Monday, July 30, 2007

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The March of Progress

The history of these mountains contains at least one constant theme. Sooner or later someone will stride into your community, take a look around, like what they see, and decide that you’re standing in the way of progress. THEIR progress. When that happens, good luck to you.

John C. Calhoun, writing to Governor Joseph McMinn:

July 29, 1818
The conduct on the part of the Cherokee nation merits the severest censure. After ratification of the treaty, resistance to its fair execution can be considered little short of hostility. The menaces offered to those who choose to emigrate or to take reservations cannot be tolerated. . . . Surrounded as the Cherokees are by the white population, they are in danger of perpetual collisions with them, or, even if disputes can be avoided, to fall under the train of vice and misery to which a savage people are doomed when they come into contact with enlightened and civilized nations. It is vain for the Cherokees to hold to the high tone which they do as to their independence as a nation; for daily proof is exhibited that, were it not for the protecting arm of the United States they would become victims of fraud and violence. If the opposers of the treaty are really the champions of the independence of their nation, they ought to be the advocates of emigration to the Arkansas. There, their claim to independence would be much better founded; and there, at a distance from us, they might, before the white population would crowd on them, acquire the arts of civilized life, and become proper subjects of our regular Government.

George William Featherstonhaugh was a geologist and linguist who traveled through the Cherokee lands of Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina and published A Canoe Voyage up the Minnay Sotor based on his diaries:

July 29, 1837
The fatigue of the day made me sleep well, although on the floor, and at 4 A.M. we started again. As soon as we passed the boundary dividing the two States, into Georgia, we came upon shale and slate dipping to the S.E.; over this we rode fifteen miles, and then came upon limestone again. Lofty mountains were upon our left, appearing to form part of a chain bearing N.E. and S.W.

We met many parties of Cherokees of the lowest class going on foot to the great meeting. Some of them were very drunk and were accompanied by young women carrying their infants. Log huts now increased in number with clearings around them, surrounded by broken-down fences, and bearing evidence of slovenly farming. The white inhabitants were a tall, sallow, gawky-looking set, with manners of the coarsest kind; their children were all pale and unhealthy-looking, suffering, as the mothers told me, from bowel complaints, occasioned evidently by unwholesome food and filth. We passed several farms belonging to the principal Cherokees, containing fine patches of the sweet potato (Convolvulus Batata), maize and pulse of various kinds. Some of the Indian women spoke English, but generally they were shy, and in a few instances refused to answer me. I was not surprised at this at the present juncture. . . .

In the evening I ventured out to look at an ample and most pellucid spring in the vicinity, from whence the settlement takes its name. The water flowed copiously from seams in the limestone, which in its cavernous parts no doubt contained great bodies of it. Here I sat down upon a log; not a breath of air was stirring, and it was still too close and warm to walk with comfort. A Georgian, however, whom I found there, told me that he found it cool at this place compared with his residence in the low country.

On my return to the village, I observed that almost every store in the place was a dram shop, and the evening's amusement of a great part of the population seemed to consist in going about from one to the other; and when they got what they call in this part of the country "high," which means red-hot drunk with whisky, they would go to the tavern and bully the people they found there.

And a generation later T. W. Atkins wrote to J. A. Seddon on July 29, 1863:

The safety and security of…our homes and property are seriously menaced and openly assaulted by herds of disloyal citizens and gangs of deserters from the Confederate army…we shall doubtless fall an easy prey to the malicious hands of marauders, which now openly parade themselves in the different counties, west of the Blue Ridge.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pack Square at Night

Pack Square at Night, Asheville, NC (ca. 1919),
old image featured in "Souvenir Land of Sky" booklet, published by the Brown Book Co.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Water Garden

At Perry's Water Gardens, Cowee Valley, Macon County, NC

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Terror on the Frontier

Fear gripped the hills of the Carolina frontier during the summer of 1751, as revealed by this letter, written on July 24 of that year:

The Behaviour of the Indians here hath imprinted not small Fear in the Peoples Breasts, for some Time before I arrived home, which was on Saturday the 20th Instant, a Company of Cherokees viz., Estanaury People, came to a Plantation about five or six Miles from my House, and made a dreadful Havock therein, destroying a great Part of the Corn then growing, Potatoes, Colworts, Tobacco, and whatsoever they could detriment.

The leading Fellow of the Gang was the Little Warrior of Estanaury, who also came with two Fellows more with him, to my House about the same Time, asking for some Corn . . . they . . . were insolent in their Demands, the Head Fellow saying he was a Warriour, and would fill his Baggs, which they each accordingly did, each Man his Bagg and afterwards behaved very impudently.

About this Time also, two Calves were found dead, shott with Arrows not much above a Quarter of a Mile from the House. The Tongue and what they call the back Strop was taken from one, and only the Tongue from the other. At the same Time, if not the same Day, a poor Man that lives within three Miles of me had five Cows shott and killed within a Mile or two of his House, four of which were milking Cows, leaving young Calves in the Pen, which must inevitably die also. . . .

We therefore begg Leave with all due Submission to propose to your Excellency that we cannot expect Peace or Quietness here as Matters are brought to those Lengths they now are, unless a Fort is placed in the Frontiers of this Settlement, and a sufficient Number of Rangers to drive these Norwards, or French Indians, from molesting and destroying our Effects, which is our Livelihood. . . It is very certain that a Fort in the Cherokee Nation may be of great Service, on sundry Accounts, but in Relation to the present Preservation (which is absolutely necessary to prevent the breaking up of the Settlements) or future Establishment of these Parts, the People cannot allow it will be of any Service, unless a standing Company of Rangers are allowed to be continually ranging the Woods, where these Norwards or French Indians seem to have taken Possession.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harvest Time

Today's harvest...the first tomatoes and cucumbers of the summer.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bridal Veil Falls Restored

I picked up this week’s Highlands News and read this letter to the editor from John Gaston:

For years the postcard showing cars driving behind Bridal Veil Falls was the iconic symbol for the mountains of Western North Carolina. So I want to congratulate Bill Nellis, MidSouth Blasting, Topline Grading and everyone associated for re-opening the road under the falls. It is nice to know that there is a developer and a construction contractor who can do something for instead of to our community.

