Saturday, December 24, 2016

A County-wide Christmas in 1929

I found the article that follows while perusing It truly seems to echo the values that I hold most dear about the Christmas holiday.  I hope you'll all enjoy it and have a blessed holiday season.

On Christmas afternoon at 3 o’clock, a community Christmas tree was held at Bryson City for people less fortunate than others. Long before the hour arrived hundreds of people over the county kept gathering. There was snow and ice on the ground and the exercises were held in the courthouse from which the tree, standing high with hundreds of colored lights, and 10 feet above it a star, its five points lighted, shining to guide people to the place, could be seen. It has been a joy to all who have seen it for the past week and will stand in the square until the New Year.
The Bryson City Christmas Tree, circa 1920s
Bryson City is a small town with about 1,500 inhabitants. Just what has been done will be of interest to other small towns. About three months ago Mayor E.C. Bryson, the youngest mayor of the State, expressed the idea of a community Christmas tree to G. C. Dugas, vice president and manager of the Smoky Mountain Power Company. Mr. Dugas went to work. Others became interested as soon as it was announced and for six weeks untiring efforts have been expended by about 20 people.

Edwin Constant Bryson, Mayor of Bryson City in 1929
Source: UNC Yearbook, 1925 (
Graham C. Dugas
Source: user JDugas

The story has been told far and near to those who have, and there was a response that has been wonderful from these unknown and unseen friends, who have given of material things which they manufacture, food stuffs, toys, overalls, socks, children’s stockings, coffee, candy oranges and money, which, with the gifts of money here and of material things from merchants, made this tree possible and a success.

Owing to the snow which made many county roads impassable, not as many children were here as was hoped, but treats and toys have been sent as far as possible. Preparation for 1,500 children was made and over 100 baskets were fixed. Into the baskets were put a sack of flour (24 pounds), three pounds of meat, three pounds of beans, three pounds of coffee, five pounds of sugar, salt, soda and soap. Added to this were the overalls, underwear and stockings with many baskets having shoes, some with clothes and sweaters, and every thing that was available for little children where the need was greatest.
Pillsbury Flour Sack
A goal of $1,500 was set at the first meeting held. It seemed preposterous. Many said that if $500 was raised it would be a great success but by the generosity of all, the gifts of material things and money reached $2,000 (note: this is just over $28,000 in 2016 currency). The festival of Christmas is primarily for children. Their hearts ache if they do not have a visit from Santa Claus and it was decided to place a toy in the hands of children under 10 whenever possible. Over 1,500 toys were gathered together over 1,500 treats were fixed, and 1,800 oranges used.
There wasn’t room for one other person in the courthouse when the hour arrived. The galleries and floor space were filled. Mayor Bryson explained the movement and spoke of the many unknown friends who had heeded the call. Dr. R. L. Clear opened the exercises with prayer and a chorus of singers sang some of the lovely Christmas carols. Judge T. D. Bryson spoke for a few minutes and then the children were called for and girls passed on one side and boys on the other of long tables laden with the toys, which had been arranged separately, as other people handed the bags of candy and an orange to the little folks.
Liberty Coaster circa 1923

1929 Effanbee Doll
The baskets were then given out and those who were not here for theirs, were either taken by others to them, or were carried by Bryson City men to the different parts of the county. Many other names have been reported since Christmas Day and foodstuff and some clothing have been purchased for them.

Special mention should be made of the work of the executive committee, and other women who left their homes for days to get the toys, treats, and clothing assembled to Santa Claus who was busy for many days, of those who got the tree, of men who labored hard, of the kindness of the men in the A.&P. store who ground and sacked the 440 pounds of coffee given by Westfeldt Bros. of New Orleans, and a bag of sugar, which was a gift, and of others whom it also impossible to name, for their cooperation in this move.

It is a Christmas that will long be remembered. There are many who had a real Christmas joy on December 25 because these people made it for them. If there is another town in the state with a population of 1,500 people which has cared for as many families in the county as Bryson City, and furnished toys and treats for 1,500 children, it has not been reported.  This is the first time that a community tree has been held in Swain County. It may be the last or it may not but for one time a happy feeling entered the hearts of those who received and in those who gave, who remembered how Christ said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive”.

