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History of Watauga County, North Carolina

Meat Camp

This was one of the first places to be settled in Ashe County, William Miller, the Blackburns and James Jackson going there from the Jersey Settlement as early as 1799, while Ebenezer Fairchild, of the same colony, settled on Howard’s Creek only a short distance away. Jackson’s grave is still pointed out in the woods near the site of the old Jackson meeting House, while the cabin of an old hunter named Abbey stood in what is now the garden of John C. Moretz. Brown got the first grant to land on this creek, part of the Lindsey Patterson farm, before he had ever seen it, having entered it from the natural boundaries furnished him by Daniel Boone and his associates.

The cabin in which the old hunters stored their meat and hides when on hunts in this region stood in a rocky patch just above the bend of Moretz’s mill pond, the foundation of the old chimney still showing above ground. It was this camp and the use to which it was put as a sort of primitive packing house that gave the name of Meat Camp to the creek.

John Moretz and his wife and family came to Meat Camp in September, 1839. There was already an old mill there when he came, which he bought from Samuel Cooper, who then moved to Meadow Creek. The dam of the old mill was of logs, but John Moretz put sixty men to work erecting the stone dam which still stands. With the grinding and other work of the mill was also a carding machine. But late in the fall of 1847 the mill burned, the supposed act of an incendiary, as it occurred just before day. But he rebuilt, leaving out the linseed oil feature only. After his death Alfred J. Moretz tore that mill down and built the one which still stands. Alfred Moretz moved to his present home at Deep Gap in April, 1885.

The Rich Mountain

This mountain deserves its name, for it is richer than most bottom lands. This is true of the top as well as of the slopes and coves, it is said that Ezra Stonecypher lived in a cabin above T. P. Adams’ barn, and ashes and charcoal are still plowed up there. But, like Daniel Boone, Ezra loved plenty of elbow-room, and so, when a man moved on to Cove Creek and settled there, Ezra moved to Norris’s Fork of Meat Camp and built a poplar log cabin. This was several miles from the Cove Creek intruder, and Ezra was happy for a time, but only for a time, as another pushing person obtruded himself on Meat Camp and settled there, which was the straw that broke the camel’s back, for Ezra pulled up stakes and moved to Kentucky. One of his sons met Col. Thomas Bingham there during the Civil War, and proved that he knew all about Rich Mountain and that section of the county. Then Dr. Calloway, it seems, got a grant to two tracts called the Big and Little Cay-vit (Caveat?), and after awhile, say about 1840 or 1845, Col. Edmund Jones got title to some of the mountain and pastured his cattle there. Several people have lived at what is still called the Jones Place on Rich Mountain, but Allen Beech went there from CaIdwell in 1848 and remained several years, his son, Allen W., having been born there February, 1854. The late Hon. R. Z. Linney bought the Tater Hill and other land on the Rich Mountain about 1902 and had a turnpike built from the Rich Mountain Gap above Boone to the gap in Rich Mountains above Silverstone, through which a road from Meat Camp passes over to Cove Creek and Zionville. Dr. H. McDoLittle owns part of the Rich Mountain and pastures many cattle there. The two-story rock house on Dr. Little’s land was built by Col. R. Z. Linney and stands on what is also known as the Jones Place. Part of this rock house fell down in June, 1915.

The Tater Hill

No one ever makes any apology for calling this striking mountain peak by its real name- Tater Hill. For it was never a potato hill, potatoes being mere ornaments for the skill of French chefs. Taters are what we were “raised” on, while city children were “reared” on potatoes. The first man to see the charm of this lonely spot was one Chapley Wellburn. He entered it in April, 1799, four hundred acres of it, and lived there, probably hunting for a living, the people who live on lower levels being the only ones who indulge in the pas-time of earning a “livelihood.” Well, he thought he had a title to that land, and in 1876 J. B. Todd, by order of the court, conveyed this title to one of his descendants in Wilkes (Deed Book R, p. 108). But Alfred Adams knew a thing or two, one of them being that adverse possession under color of title would “ripen” that title into an “indefeasible estate of inheritance,” or words to that general effect. So he got the very best “color” “the air,” to wit, a grant from the sovereign State of North Carolina – not from Sovereign Linn, who was living in this county at that time. Adams occupied about three hundred acres of his grant, and when he locked horns with H. M. and W. N. G. Wellburn, through his grantee, John H. Bingham, about the year 1902, over the entire four hundred acres and other lands also, he won three hundred of them handily. (See Minute Docket E, p. 154, Clerk’s Office.) It developed in the trial of that suit that one Flannery, meaning not necessarily that he had no family, but that he might have been almost any Flannery, claimed the land in the flatwoods tinder Tater Hill, but left about 1849, after which a man named James, but whether John James or James John is not known, came and brought a pack of hounds with him. Hounds have to eat. So do wolves. In the duel to see which should eat the other, the wolves won. James thought his turn might come next, either to eat or to be eaten, so he returned to Alexander County, whence he had come, which, sad as that fate might be, was better than furnishing the funeral baked meat for a lupine holiday. Then, about 1902, came the late Romulus Z. Linney, who, remembering that his old namesake had been “fetched up” by wolves, boldly entered on this demesne and retained possession till his demise, demesne and demise having different meanings. But he built a rock wing to his four-room dwelling, which still stands and in which he spent many happy days. This is the gentleman who, before he had tasted of the delights of the Tater Hill, was offered a high office in Washington, D. C. In declining it, he said that he would not give up his spring rambles in the Brushy Mountains of Wilkes for any office within the gift of the American people. But he gave them up for Tater Hill!

Source: — The History of Watauga County North Carolina, John Preston Arthur, Copyright 1915. – File prepared by Faye Moran