Forging West; The Western Turnpike and the Western North Carolina Railroad Company

The daily citizen. (Asheville, N.C.), 20 Feb. 1890. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

As droves of Tar Heels take to the road this summer in search of cool North Carolina mountain air, we are thinking about what this trip would have been like 150 years ago. As it turns out, it would have likely meant traveling on a plank road. Think of a plank road as a wooden highway for wagons and coaches. In the mid 1800s, North Carolina had a proliferation of plank road building.

One of these roads was the Western Turnpike, which North Carolina state legislators first discussed during their 1848 and 1849 session. In its original plan, it was to be a toll collecting plank road beginning in Salisbury moving westward to the Georgia state line. Two survey maps, drawn by state engineer S. Moylan Fox in 1850, depict the route from Salisbury to the Blue Ridge and the Blue Ridge to the Georgia state line. The state comptroller reports payment to Fox for his survey work in the December 12, 1849 issue of The North-Carolina Standard.

Construction of the Western Turnpike began in Asheville in 1850. In the same year, it connected with the Buncombe Turnpike. The Buncombe Turnpike, a dirt road completed in 1828, moved northwest from South Carolina, through Asheville, and into Tennessee. It had been key in opening up the region commercially, facilitating the arrival of tourists and allowing for agricultural trade.

Political squabbles plagued the Western Turnpike plan. Finally, during the 1854 and 1855 term, legislators abolished plans for the Salisbury to Asheville segment of the route. The Western Turnpike’s starting point would be Asheville, where it moved westward through the remote mountain towns of Waynesville, Bryson, Franklin, Jarretts, Welch’s Town and Murphy.

The Western North Carolina Railroad Company took the next big step in conquering the resource rich yet difficult terrain of the western most part of the state. The railroad completed service to Murphy in 1891 with the Murphy Branch line. The February 20, 1890 issue of Asheville’s The Daily Citizen records the railroad’s progress in blasting and grading its way west.

Western Turnpike Map
No 2 Map of the surveys for the western turnpike from the Blue Ridge to the Georgia line. From the North Carolina Collection.


Classroom to cloakroom, Chapel Hill to Capitol Hill

How many professors have represented North Carolina in the House or Senate?

This somewhat imprecise list compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education says 11, each of whom taught at a different college — including of course UNC Chapel Hill.


Get your grill on with recipes from the collection.

Grilling Picture - Favorite Recipes of the Carolinas

from Favorite recipes of the Carolinas : meats edition, including poultry and seafood.

Grilled Garlic Steak - Supper's at Six

Grilled Garlic Steak from Supper’s at six and we’re not waiting!

Grilled Corn on the Cobb-Carolina Cuisine

Grilled Corn on the Cob from Carolina cuisine : a collections of recipes.

Genghis Khan - Southern Cookbook

Genghis Khan from Marion Brown’s southern cook book.

Grilled Zucchini with Mint, Chile Oil, and Toasted Pine Nuts - Cooking in the Moment

Grilled Zucchini with Mint, Chile Oil, and Toasted Pine Nuts from Cooking in the moment : a year of seasonal recipes.

Grilled Tuna Steak with Vidalia Onion and Pineapple Chutney - Mountain Elegance

Grilled Tuna Stead with Vidalia Onion and Pineapple Chutney from Mountain elegance : a collection of favorite recipes.

Fire-Roasted Onions - Mario Tailgates NASCAR Style

Fire-roasted Onions from Mario tailgates NASCAR style.

Easy Grilled Ham - Granny's Drawers

Easy Grilled Ham from Granny’s drawers : four generations of family favorites.


Remembering When the Dean Dome Used to Rock

stones90Does anybody remember when it was Hammer Time at the Dean Dome? Looking through some of the digitized copies of the Yackety Yack available on DigitalNC, one of the things that struck me was that, beginning shortly after its opening in 1986, the Dean E. Smith Center was one of the premier concert venues in central North Carolina.

bocephus89Looking through the concerts listed in the yearbooks from 1987 through 1991 you find many of the top names in rock, rap, and country visited Chapel Hill, some more than once. The first concert held in the Dean Dome was Kenny Rogers on April 12, 1986. For the next several years, the venue welcomed some of the biggest names in music, including the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac (twice), and Billy Joel. The acts coming through weren’t just limited to “classic” rock music: Public Enemy, Hank Williams, Jr., New Kids on the Block, and Bill Cosby all performed on campus. And nobody who was here at the time is not likely to forget the two nights that the Grateful Dead came to town in the spring of 1993.

publicenemy90By the mid 1990s, the number of concerts at the Dean Dome began to dwindle. These days, we rarely see big musical performances there. With so many newer and more convenient venues now spread throughout the Triangle, it’s unlikely that we’ll see a return to the golden era of big concerts on campus. We’re left only with photos and memories of a few fun years when the Dean E. Smith Center was not just home to some of the best college basketball in the country, it also rocked.

Concerts at the Dean E. Smith Center by School Year, 1986-1991 (Source: Yackety Yacks):

Kenny Rogers (first concert, April 12, 1986)
Lionel Richie and Sheila E.
Jimmy Buffett
Billy Joel

Fleetwood Mac
David Bowie
James Taylor
Pink Floyd
Level 42
Tina Turner
Whitney Houston
Jimmy Buffett
Bruce Springsteen

INXS and Ziggy Marley
Amy Grant
The Temptations
Robert Plant
Bon Jovi
Hank Williams, Jr.

Mötley Crüe
New Kids on the Block
Elton John
Bill Cosby
Public Enemy
The Doobie Brothers
Tom Petty
Janet Jackson
The Rolling Stones
The Cure
David Bowie
Eric Clapton

Neil Young
Billy Idol
ZZ Top
Paul Simon
James Taylor
Fleetwood Mac
They Might Be Giants
Faith No More
Jane’s Addiction
MC Hammer
En Vogue
Randy Travis

Artifact of the month: Lock of Robert E. Lee’s hair

robert e. lee's hair
“Gen. Lee’s Hair” has been carefully written in pencil on the paper that was wrapped around the lock.