Asheville Citizen-Times, December 29, 1929

Asheville Citizen Times, December 29, 1929

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Election Day in Swain County - 1884 (Another scandalous election!)

In what is sure to be one of most scandalous elections in history, I thought it might be interesting to get a view of what an election looked like in Swain County in the 'Old Days'. This account comes from the observations of a traveler coming through Swain County on Election Day, November 4, 1884. But first, a little background......

Grover Cleveland (1837-1908)
Source: Library of Congress
James Blaine (1830 - 1893)
Source: Library of Congress

The race for the presidency was a very tight one, waged primarily between the Democrat nominee, New York governor Grover Cleveland and the Republican nominee, former U.S. Senator James Blaine of Maine. It was also an election notorious for partisan mudslinging. Below is a brief look at the papers of the day (I've put some links for further reading in blue).

"Mr. Simeon in this city, and being approached on the subject of New York politics, said, "Yes, I know Cleveland, perhaps better than any man living. Maria Halpin is my sister-in-law. The story told in the newspapers is literally true, and the half has not been told. Grover Cleveland did seduce my sister-in-law under a positive promise, while she was living in Buffalo. This I know to be true, and Cleveland afterward paid the $500 to me for Maria Halpin when legal proceedings were about to be instituted against him......about six weeks ago, Cleveland wrote me a letter urging me to make a statement showing that he had always treated Mrs. Halpin well, and promised me anything I would wish in case he was elected."
The Leavenworth Weekly Times, October 9, 1884

'Another Vote for Cleveland' political cartoon by Frank Beard
Source: 'The Judge' (New York), September 27, 1884

"The man to withdraw, if anybody, is Mr. Blaine. The propriety of his withdrawing is no longer a matter of argument. The missing Mulligan letters printed this morning showed that he used his high office in the House of Representatives to advance his personal interests, that he peddled information of contemplated legislation to speculators, the understanding being that he should share their profits.........he begged his partners in business in the most humiliating terms to spare him the penalty of an exposure - in fine, that he knew when he did it that if the fact were to become public it would ruin his political fortunes forever." 
The New York Graphic, October, 1884

James Blaine Political Cartoon by F. Oppen

Considering the geographical isolation of most of the men of Swain County at the time (the reader is reminded that women did not have the right to vote until 1920), it can't be known to what extent these scandalous charges might have influenced their decisions. Regardless, they turned out to play their role in an historic election, as noted in our traveler's account (and drawing), which was printed in 'Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper' on November 29, 1884.

'North Carolina - Scene at a Mountain Election Precinct in Swain County'
Source: Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, November 29, 1884
"The polling-places of such out-of-the-way districts as Nantahala precinct, Swain Co., N.C. (note to the reader: this would have taken place at Judson), where our sketch was made on the day of the late Presidential election, are not provided with all the modern conveniences, nor are the honest voters addicted to vain pomp and personal display. The sacred privilege of the franchise is exercised in an old wagon-shed, adjoining a corn crib. The 'judges' - he is a small man, indeed, in that section of the country, who bears a less important title than that of judge or colonel - seated on a bench, are the inspectors of election. Each guards a tin coffee-pot, which serves for a ballot-box. Occasionally a judge leaves his seat and circulates amongst the crowd, electioneering, coffee-pot in hand. Refreshments, in the form of ginger-cakes and cider, are to be had on the premises, and such a thing as a drop of blockade whiskey is not, we presume, wholly unobtainable. The gathering is a mixed one, and includes a paroled convict in uniform, who probably is employed in the construction of a railroad in the vicinity. There is not much style about the balloting up there in the mountains, but in the great national result the votes count just the same as though they had been cast in a crystal and nickel-plated ballot box in a brownstone-front polling place in the city." 

