OUR LORDLY DOMAIN. Lying between the Blue Ridge on the East and the Iron, Great Smoky and Unaka mountains on the West, is, in North Carolina, a lordly domain. It varies in width from about forty miles at the Virginia line to about seventy-five when it reaches Georgia on the Southerly side. Running Northeast and Southwest it borders the State of Tennessee on the West for about two hundred and thirty miles, following the meanderings of the mountain tops, and embraces approximately eight thousand square miles. Nowhere within that entire area is there a tract of level land one thousand acres in extent; for the mountains are everywhere, except in places where a limpid stream has, after ages of erosion, eaten out of the hills a narrow valley. Between the Grandfather on the east and the Roan on the west, the distance in a straight line is less than twenty miles, while from Melrose mountain, just west of Tryon, to the corner of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, is over one hundred and fifty miles.

THE APPALACHIANS. According to the Smithsonian Institution, the name Alleghany is from the language of the Delaware Indians, and signifies a fine or navigable river.[1] It is sometimes applied to the mountain ranges in the eastern part of the United States, but the Appalachians, first applied by De Soto to the whole system, is preferred by geographers.[2]

THE GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN. The Blue Ridge reaches its culmination in this hoary pile, with its five-peaked crown of archaean rocks, and nearly six thousand feet of elevation.

Of this mountain the following lines were written in 1898:

TO THE GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN.[3] Oldest of all terrestrial things-still holding Thy wrinkled forehead high;

Whose every seam, earth's history enfolding, Grim Science cloth defy
Teach me the lesson of the world-old story, Deep in thy bosom hid;
Read me thy riddles that were old and hoary Ere Sphinx and Pyramid!
Thou saw'st the birth of that abstraction Which men have christened Time;
Thou saw'st the dead world wake to life and action Far in thy early prime;
Thou caught'st the far faint ray from Sirius rising, When through space first was hurled,
The primal gloom of ancient voids surprising, This atom, called the World!
Gray was thy head ere Steam or Sail or Traffic Had waked the soul of Gain,
Or reed or string had made the air seraphic With Music's magic strain!
Thy cheek had kindled with the crimsoned blushes Of myriad sunset dyes
Ere Adam's race began, or, from the rushes, Came Moses, great and wise!
Thou saw'st the Flood, Mount Arrarat o'er-riding, That bore of old the Ark;
Thou saw'st the Star, the Eastern Magi guiding To manger, drear and dark.
Seething with heat, or glacial ices rending Thy gaunt and crumbling form;
Riven by frosts and lightning-bolts-contending In tempest and in storm
Thou still protesteth 'gainst the day impending, When, striving not in vain,
Science, at last, from thee thy riddles rending, Shall make all secrets plain!

THE PECULIARITIES OF THE MOUNTAINS. Until 1835 the mountains of New Hampshire had been regarded as the loftiest of the Alleghanies; but at that time the attention of John C. Calhoun had been drawn to the numerous rivers which come from all sides of the North Carolina mountains and he shrewdly reasoned that between the parallels of 35° and 36° and 30', north latitude, would be found the highest plateau and mountains of the Atlantic coast. The Blue Ridge is a true divide, all streams flowing east and all flowing west having their sources east or west of that divide. The Linville river seems to be an exception to this rule, but its source is in Linville gap, which is the true divide, the main fork of the Watauga rising only a few hundred feet away flowing west to the Mississippi. There are two springs at Blowing Rock only a few feet apart, one of which flows into the Yadkin, and thence into the Atlantic, while the other goes into the New, and thence into the Gulf of Mexico; while the Saddle Mountain Baptist church in Alleghany county is built so exactly on the line that a drop of rain falling on one side of the roof goes into the Atlantic, while another drop, falling on the opposite side ultimately gets into the Gulf.

