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City Lights Bookstore posted events
19 hours ago
Valerie Nieman posted a blog post

Mountain Words, Mountain Music

Appalachian poet, musician, and raconteur Kirk Judd has a new book and CD package out, "My People Was Music." I thought I'd share part of a Goodreads review I did of the book - I think members of The Read would enjoy this.There is no gussying-up here. This is the plain hard rock undergirding Appalachia. This is the sound of water rushing, the clawhammer banjo sound, the crack of a wedge as it splits that cross-grained stump of oak. Kirk Judd has been making poems for a long time, but like a…See More
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Valerie Nieman posted an event
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Valerie Nieman at City Lights at City Lights Books

July 16, 2015 from 10:30am to 12pm
Coffee With the Poet - Valerie Nieman will read from and discuss her new poetry collection, "Hotel Worthy," poems of love, loss, and survival. See More
yesterday
Gary Carter posted a blog post

New Story Published by Deep South Magazine: "Nothing But A House"

It's always an honor to have a new story selected and published, this time by Deep South Magazine -- which I recommend for its coverage of all things Southern and, in particular, its attention to Southern literary voices.Read the story here: "Nothing But A House" by Gary CarterComments are always welcome. Deep South Magazine actually has a unique comment section following each story.See More
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MARYROSE McWHIRTER updated their profile
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Rob Neufeld posted discussions
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Rob Neufeld posted discussions
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City Lights Bookstore posted events
Mar 21
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Mar 18
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Monday's Lie by Jamie Mason

Asheville thriller writer Mason broods with the bestby Rob Neufeld             “Everything you need for measuring a person,” Dee Vess, the heroine and narrator of Jamie Mason’s novel, “Monday’s Lie,” reflects, “can be found in the nature of what he chooses to hide from everyone else.”            It’s a sign of how…See More
Mar 18
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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West End Poetry and Prose Reading Series March Reading at West End Bakery

March 14, 2015 from 7pm to 9pm
We are back for a new Spring session of our Poetry and Prose Reading Series! We hope you are able to join us again Saturday, March 14th, 7pm at the West End Bakery for a wonderful Free family-friendly evening of prose, poetry and storytelling from a group of fabulous local writers.This month we will be featuring: Tommy HaysCaroline Wilson Dalton Dayand Leah ShapiroHosted by Lockie Hunter and our friends at the West End Bakery Cathy Cleary and Krista Stearns.See More
Mar 11
Lockie Hunter posted photos
Mar 11
Sue Diehl posted an event
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William Forstchen discussing his Pillar to the Sky at Bell Library at Montreat College

March 24, 2015 from 3pm to 6pm
Dr. William Forstchen will be the guest author at the Montreat Community Book Club on March 24, 2015 at Bell Library, Montreat College at 3:00.  He will be discussing his novel Pillar to Sky Public is invited.See More
Mar 10
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Asheville Poetry Review 20th Anniversary Anthology--and event

Asheville Poetry Review produces 20-year anthologyby Rob Neufeld             The two most remarkable things about the Asheville Poetry Review have been its diversity and quality.  Yes, Asheville, you’ve got a poetry journal of special note here.            Now, 20 years after its locally born…See More
Mar 8
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Carolina McMullen Reading & Signing at City Lights Bookstore

March 14, 2015 from 3pm to 4:30pm
Carolina McMullen will read from her new novel Vicenta de Paul on Saturday, March 14th at 3:00 p.m. at City Lights Bookstore. As the first novel of her Not Here to Stay series, Vicenta de Paul tells of a baby who is abandoned by her young mother at an orphanage in Rota, Spain in 1914.  She is later adopted by a wealthy couple and raised in the peaceful coastal area of Rota, away from the busy city. Everything seems fine until her mother begins to suffer from depression.  Vicenta pulls through…See More
Mar 7
Patti Jensen posted an event

Murders, Moonshine & Mountaineers Book Discussion & Signing at The Market on Oak

March 21, 2015 from 11am to 12pm
The Market on Oak in Spruce Pine will host Allen Cook, author of Murders, Moonshine & Mountaineers: The Wildest County in America on Saturday, March 21, 2015 at 11A.M.Moonshine, Murder & Mountaineers recounts a time around the turn of the 19th century when moonshiners and desperadoes faced off against the law in epic battles that made national headlines. The book focuses on events from an area in western North Carolina that held the reputation as the wildest county in America (book has…See More
Mar 5

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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