The Collection:
Mountain Heritage Center

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Institution Overview

The Mountain Heritage Center is a regional museum located on the campus of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C. Established in 1975, the Mountain Heritage Center interprets current studies of Appalachia for the public through its collections, programs, and publications. The Center’s programs highlight traditional music and craft along with the culture and natural history of Appalachia. Major research exhibits have examined the migration of the Scotch-Irish, handicraft traditions, and mountain trout.  Through exhibition, publication, educational programs and demonstrations, participants will discover the rich traditions of the mountains, see the Appalachian area from new perspectives, and come away with an enhanced understanding of its land and people. For more information about exhibitions, programs, hours of operation, and location, please visit the Mountain Heritage Center’s website.

Collection Overview

The Mountain Heritage Center has acquired a regional collection of over 10,000 artifacts related to the cultural and natural history of the western North Carolina region. The collections are the core resource for the museum’s exhibits, both in-house and on-line, and serve to teach about the traditions and values that have shaped the lives of the southern Appalachian people over time.

The Mountain Heritage Center’s collection of regional artifacts is particularly rich in agricultural implements, Native American Cherokee materials, logging and woodworking tools, textiles, and transportation equipment. Selected materials incorporated in the Craft Revival project emphasize the Mountain Heritage Center’s textile collection, particularly hand weaving and quilting. Also included are woodworking items, especially handmade furniture, carpentry tools, and carvings, along with blacksmithing tools and items related to Daniel Boone VI.

Collection Descriptions

Albert J. McCracken Collection
In 1975, the Mountain Heritage Center acquired an extensive collection of artifacts from the estate of Haywood County farmer Albert J. McCracken. Albert McCracken (d. 1966) was raised in the Crabtree section of Haywood County, N.C. In 1923, he married Myrtle Medford, a schoolteacher, and they moved to the Lake Junaluska area. Albert was known as a progressive farmer, introducing registered bulls and other new farming methods such as terracing to the area.  McCracken’s interest in collecting grew from his curiosity in the stone artifacts he uncovered when he plowed his fields. He eventually amassed a collection of over 3,000 Native American pieces including projectile points, stone tools, pottery, pipe bowls, and chunky stones. Additional cultural objects were traded or brought to him by others.  The McCracken collection consists of 3,756 objects. Over 500 items relate to people who settled in Appalachia from the 18th century to the early 20th century. Materials selected for this project include traditional craft items that were made or used in western North Carolina during the 1800s or early 1900s. 

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Alice Dills Weaver Turner Collection
The collection consists of 12 kitchenware and textile artifacts used in the household of the Dills-Enloe-Weaver family of Swain and Jackson Counties, N.C. William Allen Dills (1842-1900) is recognized as the founder of Dillsboro, N.C. In 1876, he married Alice Minerva Enloe who grew up in Swain County along the Oconaluftee River in Cherokee, N.C. The couple raised three daughters: Minnie Dills Gray, a local writer; Gertrude Dills McKee, the first North Carolina woman state senator; and Beulah Dills Weaver, a businesswoman and entrepreneur. Collection donor Alice Dills Weaver Turner was the daughter of Beulah Dills Weaver and reported that her grandmother and mother used the artifacts in this collection.  Items selected for this project include a handwoven blanket of cotton and wool. 

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Axley-Meroney Collection
The Axley-Meroney Collection contains over 150 items, dating from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, which were donated to the Mountain Heritage Center by family members.  Most of these items are domestic household objects such as china, table linens, and furniture that one would typically find in the home of a wealthy family living in a small mountain community.  Materials selected for this project include traditional craft items that were made or used in western North Carolina during the 19th or early 20th centuries.

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Clyde Padget Johnson Collection
The Johnson Collection consists of a single item, a woven coverlet in a variation of the Tennessee Blazing Star pattern. Clyde Padget Johnson inherited the coverlet from her mother, Martha Wells Padget. Mrs. Padget worked in the Tanner industrial cotton mills of Rutherford County, N.C.  The precise weave structure of the coverlet indicates that it was likely produced by an industrial-production company such as Goodwin Weavers of Blowing Rock, N.C. In the early 20th century, history-sensitive companies like Goodwin Weavers often replicated natural dye colors to increase market appeal.

