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Lockie Hunter posted an event
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Juniper Bends and Topside Press present: Where We're Going We Don't Need Roads at The Crow & Quill

October 8, 2014 from 8pm to 10pm
This fall the best new transgender fiction is going on a road trip! Topside Press authors Casey Plett (author of A Safe Girl To Love) and Sybil Lamb (author of I’ve Got A Time Bomb) will be crisscrossing Canada and the United-States. Asheville is hosting these Topside authors with the help of Juniper Bends Reading Series, and The Crow & Quill. Join us on Wednesday, October 8th at 8 pm to hear the work of these two …See More
12 hours ago
Randolph Wilson replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Place-names salute us in a revised gazetteer
"I was born on Bill's Creek...the son of Roland and Jeanette Frady Wilson. I spent my first 18 years on the old Frady farm on Bill's Creek. We lived with my Grandfather and Grandmother....Dewey Frady and Diza Hall Frady. I remember…"
13 hours ago
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Saturday
Sue Diehl posted an event

Rose Senehi with Montreat College Friends of the Library at Bell Library at Montreat College

November 2, 2014 from 3pm to 5pm
Rose Senehi, author of Dancing on Rocks, will discuss her most recent novel in the Blue Ridge Mountain series on Sunday afternoon, November 2, 2014 at 3:00 p.m in Montreat College Bell Library.  Public is invited. Refreshments will be served.See More
Thursday
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

A contemporary tour of Asheville 1916

Walk through Asheville, spring 1916by Rob Neufeld                       You will be impressed by how clean the streets are.  It wasn’t that way twenty years earlier, when Patton Ave. got muddy in wet weather; horses had to be swept after; and women feared going downtown because their long skirts…See More
Sep 23
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a blog post

Vintage Postal Stamp ( Poem )

Vintage Postal Stamp ( Poem )Turn of the century Vintage Stamps Traceable history make value enhancePrices get higher as the years go by Dream of finding one valued so highExtremely fine with the perfect gum Designer flaws bring high premiumFamous from error illustration Collection of art inspirationWe are crazy for detailed graphics Finding rare depends on the marketsUnused are the old collectibles Their worth can be unbelievableView history with a new focus My playlist is something to…See More
Sep 23
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a blog post

Harnees Racing ( Poem )

Harness Racing ( Poem )Horses pull a two wheeled cart If it breaks you will departPlace a bet before it starts Good wager wins if played smartRiders ready at the gate Fans no longer have to waitAthlete sport with high speed Is a skill you surely needAt times a horse can fall down Sad to see that come aroundLast turn has crowd in a roar We wait to hear close end scoreIf your looking to explore My playlist has so much more…See More
Sep 21
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan at The MACA building

October 11, 2014 from 9:30am to 1pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will be a featured author at the McDowell Arts Council Association (MACA) booth at the Mountain Glory Festival in downtown Marion on Saturday, October 11. Julia will sign her books from 9:30-1 p.m. The MACA booth is located outside the MACA building at 50 South Main Street, Marion.See More
Sep 17
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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West End Poetry and Prose Reading series at West End Bakery

September 13, 2014 from 7pm to 9pm
Join us at West End Bakery for our 1st FREE Fall reading of 2014. This will be a marvelous family-friendly evening of prose, poetry, and storytelling featuring your favorite local Asheville writers. The lineup includes:  Tom Chalmers  Caleb Beissert  Beth Keefauver  Kim Winter…See More
Sep 13
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith

Wounded hearts, changed minds in 18th century Beaufortby Rob Neufeldpublished in the Asheville Citizen-Times, Sept. 14, 2014             As a symbol of hope—or hopelessness—or accommodation (it depends on the story line), there’s nothing like the intelligent woman marooned on a patriarchal, slave-owning Southern…See More
Sep 12
City Lights Bookstore posted events
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Sharyn McCrumb updated their profile
Sep 10
Sharyn McCrumb posted an event
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Sharyn McCrumb's Novel "Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past" at Belk Library, Appalachian State University, Boone NC

October 6, 2014 from 6pm to 8pm
 Scripture cake, book signings, and the real Nora Bonesteel herself. On Oct. 6, ASU in Boone is hosting the book launch for "Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past" (Abingdon, Oct., 2014) with a program of storytelling, featuring author Sharyn McCrumb and storyteller Charlotte Ross, the inspiration for the character of Nora.See More
Sep 10
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Sep 9
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

What will make you go to a history museum?

