Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sacred Groves - 8

Jasper Francis Cropsey, Pool in the Woods

For every man there is some spot on earth, I think, which he has pledged himself to return to, some day, because he was so happy there once. Even to long for it is holiday of a sort. These visits of revery may be all that he can pay it, for years, perhaps until his shade is free to haunt where it pleases. But some are lucky; some get back, and find it, to every trembling leaf and stanch old tree trunk, untouched by any alteration but the seasons'.

-Donald Culross Peattie, Flowering Earth (1939)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lost in New York City

Physicists say we are made of stardust. Intergalactic debris and far-flung atoms, shards of carbon nanomatter rounded up by gravity to circle the sun. As atoms pass through an eternal revolving door of possible form, energy and mass dance in fluid relationship. We are stardust, we are man, we are thought. We are story. — Glenda Burgess

While trying to find some old documents on NC meteors, I did track down an article from the Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society, Vol 7 (1890) - "A List and Description of the Meteorites of North Carolina," by F. P. Venable. He catalogues the 23 meteorites then known to have fallen in North Carolina.

Several had been found in Western North Carolina: in Asheville, Black Mountain, Hominy Creek and Madison County. The best story accompanies the “fresh” meteorite found in Haywood County:

On the Meteoric Stone from Ferguson, Haywood County, North Carolina. Mr. W. A. Harrison, of Ferguson, Haywood County, North Carolina, says: that about six o'clock on the evening of July 18, 1889, he noticed a remarkable noise west of him, and that fifteen minutes later he saw something strike the earth, which, on examination, proved to be a meteoric stone, so hot that he could scarcely hold it in his hand five minutes after it fell. Two-thirds of its bulk was buried in the earth when found. This stone was sent to the writer and was unfortunately lost in New York city during the month of December. The stone was slightly oblong, covered with a deep, black crust, which had been broken at one end, showing a great chondritic structure with occasional specks of iron. Its weight was about eight ounces: and it very closely resembled the meteoric stone from Mocs, Transylvania. It remained in the writer's possession so short a time that it was not properly investigated, but still the mere mention of a fall which had been so carefully observed is thought to be well worthy of publication.

In the early 1900s Dr. Oliver Cummings Farrington, Curator of Geology in the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, published a couple of books on meteorites, including A Catalogue of the Meteorites of North America.(1909) Regarding the distribution of 247 verified meteor "falls” found to date in North America, Dr. Farrington observed:

The greatest massing of meteorites in the whole province of North America occurs in the region of the southern Appalachians, where the states of Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama adjoin. A circle with a radius of 300 miles drawn about Mount Mitchell, North Carolina, as a center, will include nearly half of the known meteorites of North America. Twenty-five of these, or nearly half of the known falls of the continent, are observed falls, and it would seem possible at first thought that many of the meteorites in this area might have come from a single shower. This would reduce the number, but the writer has made a careful study of the history of each meteorite and its geographical relation to those of similar character without finding any support for such a view. Not only does the area contain a large number of observed falls, but the finds embrace a variety of types larger than any known to be produced by a single shower.

Farrington came up with an explanation for this concentration of reported meteorites:

Density of population will increase the number of meteorites known from a region, because the greater the population the greater the number of observers and the more numerous the chances both that the meteorite will be observed when it falls and that it will be found after it has fallen. As regards character of population, a high order of intelligence is favorable not only to the observation but to the preservation of meteorites. The writer has elsewhere called attention to the fact that the distribution of meteorites on a map of the world is almost exactly that of the Caucasian race. This seems to prove quite conclusively that the distribution of meteorites is largely dependent on the degree of civilization attained in a region. That this factor is more important than density of population is shown by the fact that no meteorites are known from China in spite of its immense numbers of people. In the province of North America it is hardly likely that the different degrees of intelligence existing in different regions would exert any discernible influence on the number of meteorites known.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Super Glue Inventor Dead at 94

I can't resist the obvious...

He stuck around a long time!

Kingsport, TN. - Harry Wesley Coover Jr., known as the inventor of Super Glue, has died. He was 94.

I had no idea Super Glue was discovered in Kingsport.

According to the Associated Press report, a small mishap at the Tennessee Eastman plant gave the world that high-performance adhesive. In 1951, a Coover assistant "was distressed that some brand new refractometer prisms were ruined when they were glued together by the substance."

Coover recognized its potential, and the adhesive reached the market seven years later. The AP report added: Cyanoacrylate, the chemical name for the glue, was first uncovered in 1942 in a search for materials to make clear plastic gun sights for World War II. But the compound stuck to everything, which is why it was rejected by researchers.

Kingsport has one of the most unique histories of any city in the Southern Appalachians. First posted here 7/19/07, the ominous past of the Long Island on the Holston is such a story that I'm reposting it as follows...

In July of the year 1777 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, in 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.

From the treaty proceedings of July 18, 1777:

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 out 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. 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 cursed the island saying that no white man would ever live there in peace. Undeniably, this curse still holds true today.

Over the years, 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 the 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. Nice concept. The photographer wanted to see "old Kings Port" as he imagined it might have been. .

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Other Meteor of 1860

We are the local embodiment of a Cosmos grown to self-awareness. We have begun to contemplate our origins: starstuff pondering the stars; organized assemblages of ten billion billion billion atoms considering the evolution of atoms; tracing the long journey by which, here at least, consciousness arose. Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring. — Carl Sagan

Not to be confused with Thomas Clingman’s “meteor of 1860” is another “meteor of 1860” known to Whitman and Church.

The Meteor of 1860, by Frederic Church, 1860.

The northern meteor, falling just a couple of weeks before the one in Asheville, was the subject of some attention in 2010, when physics professors verified that an actual event had inspired Walt Whitman’s poem, Year of Meteors (1859-60). An essential clue for the researchers was Frederic Church’s 1860 painting which they believed fit Whitman’s description perfectly.

More on the 2010 announcement:

Frederic Church (1826-1900), landscape painter of the Hudson River School, was watching the Catskills evening sky of July 20, 1860, and witnessed a string of fireballs, spawned by a rare Earth-grazing meteor procession. Rare indeed! It was one of only four such meteor processions viewed and listed during recorded history.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was writing “... strange huge meteor procession, dazzling and clear, shooting over our heads" in his poem Year of Meteors (1859-60). Over time, the inspiration for Whitman's poem was forgotten, until the Texas State University physicists cracked the case.

Year of Meteors [1859-60]
by Walt Whitman

Year of meteors! brooding year!
I would bind in words retrospective some of your deeds and signs,
I would sing your contest for the 19th Presidentiad,
I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair, mounted the
scaffold in Virginia,
(I was at hand, silent I stood with teeth shut close, I watch'd,
I stood very near you old man when cool and indifferent, but trembling
with age and your unheal'd wounds you mounted the scaffold;)
I would sing in my copious song your census returns of the States,
The tables of population and products, I would sing of your ships
and their cargoes,
The proud black ships of Manhattan arriving, some fill'd with
immigrants, some from the isthmus with cargoes of gold,
Songs thereof would I sing, to all that hitherward comes would welcome give,
And you would I sing, fair stripling! welcome to you from me, young
prince of England!
(Remember you surging Manhattan's crowds as you pass'd with your
cortege of nobles?
There in the crowds stood I, and singled you out with attachment;)
Nor forget I to sing of the wonder, the ship as she swam up my bay,
Well-shaped and stately the Great Eastern swam up my bay, she was
600 feet long,
Her moving swiftly surrounded by myriads of small craft I forget not
to sing;
Nor the comet that came unannounced out of the north flaring in heaven,
Nor the strange huge meteor-procession dazzling and clear shooting
over our heads,
(A moment, a moment long it sail'd its balls of unearthly light over
our heads,
Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)
Of such, and fitful as they, I sing--with gleams from them would
gleam and patch these chants,
Your chants, O year all mottled with evil and good--year of forebodings!
Year of comets and meteors transient and strange--lo! even here one
equally transient and strange!
As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall and be gone, what is this chant,
What am I myself but one of your meteors?