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Daniel Boone VI Collection
A scroll form and scroll are part of the Daniel Boone VI collection given to the Mountain Heritage Center by Daniel Boone VII for the 1990s “Irons in the Fire” exhibit. The legendary Daniel Boone was a blacksmith as well as celebrated frontiersman. Boone’s descendants were among the earliest smiths in Yancey and Mitchell counties in western North Carolina. Daniel Boone VI, a link in the family tradition, set up shop in Spruce Pine about 1918, where he gradually made the transition from traditional to “artistic” iron working. Daniel Boone VI made the scroll form to help him produce uniform scrolls for ornamental iron pieces.

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Edith and Edna Monteith Collection
This regional collection is comprised of 133 household artifacts from the home of sisters Edith and Edna Monteith. Their father and uncle owned a mercantile store in Sylva, N.C. in the early to mid-20th century. When the store closed, much of the remaining stock was moved to the Monteith family home in Dillsboro, N.C. Edna (1908-1988) worked as a postal clerk in Dillsboro for 45 years. Edith (1915-2001) never worked away from home. The sisters were prolific quilters.  The Center acquired the Monteith Collection through the family’s estate.  One quilt representative of the type of quilts constructed by Edna and Edith Monteith is included in this project.

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Elizabeth H. Lasley Collection
Donated in 1987, the collection was given by a Haywood County, N.C. resident and consists of one handwoven cloth sample in the “Cross and Dog Tracks” pattern.

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Elizabeth Woolworth Szold Fleharty Collection
This collection consists of two woodcarvings made by Wade Hampton Martin. The pieces were purchased in the 1950’s by the donor’s parents, while visiting Asheville, N.C. Wade Hampton Martin was a well-known carver from the Swannanoa area of Buncombe County. He was part of a family of renowned artisans that included his father, Marcus Lafayette Martin, a regionally known fiddler and instrument maker, and his mother, Callie Holloway Martin, a homemaker and good banjo player. The family's five boys, Wayne, Quentin, Edsel, Fred, and Wade, and one girl, Zenobia, included other talented musicians and woodworkers.

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Fisher-Monteith Collection 
The collection includes ten household artifacts used by the Fisher-Monteith families of rural Jackson County, N.C. from the late 1800s to the early 20th century. They are representative of the type of families who lived and worked in western North Carolina during this time period. The male members often worked as carpenters and in the logging industry. The female members worked in the home and produced a number of well-made textiles that have been passed down through the family.  One coverlet and one quilt from this collection are included in this project. 

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Frances E. Brown Collection
The Frances E. Brown Collection comprises one six-drawer cherry chest of drawers and one framed piece of a blue and white hand woven coverlet. Frances Brown’s grandparents were Robert Hamilton Brown and Anna Elizabeth Bryson Brown who owned and farmed much of the land that is now part of Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, N.C. Frances was the daughter of Frank Hamilton Brown and Harriet Susan Norton Brown. Frank inherited his father’s farm and worked for over 40 years for the college in Cullowhee. In an oral interview conducted in 1994, Mrs. Brown told the interviewer that the maker of the chest was unknown but was believed to have been a local craftsman from the Cullowhee area. The coverlet descended through the maternal Bryson or Norton family lines.

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Frances Nicholson Collection
The Frances Nicholson Collection consists of 14 corn shuck items including dolls, animals, slippers, and handbags donated by her family in 1992. As a self-taught craftsperson, Frances Elizabeth Parker Nicholson began experimenting with corn shuck crafts in the 1930s. She devised her own method of working with the raw materials. In the 1940s she began teaching her weaving methods to groups of young women throughout western North Carolina under the National Youth Administration program. In the 1980s she participated in an exhibition on cornhusk crafts at the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Folk Art Center where several of her items were featured on the exhibit brochure cover. Most of the items in this collection were included in this project. 

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Henry G. Hall Collection
The Hall Collection consists of 287 items (textiles, family military, farming, and household artifacts).  Henry Hall’s father, Joseph, reportedly spent much time creating a log cabin museum, filled with items he collected from western North Carolina. Henry G. Hall inherited the artifacts from his parents, Joseph Lane Hall (1895-1972) and Roberta Brown Hall (1901-1980). The Hall family lived in the Newfound community near Leicester, N.C. on a plot they called Hall’s Seven Acres. The collection was acquired by the Center through Henry G. Hall’s second wife, Barbara W. Hall. Materials selected for this project include traditional craft items that were made or used in western North Carolina during the 1800s or early 1900s. 

