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McGaha Chapel

The historic McGaha Chapel was finished in 1872 during the difficult Reconstruction period following the Civil War in the context of multiple families that had been split in loyalty, fighting on different sides. The earliest membership roll shows not only Methodist but also other church members, underlining the ecumenical nature of the community.

In southern Transylvania County, along the Greenville Turnpike, James Crafford McGaha, along with other men in the area, constructed a small sturdy structure originally known as the Dividing Ridge Church, later as The Little River Methodist Episcopal Church and finally commonly known as the McGaha Chapel.

Drovers Road Way Station

McGaha was known for his generosity and operated a free way station for drovers and their animals between upper Transylvania, Jackson and Haywood counties and Greenville, SC. The church was conveyed to the trustees of the church by A. J. and Margaret Loftis in 1883. The deed read “to be used, kept and maintained as a place of divine worship for the use of the ministers and membership of the Methodist Episcopal Church.”

The McGaha Chapel served the needs of the community for over 50 years, but as manufacturing plants opened and the arrival of the automobile drew the people into town, the little church on the knoll was abandoned. The Western North Carolina Methodist Conference turned over responsibility for the Chapel to the First United Methodist Church of Brevard in 1972.

Restoration

Interest in the Chapel increased over the years as various services, meetings and reunion events were held. Restoration work was done by the Brevard First United Methodist Church, Cedar Mountain residents and other local residents. The Brevard First United Methodist Church deeded the McGaha Chapel to the Transylvania County Historical Society in 2007. Restoration efforts continued by the Society and Cedar Mountain residents.

The pristine chapel remains essentially as it was in 1872. It has some of the original hand-pressed glass windows, weatherboard siding, front-gable roof and boxed eaves; the Chapel rests on stacks of field stones. The hand-made pews made of single boards demonstrate the very large trees sawn by the local builders. The simple pulpit and mourner’s bench, and probably the pews, were crafted by A.J. Loftis.

It was an active congregation until about 1930 when available transportation allowed commuting to Brevard. Some modifications such as a chimney have been removed, and the building has been restored to its original state (adding only a few safety items and some replacement wood). Transylvania County designated the McGaha Chapel as a Local Historic Landmark in 2013.

For 140 years the McGaha Chapel has served as a symbol of bridging painful differences and healing through gathering.

Hours of Operation

The Chapel is open for visitors by special appointment. Call the Society’s office at 828-884-5137 and leave a message for appointments.

Admission Fees

Donations Accepted

Location

Halley Cove Road
Cedar Mountain, NC
(Across from Sherwood Forest Golf Course)

Allison-Deaver House

The Allison-Deaver House is the oldest standing frame house in Western North Carolina. Slated for demolition in 1987, a group of citizens quickly formed the Transylvania County Historical Society and bought the house, barn, and the nearly four acres of land. Over the last 25 years, the Society has restored and maintained the house as a tribute to the early settlers, as an example of remarkable mountain-crafted architecture, and as a gift to present and future citizens.

In 1815, when most mountain dwellings were log cabins, Benjamin Allison built a two-story three-over-three room frame house based on the design of row houses in England and America’s east coast. Allison, who had eleven children and most likely needed more space for his family, sold the house to William Deaver in 1830. By 1840, the house was more than doubled in size and by 1860 the Charleston-inspired double porches had been added.

William Deaver’s home, seven slaves, and 5,117 acres in scattered locations reflected the prosperity achievable in the mountain economy. At the age of 71, Deaver was killed on his own property during the Civil War by an outlaw gang. Various generations of the Deaver family lived in the house until 1945. Carl and Mae Smith bought the property in the 1950’s and Mae lived in the house until 1985.

Today the Allison-Deaver property is a part of the North Carolina Civil War Trails Program and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Allison-Deaver House is owned by The Transylvania County Historical Society.

Hours of Operation

The house is open for visitors May 7 through October 16, Saturdays 1-4, Sundays 1-4 and by special appointment.

