Sunday, February 10, 2008

Along the Tuckasegee - 1890

Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain-bound "Inman" was not the only escaped prisoner-of-war to maneuver his way through Western North Carolina during the Civil War. If you dig deep enough into the archives, you’ll find accounts of actual prisoners and fugitives who traversed these mountains.

One such man made his way through Jackson County during the War and returned here 25 years later:

"to carry out my long cherished purpose of paying a visit to the mountaineers who had harbored our party in the winter of 1864."

It appears that we have at least two written accounts from the same party…and at some point, I’d like to pull those stories together and add a few notes to put it all in perspective. But for now, I’ll toss out one little morsel, written during that return visit to Jackson County in 1890:

As we drove into Webster, the court town of Jackson county, three miles from the station, a mass of white thunder caps rolled over the mountains and the big drops were beginning to patter down. I found shelter in the village store and the driver sought cover for his trap.

Webster is a sorry country town, where the razor backed hogs root wallowing places about the door of the store undisturbed by the village loungers, who chew tobacco, jocked back in splint bottomed chairs on the porch. I felt very jolly, however, when I recalled a certain faraway morning when I tramped out of the town shivering, with the mud and snow oozing through my broken shoes at every step.

The old brick jail stood in the next yard, and despite the rain I jumped over the gate and ran into the hall and inspected the corner room where we three ragged boy lieutenants had once passed a night.

For six miles farther our road wound along the picturesque bank of the Tuckasegee river, the same road along which we had come to Webster under guard. Crossing to the opposite branch by a pole bridge, we passed into the Cullowhee valley, with its frequent cabins and cornfields and orchards, dotting the fertile bottom lands along the winding creek.

Here was abundance for consumption, but evidently no market for the surplus. We passed little groups of haystacks which had been rotting for years in the meadows, some of the stacks almost hidden under the vines which were rapidly growing over them….

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