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Mac Grady posted a photo
15 hours ago
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Dan Rice, Black Mountain College artist--show and talks

Dan Rice at Black Mountain College: Painter Among The Poets An exhibition, Dan Rice at Black Mountain College: Painter Among the Poets, goes up at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, Sept. 5, 2014, and stays up through Jan.10, 2015.  There's a free opening reception on Friday, September 5 from 5:00 - 8:00 p.m.; and it features a gallery talk by curator Brian E. Butler at 7:00 p.m. A full-color catalogue will be…See More
15 hours ago
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

In 1937, ex-slaves in Asheville bore witness

Interviews with former slaves in Asheville strike the heartby Rob Neufeld             Every day we see and feel the beauty of the world and of humanity.  But history sometimes shows us how wrong things can go, and we wonder why we are vulnerable to such aberrations.            One of the most powerfully distressing examples of human cruelty and suffering comes from the testimony of M.L. Bost, an African American former slave who moved to Asheville from Newton, and spoke with Marjorie Jones of…See More
yesterday
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a blog post

Woodsmen Day

Woodsmen Day ( Poem)Sport using handsaws With a toothed edge blade One or two handed sawingOn a woodsmen fair dayTraditional log rolling Is a lumberjacks technique Style used in river drivingThe illustration is uniqueSpringboard tree is branchless With live action you can’t beat Platform board is dangerousA risk if you competeBlock ax chopping Is a loggers sport indeed Hard on your back swingingBe careful of your feetWoodsmen day activities Is part of the fair you see I bring it all to my…See More
yesterday
Rob Neufeld commented on Deborah Worley-Holman's photo
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Peter McClay "M.C." Worley

"Great photo, Deborah!  Have you got some stories and details?"
Monday
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Sunday
Christine Lajewski posted a blog post

Discussing JHATOR at UCC in Norwell, MA

JHATOR was chosen as the summer read for the book club at the United Church of Christ in Norwell, MA.  Today, the Rev. Deborah Spratley hosted an author's brunch and discussion of the book with me and members of both the book club and writer's group at the church.One of the first things I learned from the group members, who are approaching the book from a Christian POV, is that starting the book with Anat, the vulture, was unsettling for most of them.  Of course, that is the point of Chapter…See More
Sunday
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Aug 16
Jerald Pope posted an event
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The Backyard as Metaphor: Poems on Cattle, Gardening & Goats: a Poetry Reading and Discussion with Tina Barr at Monte Vista Hotel

August 21, 2014 from 5:45pm to 7pm
The Black Mountain Author’s Guild will present nationally known poet, Tina Barr, this Third Thursday at 6pm at the Monte Vista Hotel. Ms. Barr will read a twenty minute series of poems set in Black Mountain, and will follow the reading with a discussion of her process for generating ideas in poems, with lots of audience interaction.  She will bring in a series of drafts demonstrating her revision process, from rough draft to published poem, and talk about fictionalizing elements so they move…See More
Aug 12
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a blog post

Wishing Witch

Wishing WitchMy Halloween screenplay is funny as can be It’s funny how witchcraft is what we need to seeBrewing up trouble with all your classmates The teacher will get angry, make no mistakeCrazy riddles from a child can be so scary Being her classmate leaves you feeling waryYou may start a princess and end as a boar As her riddles will leave you in an uproarWill you return to normal after all this nonsense Is the question that has everyone in suspenseYou may not have believed in the…See More
Aug 11
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Timm Muth to Present His Fantasy Novel at City Lights Bookstore

August 30, 2014 from 3pm to 4:30pm
Jackson County resident, Timm Muth will read from and sign his new fantasy novel on Saturday, August 30th at 3 p.m. at City Lights Bookstore.  Disciple of the Flames chronicles the story of Darn, whose life as a herder’s son was hard, dirty and not in the least adventurous. Fate intervenes when on a journey with his father, a stranger saves Darn from a near fatal rousting by local bullies, eventually leading to Darn’s induction into a powerful religious and military order: The Disciple of…See More
Aug 9
Malaprop's Bookstore Cafe posted events
Aug 9
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted blog posts
Aug 7
Sharon Gruber posted an event
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Social Function of Narrative in Appalachian Society with Charlotte Ross at Ferguson Auditorium - A-B Tech Campus

August 9, 2014 from 2pm to 3:30pm
Presented by the Asheville History Center - Smith McDowell House in conjunction with the exhibition Hillbilly Land:  Myth and Reality of Appalachian Culture currently on view at the Smith McDowell House. Made possible through a grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council.See More
Aug 6
Caralyn Davis posted a blog post

New Essay Published at Dr. TJ Eckleburg Review

My new essay "A Damn Fine Female Body Part" is live at the Doctor TJ Eckleburg Review. It is NSFW, covering the topics of curse words, sexual objectification, and the actor Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead, all in under 2,000 words! See More
Aug 5
Deborah Worley-Holman posted a photo

Peter McClay "M.C." Worley

My grandfatherm M.C. Worley 1894-1983 who was a musician and instrument maker.
Aug 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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