An 1888 edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica mentions the meteor:

...[it] was seen in the evening of July 20, 1860, by persons in New York, Pennsylvania, New England, etc, which first appeared over Michigan, at a height of about 90 miles. The light was so brilliant as to call thousands from their houses. It passed east-southeast, and over New York State, at a height of about 50 miles, broke into three parts which chased each other across the sky. At New York city it was seen in the north, while at New Haven it was in the south. At both places the apparent altitude was well observed, and its true height proved to be about 42 miles above the earth's surface between the two cities. It finally disappeared far out over the Atlantic Ocean. 'It is doubtful whether any one heard any sound of explosion that came from this meteor, and no part of it is known to have reached the ground. The velocity was at least 10 or 12 miles per second, or fifty times the velocity of sound. These two meteors were evidently of the same nature as those which have furnished so many stones for our museums, except that the one was so friable that it has given us but one known fragment, while the other was only seen to break in two, not even a sound of explosion being known to have come from the meteor.

Next to the stone-producing meteor is the fireball, or bolide, which gives generally a less brilliant light than the former, but in essential appearances is like it. The meteor of July 20, 1860, above described, though unusually brilliant, was one of this class, and represents thousands of bolides which have been seen to break in pieces. The bolides leave trains of light behind them just as the stone meteors do; they travel with similar velocities both apparent and actual, and in all respects exhibit only such differences of phenomena as would be fully explained by differences in size, cohesion, and chemical constitution of stones causing them.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Meteor of 1860

The folks in eastern North Carolina got a good show Tuesday evening (3/22/11). Apparently, a huge meteor went streaking across the sky. Residents of Pender, Brunswick and New Hanover Counties reported the huge fireball with a glowing fiery tail at about 7:30 PM.

Here's one of the 911 calls reporting the meteor:


In the 19th century, the Honorable Thomas L. Clingman became one of the most unique figures ever in the scientific exploration of the southern mountains. Over his career, he did a lot more than just measure the tallest summits. Nothing would stop Clingman in the pursuit of answers. He must have traveled thousands of miles across the mountains to investigate one mystery or another, whether it was on Peek’s Creek in Macon County or Fine’s Creek in Haywood County.

His article, THE GREAT METEOR OF 1860, appeared in the January 7, 1871 issue of Appleton’s Journal. I’m not reposting the entire article, but these excerpts display Clingman’s methodical approach to the subject:

On the 2d of August, 1860, I was at Asheville, Buncombe County, in the picturesque mountain-region of North Carolina. On the evening of that day I retired to my room a little after ten o'clock. The moon was full and approaching the meridian, and the night was clear and bright. There was a window on the west side of the room covered by a white curtain.

The candle having been extinguished, my attention was suddenly arrested by a bright glare of light. It was much brighter than a candle would have made, and seemed like a sheet of flame against the window. With surprise and alarm I went toward the window, but before I reached it the light suddenly changed its color and became beautifully white. The thought at once flashed upon me that it must be a meteor, and I saw its out line through the curtain as it exploded in the northwest. The light at the moment of explosion seemed as white as that produced by the burning of the metal magnesium. During the whole period that I observed the light it was greater than hundreds of moons would have caused.

On the next day, I made inquiries of many persons who had seen the meteor. It was observed by a large number, because the evening was that of the election-day, and also because there was a party of gentlemen then on horseback in the town to receive General Lane, whose coming was expected. They all concurred in saying that the meteor was first seen in the southeast, but at a point nearer to the south than the east, that it moved toward the northwest, and when due west of Asheville appeared to be at an elevation of forty or forty five degrees, and that it seemed to explode in the northwest, with a great display of light. Most persons regarded it as appearing to be equal in size to the full moon, and all agreed in saying that the moon light was nothing in comparison with its brightness. When first seen in the southeast it seemed of a dull or pale red color, and became brighter as it moved along until it resembled the sunlight. Persons from the surrounding country made similar statements as to its appearance.

Colonel C. M. Avery, who saw it while in Morganton, sixty miles to the east of Asheville, described it as not materially different in position and aspect; while persons in Franklin, seventy miles west of Asheville, spoke of it in similar terms, except that it seemed to them higher in the heavens to the west, and more nearly over them. In a few days the newspapers from Knoxville, Tennessee, and from Columbia, South Carolina, came to hand, with similar descriptions, representing the meteor as having passed on the west side of both of those places.

Clingman went on to enumerate sightings of the meteor, reported (telegraphically) from such far-flung locations as Raleigh, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Memphis, and New Orleans. He even returned to a location in Raleigh with one eyewitness in order to identify the exact path of the meteor:

A few days after I read Mr. Moore's precise and elaborate statement, he and I went to the spot where he had stood at the time he saw the meteor. By means of certain trees and houses, he was able to indicate the line along which it had travelled. By taking the directions with the aid of a compass, it was shown that he observed the meteor when it was twenty-four degrees south of west, and that the point where it was last seen by him was also when it was twenty-four degrees north of west. He saw it continuously as it passed over these forty-eight degrees, but, Holly Springs being a little south of west only, he necessarily saw it at the time when it was in the direction of that place, and he estimated its height as being thirty degrees above the horizon.

Clingman proceeded to correlate this information with similar reports from other locations to estimate the distance at which the meteor entered the earth’s atmosphere:

When all the statements published are considered, there would seem to be no reason to doubt but that this meteor, when distinctly seen between Raleigh and Holly Springs, was more than one hundred and less than two hundred miles above the earth's surface. If, therefore, the common opinion be true, that meteors are rendered visible only by passing through the earth's atmosphere, then that atmosphere must extend much more than one hundred miles from the earth's surface.

This very meteor affords a strong proof of the correctness of this conclusion. It exhibited at first a pale or dull red color, became gradually brighter, till it attained a silvery whiteness, and then exploded with brilliant coruscations, and, as it moved on, repeated these explosions several times. This would be accounted for on the supposition that a body originally cold was, on entering the atmosphere, heated by the friction caused by its rapid motion, at first becoming faintly luminous, and then growing brighter until its surface became so intensly heated as to generate gases, and thus cause explosions, throwing off fragments from its surface, and, as its successive coats be came heated in like manner, repeating its explosions till it passed out of the earth's atmosphere, or was finally shivered to pieces.

When this meteor was first visible, it must have already passed for some distance through the earth's rarefied atmosphere, and have dipped deeply into it. It would therefore seem to be almost certain that the atmosphere must extend more than one hundred miles from the earth's surface, and probably much farther.

Using a similar investigative approach, Clingman also considered the size of the meteor and the transmission of sound from the object hurtling through the atmosphere. Here’s the remainder of his article about the meteor of 1860:

I will now advert briefly to the statements as to the size of the meteor. On this point the evidence is not so conclusive. Persons are liable to be deceived by the appearances of bright lights with respect to their real size. Mr. Moore says, when first seen, it appeared to be only six inches in diameter, but; when at the nearest point to him, he estimated it to appear thirty feet in diameter, and of some hundreds of yards in length. He lays much stress on the solid appearance of its light, it being well defined and without any irregular edges. Others say it looked like a railroad train, while some say it was as large as a barrel. Mr. Ingraham and others at Holly Springs say it was in size fully equal to the disk of the moon when full. A similar estimate was made by observers at Antioch College, Ohio, and at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

If a body at the distance of three hundred miles should appear as large as the moon, it ought to be nearly three miles in diameter. As this meteor was throwing off luminous gases, it would of course appear larger than it really was, especially after it became intensely heated; but, when its color was dimmer than that of the moon, the deception ought not to be so considerable. It is also true that the observers generally say its bright ness was greatest after it had passed and had receded from them. The amount of light it gave also indicates its great size.