The funny thing is that we had just been there a few days before and saw that the 150-ton boulder...that had fallen on December 4, 2003... was still blocking the old road that ran under the falls.

The Bridal Veil Falls of old was not the same.

But some dynamite and heavy equipment took care of that on July 12, 2007. Soon, the road behind the Bridal Veil Falls will once again be drivable.

Below - Bridal Veil Falls five days before the removal of the boulders.

Anagram Hall of Fame

The Anagram Hall of Fame

Dormitory = Dirty Room
Listen = Silent
Clint Eastwood = Old West Action
Astronomers = Moon starers
The eyes = They see
The Morse Code = Here Come Dots
A Domesticated Animal = Docile, as a Man Tamed it
Vacation Times = I'm Not as Active
Eleven plus two = Twelve plus one

And an even more elaborate anagram -

-From Hamlet by Shakespeare:

To be or not to be: that is the question, whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. = In one of the Bard's best-thought-of tragedies, our insistent hero, Hamlet, queries on two fronts about how life turns rotten.

All these and many others at Anagram Hall of Fame.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Ditch the Ordinances

After all the months of hard work that have gone into developing subdivision and steep slope ordinances it is my sad duty to suggest that the proposed ordinances be voted down.

Pull the plug on the process and bring in some attorneys who know what they’re doing. As things stand now, it appears to be impossible to enforce existing regulations. If what I’m starting to hear from multiple sources is correct, Balsam Mountain Preserve is about to walk away from any responsibility for erosion violations in the months leading up to their golf course dam break.

The latest word is that an amendment has been added to legislation in Raleigh that would further eviscerate the county’s enforcement powers and would essentially allow Balsam Mountain Preserve to escape punishment for their actions.

If the county lacks the authority to assess and collect fines in a case as egregious as that of Balsam Mountain Preserve, we don’t need to be having any discussion about a whole stack of new and equally unenforceable regulations. We need discussions on what powers, if any, that the county actually CAN exercise to protect the health, safety and well-being of the people and the land in Jackson County. New ordinances that are ineffectual laundry lists of suggested practices and can be ignored with impunity? What’s the point of that?

If there’s a silver lining to this cloud, I hope someone will point it out to me. Otherwise, it’s time to stop the charade and be honest about the fact that developers can do any damned thing they please to destroy these mountains. They will not be held responsible for their misdeeds.

It certainly looks like they don’t have to worry about Jackson County’s ability to enforce regulations, now or in the future. And if that is the case, then the final public hearing on August 6 is the time to stand up and say:

Nice try, but we DON’T NEED the steep slope and subdivision ordinances.

July 20, 1863

Martha Revis, of Madison County, was left to run the farm while her husband, H. W., fought for the Confederacy. In a letter dated July 20, 1863, she wrote to him:

I have no news to write to you at this, only I am done laying by my corn. I worked it all four times. My wheat is good, my oats is good. I haven't got my wheat stacked yet. My oats I have got most of them cut, and Tom Hunter and John Roberts is cutting to-day. They will git them cut to-day. ... You said you hadn't anything to eat. I wish you was here to get some beans for dinner.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Long Island of the Holston

It was during this month in the year 1777, that the Overhills Cherokees in Tennessee negotiated the Treaty of Long Island of the Holston, whereby they relinquished their claims to the land occupied by whites in east Tennessee.

From the National Park Service, we read this about the Long Island of the Holston, located near Kingsport:

Located just east of the junction of the North and South Forks of the Holston River, Long Island was a sacred council and treaty ground surrounded by the vast hunting territory of the Cherokee Nation. Starting at Long Island in March 1775, Daniel Boone (1734-1820) led a team of 30 axmen to open the trail through Cumberland Gap that was to gain fame as the Wilderness Road. Between 1775 and 1795, this trail was used by more than 200,000 emigrants.

Condition:The island has been covered with chemical factories and lost its integrity.

The island is about four miles long and one-half mile wide.

To read the proceedings from July 18, 1777 is to read something not unlike tonight's "treaty negotiations" over steep slope and development ordinances in Jackson County:

Colo. Christian spoke as follows.
Friends & Brethren,
Our business at this place was to make peace with our ancient allies the Cherokees; . . . to fix a boundary between you and your brothers of Virginia that may stand firm & unbroken thr'o ages yet to come. . . . You are sensible that if we had a desire or wanted your land, we should have left an army in your Country and not have invited you to treat with us. . . . we propose to give you two hundred head of breeding Cows and one hundred head of Sheep for it, by the fall to be delivered at this place when the line is run, at which we desire some of your Warriors to be present that your people may have stocks of their own. This stock we give as a compensation for the land that falls within our state when the boundary line between Virginia and North Carolina is run, which may be of great use in cloathing and supporting your people.

The Commissioners then withdrew, and left the Indians alone to consult, after a short time being met again, the Raven spoke as follows.
Now my elder Brothers shall hear what I have to say which is the certain truth without wavering. You and me have each other fast by the hand and we will forever keep our hold; altho some differences may arise in our opinion, while we are talking the friendly talks together. The bright chain of friendship is laid aside till we can settle the bounds of our Countries. . . . My elder Brothers desired me to mention a boundary, and after that you proposed another. But I tell you now we will begin our line at the mouth of big Creek just below Robinsons fort, and run thence a straight line three miles to the left of Cumberland Gap.

Colo. Christian then spoke as follows.
th'o from the mouth of the Creek you mentioned, to that we proposed, the line to begin at, is but a verry little way, it will leave out near twenty of our people, who have planted corn there, and can be of little use to you. Therefore we expect you will allow the line to begin at the mouth of the second Creek below the ford and extend to the place you point ouy in Cumberland mountain.

The Raven then spoke as follows.
I depend on you to let the Governor of Virginia know that I had fixed a boundary, but that at your request I suffered it to go up to the place you propose upon my land.

Col. Christian spoke as follows.
We have now settled the boundary between you & your Brothers of Virginia and you may be assured our Governor and great council will make it verry strong. What we have promised you shall be delivered when we run the line, of which you shall have due noticed. We will inform our Governor, of your friendly behaviour at the treaty, and show him your good talks.

