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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Seven new books, Oct. 2014, leading with McCrumb's latest

Sharyn McCrumb’s new book tour; and other productionsby Rob Neufeld Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past by Sharyn McCrumb (Abingdon Press hardcover, Oct. 7, 2014, 160 pages, $18.99)            I didn’t receive a review copy, but I can say McCrumb is always a delight and a deliverance.  McCrumb’s new holiday…See More
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Spellbound posted events
Oct 15
Jerald Pope posted an event

Black Mountain Authors Get Hungry at Monte Visa Hotel

October 16, 2014 from 6pm to 7pm
The Third Thursday reading this month will feature stories and poems about food. As you might imagine, a whole hungry cadre of writers stepped up to the plate to read. The feast will take place at the Monte Vista Hotel this Thursday, which also just happens to be Fried Chicken day at the Hotel. Yum! Here’s what’s on the menu: Jeff Hutchins moved to Black Mountain in 2008. In his prior life, Jeff helped develop the technology of closed captioning, which is used to make television programming…See More
Oct 15
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Cherokee pottery survey Oct 17

Cherokee Museum Presents Cherokee Pottery on International Archaeology Dayfrom press release            The Museum of the Cherokee Indian will present “Cherokee Pottery: Three Thousand Years of Cherokee Science and Art” on Friday October 17 at 2 pm.  This talk is part of International Archaeology Day, sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America.  It is open to the public free of charge, and is suitable for all ages.             “We are glad to be participating in International…See More
Oct 14
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Conversation with George Ella Lyon

Getting deep with east Kentucky author George Ella Lyonby Rob Neufeld             George Ella Lyon is a prolific writer of poetry, fiction, and plays for all ages; and has emerged from her east Kentucky upbringing with many things to tell the world about Appalachian virtues, including neighborliness, woodland spirit,…See More
Oct 14
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Oct 14
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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A Look at Climate Change and Mass Extinction at City Lights Bookstore

October 17, 2014 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Charles Dayton and Sara Evans will visit City Lights Bookstore on Friday, October 17th at 6:30 p.m. for a discussion on climate change and mass extinction. Evans will review The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, a book about the increase in mass extinctions and the impending ecological collapse caused by man’s disharmony with the natural world. Dayton will speak and present slides about the impact of climate change on the ocean’s ecology, which is also discussed in The Sixth…See More
Oct 11
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Book discussions in WNC, October 2014

WNC BOOK DISCUSSION CALENDAR, OCTOBER 2014Wednesday, October 1AUTISM BOOK CLUB: The Autism Book Club discusses “Mozart and the Whale” by Jerry and Mary Newport at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 1 p.m. Call 254-6734.MALAPROP’S BOOKCLUB: The Malaprop’s Bookclub, hosted by Jay Jacoby, discusses “Winesburg,…See More
Oct 8
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Oct 6
James D. Loy posted a blog post

"Loy's Loonies," a new series of zany books

Hi folks:     I am pleased to announce the publication of the second book in my series "Loy's Loonies."  This one is entitled Uncle Moe and the Martha's Vineyard Frackers and here's the cover blurb.     Moe Thibault is a lovable octogenarian who sometimes thinks he’s Jacques Clouseau and who’s convinced he once had an identical twin. While living out his widower’s retirement in upstate New York, Moe is sent an obituary from Martha’s Vineyard with a photo of his apparent Doppelganger, a man…See More
Oct 2
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
Sep 29
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…"
Sep 29
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 27
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
Sep 25
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

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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