Major Francis Logan, of Habersham, Georgia, and R. N. McEwen, then at Athens, Tennessee, nearly under its line of movement, represent it as being larger than the moon, white, "like melted silver," and throwing a light upon the earth "like that of the sun." And yet its bright ness is described in terms almost as strong by persons at Holly Springs, more than three hundred miles distant. At Nashville and other points they speak of this light as sufficient to enable one to pick up a pin. Could any but a large body cast such a light over so great an extent of country?

But the most perplexing part of the subject is the rapid transmission of sound from this meteor. Colonel William M. McDowell (who was then and for several years previous making observations, for the Smithsonian Institution, at Asheville) stated to me the next morning, that, being on horseback and looking downward to the earth, which was already bright in the light of the full moon, he heard a rushing or hissing sound, and, on looking up, he observed the meteor in the southeast, presenting at first a dull-red color, and rapidly becoming brighter. Several other gentlemen in Asheville also declared that they heard such a sound distinctly, and at first supposed the meteor to be a rocket sent up. There were, however, in fact, no rockets at Asheville, nor was there any expectation that they were to be discharged.

Dr. J. F. E. Wordy (who has since the war been making the observations for the use of the Smithsonian Institution) was then in the piazza of Mr. Cheesboro's house, two miles southeast of Asheville, and declares that he not only saw but heard the meteor while it was in sight. Being somewhat deaf, he asked the members of the family if they heard it, and had an affirmative reply from all present. Colonel John A. Fagg, who had on that day been elected a member of the Legislature for Madison County, and who was then in the town of Marshall, twenty-one miles distant in a northwestwardly course, declared to me that he heard the hissing sound plainly while it was passing.

Mr. J. H. Ingraham, writing from Holly Springs, says its passage was accompanied by a hissing sound, if the testimony of a great number of persons was to be relied on. Mr. W. C. Knapp, of the same place, says it was accompanied by a hissing noise. Mr. H. A. Preston, who writes from Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, says a faint hissing sound was distinctly heard. Major Francis Logan, of Habersham, Georgia, says that persons there generally spoke of hearing it during its passage in the same manner. Mr. R. N. McEwen, who was then at Athens, Tennessee, says that he and his wife, being in the piazza of his house, were both confident that they heard a hissing sound as it passed over them.

Seeing its brilliant explosion after it had passed toward the northwest, thinking it only two or three miles distant, they remained standing for some time in expectation of hearing a report, but not until after they had gone into the house, and, as he supposed, an interval of fifteen minutes had elapsed, was there heard a prolonged sound, as the report of a large cannon. A gentleman, who lived near Asheville, stated to me the day after the meteor had appeared, that, on seeing the explosion, he paused in the road for a little while, in expectation of hearing a report, but that he walked afterward nearly around his farm, and, after an interval, he thought of at least fifteen minutes, had elapsed, a heavy sound came from the direction of the meteor.

We have thus the statement of a number of intelligent and trustworthy persons who were separated hundreds of miles from each other, all affirming the same fact. But as sound is ordinarily estimated to travel but little more than eleven hundred feet in a second, the meteor might be supposed to have been out of sight of those nearest to it, for at least eight or ten minutes, before the sound created by its passage could have been heard. Were they all mistaken in supposing that they heard it while it was in sight? Is the ear much more likely to be deceived than the eye? Are not persons generally as confident that they hear the thunder as that they see the lightning? Why should all these persons imagine that they heard such a sound when it is not usual for meteors when so seen to be also heard?

Two of them did expect to hear the explosion, and waited for it without imagining that they heard it at the time when they expected it, and only heard it long after they had ceased to look for it. It is but natural that we should hesitate to believe as true what is at variance with general experience and with what seems established in science. Solid bodies had often been seen to come down from the higher regions of the atmosphere, before scientific men accepted the fall of meteorites as an established fact. But the circumstances under which these sounds were manifested were peculiar, and are not neces sarily to be assumed as contradicting our general experience. In this instance a large body was moving with very great rapidity through the atmosphere.

We can only approximate in our estimate the speed with which this meteor moved. While some observers regarded it as being from six to ten seconds in sight, the longest estimate of its visibility is that of Mr. Ingraham, viz., twelve to fifteen seconds. He and others with him at Holly Springs saw it in the southeast, and until it had passed to the northwest. One writer says it disappeared west of north. It must therefore have been seen to move through a space to be measured by more than a hundred degrees, and it might have been much more. As the meteor, considering its elevation above a place on the earth's surface at least three hundred miles off, was at the nearest point farther from the observers than that distance, if it moved through one hundred degrees of space in a right line nearly, it must have been in view while it was passing through a distance of six or eight hundred miles. Such a calculation would make its speed from forty to sixty miles per second, depending of course upon the accuracy of the estimate of the time.

It could not have been describing a curve around Holly Springs, because it was at the same time seen by the observers in Ohio, Pittsburg, Pcnnsylvania, and Caroline County, Virginia, in its course to the northwest. Mr. Moore, who was at Raleigh, on the opposite side of the meteor's track, and probably about the same distance from it, saw it pass through forty-eight degrees by measurement in eight seconds, as he estimated the time it was in view. Its speed, calculated from these data, would approximate fifty miles in a second. As it appeared to be moving in the part of its course seen by me, it seemed certainly not less rapid. Might not a body moving with this velocity generate a rapid transmission of sound?

If we assume that there is some highly-elastic medium through which light and electricity, for example, are propagated, might not this body, by the suddenness of the impulse it gave, propagate a sound to a great distance with such speed? But it may be said that lightning moves with very great velocity, and that yet the noise of the thunder travels with only the speed of other sounds. It is true that, when the flash is near, the thunder seems louder to the ear than any other sound, and yet it is propagated to the distance of only twelve or fifteen miles. On the other, hand, though, when one is near a large cannon, its report does not seem so loud as thunder, yet it can be heard to a much greater distance.

When, during the late war, I was at Charleston or Savannah, I could in favorable states of the atmosphere distinctly hear the guns at the other place, though the two cities are understood to be one hundred miles apart. The cannonades at Charleston were often heard. in the upper portions of South Carolina, while those at Richmond, Virginia, were sometimes heard west of Greensboro, in North Carolina-in each case at a distance of nearly a hundred and fifty miles. Why is it, then, that, though thunder seems louder than the reports of artillery, it cannot be heard so far?

The explanation does not seem to be difficult. If a pistol be discharged into the water, the bullet breaks the surface violently, and causes the water to be sprinkled for a short distance; but the ripple produced on the surface extends but a few feet around. When, however, the steam-frigate Minnesota was launched at the Washington Navy-Yard, though she glided so gently into the water that she did, not break the surface apparently, yet she caused a wave which extended itself across the harbor, and rose several feet on the shore opposite, wetting many persons who were there to see the launch.

As an illustration on a still larger scale, I refer to the fact that earth quakes in Japan cause waves which are propagated across the Pacific Ocean to the shores of California. A large body, though moving slowly, creates a wave which extends to a great distance, while a violent impulse of a small one produces no such result.

From the smallness of the furrow produced by lightning through the bodies of trees struck by it, and from its passing so readily along a small rod, it would seem that the volume of air displaced by it is small, and analogous to the effect caused by a pistol-shot on the water; while the explosion of gunpowder, when a large cannon is dis\ charged, produces a greater displacement of the atmosphere, causing a large wave of sound, which is extended to a great distance, as the wave in the water caused by the Minnesota was perceptible for miles. But, when the ship was launched, though a larger portion of her bulk was in the air than in the water, yet she did not make a corresponding wave in the air which could be felt across the harbor. Even a railroad-train, moving much faster than did the Minnesota, does not send in advance of it a great wave in the air. But, in fact, air is capable of receiving such an impulse.

