A rich newspaper account of Bryson City circa 1910

Despite the boosterism (and alliteration) that permeated a front page layout (perhaps instigated by the ever-energetic Jack Coburn, who is profiled in the article) published by the Asheville Gazette-News for July 16, 1910, some of the descriptive content excerpted here provides a lively and interesting accounting of the town and county as they were in 1910.

Survey to document local African American history

A cultural survey currently underway that seeks to document the legacy of an overlooked Waynesville community could add to the town’s growing roster of properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Old-time dentistry just plain hurt

Old-time dentistry as practiced here in the Smokies region wasn’t pretty. All of the descriptions I have found make it seem just about barbaric, but, then again, when you’ve got tooth problems you’ll resort to just about any remedy. John Parris, in a chapter titled “‘Tooth-jumpin’ With A Hammer” in his book These Storied Mountains (1972), provides these insights in regard to a great-uncle who practiced homespun dentistry.

Horrific twister is catalyst for insightful novel

It was April 5, 1936, Palm Sunday, about nine o’clock in the evening. People were tidying up their kitchens, strolling home from church services, sitting in the local movie theaters, listening to their radios, talking to their neighbors. Just another ordinary spring evening. 

A strange mix of books crosses my desk

The first weeks of 2018 have seen some offbeat books shamble across my desk and into my fingers.

First up is John Buchan’s Mr. Standfast, also known as Mr. Steadfast. Buchan, a Scottish novelist and politician who served as Governor General of Canada from 1935 to 1940, is best remembered for his suspense novel The Thirty-Nine Steps, a grandfather in the genre of intrigue. Alfred Hitchcock later made Buchan’s tale of a manhunt, a precursor to “The Bourne Identity,” into a film. 

A tribute to the Lord of Scaly Mountain

While it is difficult to write objectively yet critically about someone whom you know personally or about a book whose subject matter and/or authors are familiar, sometimes necessity is more than the mother of invention and you have to do things you normally or ethically wouldn’t do. Such is the case for me in writing a review about the recent publication Jonathan Williams: The Lord of Orchards about the life and legacy of the poet-publisher Jonathan William, whom I knew and was a relative neighbor of mine who lived just up the mountain from my home in Tuckasegee, on Scaly Mountain near the town of Highlands. 

One of the Smokies’ finest poets

Editor’s note: This Back Then column by George Ellison first appeared in the Feb. 15, 2012, edition of The Smoky Mountain News.

Olive Tilford Dargan is fairly well known in literary circles as the author of From My Highest Hill (1941), a delightful collection of autobiographical stories set in Swain County, originally published as Highland Annals in 1925. But she is also one of the finest poets the Smokies region has as yet produced.

Did the southeastern Native Americans take scalps?

(Editor’s Note: Readers should be cautioned that several of the descriptions of scalping and related practices presented in this column are graphic.)     

When I was a boy, incidents of scalping by Native Americans were a staple in the old-time movies about the “Wild West.” And there is no doubt whatsoever that the western tribes utilized that practice. But what about the Cherokee, Creek, Catawba and other southeastern tribes — to what extent was scalping a part of their warfare and ritual?

Local histories serve important purpose

For the past two centuries, local historians and writers in England have produced a large number of municipal and county histories, a project formalized in 1899 with the Victoria County History project, a massive undertaking that, more than 100 years later, is still unfinished. These detailed records have proven invaluable for historians and biographers writing on a grander scale, allowing them to compile data and statistics on topics ranging from deaths attributed to the plague to the impact of railroad revenues and services on country life.

Mountain in the clouds: a new year’s resolution

There it stood on a sale table, all 11 volumes lined up tight and orderly as cadets on parade, Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization.

The Friends of the Library had slapped a price tag on Volume IV.

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