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Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Sunday
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

73 classic works about Appalachia going online

Key Appalachian studies publications now going onlinefrom press release, Jan. 27. 2016 Appalachian studies scholars and those interested in regional history will have greater access to out-of-print works thanks to a two-year National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Open Book Program grant totaling $88,000 awarded to Belk Library and Information Commons at Appalachian State University.  Pamela Mitchem, the library’s coordinator of digital scholarship and…See More
Sunday
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

John Parris' home-grown prose

South of Sylva, back of yesterday: John Parris' inspiration             “For the life of me, I just can’t understand why folks stopped usin’ cradles,” John Parris’ 97-year-old maternal grandfather had told him 60 years ago.            The oil lamp, the buggy, and the spinning wheel—they all were replaced by things…See More
Jan 27
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

James Sturm expands scope of graphic novels

James Sturm blazes cartoon path to a new worldby Rob Neufeld             Why is it that when an author combines pictures with words, the medium is considered juvenile, like comics?  Words create literature; images, art.  Why, when you marry them, is it like pairing a milk cow with a mop?            Nothing against…See More
Jan 24
susannah eanes posted a blog post

The Writer as Pilgrim

Two articles leapt at my consciousness this week, both about writing. And suddenly, I know how to go forward from here. The first, The Price I Pay to Write, by Laura Bogart and published online in Dame Magazine, reflects on the difficulties of…See More
Jan 24
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Tired of thrillers with no soul?

Why read a 1940 man-on-the-run classicby Rob Neufeld             After reading a classic novel, you might think, “Oh, look at this superior ancestor of today’s fiction.”              For instance, “The Power and the Glory,” Graham Greene’s 1940 thriller about political oppression in Mexico, exemplifies the…See More
Jan 17
Susan True updated their profile
Jan 9
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Art of Grace by Sarah Kaufman

Dance critic applies grace to every moveby Rob Neufeld             It’s nice to find just the right word for something, especially when it sums up a main idea in your way of thinking.            That was the case with Sarah Kaufman when she’d first felt moved, nine years ago, to write her new book, “The Art of Grace” (W.W.…See More
Jan 9
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Jan 9
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
Jan 8
Kathryn Hall posted a blog post

Fire and Ice Roses interview with author/gardening blogger Kathryn Hall

Fire and Ice Roses has been interviewing gardening bloggers and gardening experts and were kind enough to include this short interview recently which was quite fun and very much appreciated! http://fireandiceroses.com/ask-an-expert-kathryn-hall/See More
Jan 5
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

History in the making, January 2, 2016

History in the making: items of note, January 2, 2016It was reported in today’s print edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times that a new state law went into effect, requiring people who’ve filed for unemployment benefits to make at least 5 job contacts a week.  It had been 2.  How will that work?  Are there that many jobs for which a person is qualified?  Can you apply to the same job twice if it continues to be listed? Paul Bonesteel, noted Asheville filmmaker, revealed on Facebook that a…See More
Jan 2
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Local event of the day, Jan 1 2016

Tarantino, eminent domain, and emancipation Tarantino comes to townQuentin Tarantino’s New Year’s gore and gabfest, The Hateful Eight, is gutted by New Yorker reviewer Anthony Lane, who says that Tarantino toys with rather than explores history, using it “for boyish fantasies of revenge, as if enormous crimes could be undone, after the event, by lone and wanton acts of humiliation.” …See More
Jan 1
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

Railroad history in Western North Carolina: a close-up and bottom-line look

Railroads in WNC: the perils, the people, and the profitby Rob NeufeldWritten in conjunction with exhibit, "How The West Was Won," in Rural Heritage Museum, Mars Hill University PHOTO CAPTION: The entrance to the railroad show at the Rural Heritage Museum is commanded by a mock-up of Climax engine…See More
Dec 24, 2015
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Hosts of Christmas Past

Traditions shall not expire say hosts of Christmas pastby Rob Neufeld PHOTO CAPTION: Maria Parker Taylor Beale, courtesy Chase Ambler.            On Christmas Eve in 1928, Maria Taylor Beale, mistress of Arden House, instructed her family to bring her downstairs in her bathrobe for she would not…See More
Dec 24, 2015
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Kakalak Journal Reading at City Lights Bookstore

January 23, 2016 from 3pm to 4:30pm
Contributors to the annual journal KAKALAK will visit City Lights Bookstore on Saturday, January 23rd at 3 p.m. to read and talk about their work. KAKALAK is an annual publication featuring North and South Carolina writers and artists.To reserve a copy of the journal, please call City Lights Bookstore at 828-586-9499. To view a list of contributing authors, please visit …See More
Dec 21, 2015

Biltmore Forest’s Downton Abbey spirits add a chapter

by Rob Neufeld

 

            “Ruth, I want to go back home,” 93-year-old Bessie Reeves told her great-niece, Ruth Bailey, when Ruth visited her at the Deerfield Retirement Community in 1970.  Bessie yearned for her former life on White Oak Road in Biltmore Forest.

