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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
Saturday
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
Friday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Thursday
Sharyn McCrumb updated their profile
Wednesday
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
Wednesday
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
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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
Spellbound updated their profile
Sep 6
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Sep 2
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 2
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Aug 31
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Jenny Bennett Returns with a New Novel at City Lights Bookstore

September 5, 2014 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Sylva author, Jenny Bennett, returns to City Lights Bookstore on Friday, September 5th at 6:30 p.m. with her second book, The Twelve Streams of LeConte. The main character of the book lives in Sylva and there are scenes set in downtown, the library and even City Lights Bookstore. Anne Woodrow is on honeymoon in Scotland when fate gives her a slap in the face: right then and there, her new husband falls in love with another woman. Injured and grieving, she returns home alone and conceives of a…See More
Aug 27
Renea Winchester posted an event
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Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches at Available at all bookstores

September 1, 2014 all day
Mercer University is pleased to announce the release of Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches, by North Carolina's own Renea Winchester. This is the second in the Farmer Billy series and Winchester's third book. See More
Aug 26
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a blog post

Kids Love For Animals

Kids Love For Animals ( Poem )Children’s favorite shows are of animals I have hours in a playlist that are laughable Like a camera pecking rooster and fun monkeysTo a mom and a baby miniature donkeysVideos of wild turkeys and charming geese Ducks in water and chicks learning to speak Dazzling ostrich and many free birdsSome you would not want to move towardsA large unique animal is the alligator The total opposite of the caterpillar Camels and alpacas are tall and exquisiteBut they spit at you…See More
Aug 26
Regina Illig commented on Regina Illig's event Not for Children Only:Children's Classics for Adults
"contact email is: library@buncombecounty.org"
Aug 25

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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