Nantahala on the route

Following Wagon Trails - 1890s: Nantahala

Swain County
Altitude: 2,025 feet

Two pages in the 1896 book North Carolina and Its Resources, issued by the state’s Department of Agriculture, featured a collage of pictures from the Nantahala region. The page above on the left was entitled “Falls on Queens Creek Rapids – Nantahala River.” According to the North Carolina Gazetteer, the falls were lost after construction of a hydroelectric project. The page above on the right was captioned “The Nantahala Mountains – Southern Railway.” These pictures are representative of the book’s theme, which provides an intriguing combination of scenic descriptions and outdoor recreational opportunities along with the potential for mineral and timber resource development.

Nantahala Notes

A slight snowfall Thursday night gave the boys an opportunity to “rabbit hunt.”

Some of our farmers are preparing ground for crops.

James McHan and wife were in our community over Sunday visiting relatives.

At the prayer-meeting at Cold Spring church on Wednesday night the accidental breaking of a lamp almost resulted disastrously, but the fire was extinguished before any damage was done.

From C.E. McCoy we learn that Joe Morgan of Macon county had his dwelling burned Monday night. His loss was near $1,000.

We learn that near one thousand poplar logs on Saw Mill creek will be floated some time in the spring. Their destination will be Chattanooga Tenn.

Over ten thousand locust treenails have been shipped from Saw Mill creek, and there is timber enough left to make thousands more. This creek will beat Swain county in that line.

The Cold Spring Literary Society is still booming. The boys have lively times in their discussions.

A party of movers passed here last week.

- Swain County Herald (Bryson City), February 28, 1889

The 1902 report on the Forests, Rivers and Mountains of the Southern Appalachian Region, issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, captioned this picture “Forests on the Slopes of Nantahala Gorge, Western North Carolina. The soil on these slopes is thin and would be quickly removed by the rains if the forests were destroyed.” The picture highlights the steepness of the slopes in the Nantahala Gorge. By the late autumn of 1884 the railroad being constructed from Asheville to Murphy, N.C., was completed to the mouth of Nantahala River.

In their book, The Heart of the Alleghanies, which was published in 1883, Wilbur G. Zeigler and Ben S. Grosscup included this illustration of the Nantahala region. The caption “Valley of the Noon-Day Sun” comes from a translation of the Cherokee name for Nantahala, or “middle sun.” The page number referenced in the caption (p. 98) reads,

“You are looking across a long pent-in vale. On one side the Anderson Roughs, lofty and impending, with steep ridges, one behind the other, descending to the river, reach away to where the blue sky dips in between them and the last visible perpendicular wall that frowns along the valley’s opposite border. The wilderness of the scene is heightened instead of softened by the vision of Campbell’s lowly cabin in the center of the narrow corn-fields. You see the smoke above the blackened roof; several uncombed children tumbling in the sunshine; the rail fence close by its frail porch; and, beyond it, the limpid Nantihala [sic], smooth and turbulent alternately, and filling the ears with its loud monotone.”

The close-up view from this illustration highlights the home and family, showing people working in the fields and the river setting.

“From the Nantahala,” Bryson City Times (Bryson City, N.C.), August 21, 1896 – The time of the year known as “foddering time” refers to the period in early autumn when farmers were engaged in stripping the upper part of the corn plant and its blades for use as feed for their farm animals. The resulting feed also is known as fodder.

From the Nantahala

Dear Editor: Please find space in your columns for a few items from our little town this week.”

“The weather is extremely warm for past few days.”

“We are needing rain very bad, it would not only cool the atmosphere but would be a great help to the late corn and the garden vegetables as our gardens are burning up for want of rain.”

“We notice some of our farmers are saving fodder the earliest ever known here.”

“Corn crops seem to be very good, but we hardly think they are as good as last year.”

“We noticed W.H. Crisp of Homestead N.C. on our streets last Friday on his way to Franklin N.C. to visit friends and relatives.”

“Also Capt. M.A. Gee was here on Saturday, only made a short stay. The Capt’s head seems to be full of business now. I never saw him in better heart.”

“We have loaded two cars of lumber this week for the Eastern markets and there is six or eight wagons coming in every day with lumber, there is quite a lot of lumber to come to this place during the fall season.”

“Joshua Franks brought some very fine watermelons to town last week, the finest we have seen this year. He said he had a very fine patch of melons this season.”

“We had brother John E. Shuler with us last week shaking hands and lectioneering for the office of Sheriff but it is nothing now to see a Candidate as we see them every day.”

“We haven’t seen brother John Keener for some time the last report we had of him he was lectioneering in Briartown. We think he will run a good race up there.”

- Bryson City Times (Bryson City, N.C.), August 21, 1896

To the West: Topton


To the East: Hewitt

Nantahala in the 1910s  |  Nantahala in the 1930s

Return to the Southern Railway Map for the 1890s

Sources & Readings

  • Ayres, H.B. (Horace Beemer) and W.W. Ashe. The Southern Appalachian Forests. Washington: Govt. Print. Off., 1905.
  • George, Michael. Southern Railway’s Murphy Branch. Collegedale, Tenn.: The College Press, 1996.
  • Huddleston, Dale, ed. Swain County, N.C., Centennial, 1871 – 1971: Official Souvenir Centennial History. Waynesville, N.C.: The Mountaineer, [1971].
  • Montgomery, Michael B. and Joseph S. Hall. Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2004.
  • Mooney, James. Myths of the Cherokee. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902.
  • North Carolina, Department of Agriculture. North Carolina and Its Resources. Winston: M.I. and J.C. Stewart, 1896.
  • Powell, William S. The North Carolina Gazetteer. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968.
  • Swain County Genealogical and Historical Society. The Heritage of Swain County, North Carolina, 1988. Bryson City, N.C.: Swain County Historical and Genealogical Society, 1988.
  • United States, Department of Agriculture. Message from the President of the United States Transmitting a Report of the Secretary of Agriculture in Relation to the Forests, Rivers and Mountains of the Southern Appalachian Region. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902.
  • Zeigler, Wilbur G. and Ben S. Grosscup. The Heart of the Alleghanies; Or, Western North Carolina; Comprising Its Topography, History, Resources, People, Narratives, Incidents, and Pictures of Travel, adventures in Hunting and Fishing and Legends of Its Wilderness. Raleigh, N.C.: A. Williams & Co.; Cleveland, O.: W.W. Williams, 1883.