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Black Mountain and the Swannanoa River Valley Map
(12.5 inches x 22.5 inches)
Montreat Postcard History
Montreat is nestled in a cove of 4,500 acres on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville and Black Mountain. Established in 1897 by an interdenominational group largely from the North, it was the first religious assembly to be founded in the Swannanoa Valley. True to its initial charter, Montreat serves as a location for physical and spiritual renewal and as a center for Christian study and practice. In 1906, Montreat was purchased by a group of Presbyterian individuals largely from the South. Today it consists of three entities: the Town of Montreat, Montreat College, and the Montreat Conference Center, which serves the Presbyterian Church (USA). Montreat is also widely known as the mountain home of the Billy Graham family.
Black Mountain College
Director, Anne Chesky Smith, along with Heather South, from the Western Regional Archives, have co-authored a book on Black Mountain College. Both Anne and Heather spent months researching images from the Swannanoa Valley Museum’s archives and the Western Regional Archives to curate a collection of images with captions that capture the unique history of the College.
The Black Mountain College was founded in 1933 and was conceived by John A. Rice, the founder and first rector of the school. The college was established out of a desire to create a new type of college education experience based on John Dewey’s principles of progressive education. Black Mountain College was founded simultaneously during the rise of Adolf Hitler, the closing of the Bauhaus by the Nazis, and the beginning of the persecution of artists and intellectuals in Europe. Many of these individuals found their way to Black Mountain, either as students or faculty. The college was owned and operated by the faculty and was committed to democratic governance and to the idea that the arts are central to the experience of learning. Members of the College community participated in its operation, including farm work, construction projects and kitchen duty. The school closed in 1957 after only 24 years in operation.
Swannanoa Valley Postcard History
Since they moved to the Swannanoa Valley in 2005, authors Mary and Joe Standaert have immersed themselves in the history of the Valley. Swannanoa Valley: A Postcard History documents the history of the entire Swannanoa Valley through scanned images of over 200 historic postcards, many dating back to the early 1900s. The book showcases just a fraction of the over 1,200 cards of the Valley that the couple has collected over the last 25 years. Joe, “We started collecting postcards in the late 1980’s to learn the history of the area. We get them in antique shops, some on eBay, but the main collection came from postcard shows in Florida, where there are whole auditoriums full of postcard collector tables.”
The Elvis Tooth
The Elvis Tooth is a “historical, science fiction novel set in Black Mountain, North Carolina.” Valley resident Jerry Pope has taken his years of research in the Black Mountain are and added his own quirky brand of humor to create this light-hearted romp through the last half of the last century. Pope crafts the story to appeal to both locals and tourists and provide a flavor of the town – of what Black Mountain was like back in the day.
The Elvis Tooth is the story of an ordinary tourist, in Black Mountain to get married, who wanders into Pellom’s Time Shop and inexplicably finds himself 65 years in the past. The title of the book, as well as the plot, play off of a little-known fact of local Elvis history. As they join the main character, Odell Lutz, they will visit 1948, 1975, and current day. As he struggles to identify allies and clues that can get him back in time for the wedding, he becomes aware that more than time has shifted; his appreciation of a lost American sensibility grows. Although he quickly learns it wasn’t all the Andy Griffith Show.
Anne Chesky Smith (Arcadia Publishing, 2013)
The name Swannanoa derives from a Cherokee word meaning beautiful river. The beauty and abundance created by the river and surrounding mountains drew Native Americans for hunting. In the 19th century, the Davidson and Alexander families developed Swannanoa’s infrastructure, establishing farmsteads, gristmills, lumber mills, and general stores. Families soon flocked to the area, traveling west from the coast and piedmont to escape the sweltering summer heat. The arrival of the railroad in 1879 funneled tourists and permanent residents into the town. One of these, E.W. Grove, who built the well-known Grove Park Inn in nearby Asheville, also designed Grovemont-on-Swannanoa. Industry came as well; the Beacon Blanket Manufacturing Company was built in 1925. The mill was the center of community in Swannanoa, providing employee housing and many other amenities as well as sponsoring sports teams, music gatherings, and holiday celebrations for over 75 years.
Black Mountain and the Swannanoa Valley
by the Swannanoa Valley Museum (Arcadia Publishing, 2004)
North Carolina’s magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains have drawn people to the Swannanoa Valley since the beginning of time. Rivers and forests lured early hunters and gatherers; later inhabitants tilled the rich, fertile soil and logged the thick forests on the mountainsides. People also came to the mountains to enjoy the mystical beauty and enchantment of the area, the cool, crisp climate, and the sparkling waters of brooks and streams. Hiking, camping, and the tranquility of a woodland world provided escape from city life. The Swannanoa Valley is cradled between the Craggy Mountains to the north and the Swannanoa Mountains to the south. Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in America east of the Mississippi River, rises majestically nearby. Among the early visitors who decided to settle in the valley were those who purchased the land that later became the sites of the famous conference centers in the area Montreat, YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly, and Ridgecrest and businessmen, who brought industry to the area.
Bull Creek Valley was traditionally a hunting ground and, possibly, a temporary settlement for ancestors of the Cherokee. Before the turn of the 19th century, however, it became known as Riceville after the first white settler, Joseph Marion Rice, and his wife, Margaret, built the area’s first homestead. Rice, well known for allegedly shooting the area’s last buffalo in 1799, put Riceville on the map by opening a stock stand for drovers bringing their animals over the mountain to sell in South Carolina markets. After Rice arrived, more families began to settle in this beautiful valley; their names describe current locations, such as Jones Cove, Shope Creek, Dillingham Circle, Reed Road, and Parker Road. Riceville soon became the center of a thriving community with two schools, several churches, a handful of stores, and two post offices. Today, Riceville is known for its natural beauty–large rolling expanses of farmland and undeveloped tracts of forest.
Step Back In Time: A Walking Tour of Black Mountain
Nancy Mason and Jerry Pope’s walking tour guide to Black Mountain offers an intimate history of the early twentieth century small town, set in the heart of the Swannanoa Valley. Illustrated with vintage photographs and original watercolors by Pope, the book draws from oral histories to chronicle the stories of the families, businesses, buildings, and mountain setting that make Black Mountain the “front porch of Western North Carolina.” This insider’s guide appeals to both natives, newcomers, and visitors.
Mitchell’s Peak: A Novel of Discovery
North Carolina native Robert Dellinger’s historical fiction account of Dr. Elisha Mitchell chronicles his triumphant ascent of Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in eastern America that now bears his name. The novel also probes the mystery of Mitchell’s tragic disappearance on the peak, imagining the explorer’s motives and the reactions of his family with rich characterization to bring the adventure and natural environment to life.