Admission Fees

Donations Accepted

Location

2753 Asheville Highway
Pisgah Forest, NC 28768
(Highway 280 near the entrance to Pisgah National Forest)

Mars Hill

A Town Born From Education

Before 1856, when no more than 10 families lived on what was then known as Pleasant Hill, education was important to the parents who founded an academy to educate their children.

The French Broad Baptist Institute, as it was known, eventually evolved into Mars Hill College. When the village of Mars Hill was incorporated in 1893, the corporate limits were set at 900 yards in all directions from the northwest corner of the first college building.  The name Mars Hill is said to have been inspired by a Biblical passage, Acts 17:22, which says, “Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill and said, ‘Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.’”

As the college grew, so did the town. A general store was built, a doctor’s office established, and boarding houses opened for college students. The year 1913 was a boom year for the growing community. Several new buildings were erected, including two stores, a bank building, general store, and a drug store. Many of the homes and the businesses built during this time can be seen in Mars Hill today.

Mars Hill University

Mars Hill University served the academic needs of a growing community and became one of the premiere two-year private colleges in the nation. In 1962, it reached four-year status, and in 2013, the institution changed its name to Mars Hill University to reflect the institution’s expansion, both in terms of enrollment and variety of offerings. The school identifies itself closely with the history and culture of this area and the wide Southern Appalachian area.

Music at Mars Hill

The college and the town itself are inextricably linked to the traditional music of Appalachia. Musician, folklorist, and festival organizer Bascom Lamar Lunsford, a Mars Hill native, dedicated his life to collecting and promoting the music of the Southern Appalachians. Through his work he became known as “Minstrel of the Appalachians.”

In 1927 Lunsford organized the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville, which has been in existence ever since. He organized many other festivals, performed extensively, and composed songs, including the famous “Mountain Dew.”

Museums

The Rural Heritage Museum is on the campus of Mars Hill University. Its exhibits and programming focus on educating students and visitors to the lifeways of the Southern Appalachians. Open year-round, 11 am to 5 pm, except Mondays, and Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s days.

The Liston Ramsey Center for Regional Studies is in the Renfro Library on the campus. The extensive collection of photographs, manuscripts, sound recordings, and artifacts document aspects of mountain life and culture, including an exhibit of Cherokee artifacts, some of which date back to 10,000 BC. Bascom Lamar Lunsford’s instruments are on display along with an extensive scrapbook of his writings and manuscripts to rival the one in the Library of Congress.

Theaters

Southern Appalachian Repertory Theater (SART)—Presents the mainstage summer season of productions each year in the historic Owen Theatre on the campus of Mars Hill University.

Whether presenting Broadway musicals or world-premiere original works, SART offers the highest quality professional productions, with one play each season which has a special emphasis on the rich culture and heritage of the people of Appalachia.

Mars Hill University Drama Department—Provides theatre entertainment for the public during the school year by offering four productions.

Festivals and Events

Blackberry Festival—Held annually in August, celebrating some of the finest blackberries grown anywhere.
Bascom Lamar Lunsford Festival—Held the first Saturday in October, in conjunction with the Heritage Festival. Both festivals are on the campus of Mars Hill University, and both celebrate the traditional music, crafts, and cuisine of the region.

Outdoor Recreation

Nestled among beautiful scenic mountains, Mars Hill offers an ideal starting place for some great outdoor adventures: Hiking on the Appalachian Trail, Fishing, Disc Golf, Horseback Riding, Bike Riding, Gem Mining, Skiing/Snowboarding.

Mars Hill can be reached from both North Carolina and Tennessee via US 25 and Interstate 26.

Bennett Classics Antique Auto Museum

Bennett Classics Antique Auto Museum houses around 70 vehicles manufactured from 1913 to 2013. The museum was started in 2007 by brothers Buddy & Joe Bennett, whose uncle owned a Ford dealership in Burnsville, NC, when they were growing up, instilling in them a lifelong love of cars.

They moved to Rutherford County in the late 1960s, where they both started successful businesses, and on the side started collecting cars.  Over the years, their collection that was in storage grew, but it wasn’t until their retirement, when they started sorting through the collection, that they realized they had a whole building full of unrestored, low mileage automobiles. It was then the idea of the museum was born.