Somehow, you can see how real estate developers and their cronies would have felt right at home in this scene. Some things don’t change all that much.

From another source we learn that the once-sacred island was cursed after the acceptance of the treaty:

The Long Island of the Holston River…is a cursed place with a checkered history. This was once sacred ground to the Cherokee Indians--a place of peace where no man could be killed. It was also a meeting ground where treaties were written and agreed upon.

On July 20, 1777, Cherokee chiefs--including the legendary Attakullakulla--and white soldiers signed a treaty there that forced the Indians to give up millions of acres of their territory, including the island itself. The decision was not unanimous--especially among the rank and file.
It is said that, after the signing and as the Indians were leaving, a medicine man cured the island saying that no white man would ever live there in peace.

Undeniably, this curse still holds true today.

Over the year, Long Island has been the scene of a number of violent murders, including that horrifying day in 1925 when a fugitive named Kinnie Wagner gunned down a number of law enforcement officers who had come to arrest him.

Long Island is even considered haunted. Tales are told of an apparition who roams is island, armed with a long knife, who attacks couples who go there at night to be alone.

There are no houses on the island and about half of it now contains a park administered
by the City of Kingsport. The other half of the island--ironically--is the home of a waste treatment plant owned by Tennessee Eastman. Indeed, even if they could, no one would want to live there.

Finally, link over to Discover Kingsport for "new images historically imagined" of Long Island. I really like these. The photographer has taken present day photos of Long Island, and then altered the photos to take out the "improvements" to the land.
Not exactly before-and-after photos…more like after-and-before.
Great concept behind this site. The photographer wanted to see "old Kings Port" as he imagined it might have been.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Craggy Views

Chicken Guts and Other Headlines

So much news, so little time.

Poultry Parts
It wasn’t the subdivision moratorium that brought things to a halt around Sylva today. No, it was a "truckload of chicken guts" as WLOS termed it so delicately during their dinner hour installment of infotainment this evening. I can’t understand why they didn’t have John Le cover the story. Seems like "chicken guts" would be right up his alley. I figure John Le must cover the chicken guts beat for WLOS, so why wasn’t he out here?

The toppled cargo blocked the westbound lanes of Highway 74 sending traffic on a detour through downtown for most of the day.

Now that I think about it, isn’t "chicken guts" an oxymoron?

I’d avoid the local sports bar "Wings Specials" for a few days if I were you.

[While we're on the subject, here's an award winning poem inspired by a similar incident:

Ode to Chicken Guts
By Mary Bailey
Written to commemorate the occasion, in June 1995, when we drove through some nasty chicken by-products, inadvertently spilled on an Ohio highway by a farm truck -
Near a town by the name of Shallot
Where our tires hit a stinky, slick spot
On that hot day in JuneJust a little past noon
'Twas chicken guts, starting to rot!
As we started to slip and to slide
Losing what was left of our pride
We caught the strong scent
But didn't know what it meant
Then, "It's chicken guts!" somebody cried....
Click for full text ]

Benzene, Ether and Ethanol
We finally saw the story get into print this week when the Sylva Herald reported on contaminated drinking water at several homes near Highway 74 just east of Sylva. The homes are downhill from the site of a former gas station with above-ground storage tanks. (On the south side of the Highway 74. The old garage was torn down recently and replaced by hideously ugly new metal storage units and mini-warehouses.)

It’s troubling, of course, that the families consumed tainted water and that there’s no good solution for providing clean water to their homes. And the situation raises other questions.

I’ve looked back through records of the groundwater division of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources and find incident # 8910 occurring July 24, 1992 at the former Hoyle’s Exxon on Highway 74. It was noted at the time that the owner was "…FINANCIALLY UNABLE TO ASSESS OR REMEDIATE THE SITE. THE CONTAMINATED WATER SUPPLY WELL HAS BEEN REPLACED."

The questions?

What sort of ongoing monitoring of groundwater is required after an incident like this?

What disclosures are required when the affected property and neighboring properties change hands after an incident like this?

And more importantly, were buyers of those properties in the past 15 years (if any) actually notified about the contamination of the groundwater that occurred in 1992? Did the sellers and realtors disclose that information or not?

Just wondering. That would be a hell of a thing to sweep under the rug.

Fine’s Not Fine with BMP
When I saw the heading on the email "Balsam Mountain Preserve Appeal Hearing Cancelled" I breathed a sigh of relief.

"Well," I thought, "those scoundrels finally took their medicine and paid up the $300,000 they owe us. That’s a wise move."

But once again, I gave the self-proclaimed mountain preservers too much credit. They haven’t paid up at all.

The body of the email revealed that Attorney General Roy Cooper wanted to usurp the county’s move to slap BMP on the wrist…and wanted the fine paid to the state rather than the county.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has intervened to hold an administrative hearing and could send the case back to the county.

That's the explanation I've heard.

Some day Balsam Mountain Preserve might pay some fine in connection with the death of Scott’s Creek.

Or they might not.

Lady Bird and Franz
As I had anticipated, Lynn Hotaling at the Sylva Herald ran a nice story on Lady Bird Johnson’s visit to Jackson County of some 40 years ago. You may remember a photo used in last week’s rumination on Lady Bird’s passing. It showed a young school teacher administering a haircut while the First Lady looked on.

That young teacher was Franz Whitmire, who went on to be a principal and commissioner here in Jackson County.

The sad news and odd coincidence is that Mr. Whitmire died on July 11, 2007…the very same day as Lady Bird Johnson's death.

I Feel Like an Idiot
That was the headline for the Village of Penland article appearing in today’s Wall Street Journal. The story we’ve been following over at Penland Watch has finally hit the big time:

While a harpist played, real-estate developer Tony Porter talked up a plan he promised could bring big financial payoffs to the isolated community and anyone who invested in it. At the party and in subsequent sessions, Mr. Porter and others at his company, Peerless Real Estate Services Inc., described his vision for a 2,000-lot residential and retail development called the Village of Penland.