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Hubert Hayes Collection
The Hubert Hayes Collection consists of over 200 artifacts that fall into two categories: undocumented household and craft items from western North Carolina families; and film equipment and memorabilia used by Hubert Hayes in the late 1940s and 1950s during auditions for the Mountain Youth Jamboree he founded in Asheville, N.C.  Hubert Hayes (d. 1964) was born near Biltmore, N.C., and created and produced the Hubert Hayes Youth Jamboree beginning in 1948. For over 25 years the Youth Jamboree helped give a performance start to talented youth musicians and dancers from western North Carolina. Materials selected for this project include numerous household and craft items which were either used by Hubert and Leona Hayes in their home or were gifts to them from other western North Carolina families.  

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Jesse Bryson Stalcup Collection
The Stalcup Collection consists of almost 100 artifacts, primarily woodworking tools and hand made furniture, used or made by Jesse Bryson Stalcup (1860-1931) a master carpenter who lived in western North Carolina. Born in Swain County, N.C., Jesse was the son of Charity Jane Starnes and Thomas Belew Stalcup. The family lived near Whittier on Conley's Creek where Jesse grew up as a skilled carpenter. In 1881, Jesse Stalcup married Alice Florence Kelly (1862–1948), daughter of Rufus Pierce and Dorothy Edmonston Kelly. The Stalcups settled in Macon County, N.C. where Jesse worked as a carpenter, millwright, and Baptist preacher. Furniture and a tool chest with tools used to construct the furniture were selected for inclusion in this project. 

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John B. Battle Collection
The John Bascombe Battle Collection consists of over 2600 regional artifacts. John Battle (1897-2000) was a Jackson County native, graduate of Western Carolina University, and veteran of World War I, who returned home to operate a general store in Whittier, N.C. from 1930 to 1960. Battle spent over fifty years assembling a collection that ranged from Native American artifacts to rare books and Appalachian pioneer implements. In 1950, he opened the Smoky Mountain Museum in Swain County, sharing his passion with the public until its closing in 1970. In 1989, John and his wife Verna Elizabeth DeBord (1904–2004), a Buncombe County native, donated their collection to the Mountain Heritage Center.  Materials selected for this project include musical instruments, textile tools, a coverlet, and pottery. 

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John Parris Collection
The John Parris Collection consists of over 120 artifacts gathered from various western North Carolina families and craftspeople. John A. Parris, Jr. (1914-1999) and wife Dorothy Luxton Parris (d. 1995) were long time supporters of the Appalachian mountain region and Western Carolina University. John began his career as a writer and correspondent for the daily newspapers in Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh and other cities. During World War II, he wrote for the United Press and Associated Press wire services in Africa and London. Parris wrote a column entitled “Roaming the Mountains” for 42 years for the Asheville Citizen-Times newspaper and authored several books. The Center acquired the John Parris Collection through the family’s estate in 2000.  Several regional craft items including corn shuck dolls and a musical instrument, are included in this project.

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Mary Lee Buchanan Barron Collection
Consisting of two quilts, the Mary Lee Buchanan Barron Collection is representative of family textiles preserved from one generation to another. Made in the mid- to late 1800s by the donor’s grandmother and great grandmother, each quilter creatively used materials at hand. In one example, the maker used dark suiting samples embellished with embroidered family names. The other is a crazy quilt pattern rendered in bright, shiny fabrics. Both pieces are from the Bakersville, N.C. area and are included in this project.

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Mary O. Reinker Collection
The Reinker Collection consists of one tulip pattern quilt purchased by the donor from an auction house in Asheville, N.C. in the 1980s. This quilt exhibits strong North Carolina characteristics of mid-19th century appliqué quilts including the pattern block, the colors, and the triple strip border set with small pieced blocks at intersections. Although the maker is unknown, the quilt was likely made between 1850 and 1900 and is included in this project. 

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Mountain Heritage Center Collection
The Mountain Heritage Center Collection consists of items acquired from a variety of sources, but that are not directly associated with any named collections.  The collection contains over 750 items dating from the 1850s to the present and includes a wide variety of materials such as household goods, woodworking tools, and published exhibit catalogues.  Most of these items pertain to western North Carolina history and culture.  Materials selected for inclusion in this project include textiles, pottery, and publications. 

