April 27


“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.


Published in: on April 29, 2016 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

April 20

Main_Square_in_Boone (1)

This view of Howard’s Knob from Downtown Boone shows Joe Todd’s service station on the location where Melanie’s restaurant now stands, and the Mountain Burley [Tobacco] Warehouse at the current location of Watauga County Public Library. A barber’s pole stands on the corner of West King Street and South Depot Street. Automobiles suggest that the picture was made in the 1930s or 1940s.

Image courtesy of the archives of the Historic Boone Society, Watauga County Public Library, and DigitalNC.org.

April 20, 1893

A brief notice printed in this week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat carried a byline which indicated that the item had originally appeared in the Holston Methodist denominational newspaper. “A bully carries off from 10,00 to 40,000 [dollars] for knocking out a compedititor [sic] in a slugging match,” reflected the piece, “but if a preacher knocks the devil out in a hard-fought battle in a protracted [church] meeting, the people will take up a hat collection, and think they do nobly if they reward him with $10 to $40.”

An article entitled “Way Down South in Dixie” reported that, “[t]he solid basis upon which the agricultural, the coal and the iron interests now rests, and the promising outlook before them are duplicated in all other branches of business in the South. Everything is on a good foundation. The whole South, enthused with the certainty of freedom from political troubles[,] strengthened in all of its business operations by the experiences of the past, with more powerful financial influences working in its favor than ever before, starts the new year with the assurance that it is entering upon a career of greater progress and prosperity than it has enjoyed for thirty years.” Reflecting on recent changes since the end of the Civil War, the article announced that, “[t]en years ago the South’s agricultural, manufacturing and mining products aggregated in value about $1,200,000,000; now they are about $2,100,000,000. The increase in population during that period was only 18 to 20 percent.”

April 20, 1933

“Local Firms Expected to Handle Beer; Legal Commodity May 1” was the headline introducing an article detailing the local situation after the repeal of the prohibition of alcohol. “With legal beer only ten days away in North Carolina, indications are that for the first time in the history of the city the foamy liquid is to be offered for sale at several different points within the town of Boone,” reported the newspaper. “Three or four local business men have already signified their intention of securing dispensing permits, and one retail establishment has gone so far as to publish advance announcement today of the coming of the brew,” continued the article, although none of the local business owners nor establishments were named. Introduction of beer was expected to proceed uninhibited, the story detailing that, “[u]nofficial information is to the effect that the city officials will make no attempt at prohibiting the sale of beer locally other than to restrict the licensing in accordance with the State law.” Regulations were to require “a municipal tax of $15 where beer is to be consumed on the premises, or $10 ‘off premises.'” According to the Watauga Democrat, “[l]egal beer, which is rapidly becoming ‘old news’ in other parts of the country, is still a main topic of conversation locally, and an occasional bottle has filtered through to residents of the town, who have pronounced the beverage good but non-intoxicating.”


Published in: on April 22, 2016 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

April 13, 2016


“Reverend Eber S. Gragg,” photo from perhaps the 1940s of a venerable Watauga preacher. Image courtesy of the archives of the Historic Boone Society, Watauga County Public Library, and DigitalNC.org.

April 16, 1891

“The South ought to feel and no doubt does feel a great satisfaction in the prospects of the great West coming to her political relief,” opened a political opinion piece in this week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat. “ The West has lately signified in her municiple [sic] elections that she is tired and disgusted with Radicalism and will in the future be allied with the South in deposing the party that has well-nigh, mined this glorious ‘land of the free and home of the brave.’” The Democratic-party affiliated Watauga County newspaper apparently associated the Republican Party with “radicalism,” and saw the leaning of local political contests in western states towards the Democrats as evidence of a shift from this radicalism to an outlook in line with that of the local newspaper’s editorship. “The organs and politicians of the West have heretofore slandered and abused the South with all the bitterness that their extreme Radicalism could suggest,” continued the piece. “These radical men and organs are being regulated to the rear and sober men with better thoughts and policies have taken charge and genuine reform is now the watch-word. Such men as Benny Harrison, Blaine, Hoar, Lodge, and others will soon be retired to private life. A revolution has set in and the great West is moving and will join hands with the South to save our common country.” “Let as take heart and be lifted up for our deliverance will surely come[,]” continued the Watauga Democrat, “for radical men and measures are fast passing away, and a united country and prosperity will take their places. Radicalism is already dead in the South – and is now fast dying in the West. Little Ben Harrison will be the last President of the Radicals.” “Little Ben (or, Benny) Harrison” was a somewhat demeaning nickname for then-President Benjamin Harrison, who had been affiliated with the “Radical Republicans” favoring the Reconstruction policies for former Confederate states in the years immediately following the Civil War.

April 17, 1958

“Clean-up Campaign Will Start April 28th,” read a headline on the front page of this week’s paper. “Mayor Gordon H. Winkler has announced tentative dates for the annual clean-up, paint-up, fix-up campaign in Boone as Monday, April 28 through Saturday, May 10.” Details contained in the article announced, “[t]he intensified two-week drive for city cleanliness will be sponsored this year by the Junior Chamber of Commerce, said President James Winkler , Jr., who has appointed W.R. Winkler, Jr., to spearhead the campaign.” Additionally, on the local government side, “Mayor Winkler has announced that town trucks will be available at all times to pick up trash and debris and assist the clean-up in any way possible.” Another participating organization, the local Jaycees, it was announced, “will conduct a city-wide survey of homes, places of business, vacant lots, alleyways, and back lots, and make suggestions to owners or residents for painting or sprucing up their premises wherever the need is indicated.”


Published in: on April 18, 2016 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

April 6, 2016


“Snow on Poplar Grove Road,” a photograph which depicts automobiles perhaps from the 1930s almost completely covered by deep snow drifts in Boone. Image courtesy of the archives of the Historic Boone Society, Watauga County Public Library, and DigitalNC.org.