According to the article, Mr. Porter is at an undisclosed location in North Carolina, although I’ve heard that he’s skipped the country. Much, much more to report in the days ahead.

Tradio Revisited
Local radio station WRGC made it to the New York Times via the July 15, 2007 article by Dan Barry, A Community Swap Meet on Your AM Radio Station, "For 15 minutes every weekday afternoon in western North Carolina, people talk, listen and connect, all through a kind of radio-wave eBay called Tradio."

It probably IS the highlight of the local broadcast day, hearing Dennis talk about his kitty-cats and asking his callers if they can help him spell "chihuahua."

You can call in your stuff for sale (or wanted to buy) any afternoon from 12:45 to 1:00. Just be sure to turn down your radio, please.

Safe Cracker
This hasn't made headlines yet, but I hope some enterprising reporter will crack the case soon. A large safe has shown up near the old site of the Jackson County Courthouse in WEBSTER.

The contents of the safe have not been revealed yet, and at least one suspicious individual was observed trying (unsuccessfully) to move the safe from its current location. The lack of any serious investigation makes you wonder who's trying to hide what.

But ain't that always the way it is?

Monday, July 16, 2007

St. John's, Waynesville

St. John's School, Waynesville, NC (ca. 1939?), and the same site today:

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Marlette and Free Speech

Doug Marlette remembered as staunch defender of free speech.

Me and Paul in New Harmony

"We can speak without voice to the trees and the clouds and the waves of the sea. Without words they respond through the rustling of leaves and the moving of clouds and the murmuring of the sea."
-Paul Tillich

And here’s what came back:

You scored as Paul Tillich, Paul Tillich sought to express Christian truth in an existentialist way. Our primary problem is alienation from the ground of our being, so that our life is meaningless. Great for psychotherapy, but no longer very influential.

I scored 80% consistent with Tillich, followed by these theologians in descending order:

Jurgen Moltmann, 73%;
Anselm, 67%;
Augustine, 67%;
John Calvin, 60%;
Friedrich Schleiermacher, 47%;
Martin Luther, 33%;
Karl Barth, 27%;
Charles Finney, 20%;
And Jonathan Edwards, 13%

I really don't know much about Paul Tillich. But I know that at one time, Paul Tillich lived in a little town, one of my favorite places, New Harmony, Indiana - near the Wabash River. For two centuries, it has been a mecca for scientists, educators, artists and writers.

I happened upon New Harmony one September after a long day of driving, to find a German Street Festival shutting down. It seemed like a quiet village and a great place for walking. New Harmony was the site of two of America's great utopian communities and continues to be a place full of surprises -

a roofless church:

...located inside the walled garden. In the center of the Roofless Church is a 50 foot dome made of laminated pine arches. Under the dome is a Bronze, the altar piece, designed by Jacques Lipchitz. Translated the Bronze reads, "Jacob Lipchitz, Jew, faithful to the faith of his ancestors has created this virgin for the good will of all mankind that the spirit might prevail."
Stroll around near the Roofless Church, and you might find Paul Tillich Park, where excerpts from his writings are inscribed on the stones of the garden:
"Man and nature belong together in their created glory - in their tragedy and in their salvation."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Looking Back

Main Street Looking West, Sylva, NC

My well-fed ego had to loosen its belt a notch this week. Questionable allegations of clever originality create the burden of meeting lofty expectations. But I’ll manage – by proceeding to do what I do best. That is, shamelessly stealing from other sources.

A Mountain Xpress article caught my attention this week. Jon Elliston writes about a new collection and exhibit of historic North Carolina postcards. "Greetings from North Carolina: A Century of Postcards From the Durwood Barbour Collection" is a new exhibit at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library (through September 30). Barbour recently donated 9000 postcards, dated from 1892 to 1994 to the library’s North Carolina Collection. Many of the cards were produced by the Asheville Postcard Company, founded in 1910.

If you can’t get to Chapel Hill, selections are online at where an interactive map allows you to select cards from across the state. Very cool!

I’ve collected vintage WNC postcards for a few years. There’s no shortage of the linen-era cards, with their rough texture and gaudy colors, depicting waterfalls, and bears and factories and main streets of the region. They’re not particularly expensive and you can find plenty of sellers on the internet. And a collection doesn’t take up much space, which is a good thing, since the hobby can become addictive.

I should probably concentrate on waterfalls, or scenes from the Smokies, because it seems an infinite number of postcards were devoted to both those subjects. But that would leave out too many other fine cards.

Pre-dating the linen cards were cards printed in Germany and Switzerland and they were of superior quality. I need to scan some of the Swiss cards featuring scenes from the Biltmore Estate. Really, I need to be posting more of the collection. [Click on the "vintage postcard" label at the bottom of this story to view all the cards posted to date.]

OK, that’s the first theft. Here’s the second:

Screwy Hoolie over at BlogAsheville rightfully recommends an "absolutely incredible" site, WNC Heritage. The site includes more than 3000 Asheville photos from long ago and "also has documents, drawings, and oral history in a searchable database."

From the posted comments, I see that other folks are delighting in this archive as well. Looks like a site you could browse for hours. You'll find gems like this house amidst the Asheville Flood of 1916. It's almost as good as being there, if not better.

July 13, 1822

Cherokee Chief John Ross, writing to David Brown, July 13, 1822:

. . . To reflect seriously on the condition of the Indian Tribes inhabiting the continent of America, and to review the miserable fate which has befalled and swept into wretchedness and oblivion the numerous Tribes that once inhabited the country bordering on the Atlantic, is enough to make the remnant of those Tribes, who are now encompassed by the white population, shudder. Yet I cannot believe, that the Indians are doomed to perish in wretchedness, from generation to generation, as they are approached by the white population, until they shall be annihilated from the face of the earth.

