Thursday, November 5, 2009

John C. Calhoun in Cashiers

As reported here several days ago, John C. Calhoun examined the Tuckasegee Valley in 1836 as a possible route for a rail line from Charleston to Cincinnati. That trip is mentioned in an 1891 book by a Calhoun family friend, Dave U. Sloan.

Here’s a passage from Sloan's Fogy Days, and Now: Or, The World Has Changed:

Traveling through the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, Mr. Calhoun, Col. Gadsden and my father stopped over night at a mountain cabin home. There was but one spare room, and in it a bed and a pallet. My father arranged for himself and Col. Gadsden to take the pallet and Mr. Calhoun to take the bed. About midnight the mail-rider stopped in, and seeing but one person in the bed, said: "Git furder thar, old horse, and spoon," and familiarly piled in with the Senator. In the morning the hostess came in the room and finding Mr. Calhoun there alone requested him to climb up a ladder into the loft, and hand her down a shoulder of bacon, which the Senator complied with, as gracefully as circumstances would permit.

Our party spent several days on this trip in Cashier's Valley at the home of the old man, James McKinney. Mrs. McKinney was quite a stout, red-faced, middle-aged lady, celebrated far and wide for her curiosity as well as her loquacity, as also her unsophisticated manner; entering the room where the gentlemen were talking, with her sleeves rolled up above her elbows, her arms akimbo, addressing my father, with whom she was acquainted, said: " Colonel Sloan, is this the great John C. Cal-houn that I have hearn so much talk about."

My father answered in the affirmative, saying: " Mr. Calhoun, allow me to present to you our hostess, Mrs McKinney."

Mrs. McKinney grasped the proffered hand, saying: "Do tell; why, you look jist like other folks. I reckon you've got a mighty purty wife to home haint ye?"

Mr. Calhoun answered, that he intended bringing Mrs. Calhoun on a visit to the mountains, and she would have an opportunity to judge for herself, when Mrs. McKinney broke in again," Well, I low she's got lots of purty bed quilts down thar," when old man McKinney spoke out, "Thar now, Sally, you've played h—l agin," and for one time in his life our great Statesman seemed at a loss for a reply.

Mr. Calhoun made frequent visits to these mountains with my father, examining the topography of the country in view of a railroad crossing the Blue Ridge, and could often be seen cracking rocks in search of minerals. He was first to discover the indications of gold in that section, and afterward, my father and others, worked expensive gold mines there.

Mr. Calhoun was noted for his wonderful forecast of coming events. Many are still living who remember his predictions about Marthasville, now Atlanta, the coming city of the South. Nearly fifty years ago he said it would become a great railroad distributing point and a great city. He greatly desired about that time a railroad connection between Charleston, S. C., and Knoxville, Tenn., which enterprise was finally undertaken before the war, and after an expenditure of several millions of dollars, under bad management, was abandoned for want of further means, the failure proving a great misfortune to South Carolina.

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