When a large gun is discharged, such motion is given to the air that houses are shaken and window glass broken. As air, therefore, is much rarer and more elastic than water, it seems that it requires a much more sudden impulse to create an extended wave in it than in water. If, then, it may be regarded as a general law that the greater the rarity and elasticity of a medium the more sudden and violent must be a force sufficient to produce a movement that will be extensive, then it might well be that the expansion of gases generated by the explosion of gunpowder would be too slow to affect a medium as much rarer than common air as that air is rarer than water. But a much more sudden and violent movement might possibly cause an impulse in such a medium that could be perceptible at a great distance.

A cannon-ball, propelled with the ordinary charge, is barely driven a mile in five seconds. If we take forty miles per second as the velocity of this meteor, it moved with a speed two hundred times greater than that of a cannon-shot. A spherical cast-iron shot weighs about two hundred and twenty-five pounds. If the meteor be assumed to have had a diameter of one mile, its surface, and the consequent volume of atmosphere displaced, would have been more than twenty-five million times greater than that of the cannon-ball. And, as its solid contents were in bulk more than five thousand times greater than this number indicates, the resistance of the atmosphere would be trifling in comparison with that to the cannon-shot.

Even if the diameter of the meteor were but one hundred feet, its surface would have been ten thousand times greater, and its bulk one million times larger. Such a body, moving with a speed two hundred times faster, would present a condition of facts with which we are not at all familiar on the surface of the earth. The hissing sound described reminds one somewhat of sounds occasionally heard when electricity is passing along imperfect or non conducting substances. If electricity be coextensive with the atmosphere, this meteor might have produced great accumulations and disturbances in it, and caused vibrations to great distances.

That these should be very rapid would seem to be probable from the fact that the greater the rarity of the several gases the higher the speed with which sound is propagated through them. Mr. McEwen, at Athens, heard the hissing sound while the meteor was in sight; but fifteen minutes elapsed before the report from the explosion reached him. The explosion was doubtless caused by the intense heat at the surface of the meteor, which generated gases, the expansion of which threw off the outer coating of the body in fragments.

These gases ought to be expected to expand with a force and speed equal to those caused by the explosion of gunpowder. This has not, I think, been estimated as quite equalling one mile per second. Such a movement would, therefore, be slow, compared with the velocity of the meteor itself. Hence, while the hissing sound caused by the latter might move with the rapidity of electricity, that caused by the explosion would travel only with the speed of such sounds as we are familiar with, and would therefore reach a person one hundred and eighty miles distant in fifteen minutes.


Just as an afterword to Clingman’s theory of two types of sound generated by the meteor, I can add the following. Apparently, current science confirms that Clingman was about right. A meteor entering the atmosphere ionizes the air around it. With soaring temperatures from friction with the atmosphere, a glowing plasma trail forms behind the meteor. As the plasma cools, ions and electrons set off VLF vibrations that transmit electromagnetic waves over great distances. Under the right circumstances, the sounds might be audible to humans. Indeed, many eyewitnesses to meteors report a hissing or sizzling sound simultaneous with the flash across the sky. *

For the second type of sound, it is correct that a large meteor can generate a sonic boom that would lag behind the actual fireball by seconds or even minutes.

*This is similar to the aurora borealis activated by the earth’s magnetic field. An installment of NPR’s “Lost and Found Sound” explores the sound of the northern lights:

And then there are the Voyager Sound Recordings: complex interactions of the cosmic plasma of the universe, charged electromagnetic particles from the solar wind, planetary magnetosphere, rings and moons create vibrations detected by the Voyager, the vibrations are converted to sounds heard on a recording later released as "Symphonies of the Planets, The Voyager Recordings":

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Evening Star

The legend of Nacoochee, the Evening Star, has been around for a while. The story is usually, though not always, set in the valley of the same name in White County, just south of Helen, Georgia.

Of course, the Nacoochee tale warrants a place among stories of other nearby "lovely Indian maidens." The seraglio of legendary maidens includes Occoneechee, Trahlyta, Cateechee, Jocassee, Connestee and Toccoa, a bevy of native beauties. Few, if any, of these stories have any basis in actual Native American history and myth. But the motif/stereotype/fantasy persists in word and image. Here are their stories:

That fabulous tourist mecca - Rock City – adapted the Nacoochee legend to fit the precipitous “Lover's Leap” on Lookout Mountain. As the brochure says:

Sautee was a brave from a tribe that was feuding with the Cherokee Indians. Nacoochee, the Evening Star, was the beautiful daughter of the Chief of the Cherokees. The two met and formed a beautiful and strong love. When Nacoochee’s father discovered this love, he condemned Sautee to death by being thrown from the precipice of Lookout Mountain. Nacoochee was forced to witness his death and was so distressed, she leapt from the cliff to her death. From that day forward this cliff became known as Lover’s Leap.

Get back to White County, though, and this might be the Nacoochee tale that you'll hear:

A legend regarding the Nacoochee Mound tells the story of two Native Americans: Sautee, a brave of the Chicksaw tribe, and Nacoochee, the daughter of a Cherokee chief. Although from opposing tribes, Sautee and Nacoochee fall immediately and hopelessly in love. They meet at night and run away to nearby Yonah Mountain to spend a few idyllic days together. Later, they present Nacoochee’s father, Chief Wahoo, with the idea of creating peace between the two nations. In response, the chief orders Sautee be thrown from the high cliffs of Yonah Mountain. Nacoochee watching in horror, breaks away from her tribe and leaps from the cliff to join her lover. Sautee and Nacoochee drag their broken bodies together, and, locking in a final embrace, they die there. The Cherokee chief, realizing the greatness of their love, is overcome with grief and remorse, so much so that he has the lovers buried together, in the mound near the banks of the Chattahoochee River.

I couldn't locate an artist's rendering of Nacoochee, so perhaps we can imagine this generic "Indian Maiden" as Nacoochee, herself, on the Chattahoochee.

I did find one much older recitation of the Nacoochee legend, published in the journal, Confederate Veteran (1916). What a magazine! Their 1916 New Year's greeting is a sort of mission statement for the publication:

From the threshold of another year the Veteran sends its greetings to its thousands of friends all over this great country, with the wish that this year of 1916 may bring them many blessings. Nearly twenty-five years ago the Confederate Veteran came into existence as a modest little publication devoted to the interests of the Confederate organizations. It has grown with the years, but is still devoted to the same interests and ever working to secure a true record of the War between the States. There is much error yet to be corrected. The sensational press is continually resurrecting myths of history. Historians do not go far enough in their research to find the truth. It is the province of the Veteran to place these truths before them, that future generations may rightly understand the Southern people and the principles for which they fought. Its work, therefore, is not yet finished; there is much more to be recorded while there are still survivors of that mighty conflict. These records should be gathered from every community of the South. Much is being done along that line by the Daughters of the Confederacy in their history work, and they should have the cooperation of all who want the South to have her rightful place in history.


Let's take the romantic imagery of the lovely Indian maiden back, way back, to 1840, when Alfred J. Miller painted this "Portrait of an Indian Maiden"

Anyhow, the Confederate Veteran brought us this Nacoochee story:

By Francis S. Mitchell, Athens, Ga.


The aborigines lived so near the heart of nature that they learned her secrets and were unconscious poets. Their language, abounding in vowels, was soft and musical. Every proper noun had a meaning that was significant and often wonderfully poetic, as Cohuttan (Frog Mountain), Tallulah (terrible), Toccoa (beautiful), Amicalolah (tumbling water), Hiwassee (pretty fawn), Okefinokee (quivering earth), and Chattahoochee (rocky river). Neither the Creeks nor the Cherokees had a written language, and their history is a matter of tradition. The Creek language bore a resemblance to classic Greek. Their legends—wild, romantic, often tragic —are still full of interest for their pale-faced successors.

The Legend Of Nacoochee.