A total of 10,060, 145 voters across the country (and 268,356 in North Carolina) turned out for the vote. Over 60% of Swain County's electorate (I do not have the voter numbers at this time) voted for Cleveland, contributing their share to North Carolina's 11 electoral college votes that went to the Democrat. Cleveland won the popular election by relatively little (48.85% of the electorate, compared to Blaine's 48.28%) but won in the electoral college by 37 votes (219 to 182). The election proved historic in that it was the first time a Democrat had been voted into the highest office in the land since the election of 1856.  

Graphic of 1884 Vote by County (Swain is the eagle-shaped county on the Tennessee border)
Source: by Tilden76 (located on Wikipedia)
No matter what your political leanings or possible disgust with the current candidates, if you've not already done so, get out there and vote. November 8, 2016, should be just as interesting as November 4, 1884.

An interesting note for the reader: Apparently the 'judges' in the Nantahala district decided that tin coffee pots were no longer suitable for voting after the 1888 election. On January 7, 1889, the Swain County Commissioners provided Amos Ashe (most likely one of the 'judges' described in the short article as he lived in Judson) $4 for making election boxes. 

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, November 29, 1884
Getty Images (
Library of Congress
National Historical Geographic
"Presidential Ballots, 1836-1892" by Walter Dean Burnham. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1955, pages 247-57.
Swain County Herald, January 10, 1889
'The Judge' (New York) September 27, 1884
The Leavenworth Weekly Times, October 8, 1884
The New York Graphic, October, 1884
Wikipedia (

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Life and Tragic Death of Ben Enloe

Today, September 8th, 2016, marks 100 years since the death of Benjamin F. Enloe, a member of one of the most prominent families in Swain County during the 1800's and early- to mid- 1900's.
Ben Enloe, circa late 1890s/early 1900s
Source: Laura Taylor

Frequent readers here know of my fondness for the Judson area, because I grew up about a mile from there. One of the most wealthy families in Judson was headed by William Aesoph  'Ace' Enloe. Readers are likely familiar with the Abram Enloe family as being among the early settlers of the Oconalufty Valley, relocating there from Puzzle Creek in Rutherford County sometime after 1810. Ace, one of Abram's grandsons, was born in the Oconalufty area in 1847 and likely lived in that greater area until sometime in the 1890's. He married Margaret Clarinda Conner, with whom (according to the 1910 census), he had 12 children.

William Aesoph 'Ace' and Clarinda (Conner) Enloe
Source: Laura Taylor

Ben, one of the 'middle' children, was born on June 9th, 1879. During his childhood, Ben would have been expected to contribute heavily to the family's day-to-day work: helping in the garden, gathering firewood, hauling water from the spring, feeding the livestock, and similar activities. His responsibilities would have increased as he grew older. The census records note that he was literate so he almost certainly attended school; an 1890 newspaper article noted that the Oconalufty school ran for 5 months out of the year. The Enloes probably also attended church at either the Oconalufty Baptist Church or at the Hughes Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church. Sometime in the late 1890's, Ace moved his family to the Judson area, purchasing the Amos Ashe property and mill. Ben probably had a role in running the mill prior to his departure from the area.

The Enloe Mill in Judson, circa 1910
Source: Great Smoky Mountains National Park archives

The Enloe Mill in Judson, circa 1909
Source: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Ben had left Swain County by 1900, as the census that year showed him working as a coal miner in one of the 8 coal mines near Big Stone Gap, Wise County, Virginia. By 1910, Ben had left the coal mines and moved much closer to home, living in Asheville and working for the Southern Railway as a fireman. Also called a stoker, the fireman's job was to shovel the coal that powered the steam engines. The job required close coordination with the engineer in order to ensure that the engine was adequately powered for all operations, stoking the fire higher when more power was needed, and making sure that the train didn't explode. Often firemen worked as apprentices to the engineers and were sometimes allowed to operate the powerful locomotives under their supervision.

Engineer and Fireman/Stoker on a tourist steam locomotive in Colorado
Source: The Durango Herald
By the time he was 37 in September of 1916, Ben was an engineer for the railroad, responsible for managing the very complex steam boiler and controlling the speed of the train, a massive vehicle that could weigh thousands of tons when considering the engine and cars. The engineer had to know the location of signals, curves, crossings, and changes in uphill or downhill grade along his route in order to safely control the train. The job was a good one, earning Ben, a lifelong bachelor with no family to support, a comfortable salary.

