African-American history at Sunburst oft overlooked

In a county as old as Haywood, there exist all manner of half-remembered places and faces long gone from the physical world yet immortalized through penciled notes on the backs of dog-eared, sepia-toned photographs.

Sunburst, in southeastern Haywood County, is one of those places; the subject of intense historical research, it’s been documented better than most ghosts of Haywood past, but the story of Sunburst has always been short one chapter. 

Sunburst — a short history

It was a struggle from the start — getting in, getting people and supplies up and getting the lumber down — but the mostly-forgotten century-old logging camp now hidden beneath the placid waters of Lake Logan in southeastern Haywood County still casts a long shadow on the area and its inhabitants. 

Bethel Rural Community Organization works to preserve the past

After nearly 245 years, Haywood County’s Bethel community remains just a small part of a relatively small county, but the impact the Bethel Rural Community Organization’s had on the area in the last 17 years has been anything but. 

Conservation of tract protects the Pigeon River

A 92-acre tract near the Little East Fork of the Pigeon River in the Bethel community in Haywood County has been protected through a conservation agreement by the property owner.

“We are very grateful to everyone involved in this project — and most of all to the landowner — for showing such a great commitment to keeping Bethel rural,” said Steve Eaffaldano, President of the Bethel Rural Community Organization. “We have more work to do to keep Bethel’s rural nature going strong, and we are hopeful that other landowners will consider similar actions to conserve their lands.”

The property owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, entered a conservation agreement with the Haywood Soil and Water Conservation District. The landowner still owns the land and can continue using it, including farming and limited logging, and can also sell it or pass it along to heirs, but the conservation agreement ensures it remains undeveloped forever.

The land includes more than 6,000 feet of headwater streams that provide water for downstream farmers, drinking water people in Canton and Clyde, industrial water for the Canton paper mill, trout habitat, one species of rare fish, two species of rare freshwater mussels and hellbender salamanders.

Project supporters included the Haywood Soil and Water Conservation District, the Southwestern NC RC&D Council, the Bethel Rural Community Organization, and the Pigeon River Fund, which has provided several grants to help protect water quality in the Pigeon River Valley by protecting rural lands.

For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 828. 712.6474.

Tour retraces Haywood County history

By Ellen Cirino • Special To The Smoky Mountain News

The fifth Cold Mountain Heritage Tour, a self-driving tour to historic sites in and around the Haywood County community of Bethel that aren’t open for public access, will be held Saturday, June 27, and Sunday, June 28. The tour provides a unique opportunity for tourists and locals to experience some of the Appalachian mountain heritage in Haywood County.

The tour kicks off at 9 a.m. Saturday at North Hominy Community Club, located at 2670 Newfound Road just off Exit 33 on I-40. Guests will receive driving directions to each site on the tour.

The first stop is the private home of the Mann family who have graciously opened up their working century old farm. Tour guides as well as members of the Mann family will be explaining the farm’s history while showing guests the calf barn, milk processing house and where the first telephone in the community was located.

The next site on the tour is another private home whose original owners were Clyde Roark Hoey Jr. and his wife Bernice. Mr. Hoey was a North Carolina State Senator and it’s Governor from 1929 to 1933. The current owners, Gail and Doug Mull, will be showing the distinct Federalist style of their house as well as the many collectables throughout the home.

Other sites on the Saturday tour include the oldest remaining log cabin in Haywood County and four more historically significant locations. The last stop on Saturday’s tour is at the East Fork of the Pigeon River, of Pinkney Inman Hollywood fame. This location was one of the only landmarks that Inman could rely on as the end of his 300-mile trek home, through landscape that was devastated by the ravages of the Civil War. This historic setting is now the home of the Riverhouse Acres Campground and guests will be treated to an evening of entertainment by local musicians and folklorists. Food will also be available at a nominal cost.

Sunday’s tour begins at noon at the Gateway Club in Waynesville. This building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was originally built during the pre-Depression era as a home for Lodge #259 of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolinas.

Tour guests will also have the opportunity to purchase the 5th edition of Legends, Tales & History of Cold Mountain, written by local author Evelyn M. Coltman. This year’s book tells the history of farms, mercantile and people, detailing the history of Haywood County. “Walking In The Footsteps Of Those Who Came Before Us” is a two-hour CD available for purchase that features local descendents stories and versions of events that happened long ago.

Tickets may be purchased in advance at Zoolies, and Blue Ridge Books & News in Waynesville, Realty World/Heritage Realty in Maggie Valley, Jukebox Junction in Bethel. The two-day ticket for the whole tour is $25 and a one-day ticket is $15. Children under 12 are free. Tickets may also be purchased the day of the tour at the North Hominy Community Club and Blue Ridge Books and News.

The Bethel Rural Community Organization uses the proceeds of the ticket sales to help support farmland and historic preservation, MANNA food distribution, Bethel school activities, volunteer fire department, as well as benevolence to needy families and other worthy causes in the community. More information about the Cold Mountain Heritage Tour and the Bethel Rural Community Organization can be found at

Study puts values on working easements

A recent study in the Bethel Community revealed that “working land conservation easements” would be valued as high as $7,900 to $9,400 per acre for flat or rolling land outside the floodway of the Pigeon River or other streams.

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