What attracts you to history museums?I've posted three history exhibits that are currently up in the area--one on the hillbilly stereotype; one of photographs of child labor; and one on African-American education in the area (see news)--and it made me wonder:What would make you go see an exhibit in a history museum?This information would be of GREAT HELP to curators.Here…See More
Sep 9
Spellbound posted an event
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Weekly Story Time at Spellbound Children's Bookshop

September 13, 2014 from 11am to 11:30am
Free weekly story time for ages 3 to 7 (or thereabouts) every Saturday morning 11-11:30amSee More
Sep 6

The railroad came here through the sacrifice of convicts

by Rob Neufeld

 

            Too many convicts, thought Jacob Allen, president of the North Carolina State Penitentiary board in 1874, as he reviewed the prisons.  There was an “urgent necessity to find employment for this surplus.” 

Incarceration and rehabilitation had replaced corporal punishment and execution as means of addressing crime.  Seven-eighths of the convicts were African-American.

            The solution: put the prisoners to work under heavy guard on expensive and arduous state projects, the most obvious one at the time being railroad building.  Twice previously, state-aided private companies had attempted to breach the mountains with rails.  The Civil War and then corporate embezzlement had gutted the efforts.

             In 1875, the state purchased the Western North Carolina Railroad; and on February 19, 1877, the legislature authorized the enlistment of “not less than five hundred convicts,” none of whom had been convicted of violent crimes.  “The costs of keeping these creatures (the convicts) is greater (in the Raleigh penitentiary) than in the mountains,” the railroad commissioners reported.

            James W. Wilson, contractor for the excavation of the Swannanoa Tunnel, told the General Assembly that the actual cost of the work (not counting the value of labor) was thirty cents a day—seven cents for the feeding of the prisoners, ten cents for the guarding, and the rest for miscellaneous care.

            Wilson was an old hand at the business.  He had been the railroad company engineer and superintendent during the Civil War.  At the time of his winning the contract for the Swannanoa Tunnel, he was also the state’s chief engineer, the president of the railroad, and a major stockholder.

            The Swannanoa Tunnel—the system’s longest at 1,822 feet—has become the stuff of legend.  Mountain society had been forever altered by the arrival of the train in 1879 as “convicts pulled the seventeen ton ‘Salisbury’…to tracks on the western side by dragging three ropes, laying track in front and removing track from behind as they traveled along the stagecoach road.” 

            139 convicts died on western North Carolina projects—in cave-ins and mudslides, and from disease and prosecution of escapes.  Bascom Lamar Lunsford wrote a song, “Swannanoa Tunnel”—“When you hear that hoot owl squallin’/ Somebody’s dyin’, babe, somebody's dyin’”

            John Ehle wrote a novel about the epic, featuring the convict laborers, mountain residents, the mountain itself, and a character named Weatherby Wright, based on James Wilson, he said in an interview.  The fictional chief undergoes a physical and mental weakening as his humanitarian nature yields to his obsession, and his ethics to progress.

            This article was based in part on theses by Steve Little for Wake Forest University in 1972 and by Homer S. Carson III for UNCA in 2003

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The 1880 US Census for McDowell County NC - pages 25-29 Old Fort Township- lists those who were " at work on the Western North Carolina RR and from the Penitentiary at Raleigh NC".  It lists (if I've read the census taker writing correctly) 1 in charge of the stockade, 1 steward, 1 overseer, 13 guards (all 16 are white men).  There are 175 prisoners listed ( 132 black males, 35 mulatto males, 5 white males, 1 mulatto female, and 2 black females; one of the black females is listed as washing and the other two females are listed as rail road laborers as are all the male prisoners).  These people were enumerated between June 25th and June 29th 1880.

Another interesting point!     The prisoners ranged in age from 14 to 66.

Are the names of the employees and prisoners listed?  What has been your interest in this subject.  Thanks very much for contributing!/Rob

They are listed but some are quite difficult to read.  I was looking for a Thomas Turner who I thought might have been from McDowell County.  One of the guards had that same name.  I have a keen interest in WNC history - whatever it is. 