A Southern Railway freight train near Black Mountain, circa early 1900s
On the night of September 8th, 1916, Ben was backing a work train in toward the Biltmore train station, likely getting ready to head to his home. Unbeknownst to him, freight train #172, pulling several loaded coal cars, was having difficulty ascending Buena Vista hill 3.5 miles distant from Biltmore. The engineer of the freight train realized that it was not sufficiently powered to make the full ascent and attempted to avert derailment by pulling the engine itself just off the track, leaving the coal cars on the track with their brakes set.  Unfortunately, the brakes did not hold and the train began to hurtle backwards toward Asheville, picking up a great degree of speed along the way despite the valiant attempts of brakeman N.G. McGalliard to reset the brakes.

Coming into view of Ben Enloe's work train, which was situated on a small bridge at the Fairview rail crossing, McGalliard realized that disaster was imminent and jumped clear in the nick of time. Unfortunately though, Ben and his flagman Erwin Pitts did not escape in time and were instantly killed upon the collision of the trains. Pitts' body, buried under tons of coal, was found rather quickly. However, Ben's badly scalded and mangled body, found buried underneath both the work train's engine and the coal, was not recovered until the following afternoon despite what were described as frantic efforts to find him. The wreckage of the trains was spread over a good distance along the track, and the work engine was said to be torn up such that it looked as if it was made of cardboard.

A coal train wreck, circa early 1900s
Source: Norfolk and Western Historical Society

Ben Enloe's death certificate
Some of Ben's family arrived in Asheville on September 9th in order to accompany his body back to Swain County, where funeral services were held the next day. A cemetery committee chaired by D.K. Collins provided a burial plot for him in the Bryson City cemetery. Two days later, Ace purchased the plot and additional space for other family members to be buried in as they passed away.
Probate records indicate that Ben had $500 (almost $11,000 in today's currency) to his name at the time of his death. His father, Ace, was the recipient of Ben's entire estate.

Signature of Ace Enloe on Ben Enloe's Probate Record
Over the years, Ace and Clarinda, along with some of Ben's brothers and nephews, joined their brother and son in eternal repose in the family plot, a peaceful place with a beautiful view of the mountains. For those interested in visiting, the plot lies a short distance behind the cemetery's angel and in line with the Everett family graves. And if you do choose to visit, spare a moment to reflect on the young man buried here, cut down in the prime of his life in such a tragic manner.

Tombstone of Ben Enloe in the Bryson City Cemetery
Source: Don Casada

I would like to recognize the significant contributions of Laura Taylor to this blog. Laura, a great-niece of Ben Enloe, has contributed significant family history and numerous photographs of the Enloe family that bring this blog entry, and especially Ben Enloe, to life.
Don Casada
Laura Taylor
The Asheville Citizen-Times, September 9, 1916
The Charlotte Observer, September 11, 1916
The Durango Herald
The High Point Enterprise, September 11, 1916
The Tennessean, September 1, 1890
Western Carolina University Special Collections

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Back to School in Swain County

Swain County Schoolbuses, circa 1927
Source: Asheville Citizen Times, February 6, 1927

It's that time of year! The children of Swain County (including my own) have returned to school to start the 2016-2017 term. In lieu of a lengthy blog post this week, I'm sharing a few old pictures and notes/stories about the schools in Swain County in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Please note that 1) the pictures are not necessarily related to the text; and 2) some of the pictures are not of the highest quality, as they were pulled from old newspapers and old books.


Hightower School/Church on Needmore Road (still standing as the Hightower Church)
Photo provided by Linda Banwarth (with many thanks for this priceless piece of history).

What follows is an account of 'Bill Hamilton's'  first day of school.'Bill' appears to have lived in the greater Japan/Almond/Judson area and wrote about those communities for the Bryson City papers in the late 1800s.  As I cannot place a Bill or William Hamilton in Swain or Graham counties in the appropriate time period via the census records, it is possible that 'Bill Hamilton' was a pen name.  He was a very articulate man, and therefore it should be noted that his story below is strictly written 'tongue in cheek'. I have copied it verbatim from the newspaper in which it appeared.