The museum won the National Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Museum Award in 2014, an honor based on the museum’s involvement in community, its presentation of the antique car hobby, the preservation of the automobiles, and the educational efforts of the museum.

The collection includes many types of automobiles, from Model Ts to Mack trucks, a Shelby Mustang, the retired Forest City American Lanfranc fire truck,  and a 1963 Ford Mayberry sheriff’s car signed by Don Knotts (A.K.A Barney Fife of the Andy Griffith TV show).

Hours of Operation

Monday thru Friday 10am-5pm; Saturday 10am-3pm.

Admission

Adults $10 , Children (7-16) $5. Groups of 10 or more, call for Group Discount.

Location

Located between Asheville and Charlotte off of Hwy 74.

Bennett Classics Antique Auto Museum
241 Vance Street
Forest City, NC 28043
828-247-1767

Wheels Through Time Museum

 

Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley is a premier destination for motorcycle enthusiasts and others drawn to the romance of the open highway and freedom of the bike.  This non-profit organization has shared its collection of over 350 historically important motorcycles and automobiles with visitors to the region.

Museum staff are knowledgeable not only about the machines beneath their roof, but also about the history of transportation and the role it played in the development of the country and in Western North Carolina.

Since the early years of the 20th century, the mountains of Western North Carolina have become a popular tourist destination due to easier access provided by motorized vehicles.  Increasing tourism to this formerly remote region was the rationale for building the Blue Ridge Parkway, “America’s Favorite Drive.”

Today, millions of visitors travel the highways and byways of the western counties of North Carolina by car, RV, and motorcycle. 

Hours of Operation

9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday through Monday, from March 1 through November 30.

Admission

Adults $12
Seniors 65 and older: $10
Children: $6

Location

62 Vintage Lane
Maggie Valley, NC 28751

Fontana Dam and Visitor Center

The tallest dam east of the Rockies at 480 feet, Fontana Dam was was built by the Tennessee Valley Authority in response to an urgent need for electric power during World War II; construction began in 1942 and was finished in just 36 months.

Surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Nantahala National Forest, and deep river gorges, Fontana ranks among the most beautiful dams in the world. In addition to providing hydroelectric power and flood control for the region, the lake created behind the dam on the Little Tennessee River is a popular site for many kinds of outdoor recreation.

Boating and Fishing

Fontana Reservoir provides 238 miles of shoreline and 10,230 acres of water surface for recreational activities. Several marinas service the lake, including Fontana Marina, the nearest to the dam itself, which offers watercraft and equipment rentals including pontoon boats, canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards. Lake excursions are available, with knowledgable guides relating the history of the region and the dam. Views from the water reveal the pristine nature of the surrounding lands.

Largemouth bass, whitefish, catfish, pike, and bluegills abound in the reservoir, and because of its deep water, fishermen often find such northern species as walleye, muskie, and smallmouth bass.

Hiking

The Appalachian Trail crosses Fontana Dam, which stretches 2,365 feet across the Little Tennessee River. The hot showers available at the trail shelter, maintained by the TVA, have led hikers to dub it the Fontana Hilton.

Visitor Center

The Fontana Dam Visitor Center is located off N.C. Highway 28 near the Tennessee/North Carolina state line. It is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily from May through October except major holidays. Newly refurbished and staffed by TVA retirees, the visitor center has updated maps, videos, and displays about TVA and the construction of the dam.

Historic Fontana Village

With a history reaching back more than 100 years into the logging and mining industries that flourished in the area at the turn of the 19th century, Fontana Village today is a year-round vacation destination resort, with a lodge, cabins, campgrounds, marina, and programming that includes traditional music, car club and motorcycle gatherings,  outdoor activities and special holiday events.

 

The Orchard at Altapass

Early History

Perched on the crest of the Blue Ridge atop the Eastern Continental Divide, the Orchard at Altapass occupies a unique spot in both America’s landscape and history. The Orchard has been a vital travel route since the earliest settlers began exploring these mountains. Buffalo and elk traversed here, followed by the Cherokee and eventually European settlers.