When Ellen Douglas Brownlow asked the former Civil War general in 1870 for a lock of his hair as a keepsake, he would not have considered it a strange request. In fact, it was common in the Victorian era for friends to exchange a cutting of human hair. Civil War soldiers often left some of their long tresses with loved ones before departing for service. Hair was preferred over autographs, and prominent people were known to give clips of hair to admirers.

According to Brownlow’s account in 1903, Lee good-naturedly made the cut himself. The lock was then divided among several ladies, which explains why this one is more a collection of strands. It eventually ended up in the Southern Historical Collection’s Boyd Family Papers before its transfer to the North Carolina Collection Gallery earlier this month.

While many locks from historical figures are safely preserved in manuscript collections, others are part of a thriving souvenir market in celebrity hair. Prices for a few strands can reach five figures, as shown in 2011 when a fan paid over $40,000 for a lock of Justin Bieber’s hair. According to a New York Times article, a locket with a sample of Lee’s hair sold in 2012 for $12,500 at auction.

$10 reward for Andrew Johnson, runaway apprentice

On this day in 1824: In an ad in the Star of Raleigh, tailor James J. Selby offers a $10 reward for the return of two apprentices:

“RAN AWAY from the Subscriber, on the night of the 15th instant, two apprentice boys, legally bound, named WILLIAM and ANDREW JOHNSON. The former is of a dark complexion, black hair, eyes, and habits. They are much of a height, about 5 feet 4 or 5 inches. The latter is very fleshy, freckled face, light hair, and fair complexion. . . . They were well clad — blue cloth coats, light colored homespun coats, and new hats, the maker’s name in the crown of the hats, is Theodore Clark. I will pay the above reward to any person who will deliver said apprentices to me in Raleigh, or I will give the above Reward for Andrew Johnson alone.

“All persons are cautioned against harboring or employing said apprentices, on pain of being prosecuted.”

In 1865, Andrew Johnson will succeed Abraham Lincoln as president of the United States.


How did Sir Walter write like an early T.S. Eliot?

“….One of the ‘papers,’ as they called them in the big Cambridge exam, was on the period from 1569 to 1603. In the course of immersing myself in that brief period, I read the poetry of Sir Walter Ralegh, which amazed me — really amazed me. I couldn’t understand how someone in the 1590s had written poetry that sounded to me uncannily like T.S. Eliot.

“When I came home and entered graduate school at Yale, I chose to do my dissertation on Ralegh. I wanted to discover what it was in this man’s life that made him produce such strange poetry. And it turned out that Ralegh had an astonishing life. He was a courtier and a monopolist and an explorer and an adventurer and a scoundrel and a troublemaker. He wound up spending years in the Tower of London and eventually ended up getting his head chopped off.

“Once I began to understand something about Ralegh’s career, the question with which I had begun turned itself inside out. I wanted to know how someone who had led such a life had written poetry at all. It didn’t make sense. What was someone who was scrambling at court to get the monopoly on playing cards or exploring Guiana doing writing poetry?”

— From ” ‘So that represented my own little rebellion’: The literary adventures of Stephen Greenblatt” by Corydon Ivy at Harvard Gazette (June 3)

Greenblatt’s fascination with Ralegh/Raleigh/etc. produced “Sir Walter Ralegh; the Renaissance man and his roles” (1973), recently excerpted by John Blythe.


Summer recipes from the collection.

Though it’s felt like the middle of summer for the last two weeks, summer doesn’t officially start until this Saturday, June 21.  Here are a few recipes to get you in a summer time mood.

Summer Squash - Cook Book

Summer Squash from Cook book.

Summer Spritz-Cooking with Berries

Summer Spritz from Cooking with berries.

Summer Garden Custard Pie - Mountain Country Cooking

Summer Garden Custard Pie from Mountain country cooking : a gathering of the best recipes from the Smokies to the Blue Ridge.

Summer Pie - Welkom

Summer Pie from Welkom : Terra Ceia cookbook III, a collection of recipes.

Summer Herbed Tomatoes-Good Eatin' from Duke Memorial

Summer Herbed Tomatoes from Good eatin’ from Duke Memorial United Methodist Church, Durham, North Carolina.

Summer Fruit Salad - Tarheels Cooking for Ronald's Kids

Summer Fruit Salad from Tarheels cooking for Ronald’s kids.

Summer Lime and Blueberry Fruit Tart - Mountain Elegance

Summer Lime and Blueberry Fruit Tart from Mountain elegance : a collection of favorite recipes.

Ouch! Suppressing the vote, Anson County, 1773

“In Regulator-controlled Anson County, North Carolina, during the balloting in 1773, ‘sundry evil-disposed persons’ stationed themselves several feet in front of the courthouse and stopped ‘the freeholders on their way to the Table,’ asking ‘who they intended to vote for.’

“Those who opposed the Regulator candidates were ‘obstructed and hindered…some them being violently pushed back, others of them pulled back by the hair of their heads; and others so rudely and violently treated that great numbers… were detered from voting.'”

— From “Voting in Provincial America: A Study of Elections in the Thirteen Colonies, 1689-1776” by Robert J. Dinkin (1977)


Check out what’s new in the North Carolina Collection.

Several new titles just added to “New in the North Carolina Collection.” To see the full list simply click on the link in the entry or click on the “New in the North Carolina Collection” tab at the top of the page. As always, full citations for all the new titles can be found in the University Library Catalog and they are all available for use in the Wilson Special Collections Library.