The Heart of the Alleghanies / or Western North Carolina

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(See page 98.)

Heart of the Alleghanies








Copyright, 1883
By Wilbur G. Zeigler and Ben S. Grosscup


The Culmination of the Alleghanies—Area—The Grand Portal—The Blue Ridge—The Smokies—Transverse Ranges of the Central Plateau—Ancient Mountains7
The “Moon-eyed” People—Ottari and Erati—Musical Names—Legendary Superstitions—The Devil’s Footprints—His Judgment Seat—A Sacred Domain—Cherokee’s Paradise Gained—Aboriginal Geography—Sevier’s Expedition—Decline of the Tribe—Younaguska—A White Chief—The Qualla Boundary—A Ride Through the Reservation—Yellow Hill—Constitution and Faith of the Band—Characteristics—An Indian Maiden—Soco Scenery15
Bruin’s “Usin’-Places”—Pointers—A Hunting Party—Stately Forests—Wid Medford—Sticking a Bear—Trials of Camping-Out—A Picture—Frosted Mountains—Amid the Firs—Natural History—In Close Quarters—Scenic Features—The Drive Begins—An Ebon Mountain—Judyculla Old Field—Calling In the Drivers—A Snow Storm—The Vale of Pigeon—A Picturesque Party—Through Laurel Thickets—At Bay—The Death Shot—Sam’s Knob—Bear Traps—An Old Hunter’s Observation45
The Nantihala—Woodland Scenes—Monday’s—Franklin—Evening on the Little Tennessee—The Alleghanies’ Grandest Highway—The Valley River Range—Lonely Wilds—The Prince of Sluggards—Murphy—A Swiss Landscape—An Animated Guide-post—At the “Hoe-Down”—Apprehensions of Harm—A Jug in My Hands—Pine Torches—The Shooting Match—“Hoss-Swoppers”—Discouraging Comments—The Fawning Politician—Cat-Stairs—The Anderson Roughs—Campbell’s Cabin—No Wash-Basin—The Devil’s Chin—Soapstone and Marble Quarries—A Stinging Reception—Deer—A “Corn-cracker”—Robbinsville79
The Tow-head Angler—The Brook Trout—Points—The Paragon Month for Fishing—Artificial Ponds—Trip to the Toe—Anti-Liquor—Rattlesnakes—Mitchell’s Peak—A Ghost Story—In Weird Out-lines—Burnsville—Pigeon River—Cataluche—Mount Starling and its Black Brothers—Whipping the Stream—Striking a Bargain—An Urchin’s Ideas—Swain County Trout Streams—In Jackson and Macon—A Grand Cataract—Trout, Buck and Panther—In the Northwest Counties107
The Heart of the Smokies—Clingman’s Dome—Prospect from the Summit—Mounted Sportsmen—A Mountain Bug-Bear—Charleston—The Dungeon—A Village Storekeeper—Beautiful River Bends—At the Roses’—A Typical Mountain Cabin—Quil’s Wolf story—A Quick Toilet—The Footprints of Autumn—Knowledge from Experience—The Ridge Stand—Buck Ague—On Long Rock—A Superb Shot—The Buck Vanishes—Acquitted Through Superstition—The Hunter’s Hearthstone137
The “Tar-Heel” Joke—Tobacco—Favorable Conditions for Gold Leaf—A Ruinous Policy—Hickory—Shelby—In Piedmont—Old Field Land—General Clingman’s Story—Watauga County—Unequalled Pastures—Prices of Lands—Stock Raising—The French Broad Tobacco Slopes—Fair Figures—Henderson and Transylvania—The Pigeon Valley—The Extreme Southwest Portion—Character of Wild Range—Horticulture—The Thermal Zone—Forests for Manufacturers—The Gold Zone—Mica Mines—Corundum—Iron Deposits—The Cranberry Ore Bank—Copper, Lead, Tin, and Silver—Precious Stones167
Early Emigration—Daniel Boone—The “Pennsylvania Dutch”—Conservatism—The Revolutionary Forces—The King’s Mountain Battle—“Nollichucky Jack”—The Prisoner’s Escape—The State of Franklin—The Pioneers—Formation of Counties—The Western North Carolina Railroad—During the Late War—Restless Mountains—Scientific Explorations—Calhoun’s Observation—The Tragedy of the Black Mountains—Later Surveys—Representatives of the Mountain People213
Mounting in Asheville—A Surly Host—Bat Cave—Titanic Stone Cliffs—Chimney Rock Hotel—The Pools—A Sunset Scene—The Shaking Bald—The Spectre Cavalry Fight—A Twilight Gallop Through McDowell County—Pleasant Gardens—The Catawba Valleys—On the Linville Range—Table Rock and Hawk-Bill—The Canon—Innocents Abroad—The Fox and the Pheasant—Linville Falls—A Dismal Woodland—Traveling Families—Grandfather Mountain—The Ascent—A Sunday Ride—Blowing Rock—Boone—Valle Crucis—Elk River—The Cranberry Mines—On the Roan—Cloud-Land Hotel—A Hermit’s History—Above a Thunder Storm—Bakersville—Traces of a Prehistoric People—The Sink-Hole and Ray Mica Mines—Cremation—Drawing Rein237
Stage Riding—The Driver’s Story—Waynesville—Court Week—Prescriptions for Spirit. Frument.—Before the Bar—An Out-Door Jury Room—White Sulphur Springs—A Night’s Entertainment—The Haunted Cabin—A Panther Hunt—The Phantom Millers—Light on the Mysteries—Micadale—Recollections—Soco Falls—Webster—An Artist’s Trials—Above the Tuckasege Cataract—Hamburg—A Cordial Invitation—Cashier’s Valley—Whiteside—A Coffee Toper—Horse Cove—Golden Sands—Ravenel’s Magnificent Site—Hints for the Mounted Tourist—The Macon Highlands—A Demon of the Abyss—A Region of Cascades and Cataracts—Through Rabun Gap—Clayton, Georgia—The Falls of Tallulah—An Iron Way279
The Mountains as a Summer Resort—On the Western North Carolina Railroad—Sparkling Catawba Springs—Glen Alpine—Marion—Asheville—Romantic Drives—Turnpike—Arden Park—Hendersonville—Flat Rock—The Ante-War Period—Cæsar’s Head—Brevard—A “Moonshine” Expedition—A Narrow Escape—How Illicit Whisky is Sold—Along the French Broad—An Excited Countryman—Marshal—Warm Springs—Shut-in Gap—Paint Rock—A Picture of the Sublime333
Tables of Altitude, Population, Area of counties, and Temperature371