Long before the Anglo-Saxon had made his first footprint on these Western shores there dwelt in a lovely valley in North Georgia a young maiden of wonderful, almost celestial, beauty. Her name was Nacoochee (The Evening Star). She was the daughter of a chieftain, and in doing honor to her the people of her tribe almost forgot the Great Spirit who made her and endowed her with such strange beauty.

A son of the chieftain of a neighboring hostile tribe saw the beautiful Nacoochee and loved her. He stole her young heart, and she loved him with an intensity of passion that only the noblest souls can know. They met beneath the holy stars and sealed their simple vows with kisses. They found fitting trysting places in this charming valley, where, from the interlocked branches overhead hung festoons in which the white petals of the clematis and the purple blossoms of the magnificent wild passion flower mingled with the dark foliage of the muscadine. The song of the mocking bird and the murmur of the Chattahoochee's hurrying waters were marriage hymn and anthem to them. They vowed to live and die together.

Intelligence of these secret meetings reached the ear of the old chief, Nacoochee's father, and his anger was terrible. But love for Laceola was even stronger in the heart of Nacoochee than reverence for her father's behests.

One night the maiden was missed from the village. The old chief commanded his warriors to pursue the fugitive. They found her with Laceola, the son of a hated race. Instantly an arrow was aimed at his breast. Nacoochee sprang before him and received the barbed shaft in her own heart. Laceola was so stupefied by this terrible catastrophe that he made no resistance to his enemies, and his blood mingled with hers. The lovefs were buried in the same grave, and a lofty mound was raised to mark the spot.

Deep grief seized the old chief and all his people, and the valley ever afterwards was called Nacoochee. A solitary pine, which was long a landmark in this lovely vale, sprang up from the mound which marked the trysting place and grave of the maiden and her lover. (This mound was opened in 1915 and found not to antedate De Soto's visit.)

Legend of the Cherokee Rose.

A proud young chieftain of the Seminoles was taken prisoner by his enemies, the Cherokees, and doomed to death by torture; but he fell so seriously ill that it became necessary to wait for his restoration to health before committing him to the flames.

As he was lying, prostrated by disease, in the cabin of a Cherokee warrior, the daughter of the latter, a dark-eyed maiden, was his nurse. She rivaled in grace the bounding fawn, and the young warriors of her tribe said of her that the smile of the Great Spirit was not so beautiful. Was it any wonder that, though death stared the young Seminole in the face, he should be happy in her presence? Was it any wonder that they should love each other?

Stern hatred had stifled every kindly feeling in the hearts of the Cherokees, and they grimly awaited the time when their enemy must die. As the color slowly returned to the cheeks of her lover and strength to his limbs, the dark-eyed maiden eagerly urged him to make his escape. How could she see him die? But he would not agree to seek safety in flight unless she went with him. He could better endure death by torture than life without her.

For an image of "the lovely Indian maiden" this is about as classic as it gets. By Homer Nelson, ca. 1930. The Land O' Lakes butter girl meets Maxfield Parrish.

She yielded to his pleading. At the midnight hour silently they slipped into the dim forest, guided by the pale light of silvery stars. Yet before they had gone far, impelled by soft regret at leaving her home forever, she asked her lover's permission to return for an instant, that she might bear away some memento. So, retracing her footsteps, she broke a sprig from the glossy-leafed vine which climbed upon her father's cabin and, preserving it during her flight through the wilderness, planted it by the door of her new home in the land of the Seminoles, where its milk-white blossoms, with golden centers, often recalled her childhood days in the faraway mountains of Georgia.

From that time this beautiful flower has always been known throughout the Southern States as the Cherokee rose.

The Indians have passed away from this beautiful land they loved so well, but the memory of them still lingers and will linger forever in the melodious names of Georgia's mountains, rivers, and vales.
[Great injustice has been done to Georgia in regard to her treatment of the Indians, and this wrong of history must be righted.—Miss Rutherford.]

The name thou wearest does thee grievous wrong.
No mimic thou; that voice is thine alone.
The poets sing but strains of Shakespeare's song,
The birds but notes of thine imperial own.
—Henry Jerome Stockard

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

“Shake down, in purple showers, the luscious muscadine”

I can’t leave the lovely Nacoochee Valley just yet, not when I can dredge up an antebellum poet who found his muse there.

Nacoochee Mound and Mount Yonah

This is the place where Charles Lanman reported (in 1848):

…half a dozen log cabins were discovered in one portion of the valley, lying upwards of ten feet below the surface; and, in other places, something resembling a furnace, together with iron spoons, pieces of earthenware, and leaden plates were disinterred…

A later re-teller of this story, about the buried cabins left behind by Spanish miners, alluded to a poem by Henry R. Jackson. Now, I thought I had posted that poem a long time ago, but instead, it was another Nacoochee poem, by another Georgia-born poet, Thomas Holley Chivers (1809-1858), the writer that Charles Dana called “a literary freak.”

Henry R. Jackson (1820-1898) was born in Athens, GA, graduated from Yale University (where he was a member of Skull and Bones), and served as a Confederate general in the War Between the States.


After the war, he resumed his law practice, served as an ambassador to Mexico, was a railroad executive and a banker, as well as president of the Georgia Historical Society.

In his preface to Tallulah and Other Poems, (1850) Henry R. Jackson humbly states:

The author of the following poems makes no pretensions to literary excellence:—the offspring of moments of leisure from engrossing pursuits, they are, strictly speaking, fugitive in their character; —but little time or labor having been bestowed upon their composition. He is aware that their interest (should they, indeed, be possessed of any) will be limited to the places which they describe, and the persons to whom they refer.—It is from the affection which he feels for the former, and a hope that they may afford some gratification to the latter, that he has published them in their present form.

Mount Yonah—Vale of Nacoochee.

Before me, as I stand, his broad, round head
Mount Yonah lifts the neighboring hills above,
While, at his foot, all pleasantly is spread
Nacoochee's vale, sweet as a dream of love.
Cradle of Peace! mild, gentle as the dove
Whose tender accents from yon woodlands swell,
Must she have been who thus has interwove
Her name with thee, and thy soft, holy spell,
And all of peace which on this troubled globe may dwell!

Nacoochee—in tradition, thy sweet queen—
Has vanished with her maidens: not again
Along thy meadows shall their forms be seen;
The mountain echoes catch no more the strain
Of their wild Indian lays at evening's wane;
No more, where rumbling branches interwine,
They pluck the jasmine flowers, or break the cane
Beside the marshy stream, or from the vine
Shake down, in purple showers, the luscious muscadine.

Yet round thee hangs the same sweet spirit still
Thou art among these hills a sacred spot,
As if shut out from all the clouds of ill
That gloom so darkly o'er the human lot.
On thy green breast the world I quite forgot—
Its stern contentions—its dark grief and care,
And I breathed freer, deeper, and blushed not
At old emotions long, long stifled there,
Which sprang once more to life in thy calm, loving air.

I saw the last bright gleam of sunset play
On Yonah’s lofty head: all quiet grew
Thy bosom, which beneath the shadows lay
Of the surrounding mountains; deeper blue
Fell on their mighty summits; evening threw
Her veil o’er all, and on her azure brow
A bright star shone; a trusting form I drew
Yet closer to my side; above, below,
Within were peace and hope life may not often know!

Thou loveliest of earth’s valleys! Fare thee well!
Nor is the parting pangless to my soul.
Youth, hope and happiness with thee shall dwell,
Unsullied Nature hold o’er thee control,
And years still leave thee beauteous as they roll.
Oh! I could linger with thee! Yet this spell
Must break, e’en as upon my heart it stole,
And found a weakness there I may not tell—
An anxious life, a troubled future claim me! Fare thee well!