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Pauline Hood Collection
The Pauline Hood Collection contains regional pottery and cookware. The collection includes art pottery from Jugtown (in memory of Jacques and Julianna Busbee founders of Jugtown), Pisgah Forest Pottery (in memory of Walter B. Stephen), and Ben Owen pottery. The remaining collection pieces are cookware used by the Hood family. Hood grew up in Young Harris, Georgia, and was a 1930 Western Carolina University graduate. The collection was acquired through Hood and her estate in 1986 and 2000.  Several pieces of pottery are included in this project. 

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Ray Gibbs Collection
The Ray Gibbs Collection contains over 50 household artifacts. Gibbs (b. 1904) was a distinguished alumnus of WCU (Class of 1927, Cullowhee State Normal School) who chose a career in education. He served as a teacher, coach, principal, and assistant superintendent throughout North Carolina before retiring as Superintendent of Forsyth County Schools in the late 1950s. He and his wife, Frances Louise Patrick Gibbs, retired to Whittier, N.C. where Ray was raised. The Gibbs Collection came to the Mountain Heritage Center through the Western Carolina University Development Foundation in 1996 following the death of Thomas Ray Gibbs.  Several handmade chairs were selected for this project.

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Rosser H. Taylor Collection
The Rosser H. Taylor Collection is a group of almost fifty artifacts comprising textiles, cookware, household and agricultural implements and collected from the 1940s to the 1960s from local communities throughout Jackson County.  Rosser Taylor was a native of Nash County, N.C. and an historian earning degrees from Wake Forest University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Michigan. At Michigan, he studied with southern historian U.B. Phillips. Phillip's inspired Taylor to write his most important book, Slavery in North Carolina, published in 1926.  Taylor began work in 1925 at Furman University, SC, as assistant professor of history. He joined the history faculty at WCU in 1947 and retired in 1968. When he came to Cullowhee, he saw the wonderful opportunities that lay in the mountain area and he began to collect artifacts, planning for a future museum. A mid-19th cutaway jacket is featured on the Craft Revival database. 

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Sue Hedden Benson Collection
The Benson Collection consists of 36 western North Carolina textile and household items dating from the mid-1800s through the 1960s. Sue Hedden Benson (b. 1924) was the daughter of Jeff Hedden (1899-1997) and Eula Mae Crawford Hedden (1896-1989) who moved to Jackson County from Clay County, N.C. in 1925.  Jeff Hedden, a barber, operated the Hedden Barber Shop for 41 years until he sold it in 1983 when he was 83 years old. Jeff and Eula Mae Hedden raised two children, Sue and Joe, in a home that still sits above Main Street, Sylva, N.C. Items selected for this project include a handwoven blanket.

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Webster Historical Society Collection
The Webster Historical Society Collection consists of one handmade fiddle, fiddle case, bow, and instrument parts donated by Elda Coward of Norton, N.C. to the Historical Society located in Webster, N.C. The Society has been an active participant in the Webster community since the 1970s. In the early 21st century, when the Society ceased to collect materials, artifacts were given to the Mountain Heritage Center. Elda Hibbard Coward (1903-1996) lived in the Norton Community of Jackson County. The handwritten note in the fiddle indicates that a relative, Rogers Zachary Coward, made the fiddle in 1938.  

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William Alfred and Tempe Jane Burrell Russell Collection
The William Alfred and Tempe Jane Burrell Russell Collection contains over 60 artifacts, primarily 20th century household items, from the Zirconia community in Henderson County. William Alfred Russell (1884-1956) married Tempe Jane Burrell (1889-1980) in 1909. They raised one daughter, Virgie Jane Russell Jones (b. 1920), whose daughter donated the collection to the Mountain Heritage Center. The donor wrote down the stories told by her grandparents about most of the artifacts so many come with documentation. For example, an iron wash pot was presented as a wedding gift to Jane Surrett Russell (b. 1844), great grandmother of the donor, who did laundry for the Charleston ‘tourists’ who came to Flat Rock, N.C. each summer. The wash pot was used to wash each child’s clothes from William Alfred Russell to the present donor.   Included in this project is a pottery piece. 

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Winifred Rigdon McNeil Collection
The McNeil Collection consists of one family quilt donated by relatives of the quilt maker. Martha Sitton (1843-circa 1907), a native of Buncombe County, N.C., married John Horson Rigdon (d. circa 1928) in 1867. They made their home in the Speedwell area of Jackson County, N.C. The one-patch patterned quilt is pieced and quilted by hand. Made sometime prior to 1900, it shows a variety of fabric scraps utilized in a lively pattern.

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