Altitude: 1,495 feet
“The west bound train, Monday had an accident at Bushnells. While pulling out of the switch the rails spread and three flats, loaded with hogs were ditched and quite badly smashed up. Fortunately, no one was injured. The road train was sent for and everything was in running order again by one or two o’clock Tuesday.”
- Swain County Herald (Charleston, N.C.), January 17, 1889
A postcard published by T.H. Lindsey’s photographic studio of Asheville, N.C., featured the “Bridge at Bushnell, Murphy R.R.” A general heading for Lindsey’s series of postcard views appears on the left side of the image, and reads “Views of Western North Carolina.” This card was listed for sale in Lindsey’s book, Lindsey’s Guide Book to Western North Carolina, which was published in 1890, as part of the “Along the Murphy R.R.” selection of views. Upon closer examination, a building may be discerned in the center of the picture where the railroad bridge curves in its course across the river.
Bushnell N.C. Jan. 30
“Editor Herald – For my first time I will give you a few dots from the west end of the county.
I will be glad to see the day come when we can all have good churches to worship in and be comfortably situated in.
One of the men who worked on Calhoun’s store is now at work on the new Baptist church at Double Branch. He is ceiling it.
J.P. Calhoun, from Jackson Co. is stopping with me. He reports the work on A.V. Calhoun’s new storehouse completed and goods moved into it from the old stand.
I went fox hunting yesterday accompanied by three of my brothers and some others. Found a fresh track in the snow which we followed for about a mile when we jumped the fox out of a hollow tree. Then came a race over the rough ridges of old Pilot, the voices of six good dogs making rich music. The chase lasted about two hours when the fox was brought to bay under a cliff, where he made his escape. I wish he had been like Joseph Cole’s wild cat, fastened to the rails.
Yours truly, E.C. Monteith”
- Swain County Herald (Bryson City, N.C.), January 31, 1889
“Business is rather dull. The lumber business is suspended for a few days, but we expect to hear the sound of the engine whistle again the first of next week. Farmers are moving up with their work but are getting anxious about rain. Oats are suffering badly. . . .”
- Swain County Herald (Bryson City, N.C.), May 23, 1889
After he had moved to the Hazel Creek area of Swain County, N.C., in late 1904, the author and outdoorsman Horace Kephart took these pictures of Medlin. The top photograph he captioned, “Medlin, N.C. Every building shows. Block House Mt. in distance is shrouded in cloud.” The bottom photograph carries his handwritten note, “Looking up Hazel Creek from Medlin.” Kephart described Medlin in his book, Our Southern Highlanders (pp. 30 – 31),
“Medlin itself comprised two little stores built of rough planks and bearing no signs, a corn mill, and four dwellings. A mile and a half away was the log schoolhouse, which once or twice a month, served also as church. Scattered about the settlement were seven tiny tub-mills for grinding corn, some of them mere open sheds with a capacity of about a bushel a day. Most of the dwellings were built of logs. Two or three, only, were weatherboarded frame houses and attained the dignity of a story and a half.”
Medlin was located miles from the nearest rail station. In contrast to rail travel, Kephart offered a description of “wagoning,” a trek made by wagon, in Our Southern Highlanders (pp. 32 – 33). In his portrayal Kephart incorporates the word “outen,” a variant contraction meaning “out of,” in a quote.
“Wagoning, by the way, was no sinecure. Often it meant to chop a fallen tree out of the road, and then, with handspikes, `man-power the log outen the way.’ Sometimes an axle would break (far up on the mountain, of course); then a tree must be felled, and a new axle made on the spot from the green wood, with no tools but axe and jackknife.”
While a number of communities benefited from easier access to the railroad, many were more distant. One Swain County Herald article from 1889 gave news from Medlin, a community about eight miles to the west of Bushnell. Even in 1905, as reported by H.B. Ayres and W.W. Ashe in their report The Southern Appalachian Forest, “there is no good road down the lower part of the valley.” Even so, the article echoes the people’s eternal concerns over the weather, taxes, and prospects for the future.
For the Herald
“Medlin N.C. Jan. 17th. The weather is fine to day after a blustery and rainy night. The tax collector has just paid us a visit greatly to the discomfort of some of our people, as he wanted something that is very scarce in these parts. We have been visited this week by fur buyers, also parties from Michigan looking at the timber. They spoke of building a narrow gauge railroad up this creek to take the timber out, that sounds like business. There was also a gentleman from Knoxville looking after mineral [sic] came through this week. There are near here, without doubt, rich deposits of silver, copper and other ores and especially some of the finest deposits of copper that have ever been discovered in these mountains. It is expected that some parties will begin work in the near future to develop it more fully. Morrison Crisp and tax collector McLean swapped horses today. I hope they are both suited. Success to the Herald. -- L.M. Medlin”
- Swain County Herald (Bryson City), January 24, 1889
Sources & Readings