And here's a short excerpt from Thomas Holley Chivers' 1837 poem, Nacoochee:

Beyond that wild illimitable waste
Of unfenced prairie, there are wild flowers growing
In rich luxuriance, over by the chaste
And velvet-vested rivers that are flowing
Within the moss-clad suckle valleys glowing;
And in that sea-like undulating wild,
The moon-like roses are forever blowing,
For there the wild deer, on the lawn, so mild,
Leaps with the unscared fawn like some delighted child

One critic even came up with a recipe for Chivers' literary efforts:

Evert Augustus Duyckinck joked that Chivers was formulaic and suggested the formula included 30% Percy Bysshe Shelley, 20% Poe, 20% "mild idiocy", 10% "gibbering idiocy", 10% "raving mania" and 10% "sweetness and originality.


Chivers had a complicated relationship with Edgar Allen Poe. He compared Poe's voice to:

...the soft tones of an Aeolian Harp when the music that has been sleeping in the strings is awakened by the Breezes of Eden laden with sweet Spices from the mountains of the Lord.

But after Poe died, Chivers accused him of plagiarizing both "The Raven" and "Ulalume" from his own work.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Olive Skin and Long Beards"

While researching one story, I’m finding rabbit trails to a lot more stories, and I don’t know where to begin. A disclaimer may be in order here, given the subject matter. Just because I present an alternate view of the archaeological or historical record, it does not necessarily mean that I endorse the view. Some selections are for their literary, as much as scientific, interest.

Hernando De Soto

As with any other information presented here independent verification of the facts is recommended.


Let’s jump right into this with a remarkable statement by Richard Thornton, suggesting the presence of Spanish miners on the Tuckasegee:

1745 – Cherokees entering the Tuckaseegee River Basin near Sylva, NC (Jackson County) for the first time encountered villages of white men with olive skin and long beards. The Cherokees reported to the British authorities that the men worshiped a book and lived in log houses with arched windows. The men apparently both farmed and worked silver in order to support their families. The silver ore they smeltered, probably came from Nantahala Gorge or the Snowbird Mountains. The Cherokees said that they drove the dark-skinned white men out of the region.

This is part of an article in which Thornton presents a time line and debunks what he calls myths perpetuated by the standard histories:

The “official” histories of the first half of the 18th century contain some major orthodoxies that are so far from fact that they are farcical. Generically, they can be described as an over-simplification of history that leaves out important details, a grossly inaccurate description of the ethnic landscape of the era, a minimizing of the histories of all the Southeastern indigenous ethnic groups other than the Cherokees, and an exaggeration of the Cherokee’s cultural level, territory and military power during that era. The Alabamo, Shawnee, Catawba, Chickasaw, Apalachicola and Yuchi are barely mentioned, if mentioned at all, in the standard history textbooks of Georgia and North Carolina. However, all of these ethnic groups were “major players” in the Lower Southeast between 1700 and 1776.

Although you won’t find much mention of it in the standard histories, strong evidence indicates ongoing Spanish activity in the Southern mountains, long after the expeditions of Hernando De Soto in 1540 and Juan Pardo in 1567.

Hernando's (1942) DeSoto?


Next is a quick stop at the Berry Archaeological site north of Morganton, NC, which has been described as “the oldest site of European settlement in interior North America.” Over the past 25 years, archaeologists have determined it was the site of “a 1567 Spanish fort known as San Juan. Captain Juan Pardo built his fort in the Upper Catawba Valley as part of an effort to establish a secure transfer route for the treasures of Mexico. Archaeologists have exposed the ruins of four burned buildings and such Spanish artifacts as chain mail, shards of olive oil jars, and nails. Evidence suggests that the compound was attacked and destroyed in the spring of 1568.”

A Warren Wilson website has much more on this, including many of the publications that have resulted from the excavations at Berry. The destruction of the fort did not mean the end of Spanish activity in the region. Although Soto and Pardo failed to find the gold and treasure they sought, other Spaniards continued the quest.


Next stop, Graham County, NC.

Richard Thornton mentions an inscribed rock on Hooper Bald, and Graham County historian Marshall McClung has also written about it. It is something you can still find if you know where to look. I have seen a photo of it.

In 1988, Marshall McClung sent a photo of the writing to the Mcclung Museum at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee. Jeff Chapman of the Museum said that the inscription on the rock "PREDARMS CASADA, SEP. 1615", is probably of Spanish origin, and says that in effect that the person was claiming Hooper Bald as his own, was staking a claim, and would defend it to the point of bearing arms.


Let’s drop down into Georgia, past the faux-Bavarian scene in Helen, and take a look at the lovely Nacoochee Valley. Charles Lanman visited the area and wrote about it in April 1848:

Many discoveries have been made in the valley of Nacoochee corroborating the general impression, that De Soto or some other adventurer in the olden times performed a pilgrimage through the northern part of Georgia in search of gold. Some twelve years ago, for example, half a dozen log cabins were discovered in one portion of the valley, lying upwards of ten feet below the surface; and, in other places, something resembling a furnace, together with iron spoons, pieces of earthenware, and leaden plates were disinterred, and are now in the possession of the resident inhabitants. In this connection might also be mentioned the ruin of an old fort, which may now be seen a few miles north of Nacoochee valley. It is almost obliterated from the face of the earth, but its various ramparts can be easily traced by the careful observer. Its purpose we can easily divine, but with regard to its history even the Indians are entirely ignorant.

By 1921, when John Thomson Faris published Seeing the Sunny South, the old story related by Lanman had "evolved":

Habersham County, which borders on Tallulah Falls, has its reminders of the Cherokees. In 1830, in Nacoochee Valley, on Duke's Creek, a subterranean village was discovered by gold washers. Here were thirty-four log houses, all joined together. Perhaps these were the homes of the people of the legendary Nacoochee (Evening Star), the chief's daughter, who fell in love with the son of a chief of a neighboring hostile tribe. Their union was opposed, but they married without permission, and went for their honeymoon to "the valley, where, from the interlocked branches overhead, the white flowers of the clematis, and the purple blossoms of the magnificent wild persimmon mingled with the dark foliage of the muscadines." There "the song of the mocking-bird and the murmur of the Chattahoochee's hurrying waters were marriage hymn and anthem to them.'' But the angry father pursued them, and shot an arrow at Laceola, the bridegroom. Nacoochee thrust herself in the path of the arrow. Together they were buried, and a mound was heaped above them, which is pointed out to prove the legend's truth.

Charles Lanman


The people of Cherokee County, NC are justifiably proud of the many Spanish artifacts that have been uncovered in that region. I assume that the display of those items in the history museum in Murphy is still used to support the theory that Soto and Pardo traveled through Cherokee, which seems less and less likely as we learn more about their travels (which were probably farther north, along the French Broad River in Tennessee). Even so, the artifacts, many of them found near the Peachtree Mound, remain strong evidence for a Spanish presence at some point in the past.


In his 1922 history, Asheville and Buncombe County, Foster Sondley adds this:

In 1690 James Moore, secretary of the colony settled at Charlestown in South Carolina, made an exploring tour up the country to the mountains until he reached a place where his Indian guides said that twenty miles away Spaniards were mining and smelting with furnaces and bellows. Numerous traces of mining operations in Western North Carolina before the English came but in which iron implements (unknown to Indians) were used have been found", some in the country of the Sara Indians near Lincolnton, some at Kings Mountain, and some in Cherokee County which the Cherokees said had been made by Spaniards from Florida throughout three summers until the Cherokees killed them. Thus the Spaniards lived and mined in Western North Carolina more than 125 years from 1540 till 1690 and later.

Here’s the text of Moore’s letter to royal surveyor Edward Randolph:

As well out of curiosity to see what sort of Country we might have in land as to find out and make a new & farther discovery of Indian Trade, I made a Journey in the year 1690 over the Apalathean Mountains [Appalachian] in which Journey I took up seven sorts of ores or mineral stones, all differing either in weight, color, smell or some other qualities.

