Thursday, May 10, 2007

May 10, 1879

W. G. Zeigler traveled west of the Balsams on May 10, 1879 and observed the area near Cherokee:
A great part of this hilly land away from the river is now under cultivation. Dismal young forests of field pine show that it had once been cleared, worked until worn out, and then left for nature to again train into its primitive wilderness. It reminded me of the dreary pine woods of the State next south of this. Nothing could look more lonesome than, surrounded by these pine fields, old, empty farm houses, one or two of which we passed, with dingy, weather-beaten sides, moss grown roofs, crumbling chimneys, gaping, sashless windows and doorless entrances. Not a domestic creature could be seen around them, and even the birds seemed to sing mournfully in the still flourishing orchards.

Zeigler later wrote about the conditions he had seen:
The question naturally comes up: why are these so many of these ugly blots, marked by scrubby pines, upon the face of an otherwise fair landscape? The answer is, indifferent farming, resulting, in a great many cases, from the ownership of too much land. There was no object in saving manures and ploughing deep, when the next tract lay in virgin soil, awaiting the axe, plough, and hoe.

Zeigler’s entry for May 10 included this:
We were in Swain county. Fine farms of rich black soil lay on either side between the river and the environing mountains, which grew higher, steeper, wilder and closer together as we advanced. The farm houses were large, looked old fashioned in their simple style of architecture, ancient with the gray, unpainted exteriors, but homelike and cheerful, surrounded by their large, blossoming apple orchards.

(W. G. Zeigler, "On Foot Across the Mountains," May 10, 1879, Asheville Citizen, May 22, 1879)

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