WHEN THE ALLEGHANIES WERE HIGHER THAN THE ALPS. What is by some called The Portal is the depression between the Grandfather on the East and the Roan mountain on the West. When it is remembered that the Gulf of Mexico once extended further north than Cairo, Illinois, and that both the Ohio and the Mississippi once emptied into that inland sea without having joined their waters, it will be easy to understand why these mountains must have been much higher than at present, as most of their surface soil has for untold ages been slowly carried westward to form the eastern half of the valley of the Mississippi from Cairo to New Orleans. Thus, the Watauga first finds its way westward, followed in the order named by the Doe, the Toe, the Cane, the French Broad, the Pigeon, the Little Tennessee and last by the Hiwassee. The most northerly section of this western rampart is called the Stone mountains, and then follow the Iron, the Bald, the Great Smoky, the Unaka, and last, the Frog mountains of Georgia. The Blue Ridge, the transverse ranges and the western mountains contain over a score of peaks higher than Mount Washington, while the general level of the plateau between the Blue Ridge and the mountains which divide North Carolina from Tennessee is over two thousand feet above sea level. Where most of these streams break through the western barrier are veritable canons, sometimes so narrow as to dispute the passage of wagon road, railroad and river. For a quarter of a mile along the Toe, at Lost Cove, the railroad is built on a concrete viaduct in the very bed of the river itself. The mountains are wooded to their crests, except where those crests are covered by grass, frequently forming velvety mountain meadows. The scenery is often grand and inspiring. It is always beautiful; and Cowper sings:

Scenes must be beautiful that, daily seen,
Please daily, and whose novelty survives
Long knowledge and the scrutiny of years."

THE ABORIGINES. This region was, of course, inhabited from time immemorial by the Indians. The Catawbas held the country to the crest of the Blue Ridge. To the west of that line, the Cherokees, a numerous and warlike tribe, held sway to the Mississippi, though a renegade portion of that tribe, known as the Chicamaugas, occupied the country around what is now Chattanooga.[4] Old pottery, pipes, arrow- and spear-heads are found at numerous places throughout these mountains; and only a few years ago Mr. T. A. Low, a lawyer of Banner Elk, Avery county, "picked up quite a number of arrow-heads in his garden, some of which were splendid specimens of Mocha stone, or moss agate, evidently brought from Lake Superior regions, as no stones of the kind are found in this part of the country."[5] None of the towns of these Indians appear "to have been in the valleys of the Swannanoa and the North Carolina part of the French Broad."[6] Parties roamed over the country. Since many of the arrowheads are defective or unfinished, it would seem that they were made where found, as it is unlikely that such unfinished stones would be carried about the country. The inference is that many and large parties roamed through these unsettled regions.[7] Numbers of Indian mounds, stone hatchets, etc., are found in several localities, but nothing has been found in these mounds except Indian relics of the common type.[8]

AS ASHEVILLE ON AN OLD INDIAN BATTLE-GROUND? "There is an old tradition that Asheville stands upon the site where, years before the white man calve, was fought a great battle, between two tribes of aborigines, probably the Cherokees and the Catawbas, who were inveterate enemies and always at war. There is also a tradition that these lands were for a long while neutral hunting grounds of these two tribes."[9]

INDIAN NAMES FOR FRENCH BROAD. According to Dr. Ramsey this stream was called Agiqua throughout its entire length; but Zeigler & Grosscup tell us that it was known as the Agiqua to the Over Mountain Cherokees [erati] only as far as the lower valley; and to the Ottari or Valley Towns Indians, as Tahkeeosteh from Asheville down; while above Asheville "it took the name of Zillicoah." But they give no authority for these statements.

ORIGIN OF THE NAME "FRENCH BROAD." Mr. Sondley[10] states that "as the settlement from the east advanced towards the mountains, the Broad river was found and named; and when the river, whose sources were on the opposite or western side of the same mountains which gave rise to the Broad river [on the east]-became known, and that … its course traversed the lands then claimed by the French, this newfound western stream was called the French Broad."