"....My father, seein that I needed some schoolen, started me ter school, my first time in life so a week or so before hit was ter commence my good old mother, who was taken, hit seamed a relarm in amount of interest in her 'dear sun' learned me the A.B.C's and by good management and acasional use of the rod of kerection, succeeded in learnin me the alphabet, so on the morning school commenced. She fixed me dinner, consisten of a corn dodger, a piece of meat, and a quart bottle full of Butter milk and off I put ter the school house four miles distant.

In due time I arrived on the spot, quietly deposited me dinner under the door steps of the old log school house, and in I went, thinking I was a lucky boy, and one god had endowed with extra ordinary mental ability as soon as matters of that kind are ever done. I tooked a seat and that teacher told me to 'off with hat' which I did with rapidity, and flutter bation of mind. Then turning to me lesson (The Alfabet' and axed me what tha first letter was, I studied a little looking first at teacher then tha letter, and ter save me from Halifax I couldent annountit for him. Now said he 'You get this letter in your mind so you can tell me what it is by dinner time,' and left me ter work out on me own edecation with fear en trimlen , so I ruminated and spelt, quirked, twisted and choked and spelt at the tarnel old letter and never did make hit out. For I hade clean forgotten the name of hit, when dinner was announced I was one of the fust ter leave my seat. Fur I was a gitten tarnations hungry, an made for me dinner basket under the door steps, where I had place hit that morning, and lo and behold the tarnations free goer Hogs, had done wound that matter up. Havin clearned up every speck of dinner septen that big bottle of milk, which was found atter some sarchin.

Durin play time I axed a boy what the name of the fust letter was, and I kept sayin it over til the teacher hollered 'Books' and in we all went, me with the balance, still sayin over that letter. Dreekly that 'teacher' cum ter me, says 'Bill ye got that letter yet.' An I looked and every body in the house was looking right at me, I got excited, could feel me heart a beaten in me years, occasionally turnin blind, last I made out to get me mouth off and say 'A' very well said the teacher what is the next. Here I stalled again, Last he said 'what is it that stings boys sometimes' 'Yellow Jackets' said I. 'Oh you num skull you Bees' don't you know, so that is 'B'.

Now it is of no use ter say, that I said no more lessons that afternoon, and went home that evenin, proud ter say that I had at least gone to school one day in life....."
Bill Hamilton's Letter, The Bryson City Times
August 7, 1896

Fairview School, 1938
Source: National Archives and Records Administration, Georgia

First Almond School circa 1926/1927 (A newer school would be built shortly after this picture was taken, prior to the impounding of Fontana Lake; the new school sat on the current site of the Almond Boat Dock. The newest Almond School, where my brothers and I went to elementary school and where my parents worked, is now the site of Southwestern Community College's Swain County Campus).
Source: Asheville Citizen Times, February 6, 1927

Here's a description of a typical school day at the Cherokee Training School:

'.....The weekday program of exercises fitly illustrates the excellence of the superintendent's management, and explains the high order among schools which the Cherokee training school has attained. It is as follows; morning bell, 5 o'clock; breakfast, 5:30; industrial work, 6 to 9; school exercises, 9 to 11:15; dinner, 12 n; industrial work, 12:30 p.m.; school exercises, 1:30 to 4; industrial work, 4 to 6; supper, 6; recreation, 6:30 to 7; evening study, 7; evening prayers, 8; retiring bell, 8:30.'
Donaldson, Thomas. Indians, Eastern Band of Cherokees of North Carolina. 1892

Cherokee Training School and Students, circa 1889/1890
Source: Report on Indians, Taxed and not Taxed in the United States (Except Alaska), 11th US Census, 1890

The Old Soco Schoolhouse near the Macedonia Mission
Source: Report on Indians, Taxed and not Taxed in the United States (Except Alaska), 11th US Census, 1890

Here is a snippet regarding very early schooling in Swain County in an article written about John Sadoc Smiley, Swain County Schools' first superintendent:

