Museum of Ashe County History

Museum of Ashe County History We use objects, documents and images that we collect to answer the questions: Who are we? Where did we come from? How did we get here? What did we do on the way?
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We are a non-profit, 501 (c) 3 institution that collects, preserves, and exhibits material cultural artifacts that illustrate the history of Ashe County and our Appalachian region.

- The Courthouse building is the Museum's number 1 exhibit. Historic architects, restoration specialists, contractors and volunteers have worked for more than ten years restoring this elegant Victorian lady to her 1904 beauty. Our exhibit halls and gift shop are open to the public from 10 AM until 4 PM every day except Sunday. There is no charge for admission. Donations are always welcome and help to keep our doors open and our exhibits fresh for your enjoyment.

We are a non-profit, 501 (c) 3 institution that collects, preserves, and exhibits material cultural artifacts that illustrate the history of Ashe County and our Appalachian region.

- The Courthouse building is the Museum's number 1 exhibit. Historic architects, restoration specialists, contractors and volunteers have worked for more than ten years restoring this elegant Victorian lady to her 1904 beauty. Our exhibit halls and gift shop are open to the public from 10 AM until 4 PM every day except Sunday. There is no charge for admission. Donations are always welcome and help to keep our doors open and our exhibits fresh for your enjoyment.

Operating as usual

The Cherokee are featured in our exhibit Real Americans: Native Americans of Ashe County.
04/16/2021

The Cherokee are featured in our exhibit Real Americans: Native Americans of Ashe County.

Traditionally, the people now known as Cherokee refer to themselves as Aniyunwiya (ah nee yun wee yah), a name usually translated as "the Real People," sometimes "the Original People."

▪The Cherokee never had princesses. This is a concept based on European folktales and has no reality in Cherokee history and culture. In fact, Cherokee women were very powerful. They owned all the houses and fields, and they could marry and divorce as they pleased. Kinship was determined through the mother's line.
Clan mothers administered justice in many matters. Beloved women were very special women chosen for their outstanding qualities. As in other aspects of Cherokee culture, there was a balance of power between men and women. Although they had different roles, they both were valued.

▪The Cherokee never lived in tipis. Only the nomadic Plains tribes did. The Cherokee were southeastern woodland natives, and in the winter they lived in houses made of woven saplings, plastered with mud and roofed with poplar bark. In the summer they lived in open-air dwellings roofed with bark.

▪The Cherokee have never worn feathered headdresses except to please tourists. These long headdresses were worn by Plains Natives and were made popular through Wild West shows and Hollywood movies. Cherokee men traditionally wore a feather or two tied at the crown of the head. In the early 18th century, Cherokee men wore cotton trade shirts, loincloths, leggings, front-seam moccasins, finger-woven or beaded belts, multiple pierced earrings around the rim of the ear, and a blanket over one shoulder. At that time, Cherokee women wore mantles of leather or feathers, skirts of leather or woven mulberry bark, front-seam moccasins, and earrings pierced through the earlobe only. By the end of the 18th century, Cherokee men were dressing much like their white neighbors. Men were wearing shirts, pants, and trade coats, with a distinctly Cherokee turban. Women were wearing calico skirts, blouses, and shawls. Today Cherokee people dress like other Americans, except for special occasions, when the men wear ribbon shirts with jeans and moccasins, and the women wear tear dresses with corn beads, woven belts, and moccasins.

▪The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) are descended from Cherokee people who had taken land under the Treaty of 1819 and were allowed to remain in North Carolina; from those who hid in the woods and mountains until the U.S. Army left; and from those who turned around and walked back from Oklahoma. By 1850 they numbered almost a thousand. Today the Eastern Band includes about 11,000 members, while the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma claims more than 100,000 members, making the Cherokee the largest tribe in the United States.

▪Cherokee arts and crafts are still practiced: basket-weaving, pottery, carving, finger-weaving, and beadwork.

▪The Cherokee language is spoken as a first language by fewer than a thousand people and has declined rapidly because of the policies of federally operated schools. However, since the tribe has begun operation of their own schools, Cherokee language is being systematically taught in the schools.

▪Traditional Cherokee medicine, religion, and dance are practiced privately.

▪There have never been Cherokee shamans. Shamanism is a foreign concept to North America. The Cherokee have medicine men and women.

▪"aho" is not a Cherokee word and Cherokee speakers never use it. Most are actually offended by the misuse of this word. It's not some kind of universal Native word used by all tribes, as many believe. Each individual tribe have their own languages. We can respect these languages by using them correctly or not at all.

▪In order to belong to one of the seven Cherokee clans, your mother had to have been/be Cherokee and her clan is passed on to you. If the maternal line has been broken by a non Cherokee or someone had all sons, you have no clan, which is the case with many today.

▪There is only one Cherokee tribe that consist of three bands. The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, United Keetoowah Band of Oklahoma and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina. All others who claim a different band than one of the three above are not considered Cherokee and are a direct threat to Cherokee tribal sovereignty. In fact, to be Cherokee, one must be registered with the tribe, as Cherokee is a citizenship granted through documentation. One can have Native DNA but is not considered Cherokee until they are a registered tribal citizen.