. . . the United States Government . . . as has hitherto been adopted, to effect the purpose of removing nation after nation from the lands of their fathers into the remote wilderness, where their encroachment on the hunting grounds of other Tribes has been attended with the unhappy consequences of quarrels, wars, and bloodshed. Has not this been the result of the removal of part of our nation to the Arkassaw? Yes! the uplifted tomahawk is now wielding, and the scalping knife is unsheathed, between the Arkansaw, Cherokees and the Osages, for the horrid destruction of each other.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Grandfather Vistas Documents

The Grandfather Vistas - Peerless Real Estate Connections

News reports indicate that the Grandfather Vistas development in Caldwell County appears to be abandoned and that at least two of the individuals associated with Grandfather Vistas developer Blue River Ridge of Blowing Rock, LLC were also associated with the Village of Penland project. (Upon examining some deeds recorded in connection with the Grandfather Vistas project, I found at least one instance where Peerless Real Estate Services, Inc., Neil G. O'Rourke, President is listed as "manager" of Blue River Ridge of Blowing Rock, LLC.)

Articles of organization for Blue River Ridge were filed with the NC Secretary of State on February 7, 2006 listing as "organizer" W. H. Johnson, III, c/o Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, PLLC, 2530 Meridian Parkway, Suite 400, Durham, NC 27713 and listing the initial registered office of the company as 135 Crown Ridge, Spruce Pine, NC 28777. (A Mr. Kip Johnson with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice was listed as a reference in a 2005 brochure published by Peerless Real Estate.)

On April 20, 2007, Randy A. Carpenter resigned his position as registered agent for Blue River Ridge at Blowing Rock, LLC and stated that written notice of his resignation had been delivered to John Perry, Vice President, Peerless Real Estate Services, Inc., 211 Skyview Drive, Spruce Pine, NC 28777. (Mr. Carpenter’s resignation as registered agent of Village of Penland, LLC and Peerless Real Estate Services, Inc. was filed on that same date. I should add that Mr. Carpenter was also an agent for yet another corporation, Grandfather Vistas, LLC.)

The Blue River Ridge corporation is still listed as active and current, though it appears a required annual report may be overdue for filing.

Introducing Source One Communities

The web domain was registered September 7, 2006 and administrator of the web domain is listed as Frank Baylor, 10698 Ocean Highway, Pawleys Island, SC 29585, , 843-385-0499. (Stephen Rayborn is also listed in association with the site, same address) If you’re so inclined you can use Domain Tools (whois) to look up similar details on any web domain you come across. [I can't pass up the chance to critique the web-site. Not bad. They should have used spell-check, though. At least one glaring error scrolls across the screen. And the music is perfect, except it keeps repeating every 10 seconds. Gets old fast. Hmm, how many hundreds of thousands do you guys say you charge for this stuff?]

You can view an advertisement run for Grandfather Vistas in the (Raleigh) News and Observer on October 18, 2006. The offer was for a complimentary three day-two night stay (with travel reimbursement). "Mountain View and Riverfront Homesites from $219,000)…Accommodations are provided and arranged by Source One Communities."

Googling "Source One Communities" brings up a website that describes Carolina Barriles, LLC which brought together "Davidson and Jones Corporation, represented in this endeavor by Robert L. Jones and Seby R. Jones, and Source One Communities, LLC, represented by its principals, H. Lee Farthing and [Stephen M.] Rayborn." Elsewhere in the site, we read of Prudential Source One Communities, LLC of Pawleys Island, SC.

Further, they describe their impressive marketing prowess:

Imagine selling-out an entire property in less than three hours and earning gross revenues of more than $20 million in one day. It's a reality at Source One Communities. We market our properties to the right buyers at the right times, so come purchase day, they're ready to buy.

We have a proven track record of success in developing and selling waterfront and mountain properties. The keys to these achievements are that we understand the discerning tastes of the affluent buyer, and we know how to choose properties that present buyers with an opportunity to be among a distinguished group of residents who take advantage of an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

… Grandfather Vistas of Blowing Rock - Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Over $20 million sold the first 90 days. 2800 acres, 5 -7 year sellout. Average marketing expenditure - $300,000 - $500,000 per sales event.

Plats and Contract Forms for Grandfather Vistas

What is presented as the Grandfather Vistas website (with Source One Communities also listed) contains some intriguing documents which I have archived. These are blank forms, and I have not yet determined whether these were used in any actual transactions. I expect these would be of interest to some readers more adept at parsing such things than I am.

The one-page flyer, "Capture a View That Refreshes the Soul" is your usual real estate fluff.

Several pages of plat maps for the Grandfather Vistas development are available for viewing.

A lengthy document of restrictive covenants for Grandfather Vistas is also available. The document refers to the Grandfather Vistas Homeowners Association, Inc., which I cannot identify as being a North Carolina corporation. Mentioned in the document is Columbia Development Group, LLC…not an NC corporation (possibly KY?)

Finally, and perhaps most interesting are the contract for purchase of property and contract addendum. The contract form lists an escrow agent, Mr. Phil Murdock, Jr. Esq., Nexsen Pruet Closing Network, LLC, 1425 Constitution Blvd., Rock Hill, SC 29732.

Much appreciated are the comments of one reader who has already examined these items and had some observations: "The contract addendum offers 12 months interest to the buyer. 10% down, pay nothing for a year and we guarantee you can sell your land for a profit. And most of the properties are 100ft wide! That is appropriate for inner city development. There are many more of these to fail."

There are some very well-informed viewers of this site, and it would be interesting to hear about any other possible irregularities found in these contracts.

Another Failed Development

Another troubled mountain development is coming to light, and it appears to be connected with some of the individuals involved in the Village of Penland disaster. According to the News-Topic (Lenoir, NC), the proposed Grandfather Vistas gated community in the Patterson area of Cadwell County shows evidence of having been abandoned:

The sales office is unkempt, with broken windows and an unfilled opening allowing access to the interior. Soda cans and packages of bread litter the floor. Though the signage to the community remains, along with the names of various streets, the flowers and bushes are dying from a lack of care.

Ahh, that signage…it sounds like the Village of Penland for sure. Two names associated with Grandfather Vistas developer Blue River Ridge at Blowing Rock, LLC have also been associated with the Mitchell County scandal:

On April 20, Randy Carpenter resigned as Blue River Ridge's registered agent and was replaced by John Perry of Peerless Real Estate Services.