  ".....In 1871......there were 15 primary schools, with teachers doing work through the seventh grade. It wasn't until Lucian Holmes, a college graduate, came here to teach the Bryson City school that it went higher. Mr. Smiley received his education in the little one room schools, going to his first school in 1854 in Macon County; his second on Little Alarka and in 1856 was in school at Cold Springs, these three being the free schools of Macon County at that time. (The reader is reminded that though these locations are known to be in Swain County today, they were in Macon County at the time - Swain County was not formed until 1871)  Mr. Smiley....taught the first school in Bryson in 1871-1872 that had a four months term. In those days the teachers were examined by a County Board of Examiners. In 1881 the office of County Superintendent of Public Education was created and the place given to Mr. Smiley which he held for nine years. His opinion was that he wasn't 'literary enough, but that he went ahead and did the best that he could but was criticized anyway'. He worked for uniformity of textbooks; for a higher standard of teaching and for a longer term. Mr. Smiley says that folks hadn't been used to schools and (he) thought that they ought to be as long as a working day, from sun-up to sun-down. The first schools opened at 8:45 and closed at four. In speaking of the work of some of the pioneer teachers, he said, 'their work was noble'."

Article on John Sadoc Smiley, written by Anne D. Bryson
Asheville Citizen-Times, May 6, 1928

Reverend John Sadoc Smiley, circa 1928
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times, May 6, 1928

Source: North Shore Historical Association newsletter, 1990

Asheville Citizen Times, 1927 and 1928
Linda Banwarth
National Archives and Records Administration, Atlanta
North Shore Historical Association newsletter, 1990
Report on Indians, Taxed and not Taxed in the United States (Except Alaska), 11th US Census, 1890

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Little Ida Galbreath and the Bryson City Cemetery

My family and I recently took a trip to the northeastern US, visiting sites such as Valley Forge, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Freedom Trail in Boston, and the Salem Witch Trials Memorial in Salem, Massachusetts. Being the lover of history that I am, I often will take a stroll through a cemetery or two in the areas I visit (my children and husband are very tolerant of this unusual activity). On this particular trip, here were a few of the cemetery highlights:
  • We visited the Granary Burying Ground in the heart of Boston and paid our respects to Paul Revere, Sam Adams, John Hancock, and the victims of the Boston Massacre.
  • We visited the King's Chapel Burying Ground (again in Boston) and saw the grave of Massachusetts' first governor, John Winthrop.
  • We visited the Burying Point Cemetery in Salem, Massachusetts, which is the site of Giles Corey's execution for witchcraft during the Salem Witch hysteria in 1692. We also visited Giles' first wife's grave while there.
  • I visited (with my husband's wonderful aunt and uncle) the Revolutionary War Cemetery in Salem, New York in which 100 Revolutionary War veterans are known to be buried (and are all marked). Tradition holds that an additional approximately100 Revolutionary soldiers were buried here in a common grave: victims of the first day of fighting in the Battle of Saratoga.
Granary Burying Ground, Boston, Massachusetts
Photo by Wendy Meyers
I love all cemeteries, but older and more established cemeteries such as these have a particular draw for me.  I love to read the epitaphs and admire the interesting motifs graven upon the stones. Mostly, however, I love the great sense of history present in these sacred places - of times gone and cultures that will never again exist. I have such a great desire to know the people resting there for eternity. As a fellow cemetery lover and good friend of mine has stated, "I just like to sit down next to the stones and ask those buried there to tell me their story."

Swain County is very blessed to be filled with these types of cemeteries. The Bryson City cemetery, which overlooks town, is one of them. In this cemetery reside the mortal remains of individuals and families who are famous and those who are not; individuals who were teachers, lawyers, doctors, pharmacists, authors, and merchants; fathers, mothers, and children; saints and sinners; pillars of the community and ne'er-do-wells; veterans; travelers struck dead while visiting or conducting business here; criminals and murder victims; people who lived great long lives, and infants who never drew their first breath. The list could go on and on. Hundreds of graves are inscribed, bearing witness to the lives of those buried there. But at least 100 graves have only a fieldstone to mark them - the bodies entombed beneath known only to God now.

