“Reverend Eber S. Gragg Holding His Birthday Cake.” Portrait of a noted local clergyman in later life. Rev. Gragg was a participant in the early years of the annual Grandfather Mountain “Singing on the Mountain” event. Image courtesy of the archives of the Historic Boone Society, Watauga County Public Library, and DigitalNC.org.
April 23, 1891
“The Green Park hotel at Blowing Rock will be completed for the summer visitors and Blowing Rock will be booming this summer,” reported a brief local news item in this week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat. “Many more visitors will be at the Rock this summer than ever before; however that is the prediction now.”
In related news, “[t]he turnpike from Linville to Blowing Rock will be completed some time in June[,] a hack line will be put on the route from Lenoir by way of Blowing Rock and Linville to Cranberry, this will no doubt be the grandest mountain scenery and finest road that can be found any where in the South.” The “hack line” referred to in this meandering sentence is a road designed to be traveled by horse-drawn “hacks,” or small passenger-carrying wagons, made for short trips in rural sections.
An anecdote published this week told that, “not long since, one of Watauga’s prominent merchants paid a visit to his ‘best girl,’ and so enamored was he of her charms, that when he started for home he left his trusty steed hitched to the fence and groped his way home through the darkness afoot, never thinking of the mistake he made.” Concluded the tale, “on arriving at his residence he was asked what he had done with his horse? He replied in great surprise: ‘He is hitched down the road about two miles, at Capt’s gate.” Readers of the newspaper at the time might, perhaps, been able to deduce who the young suitor was, from the allusion to the gate of a local Captain and other details in the story.
April 24, 1958
“Director Graduate Studies Is Versatile, Popular Tutor,” proclaimed a banner headline on the front page of this week’s newspaper. “The newly-elected director of graduate studies at Appalachian State Teachers College is a man of many talents. Cratis Dearl Williams is one of the most versatile and popular professors on the campus,” began the feature article. “Mr. Williams is a native of Blaine, Kentucky, where he was born in 1911. He received the A.B. degree and the M.A. degree from the University of Kentucky in 1933 and 1937, respectively. He has completed the residence and the examinations for the PhD. degree in English at New York University. He is now in the process of writing the dissertation for this degree on ‘The Southern Mountaineer in Fact and Fiction.'” In addition to his many academic accomplishments, the Watauga Democrat noted that, “Mr. Williams is one of the best known folklorists and ballad singers in the Southern Appalachian region. He is in constant demand as a story teller or singer at all sorts of public programs[,] professional meetings, and other group gatherings.” The article also noted that Williams had created a “Remedial Speller which has been published in mimeographed form,” which had been “used as a textbook in the spelling laboratory at Appalachian State Teachers College,” and which was “attracting widespread notice.” Reported the feature, “calls for the Speller are coming to Mr. Williams from many states.” Dr. Cratis Williams is consider the father of the discipline of Appalachian Studies; the Graduate School at Appalachian State University is named in his honor.