphur Springs, was “in excellent repair, and open to accommodate from one hundred and fifty, to two hundred persons.”  Bath houses, stables, and enlarged rooms were available.

            And there were discomforting notices.

            The estate of William T. Coleman was selling off all of his possessions, including his store goods, and horses and carriages.

            The town had jailed “a Negro man, about 35 years old…who says his name is Henry.”  He’d left home in Chatham County with “a mulatto boy named Toney.”  The owner is requested to come forward and pay the retrieval fee.

            That item appeared every week for a few weeks; as did one in which Daniel Payne plaintively noted that his yellow sorrel horse had been stolen from John Love’s stable in Haywood County.

            It has got “a pretty large blaze in his face, extending to his mouth,” Payne said.  “His hind legs (are) both white, with wind-galls on the ancles; he is about fifteen hands and a half high—very heavy bodied, with a beautiful ear, head and neck…one of his hips is a little lower than the other…I swapped for him four years ago…I have since rode him on the Blairsville, Lafayette, and Spring Place Circuits.”

 

Curdled words

 

            Only a couple of years after the Trail of Tears, the Highland Messenger took a moral stand against broken treaties,

            “We are informed on good authority,” the editors reported on July 24, 1840, “that between nine hundred and a thousand of these deluded beings (Cherokees), are still hovering about the homes of their fathers, in the counties of Macon and Cherokee.  It is also stated, that they are a great annoyance to the citizens of those counties, who have been induced to purchase the lands at a high price under the firm belief that the Treaty would be strictly complied with, in the removal of all the Indians. 

            “The citizens,” the writers continued righteously, “have petitioned the President of the United States to have them removed…(but) he has returned them the following answer: that ‘they (the Indians) are, in his opinion, free to go or stay.’  Thus saying…what he has…said to the citizens of the whole United States, ‘you are in the habit of looking for too much from the General Government.’”

            So there were the old contradictions: federal peacetime army, bad; federal interference with Cherokees, good

            The Whig candidate, Harrison, was famous for falsely promoting his log cabin origins.  Parties clamored for a populist image, and the Highland Messenger reflected this in their humorous anecdotes.

            A miller asks a fool what he knows and doesn’t, one joke goes.  “I know that millers have fat hogs,” he says.  “I don’t know whose corn they eat.”

            Finally, there’s the issue of grabbing sensational stories and not doing enough fact-checking.

            The newspaper passed on the news sent by the Sydney (Australia) Herald that Capt. Charles Wilkes on the U.S. ship Vincennes had discovered the continent of Antarctica.

            As has been revisited by Nathaniel Philbrick in his compelling 2003 book of history, “Sea of Glory,” Wilkes had been a brutal tyrant who’d promoted himself to captain, faced a mutiny and a court-martial, and falsified the date of his landing to discredit British explorer James Ross.  His greater achievements as a nautical surveyor comprise another story, and one with a less flashy headline.

MORE INFO

Early issues of the Highland Messenger, the first newspaper to be published in Asheville, are now available in the North Carolina Newspapers project at digitalnc.org. The Highland Messenger was nominated for digitization by Buncombe County Public Libraries.

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