A section of the Bryson City Cemetery
Photo by Wendy Meyers

A special group of individuals from both within and outside Swain County has come together over the last year to found the 'Friends of the Bryson City Cemetery' (FOBCC), a registered North Carolina non-profit organization. The FOBCC is dedicated to preserving the cemetery grounds and promoting the town, county, and area history and the heritage associated with those buried there. Hundreds of volunteer hours have been invested into the cemetery by both FOBCC members and other interested individuals, students, and organizations. The cemetery is now being mowed and "cleaned off" on a regular basis, and a large number of previously unreadable stones have been cleaned and restored to a like new (or nearly so) condition (see this link for examples: This historical and reverent place has truly been restored to the condition both it and its occupants deserve.

In addition to their cemetery maintenance and improvement activities, the 'Friends' are also actively engaged in an intensive and highly technical mapping of the cemetery; they are also collecting as much information as possible (obituaries, biographies, pictures, etc.) about those buried on the grounds in hopes of being able to publish a book about the fascinating history the cemetery represents.

One of the individuals buried in the cemetery is a little 4 year-old girl by the name of Ida Galbreath.  (Note to the reader: though locally we know the spelling of this family's name as "Galbreath", this appears to have been an aberration. The remaining members of the family are buried with the spelling of "Galbraith".) Ida's grandparents, Joseph M. and Elizabeth (Coleman) Galbraith appear to have been the settlers for whom Galbreath's Creek is named, as the 1850 census records their residing in that general area. Their son, Mark Coleman Galbraith (1854-1943), married Dovie Allman (1869 - 1938) in 1886. They and likely some of Mark's siblings appear to have run a hotel in the current area of the Bryson City depot that was called the "Galbreath Hotel", as indicated in a 1905 deed of sale. Mark and Dovie's first child was born in 1888 and Ida arrived next in 1890. She was the second of their 8 known children, and died in a freak accident on Everett Street on April 21, 1895. Her death was reported in the Bryson City Times later that week, as transcribed below.
Ida's grandfather, Joseph M. Galbreath and her brother Claude, circa 1900
Source: user 'mcbowen'

Sunday afternoon about four, while the people were lounging about, as is usual when there is nothing to do but walk, little Ida, the five-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. M.C. Galbreath, was playing along the level sidewalk in front of Evereat’s (sic) store. Several other small children were with her.
There being no apparent occasion for alarm, no one paid any attention to the little ones.
James Meadows, who witnessed all, says Ida was leading the jolly little party on its way toward the bridge, and having missed the others from her side, she very naturally turned while running to see where the others were.  While her head was thus turned, her feet in some way became tangled, and in the presence of several spectators, the little captain of the band stumbled and fell.
Seeing that she neither made any noise or effort to rise, she was lifted to her feet; but no sooner had this been done than she stretched at full length, cast her eyes upward, raised one hand, gasped, and in fifteen seconds, died. Her neck was broken.
This is all the explanation anybody can give of the very strange accident.
The funeral services took place at the Methodist Church on Monday afternoon, and the remains of the little child, which, twenty-four hours before had been healthy and happy, were laid away in the cemetery to await the Resurrection.
The bereaved family have the deep sympathy of our entire community.
The Bryson City Times, April 26, 1895, page 1
Sometime between 1895 and 1900 (1897 per the family), the Galbraiths moved their family to the Bridgeport area of Douglas County, Washington, along with Mark’s parents, two of his brothers, and his sister. They farmed in the area for the remainder of their lives and are buried there.

Should you choose to visit Ida's grave, you will note that her headstone bears a death date of July 1894 but as stated in the newspaper article above, her actual date of death was April 21st, 1895. This almost certainly indicates that she had only a fieldstone to mark her grave until the present headstone was placed many years (even decades) after her death, likely not by her parents (I don't believe that any parent could forget the date upon which their child died). Don Casada (current president of the FOBCC) visited Ida's grave on the day I found her death notice and thoroughly cleaned the stone so that it is now both readable and findable - and very poignant in its simplicity.