According to the News-Topic article, the Grandfather Vistas development

…had been promoted as a crown jewel in the booming second-home market throughout the county. Prospective clients were ushered from throughout the country, some even receiving helicopter tours of lots that ranged from one to more than 10 acres in size.

The article does not indicate how many, if any, buyers had purchased lots at Grandfather Vistas.

Kudzu and Wildflowers Remembered

North Carolina’s Doug Marlette, best known as an editorial cartoonist and creator of Kudzu, died Tuesday in a single car crash in Mississippi.

His editorial cartoon work had a wickedly sharp edge tempered with a certain Southern gentility and I’ve enjoyed looking back over his recent cartoons and reading about his life.

Marlette’s 2005 commencement address to Durham Academy includes some amusing recollections and advice. He exhorted the graduates to "be suspicious of experts", by recalling his own high school days:

All I knew was that I wanted to draw pictures for a living. The counselor looked stricken. "Douglas, believe me, when you get to college, artists are a dime a dozen." Then, looking at my grades, he said, "Why don't you use your math skills and drafting ability and study architecture?"

It’s a pretty good read - you might feel like you’ve met a new friend. Archives of his work, information on his novels and much more at the Doug Marlette website.

Then another loss yesterday when Lady Bird Johnson passed away. Now, THERE was a first lady.

The fact that we’re treated to a daily dash of color down by the highway is due in part to Lady Bird’s crusade for highway beautification, her appreciation for wildflowers and her efforts for conservation.

And if that weren’t enough, she’s credited with helping to get Head Start underway in the 1960s. Lady Bird championed some worthy causes all her life.

In March of 1967, Lady Bird Johnson came to Jackson County to visit Western Carolina University and Canada School. The Sylva Herald online archive lists several other nice stories about that day. I imagine you wouldn’t have to go far to find folks who remember it like it was yesterday. That must have been a memorable day.

Finally, some quotes from Lady Bird Johnson:

Every politician should have been born an orphan and remain a bachelor.

The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom.

Children are apt to live up to what you believe of them.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

1854 - smokers loungers and flirts

Long before he designed Central Park and envisioned the grounds of the Biltmore Estate, Frederick Law Olmsted traveled through the South to observe the impact of the slave system. He visited the mountains in July 1854:

Asheville, July 11th. - This is a beautiful place among the hills, with a number of pretty country-seats about it, which, I suppose are summer residences of South Carolina planters. A great many of these "Southerns", as they are called here, are now traveling farther north, to spent the heat of summer at the numerous sulphur springs and other pleasure haunts, where good boarding houses have been established for them along the cool region of the Blue Ridge.

I passed one of these, a sulphur spring, yesterday. It was a white, wooden building, with a long piazza for smokers, loungers, and flirters, and a bowling alley and shuffle board; with coaches and trotting wagons at the stable; poor women picking blackberries, poor men bringing fowls, school girls studiously climbing romantic rocks and otherwise making themselves as pretty as possible, children fighting their black nurses, and old gold spectacles stopping me to inquire if I was the mail, and if I had not got a newspaper.

It is very odd, by the way, what old news one keeps getting in these places far from telegraphs. I inquired here for a late paper, and the clerk of the hotel went to a store to get one. It was the Asheville News, with the same articles copied from New York papers, which I had read a month before.

1828 - universal remedy of the mountains

In 1828, Dr. Elisha Mitchell kept a diary of his geological tour of the northwestern mountains of North Carolina. He wrote in a letter to his wife about climbing Grandfather Mountain:

About half way up we met with a Fir-Balsam tree. It is sometimes a foot and a half in thickness and pretty tall. The balsam resides in small blisters or cavities in the substance of the bark which are cut out and the precious fluid passed into a vial. They say that the exudation obtained in the same way as common turpentine has not the same proper­ties—but I have my doubts. It is the panacea or universal remedy of the mountains—cures wound
s, rheumatism, flux, et cetera. It grows quite to the top but it is stunted and smaller there, and along with one other tree occupies exclusively the highest points.

The summit of the mountain is moist and wet, producing carexes which I wished to but could not study. Holtsclaw had been often upon it but only in search of bears of which it is the favorite winter retreat. They retire to dens in the cliffs in December and come out in February, passing the time in sleep. This is time for the hunters to find their retreats and take them out. They lose nothing of their fatness, and their flesh is thought to acquire additional delicacy; they have nothing in their bowels during their sleep – I write this at Jefferson, July 11, Friday. I Ieave today for the lower end of the county where I hope to go out to the Elkspur Gap on Saturday into Wilkes.

I thank you for your letter. I may write again from Wilkes.

1808 - they must migrate west

On July 11, 1808. Cherokee Indian Agent Return J. Meigs wrote to Secretary of War Henry Dearborn:

A crises in their national existence is taking place. Those in the lower towns ostensibly hold up the Idea of becoming farmers but their real object is to sell their excess land to the white people.

Those of the upper towns will try everything before they conquer indolence. . . . They can no more hold their property as citizens than a sieve can hold water. . . . if their land is divided out here to individuals, it will deprive the government of many millions of dollars by the sales of it and the Indians will become more wretched than they now are. There are perhaps two or three hundred families that might hold land as individuals and would make useful citizens, [but the principal mass would soon be cheated out of what they had by unscrupulous whites].

[At the national council to be held at Broomstown in August] it is probable that a Division of the Cherokees into upper and lower towns will be agreed on. . . . the result of all these alterations will finally eventuate in the exchange of Country. To preserve their national existence they must migrate west.

[Though some Cherokees] have become good farmers, great numbers who have been bro't up to the hunting life will not, nor can it be expected that they will, change habits too long in use for habits of agriculture and manufacture.

In order to place the Cherokees in a situation where all may have objects of pursuit agreeable to them, it is proposed to place the Cherokees on good hunting grounds to the west. . . . farming and domestic manufactures may still be pursued there by those who shall chose those pursuits in preference to hunting.