By my friend col[onel] Maurice Mathews I sent these to be try'd [tested] to England, he had them try'd and sent me a word two of the seven sorts were very good and one Indifferent. By the Help of my Journal I can go to every Individual place I took up any of the seven sorts of ores. In the same Journey I was informed that the Spaniards had been actually at work upon mines within Twenty miles of me I enquired of the Natives of the truth of that matter and the reason why they desisted. They told me it was true and described to me their great Bellows & furnaces, and that they killed the Spaniards...when...the Spaniards grew Numerous [fearing that] they [the Spanish] should make slaves of them to worke in those mines as they had Millions of other Indians as they said they had been informed....

Reflecting S[i]r on the weakness of this our Colony & considering that the report of a silver mind among us would incite & encourage the French in America, if not in Europe, to Invade us. I thought it convenient during the War between the Crowns of England & France not to make any discovery of them. Now S[i]r By the Peace the Emperor hath made with the Turks and the recovery of the King of Spain (if those reports are true) the Peace between England and France seems to be well confirmed and Lasting. I think this poor little colony of ours may not only be out of Danger of an Invasion, but be peopled and enriched by the working of these mines....


I like to think of these various reports as the tiny pieces of one great mosaic. For today, I’ll add just one more, an article that appeared in an 1881 volume of American Naturalist:


In Western North Carolina are found many evidences of prehistoric mining operations, such as open cuts, tunnels, shafts and dumps. The latter are covered with a forest growth of several hundred years, and in the excavations has accumulated the debris of centuries.

About ten years ago a new industry was inaugurated in the State, that of mica mining, and strange to say, the best and most profitable mines have been those located upon the sites of the "old diggings." In clearing out the ancient works very few implements have been found which throw light upon the original miners. The opinion, now generally held, is, that they belonged to the Mound-builders, whose mounds are also found, but sparingly, in the river basins. That this is, for the most part, correct, I think has been clearly shown by Prof. Kerr in his Report on the Geology of North Carolina for 1875. He there states that he learned in a conversation with Col. Whittlesey, and subsequently from numerous publications on the subject of the mounds of the Northwest, that mica was of common occurrence in the tumuli of the Mound-builders, among the utensils and ornaments which such rude people are in the habit of inhuming with their dead owners. And upon further inquiry, he ascertained that cut forms, similar to those found in the mounds were occasionally discovered among the rubbish and refuse heaps about and in the old pits. (Note 1)

When Prof. Kerr's attention was first called to these prehistoric excavations (1867), he was invited to visit some "old Spanish silver mines" which had been discovered a few miles south-west of Bakersville, in Mitchell county, showing that by some means the inhabitants had associated these works with the early explorers of our country. It seems probable that tradition may have given rise to this impression, for in a letter written by the Hon. T. L. Clingman, who is very familiar with Western Carolina, I find the following: "The old Cherokee Indians, living in some of the western counties, used to speak of a tradition coming down in their tribe, that long ago companies of white men came on mules from the south, worked during the summer and carried off a white metal with them." (Note 2)

The evidence of the former exploration of this region by white men—Europeans—in search of the precious metals, has not, until recently, been very strong, although in many instances the works indicated a considerable skill in mining, and in a few cases marks have been found as if made by some metallic instrument. (Note 3)

This summer, for the first time, I learned that some iron tools had been found in an old shaft in Macon county. (Note 4) Upon inquiry, I found them in the possession of Mr. Albert S. Bryson, a merchant in Franklin, the county seat of Macon. From him and others I ascertained the facts here stated.

In 1875 the Guyer mica mine was opened on the site of a "prehistoric working" on the mountains near Iola creek, northwest of the town. There was a basin-like depression some eighteen feet in diameter, at the bottom of which was a shaft apparently about eight feet deep. In carrying on the necessary mining operations this old shaft was cleaned out and found to be of considerable depth. In the rubbish which had accumulated within it, at distances varying from thirty-five to fifty feet below the surface, were found the iron implements figured in the accompanying plate. At the depth of forty feet an adit or tunnel was found opening on the mountain side, and at the bottom of the shaft (fifty feet), resting upon quartz, the charred remains of wood. It is thought that fire was here used for the purpose of breaking up the quartz; that after the rock was heated, water was poured upon it causing it to split into fragments.

Ancient Iron Mining Implements in North Carolina

Now as to the implements. They are of wrought iron, and of such shapes and weights as to be easily carried. That they had been worn out and thrown 3way is not improbable. The axe (Fig. i) is rather small, and has been considerably distorted by hard usage, as will be seen in Fig. 2. The eye is quite large, and the head is cracked completely through (Figs. 2 and 3). There is also a rupture near the blade as if the strain on the handle had been so great as to almost break away the side. On the blade is a brand (Fig. 1) which has been so effaced by erosion as to be no longer intelligible. The shape of this axe and its light weight are in contrast with those in use—being of an old pattern which is now rarely met with. The blade and head are each about three and threequarter inches in width, while between them the width diminishes to two and three-quarter inches.

The implements represented in Figs. 4 and 5 are evidently a pair of gudgeons—parts of a windlass. They are pointed at their extremities that they may be driven into a wooden roller or axis. The lower part of the shank is squared so as to prevent its turning in the wood, while the upper part is cylindrical, forming an axle for the support of the roller. Into their bifurcated heads were undoubtedly inserted levers for turning a windlass. As these irons have a length of but sixteen or seventeen inches, they could be easily carried from place to place, and the machine of which they form a part, could be readily extemporized from the trunk and branches of a small tree. Fig. 6 is theoretical, showing their probable use.

A wedge three and three-quarter inches long and one and a-half inches wide, was also found (Fig. 7). Its head was somewhat battered.

The inference to be drawn from the discovery of these iron relics, is, that some of the "old diggings" are the work of Europeans, as the use of iron was unknown to the native American races. Is it not possible that there is a basis of truth in the old Cherokee tradition? That a party of Spanish explorers—and perhaps more than one—penetrated Western Carolina in search of gold, silver and other minerals, and, in some instances, finding the old mines of the Mound-builders, caused preliminary investigations of their value, does not seem improbable. In Cherokee county are found "prospect holes" excavated with far greater skill than that of savage or barbaric miners. To what expedition these Europeans belonged, is a mystery. That of De Soto, according to the course traced out by Bancroft, passed within a comparatively short distance of North Carolina—especially the south-western corner—as it crossed from the head waters of the Savannah or Chattahouchee to those of the Coosa. From it an exploring party was sent to the north, which returned disheartened—without the precious gold—reporting the mountains impassable. Could the work have been done by stragglers from this or other parties, or have there been special expeditions to this region of which the historian has lost sight?

1 Report of the Geological Survey of N. C, Vol. I, p. 301, 1875.
For the Finding of Mica ornaments in mounds see Vol. I, Smithsonian Contributions to knowledge. Monograph of Squier and Davis, p. 240; and Foster's Prehistoric Races of the U. S., p. 191.
2 Speeches and Writings of Hon. Thomas L. Clingman, p. 130.
3. See ib., p. 131.
4 Since the above was written Prof. Kerr has called my attention to the fact that an iron crank was discovered some years since in an ancient shaft in Cherokee county, on Valley river. See Rept. of Progress N. C. Geol. Surv., 1869, p. 56.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jackson County Mountain Music, Part Two

When the "songcatcher" Robert W. Gordon came to Jackson County October 28, 1925 he stopped in Cullowhee and recorded "Old Granny Hare" performed by W. E. Bird.

Included in the the Folk-Songs of America reissue from the Library of Congress, "Old Granny Hare" can be heard here.