Early settlers defied British attempts to make peace with the Indians by disallowing settlement to the west of the mountains. Their resentment of British rule culminated when they formed the Overmountain Men during the Revolutionary War, marching to King’s Mountain and handing the British a stinging defeat recognized as a turning point of the conflict.

America’s industrialization came to the area in the 1890s. The Orchard’s location on the lowest pass through the Blue Ridge in the surrounding 100 miles ensured that the nation’s railroad barons would find it.
In 1908 the Clinchfield Railroad opened, complete with an engineering marvel: the Clinchfield loops, consisting of 18 tunnels in 13 miles of track built beside and below the present-day Orchard.

The arrival of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the 1930s was yet another key chapter in the Orchard’s history dictated by geography. Today the Orchard is one of the most popular stops along the Parkway.

In 1995, Bill Carson and his family purchased the Orchard and now operates it today as a non-profit dedicated to preserving local history and lore, heritage apple varieties, and traditional music, and storytelling.

To help preserve local culture the Orchard offers free live music Wednesday through Sunday in May through September, and weekends in October.

Take part in the ever-popular Storytelling Hayride, a 45-minute journey through time, which begins on the old path of the Revolutionary War soldiers called the Overmountain Men. The hayride continues through the orchard, past old and young trees, with spectacular scenery for the entire route. Hayrides are offered every Saturday and Sunday.

In addition to hayrides, the Orchard offers guided storytelling walks and guided nature walks on beautiful trails. 

The store and music venue have been completely remodeled and there are now dedicated areas for: kids’ activities, history, butterflies, honey bees, and books. All proceeds from the store help to support the mission of the Altapass Foundation.

Location and Operating Hours

The Orchard is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 328.3, outside the town of Spruce Pine, NC. The Orchard is open 10 AM to 5 PM every day of the week except Tuesdays from May to October. The Orchard is open everyday of the week during the month of October.

Rockford

Established in 1789, the town of Rockford served as the county seat of Surry County until is was encompassed into present day Yadkin County. As an early seat of government Rockford developed as an earl seat of commercial activity in the area. Hotels, taverns, and retail stores along with craftsmen including a blacksmith and tinsmith as well as industry including a forge and tannery flourished in the town.

A notable resident of the town during the 19th century was Judge Richmond Pearson, who established a law school just across the Yadkin River (Richmond Hill Law School). Pearson served as Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1858 until his death in 1878.

After a period of decline Rockord saw success and a resurgence in the coming of the railroad in 1890 and through the early 1900’s. Rockford became the chief carrier of passengers, freight, and mail for Northwestern North Carolina Railroad and as a result resurfaced as a commercial center. During this time the village boasted three general stores and tobacco factory.

Modern Rockford still maintains much of its early character as several buildings of architectural significance still stand in town. These include, the Rockford Inn, the Rockford Methodist Church, the Mark York Tavern, the Rockford Post Office, the Dudley Glass Store – Davenport Galley, and the Rockford Masonic Lodge.

Also of interest is the Rockford General Store which dates back to 1890 and is included on the National Register of Historic Places! Creaky wooden floors, old fashioned candy jars, hoop cheese, glass bottle drinks including Nehi and Crush are just a few old timey items you will discover at the Rockford General Store.

In September the town hosts the Rockford Reunion, (this year’s event is on Sept. 8th) at the Masonic Lodge from 10 AM to 4 PM. The day’s activities will include traditional music, a BBQ lunch, sharing of family and local history, and dedication of the new Whitaker/York marker and hand rails donated by Bob and Betty Whittaker and several other Whitaker and York families. Registration fee for the day is $10.00 which includes lunch.

Each year the town hosts the annual Candlelight Christmas in Rockford event at the Rockford Methodist Church. Be sure to stop by the Dudley Glass Store and Davenport Gallery to do some Christmas shopping before the event!