. . . there is a good number who wish to go over the Mississippi. . . . the general idea of an exchange is that they shall have an equal extent of land to which they now hold here, I think they will think it better to have a less extent of land in Arkansas, say one half, and that they have the difference in value in cash or goods and payable in installments in ten or perhaps twenty years without interest.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Balsam Mountain Preserve Earns a "D"

The Asheville Citizen-Times issued a report card today and Balsam Mountain Preserve earned a grade of D. While this is out of character with the overwhelmingly positive news coverage that the development has enjoyed for the past several years, it would not surprise observers from the Shawangunk Mountains of New York.

At the same time that Chaffin/Light Associates was moving ahead with its golf course and 350 houses on Balsam Mountain, the same developer was stymied in its attempts to launch a similar project in New York. Here in North Carolina, Chaffin/Light was greeted with minimal controls on development, silence from environmental groups, and complicit news media that parroted anything cranked out by the Chaffin/Light public relations department.

In New York, the response was quite different. And so was the outcome.

Shortly after plans were announced in December 2002, the Sierra Club issued an alert:

Chaffin/Light Associates submitted a development plan…that calls for the construction of 349 houses in the middle of Shawangunk Ridge--an area the Nature Conservancy has called "one of the last great places" on Earth. ...If this plan is enacted, the rare and fragile Shawangunk ecosystem will be irrevocably damaged.

Outraged citizens responded quickly and forcefully:

How dare the out-of-state developers, Chaffin/Light, whose proposed 349 houses, golf course, private restaurant and sewage plant, would desecrate Shawangunk Ridge, pose as "eco-friendly neighbors?"

Another citizen weighed the pros and cons of the proposed development:

The cons: loss of habitat for globally and locally rare plants and animals, fertilizer and pesticide runoff from the golf course and private properties would contaminate ground water, open spaces created by development and new roads would allow invasive plant and animal species to invade into pristine areas and change the character of the existing ecosystem, further strain on local water supplies, the continued presence of people would adversely affect wildlife, the scenic beauty of the ridge would be permanently marred, etc. The pros: John Bradley and Chaffin Light Associates will earn millions of dollars, and 300-plus wealthy individuals will own land in one of "The Last Great Places on Earth."

Chaffin/Light’s “Audubon approval” was discredited by another writer:

…to clear up one aspect of the article that suggested that the developer Chaffin/Light Associates has "worked with the Audubon Society and been recognized for its land stewardship." Please be advised that there is a group, Audubon International, which certifies golf courses and housing developments. It has no connection, legally or philosophically, to the National Audubon Society, which works throughout the nation to protect birds and other wildlife, and their habitats.

Residents advocated conservation of the area that had been proposed for development:

My husband and I have been residents of Gardiner for the past eight years, choosing to relocate in the shadow of the Shawangunk Mountains, an area of unparalleled beauty, wildlife, streams, cliffs and mountains. The Shawangunk Ridge is an area that has to be saved for the generations to come to view, walk upon and to be able to regenerate their spirit so they can steward the land.

Another citizen addressed the developer:

Let Chaffin/Light, unenlightened as they are, move on to the next paradise they would desecrate for dollars.

After a long and difficult struggle, the citizen groups prevailed. Chaffin/Light abandoned its planned development, and the Shawangunk Ridge was purchased for inclusion in the Minnewaska State Park Preserve…a real nature preserve, and not one in name only.

Hindsight may be 20/20, but the ongoing disaster of Balsam Mountain Preserve could have been prevented. The story of the Shawangunks demonstrates what can happen when citizens speak out and the media actually reports the news...two things that did not happen when Chaffin/Light developed Balsam Mountain Preserve.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Meeting the Glen Falls Sentinel

Our task in re-enchantment is to expand our very idea of spirituality to include the lowliest of things and the most particular and familiar haunts of nature. Without romanticizing nature, we could turn to it as the major source of our spirituality – a difficult task for most of us who have been brought up on moral and theological abstractions.

…Nature is not only a source of spirit; it also has soul. Spiritually, nature directs our attention toward eternity, but at the same time it contains us and creates an intimacy with our own personal lives that nurtures the soul. The individuality of a tree or rock or pool of water is another sign of nature’s soul. These intriguing natural beings not only point outward toward infinity; more intimately, they also befriend us.

(Thomas Moore, from The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life)

Friday, July 6, 2007

Mother Jones Hot Tub and Overlook

Here’s another one of those circuitous tales inspired by two sightings of Mother Jones in one day. Would that be synchronicity? Or serendipity?

Mary Harris "Mother" Jones (1837? – 1930) became known as "the most dangerous woman in America" because of her union organizing, her community activism, her willingness to speak truth to power. As a friend wrote to me today, "This little old white-haired granny would walk right up to a McCormick, a Rockefeller, an Armour and a Swift, and bellow BLOODSUCKER!"

His comment, with the mention of Armour, reminded me of a letter I found several years ago, a letter published in the Asheville Democrat on January 23, 1890:

The Armour Packing Co., of Chicago, the great meat ring of the country, have leased a house on South Main street, and propose opening at once a meat supply market for this city and section. their methods they have forced the price of cattle down to unprofitable rates, so they could control the markets of the country and command the market for the sale of cattle. if farmers in a section would not conform to their terms, they put up stores, pens, and everything requisite to a butchering house and undersell them, so that producers and dealers must either make terms with them or go out of business. ... Our farmers, unless they work through the [Farmers] Alliance, have no help.

If that’s the way it was in the mountains in the days of our grandfathers, here’s the way it is now - I’ve been visiting River Rock, and must say their promotional literature has more literary merit than your run-of-the-mill real estate brochure. Whoever wrote their stuff came up with some doozies. Take for example, this description of just one of the FIVE River Rock developments located between Lake Glenville and the Tuckasegee River:

"Tuckasegee. Mature. Refined. Relaxed. At Tuckasegee, water in all its sonatas is the soundtrack. The perfume is moss."

Whhhaaattttt!!!??? "The perfume is MOSS"?

After that cryptic lead-in, I was introduced to the Hotspots of Tuckasegee, including:
-the Grand Tuckasegee Lodge
-the Orion Spa & Lula Bar
-Eyrie Fusion Restaurant & Culinary School
-Hunter Jim Park & Pavilion
- and, get this
The Mother Jones Hot Tub and Overlook.