Headstone of Ida Mae Galbreath at the Bryson City Cemetery
Photo by Wendy Meyers

Little Ida Galbreath is but one of the beneficiaries of the wonderful work being performed by the FOBCC. Many of my readers with Swain County roots have familial ties to others buried in the Bryson City cemetery.  The FOBCC would like to extend an invitation to all interested individuals and families to join in their efforts. Information on membership and an application may be found at this link:

Sources:, and Ancestry user 'mcbowen'
The Bryson City Times, April 26, 1895
Swain County Register of Deeds office, Deed book 26, page 438

Monday, January 25, 2016

Keeping Warm at Rocky Point Ferry

All of the books in the 'Little House' series written by Laura Ingalls Wilder are undoubtedly some of my all-time favorites, which I still pull out to re-read to this day.  Some of my favorite 'scenes' from these books describe the times when Pa would play his fiddle on cold winter nights, having his girls dance to warm themselves before retreating to their icy bedrooms.

I thought you'd enjoy a similar scene from the Rocky Point Ferry, which provided passage across the Little Tennessee River from Graham County to Swain County before the impounding of Cheoah Lake in 1919.  Enjoy!
Crossing the Little Tennessee River on the Rocky Point Ferry

"Nearly one mile below the mouth of Twenty Mile creek is Rocky Point ferry, presided over by that philosopher and musician, who is known far and near as Chris Linn. Chris lives just above the ferry, in a log cabin containing an entire room. The logs afford some resistance to the winds of winter that howl up and down the river, but the spaces between them afford none, and the wind goes shrieking through that cabin in a way to freeze the marrow in the bones of anyone but Chris Linn and his interesting family. Instead of allowing their marrow to freeze, they pile on the logs in the wide fireplace, and huddling around, let her howl. There are six or 7 children, the oldest being a beautiful girl of fifteen summers…There is no superabundance of clothing, even during summer, but that makes ‘no differ’ to Chris and his family. There is just one possible fly in the ointment of their contentment, and that is the breaking of fiddle and banjo strings. If those strings never broke the even tenor of their way would be uninterrupted. But banjo and fiddle strings will snap at times, and with them snaps happiness at that home. While the strings hold true and strong, the winds may howl and the river rage, but Chris with his fiddle and Miss Julia with her banjo defy them both with ‘jig chunes’ that would make an elephant dance for joy.  As Chris fiddles and Julia strums, the children dance before the fire, and ‘joy is unconfined’. The puncheon floor rocks and sags, the shadows play hide and seek with the ruddy firelight upon the cabin wall and the midnights of winter often find the inmates cutting the pigeon-wing and flinging the double shuffle with hearts as free as salvation."
'Bud Wuntz' in The Morning Post (Raleigh, NC), 16 August 1903
Chris and Matilda Mary Julia (nee' Farley') Lynn (probably circa 1910-1925)
Source: "Remembered Lives: A Narrative History of Our Family" by Duane Oliver
Notes to the reader who is interested in exploring further:
1.  Christopher (1860-1925) and Matilda Mary Julia 'Tilda' (nee' Farley) (1869 - 1946) Linn/Lynn lived in Graham County, where they operated the remote ferry for many years. Despite living in Graham County, they received their mail at the post office across the river in Fairfax, Swain County. They were the parents of at least 8 children (6 boys and 2 girls), and of these, at least two of their sons, Boyd and 'Gard' worked as loggers for the Ritter Lumber Company.
2. ' Bud Wuntz' was the pen name (for the newspaper) for John Preston Arthur (1851-1916), the author of "Western North Carolina, a History (1730-1913)" (available for free on Google Books, or $0.99 on Kindle), and "A History of Watauga County, North Carolina: with Sketches of Prominent Families" (also available for $0.99 on Kindle).
3. Please reach out to me directly via email if you'd like to read more about the Linn/Lynn family than I have included here.  I have the article in PDF form and will gladly send it along.
"Remembered Lives: A Narrative History of Our Family" by Duane Oliver.  Copyright 1993.
The Morning Post (Raleigh, NC), 16 August 1903 on