            White Oak Road had been the first street on which home owners had built homes after Edith Vanderbilt had sold nearly 1,500 acres of the Biltmore Estate to a development company in 1920. 

            The builders, D. Hiden Ramsey wrote in a 1925 booklet, “wished to create and abide in a community where persons of moderate means could build homes that would embody on a smaller scale the same ideals which actuated Mr. Vanderbilt in the creation of the Biltmore Estate.”

            Bessie and her maiden sister, Ethel, lived at 11 White Oak, and, through the Depression, hosted neighborhood women in cards-and-cocktails, aided by their servants. 

            Rita Rees, an unmarried member of the tannery-owning Hans Rees family came; as did Alice Connally Cheesborough, whose husband, Dr. Thomas Cheesborough had died in 1937.

            As a young woman, Bessie had accompanied wealthy women to England, and came back with a British accent.  You can imagine her saying to Ruth, in the voice of Lady Violet, the Dowager Countess in “Downton Abbey,” “Oh, Ruthie, I wish you could have as much fun as I had as a bride in Asheville, but you never will.”

            The Reeves family was related to the Rutledges of Charleston, extending a lifestyle line from England to antebellum Charleston, Flat Rock, Victorian era Montford, and Biltmore Forest.

            Bessie died at the age of 101.  A subsequent owner of her home, not given to belief in the occult, attested to her lingering presence.

           “One night,” he said, “one of us had placed a candle down on the grouting” of a tile countertop he and his wife had had installed.  “The next morning, I walked in the kitchen, saw the candle, and walked over to the sink.  Something told me to turn around; and I did, just in time to see the candle go up in an arc and down to the floor.”

            Ethel, who had preceded Bessie in death, has been heard wandering around at night looking for the door from her bedroom to the bathroom.  A renovation had walled off Ethel’s entrance.

            As Mr. Carson, the butler at Downton Abbey, has noted, servants sometimes end up being more attached to their mansions than their owners, and are likely to haunt the places after they’ve passed away.

            At 17 White Oak, a genial, old he-ghost has been seen frequenting what had been the home of Sarah Fotterill Potter Coxe, the fifth member of Bessie Reeves’ card-playing group. 

            Bailey recalled, in a 2000 interview, sleeping in the front bedroom of that house as a five-year-old and seeing a man “climb through a window with a cot under his arm,” and set up to sleep there.  She asked the man to leave, and he did.

            A later resident seemed to have an encounter with the same spirit.  “I came into one of the front bedrooms,” the new owner said, “and sensed …an older gentleman, 5’2”, white hair, mostly bald, about 105 pounds, with pleasant features” communicating with him.

           "This is going to be where your girls are going to live,” the spirit said, acknowledging that his presence would “not be pleasant for them.  I’ll leave.”

           Sallie Middleton, the late artist and niece of architect, Douglas Ellington, saw a less pleasant ghost when she had gone to buy 16 White Oak, the former residence of Alice Cheesborough.  Her description of a woman with graying red hair, a slight build, and nervous habits matched  Mrs. Cheesborough’s live-in housekeeper, Alma, whom Mrs. Cheesborough had called “the old spook” for her disapproving glances. 

            Alma had been proud of her status as keeper of decorum in the Cheesborough household, and was aggrieved when Middleton’s entrance displaced her from the largest bedroom into the smallest. 

            One day, Alma’s ghost departed—at the same time that the butler had made his final exit from the house across the street.   Some say that the two servants discovered they could commiserate; and the association developed into a post-corporeal romance.

 

PHOTO CAPTION

 

Wedding party for Jessie Merrick and Alfred S. Barnard, c. 1900, photo taken at Lindsey’s Art Parlor.

Top row (l to r): Unidentified man; Vance Brown; Detta Merrick.  Middle row: Philip Cocke; perhaps a Miss West; Julia Atkinson; Elmer E. or William R. Heston.  Bottom row: Bonnie Reeves; Erwin Sluder; Bessie Reeves; unidentified man; Haywood Parker; and perhaps Nina Johnson.

Photo courtesy N.C. Collection, Pack Memorial Library.

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