ORIGIN of THE NAME "SWANNANOA." The same writer (Mr. Sondley), after considering the claims of those who think Swannanoa means "beautiful", and of those who think it is intended to imitate the wings of ravens when flying rapidly, is of opinion that the name is but a corruption of Shawno, or Shawnees, most of whom lived in Ohio territory, and he seems to think that Savannah may also be a corruption of Shawno, which tribe may have dwelt for a time on the Savannah river in remote times. He then quotes Mr. James Mooney, "that the correct name of the Swannanoa gap through the Blue Ridge, east of Asheville, is Suwali Nunnahi, or Suwali trail," that being the pass through which ran the trail from the Cherokee to the Suwali, or Ani-Suwali, living east of the mountains. He next quotes Lederer (p. 57) to the effect that the Suwali were also called Sara, Sualty or Sasa, the interchange of the Z and r being common in Indian dialects.

THE FIRST WHITE MEN. It is difficult to say who were the first white men who passed across the Blue Ridge. There is no doubt, however, that there are excavations at several places in these mountains which indicate that white men carried on mining operations in years long since passed. This is suggested by excavations and immense trees now growing from them, which when cut down show rings to the number of several hundred. It is true that these excavations may have been made by the Indians themselves, but it is also possible that they may have been made by white men who were wandering through the mountains in search of gold, silver or precious stones. Roosevelt (Vol. i, 173-4) says that unnamed and unknown hunters and Indian traders had from time to time pushed their way into the wilderness and had been followed by others of whom we know little more than their names. Dr. Thomas Walker of Virginia had found and named Cumberland river, mountains and gap after the Duke of Cumberland in 1750, though he had been to the Cumberland in 1748 (p. 175). John Sailing had been taken as a captive by the Indians through Tennessee in 1730, and in that year Adair traded with the Indians in what is now Tennessee. In 1756 and 1758 Forts Loudon and Chissel were built on the headwaters of the Tennessee river, and in 1761 Wallen, a hunter, hunted near by … In 1766 James Smith and others explored Tennessee, and a party from South Carolina were near the present site of Nashville in 1767.

DE SOTO. It is considered by some as most probable that De Soto, on the great expedition in which he discovered the Mississippi river, passed through Western North Carolina in 1540.[11] In the course of their journey they are said to have arrived at the head of the Broad or Pacolet river and from there to have passed "through a country covered with fields of maize of luxuriant growth, " and during the next five days to have "traversed a chain of easy mountains, covered with oak or mulberry trees, with intervening valleys, rich in pasturage and irrigated by clear and rapid streams. These mountains were twenty leagues across." They came at last to "a grand and powerful river" and "a village at the end of a long island, where pearl oysters were found." "Now, it would be impossible for an army on the Broad or Pacolet river, within one day's march of the mountains, to march westward for six days, five of which were through mountains, and reach the sources of the Tennessee or any other river, without passing through Western North Carolina."[12] But the Librarian of Congress says: "There appears to be no authority for the statement that this expedition[Hernando De Soto's] entered the present limits of North Carolina.[13] In the same letter he says that Don Luis de Velasco, "as viceroy of New Spain, sent out an expedition in 1559 under command of Luna y Arellano to establish a colony in Florida. One of the latter's lieutenant's appears to have led an expedition into northeastern Alabama in 1560. " Also, that the statement of Charles C. Jones, in his "Hernando De Soto', (1880), that Luna's expedition penetrated into the Valley river in Georgia and there mined for gold is questioned by Woodbury Lowery in his "Spanish Settlements within the present limits of the United States" (New York, 1901, p. 367).[14] There are unmistakable evidences of gold-mining in Macon and Cherokee counties which, apparently, was done 300 years ago; but by whom cannot now be definitely determined. However, there is no Valley river in Georgia, and the probability is that the Valley river of Cherokee county, N. C., which is very near the Georgia line, was at that time supposed to be in the latter State.