Waynesville

Waynesville is the largest city west of Asheville. It is Haywood County’s oldest town and the Haywood County seat, framed by mountain vistas, vast national forest lands and clear, rushing streams.  It is also where team square dancing originated in the 1930s.

Early History

The Town of Waynesville was founded in 1809 by Colonel Robert Love, a Revolutionary War soldier. He donated land for the courthouse, jail and public square, and named the town after his commander in the war, General “Mad” Anthony Wayne.  The Town of Waynesville was incorporated in 1871.

For many years visitors have traveled to Waynesville to enjoy the cool clean air, clean water, outstanding scenery and an opportunity to escape the crowded cities.

Waynesville Today

Although it is a small town, Waynesville is filled with entertainment and culture. Downtown Waynesville is on the National Registry of Historic Places, a vibrant, friendly small downtown located near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with nearby access to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Main Street’s tree lined brick sidewalks offer pedestrian access to fine shops, galleries, cafés and restaurants. Historic buildings, relaxing benches, public art, and welcoming folks make Waynesville an enjoyable place to live and visit.

Parks, Museums and Arts Centers

Founded in 1977, The Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts at the Shelton House is a repository and cultural exhibit preserving and displaying traditional crafts by some of the states’ most renowned artisans.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Charleston style farmhouse was built in 1875 for Stephen Jehu Shelton, a Civil War veteran and Haywood County sheriff.  Exhibits include period furnishings and antiques, folk art, and collections of pottery, wood carving, basketry, metalwork, weaving, quilting, marquetry and other fine crafts. Open May-October.

The award-winning Haywood Arts Regional Theater features a full schedule of performances. Widely known as one of the finest community theaters in the southeast, the theater presents shows on the main stage at the Shelton House, April through December, and in the Feichter Studio, January through April.

Ten to twelve rotating artists’ exhibits are shown annually at the Haywood County Arts Council’s Gallery 86, a creative showcase on Main Street in the historic downtown. Special music and art events are held there throughout the year.

The town of Waynesville has many parks and greenways that afford visitors and residents alike the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and beatuiful scenery of the area.

Festivals and Events

  • On the first Friday each month between May and December, Downtown Waynesville Galleries remain open until 9 pm for  “Art After Dark,” with demonstrations, artist receptions, and music.
  • Mountain Street Dances enliven downtown Waynesville on four summer Friday nights.  Put on your clogging and square dancing shoes and enjoy an old-fashioned mountain hoe down at the historic County Courthouse! Live mountain music, demonstrations and instruction by local clogging teams.
  • In July, Waynesville goes international, hosting Folkmoot USA, the State International Festival of North Carolina.  This two-week celebration of the world’s cultural heritage through folk music and dance beings with a parade of nationns down Main Street featuring performances, a parade and workshops. Performers demonstrate their cultural heritage through colorful, authentic and original reproduction costumes, lively dance and traditional music.
  • On Labor Day Weekend the annual Smoky Mountain Folk Festival, held at Stuart Auditorium at nearby Lake Junaluska, offers two nights of the finest traditional music and dance of the Southern Appalachian Region.
  • The Church Street Art and Craft Show is held in October on Main Street in downtown. Now in its 30th year, this event showcases the area’s arts, craft and music heritage.

Tailgate Farmers Markets

The Waynesville Farmers Market is open May through October, held on Wednesday and Saturday mornings on Legion Drive, just off Main Street.  Vendors offer fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers grown in Haywood County.

Location

Waynesville is easily accessed from Interstate 40/US 74 on the north, and US 23/74 from the south.  Parkway travelers can take the Waynesville exit at Balsam Gap.

Downtown Waynesville Association
828-456-3517

Haywood Country Tourism
800-334-9036, 828-452-0152

Haywood County Visitor Center
44 N Main
Waynesville, NC

Francis Grist Mill

The Francis Grist Mill, located just outside of Waynesville, NC on Highway 276 was built in 1887. Constructed by William Francis to serve the Francis Cove Community, the mill commonly produced ground wheat, corn and grits for local residents.