April 7, 1892

“The resurrection we call spring is now here!” exclaimed a very brief item at the top of the “Local News” column in this week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat.

“Later reports say that the man who killed Julius Miller and stole the horse, was seen in Buffalo Cove on last Tuesday,” related another news update, “and that parties were in pursuit of him.”

This brief post was followed by a fuller recapping of the incident: “A man stole a horse in Tennessee and made his way into Caldwell county, N.C. He was followed by the owner of the horse to Lenoir. Julius Miller and Mr. Small, in a cart, pursued him on the Wilkesboro road and overtook him near the Wilkes county line,” reported the story. “The thief jumped from the horse and ran, Miller jumping also out of the cart and took after him. Shots were exchanged between the two, and Miller was shot through the heart and died in a few minutes. The thief made his escape. He was surrounded near Blowing Rock in a thicket by a crowd of men, but he slipped out and made his escape.” Concluded the story, “[g]reat excitement prevails over the killing of Miller.”

The location of Buffalo Cove mentioned in the update is a spot in the Yadkin Valley about 17 miles from the town of Lenoir.

“Court commences next Monday week at Jefferson,” began another item. “We hope to meet our numerous subscribers in Ashe during court,” wrote the editor of the newspaper, “and expect them to pay us some on the DEMOCRAT.”

April 3, 1958

“Parkway Toll Proposal Killed” was a headline in this week’s paper. “Secetary of the Interior Fred Seaton tolled the death knell for Blue Ridge Parkway tolls Wednesday of last week,” reported, poetically, the Watauga Democrat. “He said plans to collect fees on the Parkway have been abandoned and promised they won’t be revived again.” The article’s author indicated that the Interior Secretary had “expressed his hope his decision finally disposes of the controversial toll idea, which has cropped up at intervals since 1940.” At a hearing before the U.S. Senate’s Appropriations subcommittee, “protests against imposition of tolls were carried to Seaton last week by a large North Carolina delegation including Gov. Hodges and the Tar Heel Congressional delegation.”

“Watauga Herfords Take Awards At Bristol Show,” proclaimed another headline. “Watauga Herefords demonstrated once more the quality for which they have been noted for years when three herds from this county came away with two first, two second, and one third place awards at the Tri-State Hereford Show and Sale in Bristol, Va., last Wednesday, reports B.W. Stallings.” The Hereford breed of beef cattle originated in Herefordshire, England, and spread to remote corners of the globe including Japan, South Africa, and the mountains of Western North Carolina. Local cattle raisers who won ribbons at the fair included the aforementioned Mr. Stallings, The Diamond S. Ranch, V.C. Shore, and Harry M. Hamilton, Jr.

Published in: on April 8, 2016 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

The Week of March 30


Appalachian School and Students, 1907

“Appalachian School and Students, 1907.” This image combines two photographs: the top gives a view of the campus of Appalachian State Teachers College and the town of Boone, and the lower portion a portrait of that year’s class of students. Image courtesy of the archives of the Historic Boone Society, Watauga County Public Library, and DigitalNC.org.

March 27, 1889

A poem printed on the front page of this week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat, entitled “Her Charms,” was subtitled “written by a skeptical lover.” The verses began, “Her fair complexion, creamy and clear / Would dazzle and craze a saint; / I could gaze at it forever, and never tire – / But I wonder if it’s paint?” Continued the paean, “Her hair is wavy, and rich, and brown / The fairest I’ve ever known / No mermaid had tresses so fair – / But I wonder if they’re her own? / Her beautiful, even, pearl-like teeth / Behind red lips do lurk; / They’re fairer than the richest pearls – / But the dentist’s handiwork.”

Another humorous article in the same article, with the heading “His Substitute” and with a brief attribution to another publication simply titled “American,” informed readers, “’I’ll never use tobacco, no / It is a filthy weed. / I’ll never put it in my mouth.’ Said little Robert Reed. ‘I’ll never use tobacco, no: / Its use all woe begets. I’ll scorn the weed in ev’ry form: / I’ll just smoke cigarettes.”

A more serious item in news gleaned from across the nation reported that, “Archibald Campbell, while out driving near Cincinnati, pulled out his handkerchief to wipe his nose. Mrs. Osborne was at her gate, and thought he meant to flirt with her, and she followed him up and shot him in the arm.” The presentation of fancily embroidered handkerchiefs to the object of one’s affections as “love tokens” during the Victorian era seems to have been the source of confusion underlying this violent misunderstanding.

March 29, 1945

A letter to the editor this week bore the heading, “PVT. WINKLER WRITES.” The letter began, “Editor Democrat: Since I have been in the army I have received The Democrat, and I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoy reading it. I see news in it that the folks back home don’t think to write to me.” Continued the missive from the front lines of World War II, “[w]hen the breakthrough came at St. Lo and we were moving through France so fast, the paper was two months old when it did catch up with me but I still enjoyed it very much.” The letter concluded, “I want to take time out now to tell you that the boys over here realize what a swell job everyone at home is doing now, and with such a swell job it means but one thing, and that is a quicker return for us boys over here. [Signed,] PVT. ROBT. C. WINKLER, Somewhere in France, Feb. 13, 1944 [a seeming typo for 1945 *].” The breakthrough mentioned at the French town of St. Lô was a part of “Operation Cobra,” the military advance of Allied forces during the Normandy Campaign, following the D-Day invasion towards the end of the Second World War.

*The bombardment of St. Lo by Allied forces, battle for liberation, and a second bombardment by German forces occurred in July of 1944. See http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/100-13/st-lo_1.htm.

Published in: on April 1, 2016 at 5:00 am  Leave a Comment