1.Valley of the Noon-day SunFrontispiece.
2.Unaka Kanoos13
3.A Soco Lass37
4.Mount Pisgah43
5.The Final Struggle74
6.The Warrior Bald82
7.A Narrow Water-way102
8.A Glimpse of the Toe119
9.On the Cataluche128
10.Ochlawaha Valley from Dun Cragin135
11.On the Little Tennessee145
12.Silver Springs173
13.The French Broad Canon182
14.Swannanoa Hotel211
15.Sparkling Catawba Springs235
16.The Watauga Falls266
17.Macon Highlands293
18.The Junaluskas316
19.The Cullasaja Falls329
20.Up the Blue Ridge338
21.Bold Headlands354
22.Cascades of Spring Creek369
Dr. W. C. Kerr’s Map of Western North Carolina
(used by permission of State Board of Agriculture).


THE great mountain system that begins in that part of Canada south of the St. Lawrence, and under the name of the Alleghanies, or Appalachians, extends southward for 1,300 miles, dying out in the Georgia and Alabama foot-hills, attains its culmination in North Carolina. The title of Appalachians, as applied by De Soto to the whole system, is preferred by many geographers. Alleghany is the old Indian word, signifying “endless.” It is ancient in its origin, and in spite of its being anglicized still retains its soft, liquid sound. It was not until a comparatively late year that Western North Carolina was discovered to be the culminating region. Until 1835 the mountains of New Hampshire were considered the loftiest of the Alleghanies, and Mount Washington was placed on the maps and mentioned in text books as the highest point of rock in the eastern United States. It now holds its true position below several summits of the Black, Smoky, and Balsam ranges. From the barometrical measurements of trustworthy explorers, no less than 57 peaks in Western North Carolina are found to be over 6,000 feet in altitude. The more accurate observations being taken by means of levels, by the coast survey, may slightly reduce this number.

It was John C. Calhoun who, in 1825, first called particular attention to the southern section of the system. His attention had been turned to it by observing the numerous wide rivers, and tributaries of noble streams, which, like throbbing arteries, came forth from all sides of the North Carolina mountains, as from the chambers of a mighty heart. He saw the New river flowing towards the Ohio; the Watauga, the Nolechucky, the French Broad, the Big Pigeon, the Little Tennessee, the Hiawassee, and their thousand tributaries, pouring from the central valleys through the deep gaps of the Smokies into the western plains, and uniting with the branches from the Cumberland mountains to form the stately Tennessee; the Yadkin, the Catawba, the Broad, the Chatooga, and the headwaters of the greatest streams south of Virginia that empty into the Atlantic. From these observations he reasoned rightly that between the parallels of 35 degrees and 36 degrees and 30 minutes, north latitude, lay the highest plateau and mountains of the Atlantic coast.

The region, as measured in a bee line through the center of the plateau from Virginia to Georgia, is 200 miles in length. Its breadth, from the summits of the parallel rampart ranges of the Blue Ridge and Smokies, varies from 15 to 65 miles, and includes within this measurement a plateau expanse of 6,000 square miles, with an altitude of from 2,000 to 4,000 feet. Inclusive of the eastern slope, the off-shooting spurs of the Blue Ridge and the South mountains, the average breadth is 70 miles. A portion of the piedmont section, properly a part of the mountain district, would be taken in the latter measurement. The counties are 25 in number, reaching from Ashe, Alleghany, and Surrey in the north to Macon, Clay, and Cherokee in the south.