The water-powered mill stands beside a small creek that flows downhill. A mill pond, formed by damming the creek upstream and to the south of the mill, fed a partially elevated wooden flume that delivered water to turn the overshot waterwheel.

The mill also served as a central meeting place for the Francis Cove Community. Family, friends and neighbors regularly met at the mill to catch up on news and events.

Throughout the mill’s history the infrastructure has included a yellow popular mill wheel which was later replaced by a steel wheel from Hanover, Pennsylvania.

Members of the Francis family continued to operate the mill until 1976. As a result of inactivity, the mill fell into disrepair until it was restored between 2004 and 2008.

Rehabilitation of the mill included replacement of the deteriorated east sill and siding on the east elevation, repair of the mill machinery, replacement of the waterwheel, an accurate reconstruction of the flume, and a modern rebuilding of the dam. Following the restoration, the mill began grinding grain again in April 2008.

In 2011, the Blue Ridge National Heritage awarded the Bethel Rural Community Organization a grant to support the nomination of the Mill to the National Register of Historic Places.

2013 saw the success of many years of efforts as the Francis Mill added to the National Register of Hisotric Places.

Old Jail Museum

Preserving the legacy and crafts of Clay County’s long history

As its name would suggest, the Old Jail Museum is located in Clay County’s old jail in a building that sits high on a hill on the way to Hayesville’s town square. Built with concrete and cement bricks made on location, the building was a modern and efficiently functioning structure at the time of its construction in 1912Today, the brick structure houses the Old Jail Museum and the Clay County Historical and Arts Council.

Originally, the sheriff and his family occupied the west end of the building, with two bedrooms above and a parlor and bedroom below. The kitchen and dining room were located in the space now utilized as an art exhibition area on the first floor. The building originally had no electricity, light being provided by kerosene lamps.  

Piquing most visitors’ interest are the old jail cells, still intact, on the second floor. Large iron bars surround the two small cells, outfitted as they once were, with toilet, sink, and bunk. Visiting is enough to keep on one the straight and narrow. 

Visitors will enjoy the many pictures of life as it was in the old days, school house artifacts, a collection of farm equipment and Indian artifacts from a local excavation.

The museum also includes rare collections of Cherokee baskets, quilts, masks, and other carvings, and an exquisite life-size model of a Cherokee basketweaver.

Attached to the museum is the actual office of Dr. Paul Killian, a beloved turn of the century doctor in Clay County.  The office contains his desk, medical implements, log books, saddle bags, and other items used by the doctor.

The museum is also next door to the Cherokee Homestead Exhibit. Visit the Homestead to learn about their ancient history and the Cherokee way of life in this reconstructed 17th – 18th century village homestead.

For hours and news of other current events, visit the website. 

Cherokee Homestead Exhibit

Revisit life in a reconstructed Cherokee summer and winter home

The Cherokee and their ancestors have called Western North Carolina home for more than 10,000 years. Learn about their ancient history and the Cherokee way of life in this reconstructed 17th – 18th century village homestead exhibit.

The Cherokee Homestead Exhibit is one of many Cherokee Heritage sites that are outside of the Qualla Boundary and town of Cherokee, NC. The Homestead Exhibit is open air and accessible 24/7.

It includes a Cherokee summer house, a winter house, food storage crib and more in this free, self-guided tour. The site also features interpretive signs and two walls with public art representing Cherokee legends and stories.

To learn more watch, “The Hayesville Cultural Heritage Site,” a short documentary about the Cherokee Homestead Exhibit, spearheaded by the Clay County Communities Revitalization Association (CCCRA).

More Cherokee Heritage Exhibits Nearby

Learn more about the rich Cherokee heritage in the Clay County Historical and Arts Museum, located in the historic county jail adjacent to the Cherokee Homestead Exhibit.

Rare Cherokee baskets, quilts, masks and other carvings, and an exquisite life-size model of a Cherokee basketweaver are among the artifacts on exhibit.

Spikebuck Mound, the location of the Quannasee Village council house, another Cherokee Heritage site, is located nearby at the Clay County Veterans Recreation Park.