Liner notes and lyrics follow:

This version of "Old Granny Hare" was performed by Professor W. E. Bird of Cullowhee State Normal School at Cullowhee, Jackson County, North Carolina, in the mountains to the southwest of Asheville. Gordon's interest in the song had a number of dimensions. Like the fiddle tunes he recorded, it was an example of a "fiddle song" which went with dance music. Versions appear in Ford (pp. 30, 193-94), Lomaxes (pp.283-84), and the NLCR (pp. 124-25). Gordon recorded a performance of the song by Lunsford (A104, NC154). An early commercial recording of the song was made by the Powers family of Virginia. Brown (III, pp. 211-213) prints a number of versions under the title "Old Molly Hare," and the editors indicate that the earliest collected versions came from Afro-American singers. Many of Brown's North Carolina texts combine the song with another Afro-American folksong, "Mr. Rabbit," which suggests that originally the song may have been concerned with the familiar "Brer Rabbit" trickster figure from Negro folktales.

Another facet of this particular version, which no doubt added to it's interest for Gordon, was that it combined the verses and tune of "Old Granny Hare/Molly Hare" with the chorus and one verse of another, probably older song, "The Old Sow." Although he did not comment on this connection in his writings, Gordon did print a cowboy version, "The Old Cow," in his article on "Cowboy Songs" (Gordon, pp. 105-6). Brown (III, p. 218) collected this song separately in North Carolina. Randolph, who collected versions in the Ozarks (III, pp. 149-50), notes early versions of the song under the title "The Red Herring," published by Newell as a game song (B, p.238) and by Sharp in a version from Somerset. Sharp (B, pp. 283-86), believed it had magical or ritualistic origins. But, typically, American versions substitute a comical refrain: "The old sow died with the measles in the spring." In any event, this text appears to be unique in its combination of this song with the "Old Molly/Granny Hare" song, representing a fascinating mixture of British, African, and American traditions.

Gordon cyl. A71, Item NC108
W. E. Bird
Cullowhee, North Carolina
October 28, 1925

Old Granny Hare, a-what you doin' there?
Runnin' through the cotton patch as hard as I can tear

Wheat bread or corn bread or any such a thing,
The old sow died with the measles in the spring.

Old Granny Hare, a-what yer doin' there?
Sittin' in the corner smokin' a cigar.

Wheat bread or corn bread or any such a thing,
The old sow died with the measles in the spring.

The old sow's leg or the old sow's tail,
I'll make as good a hammer as ever drove a nail.

Wheat bread or corn bread or any such a thing,
The old sow died with the measles in the spring.

It's a lot easier to find out about W. E. Bird than Julius Sutton.

William Ernest Bird was born in Qualla, NC, July 21, 1890. He graduated from Cullowhee Normal and Industrial School in 1915. He had returned as a professor by the time of this recording, and went on to become dean and then president of Western Carolina College. Bird died October 22, 1975 and was buried in Thomas Cemetery, Qualla.

Among several books he authored was The History of Western Carolina College, The Progress of an Idea. Professor Bird does tell some interesting stories in his 1963 history of the school.

From Bird's history of WCC, a 1924 photo of the campus.

He explains how upgrading and paving of the road between Sylva and Cullowhee made travel extremely difficult during construction in 1932-33. However, a rail line used mainly for freight ran from Sylva to East La Porte (Blackwood Lumber Company), so officials of the school and the railroad made arrangements to get supplies to the school and, in a pinch, carry passengers:

...while the highway was still under construction and weather conditions were least favorable for ordinary modes of travel, demands frequently made it necessary for representatives of the college to make emergency trips away from the campus. This was true for both faculty and students.

Under such conditions, with no other means of travel available, it was not uncommon to see a male member of the faculty or of the student body climbing aboard the freight-laden train at Cullowhee, bound toward Sylva from East La Porte, and occupying as his only available berth the top of a box car filled with lumber from the big band mill. Accommodations for return trips were usually better, empty cars, as a rule, making up the train, so that the passenger was able to find standing room inside a car instead of having to clamber up the outside for a precarious seat on top.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Jackson County Mountain Music, Part One

I made it a point to visit Aunt Samantha Bumgarner’s final resting place on a hill near the Tuckasegee River, but I never got around to posting a story on that notable Jackson County musician, “the first recorded female country music artist.” I did listen to some of her early recordings.

How can I put this without references to fingernails on a blackboard? Allow me to resort to a Bill Nye quip recycled through Mark Twain:

"I have been told that Wagner's music is better than it sounds."

Today’s story is not about Aunt Samantha anyhow. (And I don't pretend to be qualified to make judgments about old-time musicians.)

Instead, it concerns recordings of other Jackson County singers in the 1920s, recordings included in the Robert Winslow Gordon collection, Folk-Songs of America, reissued by the Library of Congress. Robert W. Gordon became the founding head of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress in 1928.

Prior to that, Gordon had moved to Asheville, a home base for field trips to collect old songs. On October 28, 1925 he dragged his bulky cylinder recording device to Cullowhee and Dillsboro, collecting two songs included in the reissue.

For musical context, this came a year after Aunt Samantha's recording sessions with Eva Davis in New York City and almost two years before the Bristol Sessions, the “Big Bang of Country Music,” conducted by Ralph Peer for the Victor Talking Machine Company in the summer of 1927.

At the Dillsboro session, Gordon recorded Julius Sutton singing “Single Girl.”

From the liner notes:

Gordon recorded "Single Girl" by Julius Sutton (d. 1947) of Dillsboro, near Cullowhee in Jackson County, on the same day that he recorded the previous song. The song has been collected in a number of parts of the South; both Brown (III, pp. 54-56) and Belden (p. 437-39) report versions and give references to other published collections of the song. Gordon's Adventure correspondents sent him four versions of the song in manuscript (2744, 2779[2], 3237), and he recorded another version from a North Carolina singer on cylinder (A93, NC137). Kentucky singer Cousin Emmy made a commercial recording of it in the mid-forties. Sutton's version is textually and melodically similar to most of the other versions of the song, and is distinguished by his fine performance in classic mountain style.

Come all you young ladies, let me tell you right,
Oh, I'd never marry, I'd live a single life.
O-o-oh, I wish I was a single girl,
O-o-oh, I wish I was a single girl again.
When I was single my shoes they did squeak,
But now I am married my shoes they go leak.
O-o-oh, I wish I was a single girl,
O-o-oh, I wish I was a single girl again.
When I was single I dressed very fine,
But now I am married I go ragged all the time.
O-o-oh, I wish I was a single girl,
O-o-oh, I wish I was a single girl again
There's dishes to wash and spring to go to;
There's no one to help me, I have it all to do.
O-o-oh, I wish I was a single girl,
O-o-oh, I wish I was a single girl again
When I was single I dressed like a lady,
But now I am married I go ragged all the time
O-o-oh, I wish I was a single girl,
O-o-oh, I wish I was a single girl again
When I was single I dressed very fine,
But now I am married I go ragged all the time.
O-o-oh, I wish I was a single girl,
O-o-oh, I wish I was a single girl again
Yonder he comes with a bottle in his hand,
Wishing I was dead and he had another dram.
O-o-oh, I wish I was a single girl,
O-o-oh, I wish I was a single girl again
One thing I do hate and one I do dread,
To hear my little children crying for bread.
One says to Papa, "I want a piece of bread,"
The other'n says to Mama, "I want to go to bed."
O-o-oh, I wish I was a single girl,
O-o-oh, I wish I was a single girl again

I can’t tell you much about Mr. Sutton. Born April 16, 1881. Died August 29, 1947. Married three times. The first “single girl” he married was 14-year-old Laura Bell Ledford (b. 1885). Next was Annie Buchanan (b. 1895). And finally, it was Rose Lee Hensley (b. 1904).

Variations on “Single Girl” by Keith Whitley and Ralph Stanley II

One week before his trip to Jackson County, Robert W. Gordon recorded Bascom Lamar Lunsford. From October 19, 1925, here's a recording of Hesitation Blues.