I'll try to decipher the names as best I can and list them on this thread sometime within the next several days

William G. Hagan- in charge of stockade, William F. Neal- Steward, Joseph B. Moore- overseer.  The next 11 are guards: James Conley, Albert Hicks, Thomas Burnett, James G. Stroud, John C. Finley, William Gilbert, Thomas Gilbert, John Elliotte, Mills K. Norville, George Whitaker.

The following are included in the prisoner rail road labor:  Unless I have designated MU for mulatto, W for white, and female for the women, these are all black males- Charley Aikens, Henry Adams, Henry Brinson, Alexander Bargis, James Barns, Moses Bell, John Brown, Henry Bigger, John Braswell, Thomas Boyakin, Edward Banner MU, Richard Baits MU, Ellen Bell (B) female- prisoner washing, Daniel Baird, David Brown MU, Joseph Barnes, Dorsey Blair, Degrand Barber, Henry Bobbitt, Daniel Brown, Hampton Best, Sampson Best, James Bost MU, Edwards Bradley, Pinkney Boyd, Cissiro Bryant, George Bullock, Joseph Cox, Stephen Carmon, Milton Clark, Isomgission? Dever, Frank Day MU, Servian? Dick, Chester Davis, Henderson Dossett, George Fox MU, John Folk, Gould Foy, Peter Foy, George Ford, David Fitzgerrell, Linsey Green, John Glen, Charley Gaston, Winslow Gash, Henry Gilliam, Webb Gudger MU, William Hill MU, John Hargrove MU, Wilson Hunt, Lorance Hunter, James Hunt W, Hampton Holeman, William Davis MU, Isaac Hunter, William Harris, Charley Hansley, John Hicks, Burley Haygood MU, Israel Hays MU, Anderson Harshaw, Jeff Hamilton, Charles Harper, Tobe High, Thomas Jones, Jessie Johnson, William Jones, George Johnson, Albert Jessup, William Jones, Samuel Jones MU, Thomas Jones MU, Henry Jones, Jones Miller MU, Alexander Johnson, Benjamin Jones, Nash Kindsey, Harry Knight, John Lauib?, George Laurbant MU, Peter Lathan, Jones Lathans, Back Lee, Archey Leach, George McEntire,  Lucy Morgan MU female, Henry McKee, William Montague, Israel Morrison, Green McCullep MU, Thomas Moore, Isaac Mitchell, Tim Newkirk, David Odem, Sicamo? Parrett, David Passmore W,  Jesse Phillips, Anderson Pearch MU, Sandy Pagan MU, Hery Partree, Sylvester Parker MU, Cato Pews?, Jesse Johnson, Cornelius Rich, David Richardson, Rainerd? Ruffin, George Roundtree MU, Arch Ragan, Henry Revels, George Rolin, David Rine, Dan Richardson, Norton Roundtree, George Smith W, John Simmons, Henry Shaw, Hardy Saunders, Charley Smith, Willis Sprewell, Frank Sikes, Tobe Street MU, Nedimus? Sanders, Arch Stewart, Monroe Smith MU, Moses Smith, Allen Sergis, John Sewell W, Dan Simmons, Rolley Sanders, David Satchwell, Shepherd Smith, Lewis Smith, Joseph Smith, Peter Smith, Fred Satterfield, Robert Sawyer W, Armisted Troutman, James Torrance, Arthur Timmons, William Turner, Hampton Tompson MU, Abeni? Taft, Nash Trollenger, James Vick, Susan Restow (B) female, Henry Williams, Rick Wilson MU, David White, George Miller, Miles Williams, Mest? Ward, Abe Watt W, Willis Williams, Everett Williams, Thomas Williams, Lee Williams MU, James Wilson, William Walker MU, James Warren, William Woodley, Robert Willis, Alford Wallace, Robert M. Walker W, Jessie Williams, Felix Whitson, John Walker, Rufus Young, Lewis Yokely, Sam Reid, Fork Johnson MU, George Parson.  I placed a question mark by those names I simply could not read.  There are others I may have copied incorrectly but I felt fairly certain of spelling.

This is a great find.  It takes us a big step closer to knowing the human stories behind one of our region's most historic events.  Now, when someone googles "Charley Aikens" and "Swannanoa Tunnel," they get one hit--your blog post!  Is anyone working on genealogy or a memorial?  McDowell County created this oral history feature: http://mcdowellhistory.com/the-railroad/

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