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William Roy Pipes posted a discussion

Mammy, A Term of Endearment

I read Rob Neufield's article Visit OUR PAST in today's Asheville Citizen-Times.It was a super article, but caused me to want to share my novel:  Mammy: A Term of Endearment.Mammy: A Term of Endearment. is now available as an ebook on Kindle, but the publisher, Ecanus Publishing, Great Britain tells me the paperback edition will be out soon (2 to 3 weeks).The novel is fiction but came from my father who was born in 1895. Due to his mother's sickness Grandpa hired her to be a Mammy to my father,…See More
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Writers on the Rock at Chimney Rock, NC

June 28, 2015 from 1pm to 4pm
The culture and heritage of Appalachia is an experience like no other, and it serves as the perfect backdrop for a variety of storytelling. View the soaring cliffs and stunning valleys of Chimney Rock and the Hickory Nut Gorge as you get to know your favorite author and meet new ones. Join Ann B. Ross, Tommy Hays, Sheri Castle, Evan Williams and more as they share their experiences and autograph copies of their books. A selection of titles by each author will be available for sale. See…See More
Jun 8
Lockie Hunter updated an event
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West End Prose and Poetry reading series: June at West End Bakery

June 13, 2015 from 7pm to 9pm
The West End Bakery & Café will host the final event for the 2015 Spring Poetry and Prose Reading Series on Saturday, June 13th at 7:00 pm. The June event will feature an excellent cast of local writers including David Novak, Katherine (Bonnie) Soniat, Luke Hankins and our very own hostess and curator Lockie Hunter.Past readings included a special holiday performance by Allan Wolf as well as local writers such as Susan Reinhardt, Tommy Hays, Tom Chalmers, Matthew Olzmann, Alli Marshall,…See More
Jun 8
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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West End Prose and Poetry reading series: June at West End Bakery

June 13, 2015 from 7pm to 9pm
The West End Bakery & Café will host the final event for the 2015 Spring Poetry and Prose Reading Series on Saturday, June 13th at 7:00 pm. The June event will feature an excellent cast of local writers including David Novak, Katherine (Bonnie) Soniat, Luke Hankins and our very own hostess and curator Lockie Hunter.Past readings included a special holiday performance by Allan Wolf as well as local writers such as Susan Reinhardt, Tommy Hays, Tom Chalmers, Matthew Olzmann, Alli Marshall,…See More
Jun 4
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri--and book discussions

How Lahiri’s “The Lowland” excites discussionby Rob Neufeld             When an American woman in Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel, “The Lowland,” realizes how she has, in her mind, objectified a certain childhood horror, she flashes to her Calcutta grandma, who “used to spend her days overlooking a lowland, a pair of…See More
Jun 2
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Jun 2
Tina Barr posted a blog post

Sharing Information

Iris Press just released a new book of my poems, Kaleidoscope!  These are poems written over the last 10 years, set in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina---!See More
Jun 2
Christine Lajewski posted a blog post

Hiking the Landscape of JHATOR

I just posted a new blog entry describing the real places frequented by my characters--human and animal--in my novel. Most of the action in JHATOR takes place in these beautiful natural spaces that are protected throughout southeastern Massachusetts. Whether you have read my book or not, I hope you will visit them if you are traveling through the area.You can read "Hiking the Landscape of JHATOR" as well as excerpts from my novel, at Christine-lajewski.squarespace.comSee More
Jun 1
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Kathryn Byer & Richard Krawiec Joint Poetry Reading at City Lights Bookstore

June 14, 2015 from 1pm to 2:30pm
Former North Carolina Poet Laureate Kathryn Byer and Richard Krawiec will be reading from their new collections of poetry on Sunday, June 14th at 1 p.m. at City Lights Bookstore. Kathryn’s new chapbook from Jacar Press, The Vishnu Bird, is both a memorial and memoir in lyric poetry. This clean-spoken, deeply-felt chapbook remembers the poet’s dear friend by tracing his vocation of anthropology, and honoring his spiritual depth through vignettes from the speaker’s own past. Richard Krawiec will…See More
May 30
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Steven Harvey at Writers Circle at Writers Circlle around the Table

June 27, 2015 from 10am to 1pm
Writing workshop with Steve Harvey, retired professor at YHC and on faculty for Ashland University MFA.See More
May 30
Ron Cooper replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Something Rich and Strange by Ron Rash
"Terrific review and interview, Rob. Glad to see that Ron had full control over this collection. All of his work deserves to be read and re-read."
May 28
Kathryn Stripling Byer updated their profile
May 28
Lawrence Thackston posted a blog post

The Devil Returns!

Very excited to announce to my friends here at The Read on WNC that my publisher, Holladay House Publishing, will be re-releasing The Devil's Courthouse this summer. We are having a release celebration at Bearmeat's Indian Den in Cherokee, NC on Saturday, June 6, from 11 to 4. If you are in the area, please come out and help us celebrate! And we will be visiting bookstores across the WNC throughout the coming months!See More
May 28

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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