After the bifurcation of the Blue Ridge and Smoky mountains in Virginia, embracing with a wide sweep several counties of that state and Ashe, Alleghany, and Watauga of North Carolina, they almost meet again in the northeastern limit of Mitchell county. Here, in collosal conjunction, through their central sentinel heads, the two ranges seem holding conference before making their final separation. The Grandfather, the highest peak of the Blue Ridge and the oldest mountain of the world, stands on one side; the majestic Roan of the Smokies, on the other, connected by the short transverse upheaval known as Yellow mountain. This spot is poetically spoken of as the grand portal to the inner temple of the Alleghanies; the Grandfather and the Roan being the two pillars between which hangs, forever locked, the massive gate of Yellow mountain. The high table-land of Watauga forms the green-carpeted step to it. Trending southwest, between the two separating ranges,—the Blue Ridge bending like a bow, and the Smokies resembling the bow-string,—lies wrapped in its robe of misty purple, the central valley, comprising 13 counties.

The western rampart range, bearing the boundary line between North Carolina and Tennessee, lifts its crest much higher than the Blue Ridge; is more massive in its proportions; less straggling in its contour; but with lower gaps or gorges, narrow and rugged, through which flow all the rivers of the plateau. Generically known as the Smoky mountains, it is by the river gorges divided into separate sections, each of which has its peculiar name. The most northerly of these sections is termed the Stone mountains; then follow the Iron, Bald, Great Smoky, Unaka, and the Frog mountains of Georgia. Twenty-three peaks of the Smoky mountains are over 6,000 feet in altitude, the loftiest being Clingman’s Dome, 6,660 feet. The deepest gap is that of the Little Tennessee, 1,114 feet.

The eastern rampart range—the Blue Ridge—trends southward with the convolutions of a snake; its undulations rising seldom above a mile in altitude and sinking sometimes so low that, in passing through its wide gaps, one is not aware that he is crossing a mountain range, the fact being concealed by the parallel spurs rising, in many instances, to a higher altitude than their parent chain. In spite of its depressions, and, when compared with the Smoky mountains, the low average elevation of its crest, it is the water-shed of the system. Not a stream severs it. On the east every stream sweeps toward the Atlantic. On the west the waters of its slopes are joined at its base line by those flowing down the east or south side of the Smoky mountains; and, mingling with the latter, pour through the deep passes of the loftier range into the valley of the western confluent of the Tennessee.

From the Blue Ridge is thrown off many short ranges, trending east and south across the submontane plateau. In character of outline they are similar to the parent chain. This plateau, known as the Piedmont, walled on the west by the Blue Ridge, diversified by mountains and hills, and seamed by the Yadkin, Catawba, and Broad rivers and their affluents, incloses in its limits many beautiful and fertile valleys. The outer slope of the Blue Ridge, overlooking Piedmont, is abrupt in its descent and presents wild and picturesque features; cascades marking the channels of the streams. Further south, where the range bends around the South Carolina and Georgia lines, bold escarpments of rock and ragged pine-set declivities, seamed by cataracts, and beaten on by a hot and sultry sun, break sheer off into the southern plains. The inner slope of the Blue Ridge throughout its entire length from Virginia to Georgia, as contrasted with the outer slope, is more gentle in its descent; is heavily wooded and diversified with clearings. The Smoky mountains present similar characteristics—richly wooded descents toward the central valley; rocky and sterile fronts toward Tennessee.

The reader must not imagine that the central valley or plateau, of which we have been speaking, is a level or bowl-shaped expanse between the ranges described. On the contrary, its surface is so broken by transverse mountain ranges and their foot-hills that, by means of vision alone, the observer from no one point can obtain a correct idea of the structural character of the region. From the loftiest peaks, he can see the encircling ranges and the level lands beyond their outer slopes; but below him is rolled an inner sea of mountains, which, when looked upon in some directions, seems of limitless expanse. The transverse chains, comprising the Yellow mountain, the Black, Newfound, Balsam, Cowee, Nantihala, and Valley River mountains, hold a majority of the highest summits of the Alleghanies.

The Black mountain chain, the highest of these ranges, is only 20 miles long, and has 18 peaks in altitude over 6,000 feet; the highest of which, Mitchell’s Peak, 6,711 feet above sea-level, is the sovereign mountain of the Alleghanies. The Balsam range, the longest of the transverse chains, is 45 miles in length and crested by 15 wooded pinnacles over 6,000 feet high. The parallel cross-chains have, nestling between their slopes, central valleys, varying in length and width, and opening back into little vales between the foot-hills and branching spurs. Through the lowest dip of each great valley, sweeps toward the Smokies a wide, crystal river fed by its tributaries from the mountain heights.

The great valleys, or the distinct regions drained each by one of the rivers which cut asunder the Smokies, are six in number. The extreme northern part of the state is drained by the New river and the Watauga. Between the Yellow mountain and the Blacks lies that deeply embosomed valley region watered by the head-springs of the Nolechucky. Next comes the widest and longest plain of the mountain section—the valley of the French Broad. The Big Pigeon winds through the high plateau between the Newfound and Balsam mountains. The region of the Little Tennessee comprises not only the wide lands along its own banks, but those along its great forks—the Tuckasege, Nantihala, and Ocona Lufta. West of the Valley River mountains the country is drained by the Hiawassee.

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