THE ROUNDHEADS of THE SOUTH. Towards this primeval wilderness three streams of white people began to converge as early as 1730.[15] They were Irish Presbyterians, Scotch Saxons, Scotch Celts, French Huguenots, Milesian Irish, Germans, Hollanders and even Swedes. "The western border of our country was then formed by the great barrier-chains of the Alleghanies, which ran north and south from Pennsylvania through Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas." Georgia was then too weak and small to contribute much to the backwoods stock; the frontier was still in the low country. It was difficult to cross the mountains from east to west, but easy to follow the valleys between the ranges. By 1730 emigrants were fairly swarming across the Atlantic, most of them landing at Philadelphia, while a less number went to Charleston. Those who went to Philadelphia passed west to Fort Pitt or started southwestward, towards the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. Their brethren pushed into the interior from Charleston. These streams met in the foothills on the east of the Blue Ridge and settled around Pittsburg and the headwaters of the Great Kanawha, the Holston and the Cumberland. Predominent among them were the Presbyterian Irish, whose preachers taught the creed of Knox and Calvin. They were in the West what the Puritans were in the Northeast, and more than the Cavaliers were in the South. They formed the kernel of the American stock who were the pioneers in the march westward. They were the Protestants of the Protestants; they detested and despised the Catholics, and regarded the Episcopalians with a more sullen, but scarcely less intense, hatred. They had as little kinship with the Cavalier as with the Quaker; they were separated by a wide gulf from the aristocratic planter communities that flourished in the tidewater regions of Virginia and the Carolinas. They deemed it a religious duty to interpret their own Bible, and held for a divine right the election of their own clergy. For generations their whole ecclesiastic and scholastic systems had been fundamentally democratic. The creed of the backwoodsman who had a creed at all was Presbyterianism; for the Episcopacy of the tidewater lands obtained no foothold in the mountains, and the Methodists and Baptists had but just begun to appear in the West when the Revolution broke out. Thus they became the outposts of civilization; the vanguard of the army of fighting settlers, who with axe and rifle won their way from the Alleghanies to the Rio Grande and the Pacific. "They have been rightly called the Roundheads of the South, the same men who, before any others, declared for American independence, as witness the Mecklenburg Declaration."[16] "They felt that they were thus dispossessing the Canaanites, and were thus working the Lord's will in preparing the land for a people which they believed was more truly His chosen people than was that nation which Joshua led across the Jordan."[17].

A NEW ENGLANDER'S ESTIMATE. In her "Carolina Mountains," (Houghton, Mifflin Co., 1913) Miss Margaret W. Morley, of New England, but who has resided about a dozen years in these mountains (Ch. 14) says that although North Carolina was originally settled "from almost all the nations of Europe," our mountain population, in "the course of time, became homogenious"; that many had come to "found a family," and "formed the `quality' of the mountains"; while others, "at different times drifted in from the eastern lowlands as well as down from the North." Indeed, the early records of Ashe county, show many a name which has since become famous in New York, Ohio and New England-such as Day, Choate, Dana, Cornell, Storie and Vanderpool. Continuing, Miss Morley says (p. 140) : "Most of the writers tell us rather loosely that the Southern mountains were originally peopled with refuges of one sort and another, among whom were criminals exported to the New World from England, which, they might as well add, was the case with the whole of the newly discovered continent, America being then the open door of refuge for the world's oppressed …but we can find no evidence that these malefactors, many of them `indentured servants', sent over for the use of the colonists, made a practice of coming to the mountains when their term of servitude expired. The truth is, the same people who occupied Virginia and the eastern part of the Carolinas, peopled the western mountains, English predominating, and in course of time there drifted down from Virginia large numbers of Scotch-Irish, who, after the events of 1730, fled in such numbers to the New World, and good Scotch Highlanders, who came after 1745. In fact, so many of these staunch Northerners came to the North Carolina mountains that they have given the dominant note to the character of the mountaineers, remembering which may help the puzzled stranger to understand the peculiarities of the people he finds here today… The rapid growth of slavery, no doubt, discouraged many, who, unable to succeed in the Slave-States, were crowded to the mountains, or else became the "Poor White" of the South, who must not be for a moment confounded with the "Mountain White," the latter having brought some of the best blood of his nation to these blue heights. He brought into the mountains and there nourished, the stern virtues of his race, including the strictest honesty, an old-fashioned self-respect, and an old-fashioned speech, all of which he yet retains, as well as a certain pride, which causes him to flare up instantly at any suspicion of being treated with condescension… " She gives the names of Hampton, Rogers, McClure, Morgan, Rhodes, Foster and Bradley as indicative of the English, Scotch and Irish descent of our people-names that "are crowned with honor out in the big world." It is also a well known fact that Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Admiral Farragut and Cyrus T. McCormick came from the same stock of people. She adds, very justly : "Bad blood there was among them, as well as good, and brave men as well as weak ones. The brave as well as the bad blood sometimes worked out its destiny in Vendetta and "moonshining," although there never existed in the North Carolina mountains the extensive and bloody feuds that distinguish the annals of Virginia and Kentucky." (P. 144).