What in the world are these developers thinking? The Mother Jones Hot Tub and Overlook?

In 1901, the real Mother Jones wrote about the boys who worked in the Birmingham mills :

As one looks on this brood of helpless human souls one could almost hear their voices cry out, "Be still a moment, O you iron wheels of capitalistic greed, and let us hear each other's voices, and let us feel for a moment that this is not all of life."

I have seen mothers take their babes and slap cold water in their face to wake the poor little things. I have watched them all day long tending the dangerous machinery. I have seen their helpless limbs torn off, and then when they were disabled and of no more use to their master, thrown out to die.

Such a factory system is one of torture and murder as dreadful as a long-drawn-out Turkish massacre, and is a disgrace to any race or age. As the picture rises before me I shudder for the future of a nation that is building up a moneyed aristocracy out of the life-blood of the children of the proletariat. It seems as if our flag is a funeral bandage splotched with blood. The whole picture is one of the most horrible avarice, selfishness and cruelty and is fraught with present horror and promise of future degeneration. The mother, over-worked and under-fed, gives birth to tired and worn-out human beings.

I can see no way out save in a complete overthrow of the capitalistic system, and to me the father who casts a vote for the continuance of that system is as much of a murderer as if he took a pistol and shot his own children.

And so, it all comes full circle. You hear those words of Mother Jones. And then you hear the words of River Rock, calling out to the readers of the Wall Street Journal:

Since the Gilded Age, the mountains of North Carolina have beckoned, and America’s children of fortune have answered their call. Here on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau, River Rock conjures the high life.

Somehow, the image of America’s children of fortune luxuriating in the Mother Jones Hot Tub overlooking the Tuckasegee doesn’t work for me.

At least not without Mother Jones herself there to turn up the heat.

(The views expressed are not necessarily those of the John Locke Foundation.)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Big Time Busker

I suspect this story made the rounds a few months ago, but if it did, I missed it, and it bears retold by Janet Ward Black in comments she made upon her installation as president of the North Carolina Bar Association in June 2007:

It is January 12th of this year -- a Friday. It is ten minutes before 8 o'clock in the morning. It is Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington, D. C. A young man, dressed in blue jeans and a baseball cap, removes his violin from its case. He places the empty case by his feet. He throws a few dollars and some change into the open violin case as seed money.

The young man begins to play his violin that January morning. He plays for the next 43 minutes. According to the Washington Post reporter present, he is passed by 1,097 commuters. Almost no one stops to listen to him play. The exceptions are primarily a few children who try to stop and listen, but they are invariably pulled away by a parent anxious to get on to life's next activity. The young man plays Bach, Brahms, and even Shubert's Ave Maria-- some of the most exquisite music ever written for the violin.

The young man is Joshua Bell, who, just a few days later, will be awarded the Avery Fisher prize as the best classical musician in America, and who, shortly before, had played to a sold-out crowd at the Library of Congress. The violin he plays is a Stradivarius worth a reported $3.5 million dollars.

Joshua Bell and the Washington Post orchestrated this experiment to see whether D.C. commuters would stop, or even slow down, to hear one of the best musicians on earth, playing some of the best music ever written, on one of the best violins ever made.

Only seven people stopped for at least sixty seconds -- seven people out of 1,097. One of the seven recognized Bell. Most of the rest were the children. He collected $32.17 in donations during those 43 minutes.

A couple of other quotes from Black's address:

Che Guevara, wrote in a letter to his children: "Above all, always be able to feel deeply any injustice committed against anyone anywhere in the world."


Horace Mann, the American educator, said: "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity."

[UPDATE - Thanks to anonymous for the link to the Saw Lady's Blog, from a virtuoso saw player who busks in NYC. The Saw Lady addresses the Joshua Bell experiment which triggered dozens of interesting comments.]

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Mingus Mill

The historic Mingus Mill, located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, preserves the centerpiece of a mountain farming community. Built in 1886 by German immigrant John Mingus, the Mingus Mill uses a water-powered turbine instead of a water wheel to power all of the machinery in the building.

The Mingus Mill was operated as a custom mill, catering to the personal preferences of its customers. The stones used to grind wheat came from France, while those used to grind corn were of local origin.The restored Mingus Mill is operated by the National Park Service as a historic exhibit.

A miller works on-site to demonstrate the process of grinding corn and wheat into corn meal and flour.
Blue Ridge National Heritage Area)

Monday, July 2, 2007

Balsam Hatchery Menagerie

For anyone driving along Highway 74 near Balsam Gap, the old place hardly merits a second look. But people still recall when the Balsam Hatchery was a favorite destination for a Sunday outing.

In 1919, the state purchased 12 acres of land and began work on what was called a “rearing station.” In the 1930s the Works Project Administration provided the labor for constructing concrete raceways and ponds.

Canton, NC native Fred Chappell alluded to those days in a poem entitled “My Grandmother Washes Her Vessels”:

“Wasn’t Grandaddy a good carpenter?”

She nodded absentminded. “He was fine,
Built churches, houses, barns in seven counties,
Built the old hatchery on Balsam…"

Paul Pittman of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission wrote about the old Balsam Hatchery in a 2005 article (with photos). He spoke with Gordon Smathers, who had worked at the hatchery and lived nearby for most of his life. Smathers recalled that the site was as much a zoo as hatchery, containing two monkeys (named Herbert and Joe), a mountain lion, deer, prairie dogs and snakes. A black bear kept at the hatchery was the first known bear in the region to have a cub in captivity.

Pittman related that visitors to the hatchery were tempted to snag a trout or two from raceways of the facility:

“One enterprising boy had a fish line rigged inside his pants running down and out the bottom of his pants leg. Baited with a red worm, he would put his foot up on the raceway, dangle his lure in the water and pull a fat rainbow up his britches leg! This worked fine until a hatchery worker noticed the boy’s leg twitching uncontrollably.”

Countless times, I passed by the towering hemlock and Norway spruce that surrounded the site, but never turned in to explore the hatchery. Too late now. Though it's still owned by the state, it ceased operation as a hatchery in 1983.