THE MOONSHINER, she declares, (p. 201) is "a product of conditions resulting from the Civil War, before which time the moutnaineer converted his grain into whiskey, just as the New Englander converted his apples into cider. The act of distilling was not a crime, and became so only because it was an evasion of the revenue laws …. At the beginning of the Civil War for the sake of revenue a very heavy tax was placed on all distilled alcoholic liquors. After the war was over the tax was not removed, and this is the grievance of the mountaineer, who says that the tax should have been removed; that it is unjust and oppressive, and that he has a right to do as he pleases with his own corn, and to evade the law which interferes with his personal freedom." But, she adds : "Within the past few years the moonshiner, along with many time-honored customs, has been rapidly vanishing.

AN APPRECIATION. Such just, truthful, generous and sympathetic words as the above, especially when found eminating from a New Englander, will be highly appreciated by every resident of the Carolina mountains, as we are accustomed to little else than misrepresentations and abuse by many of the writers from Miss Morley's former home. Her descriptions of our flowers, our gems, our manners and customs, our scenery, our climate and the character of our people will win for her a warm place in the affections of all our people. "The Carolina Mountains" is by far the best book that has ever been written about our section and our people. The few lapses into which she has been betrayed by incorrect information will be gladly overlooked in view of the fact that she has been so just, so kind and so truthful in the estimate she has placed upon our virtues and our section.

POOR COMFORT. Very little comfort is to be derived from the fact that some writers claim ("The Child That Toileth Not," p. 13) that a spirit of fun or a "great sense of humor" among the mountain people induces them to mislead strangers who profess to believe that in some sections of the mountains our people have never even heard of Santa Claus or Jesus Christ; by pretending that they do not themselves know anything of either. Indeed, a story comes from Aquone to the effect that a stranger from New England who was there to fish in the Nantahala river once told his guide, a noted wag, that he had heard that some of the mountain people had not heard of God or Jesus Christ. Pretending to think that the visitor was referring to a man, the guide asked if his questioner did not mean Mike Crise, a timberjack who had worked on that river a dozen years before, and when the stranger replied that he meant Jesus of Bethlehem, the wag, with a perfectly straight face, answered : "That's the very pint Mike came from"meaning Bethlehem, Pa. Therefore, when we read in "The Carolina Mountains (p. 117) that "The mountaineer, it may be said in passing, sells his molasses by the bushel," and (p. 220) that "Under the Smoky mountain we heard of a sect of `Barkers,' who, the people said, in their religious frenzy, run and bark up a tree in the belief that Christ is there, " we are driven to the conclusion that Miss Morley, the author, was a victim of this same irresistible "sense of humor."


  1. Letter of R. D. W. Connor, Secretary N. C. Hist. Corn., January 31, 1912.
  2. Zeigler & Grosscup, p 9
  3. This mountain is said to be among the oldest geological formations on earth, the Laurentian only being senior to it.
  4. Roosevelt, Vol. III, 111-112.
  5. T. A. Low, Esq.
  6. Asheville Centenary.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Zeigler & Grosscup, p. 222.
  12. Asheville Centenary.
  13. His letter to J. P. A., 1912.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Roosevelt, Vol. I. p. 137. This entire chapter (ch. 5 5, Vol. I), from which the following excerpts have been taken at random, contains the finest tribute in the language to the pioneers of the South.
  16. Ibid., 214.
  17. Ibid.