Via N. Bear

Cherokee man
North Carolina

The museum has been gifted seeds from the Cherokee Nation and we look forward to welcoming the three sisters once we beg...
04/09/2021

The museum has been gifted seeds from the Cherokee Nation and we look forward to welcoming the three sisters once we begin planting. This also coincides with our beautiful Native American exhibit.

From the shadows and lack of cars in the parking lot, this is a late afternoon (after 4:00 or later) image of the museum...
01/19/2021

From the shadows and lack of cars in the parking lot, this is a late afternoon (after 4:00 or later) image of the museum taken from Mount Jefferson. It also shows the new Jefferson Police Station to the left.

Historic Ashe County Courthouse that is the home of the Museum of Ashe County History.

#ashecounty #ashecountync #northcarolina #visitashe #thecoolestcornerofnc #thecoolestcorner #westjefferson #blueridgeparkway #blueridgemoments #blueridgemountains #newriver #fishing #ncmountains #ncsmalltowns

01/09/2021

Things are starting to clear up but we don't want to take any chances. The Museum will remain closed due to snow.

01/08/2021

The Museum will be closed today today due to inclement weather and road conditions. Stay home and be safe. We are making history every day.

Update: due to unfolding events with our Covid 19 situation, the Museum will be closed until after Christmas. We will le...
12/17/2020

Update: due to unfolding events with our Covid 19 situation, the Museum will be closed until after Christmas. We will let you know when we are able to reopen. Thank you for your kind thoughts.

12/17/2020

We regret that the Museum of Ashe County History will be closed until Wednesday, December 23 due to Covid 19.

12/16/2020

The Museum of Ashe County History will be closed today due to icy roads. Please be safe and stay warm.

North Carolina Expatriates
12/14/2020

North Carolina Expatriates

On the first day of Christmas North Carolina gave to me….

The Moravian Star.

Perhaps the most uniquely North Carolina Christmas decoration is the 26 point Moravian Star.

100 years before Martin Luther ignites the Protestant Reformation, Jan Hus and his followers attempt to reform the Catholic Church. For his trouble, Hus is eventually tried and burned at the stake in 1415. But his movement survives to become one of the very first Protestant denominations: the Moravians.

This rebellion against Catholicism begins in Bohemia and Moravia, that largely German area that is today part of the Czech Republic. For centuries, the Moravians were forced into hiding, until nobleman Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf allowed the group to settle on his lands in 1722. (Remember the NC history story from a few weeks back about the Winston-Salem Hotel Zinzendorf that tragically burned? It was named for this Count Zinzendorf.) The Brethren, or Brothers, establish a small village known as Herrnhut (in present day Saxony) where the group, along with Count Zinzendorf, worked to create an accepting community. Herrnhut rapidly became the center for the Moravian movement, and the name itself translates into “the Lord’s Watch,” where residents were to watch for God as God was to watch out for them.

It is here the stars first appear in the 1830’s. Originally they were craft projects to teach geometry. However, the stars were quickly adopted by the Moravian Church as a symbol of the birth of Jesus and represented the Star of Bethlehem. Traditionally, the star is hung the first Sunday of Advent and remains up until Epiphany, January 6, or the time of the coming of the Magi.

The Moravian communities in North Carolina quickly adopt them as well, and their popularity quickly radiates out from Forsyth County across the state. The Christmas Tree actually appears at about the same time. Introduced by Hessian Soldiers who stayed behind after the Revolution, and later the waves of German immigrants who cling to the Christmas Tree as a symbol of German culture and of Gemütlichkeit. The first documented Christmas Tree in America is in Williamsburg in 1842, at the home of a German immigrant professor at William and Mary. It is decorated with candles and Moravian Stars.

Today, the porches and front doors of a majority of North Carolina homes across the state are lit by Moravian Stars for the holiday season. The Moravian Star is the single decoration that unites us all across the state as North Carolinians.

The star proclaims the hope of Advent: The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. It is the message of the Advent star, which hung over the humble manger of the infant Jesus, who would later say: “I am the bright and Morning Star.” It is the star of promise, the star of fulfillment, and the star of hope.

~ Kevin E. Spencer, Author, North Carolina Expatriates

North Carolina Expatriates
11/05/2020

North Carolina Expatriates

November 5th

ON THIS DAY in North Carolina history…

She is born Myrtle Eleanor Cooper on Christmas Eve, 1913 in Boone, North Carolina, the daughter of a moonshiner. From the moment she can vocalize, she is singing, singing, singing. Her father, always looking for that big money, and staying one step ahead of the law, moves the family around the country.

The family lands in Chicago just as the Stock Market crashes. Looking for a way to earn money, Pop Cooper takes his daughter to WLS Chicago, the most powerful country radio station in America. WLS broadcasts and produces a popular show called The National Barn Dance. The boss of that show, one John Lair, happens to meet the Coopers at the radio station and is impressed with 16-year-old Myrtle's voice, energy, and confidence. In fact, Lair loves everything about her except her name. He dubs her "Lulu Belle," and Lulu Belle she will remain for the rest of her performing career.

She quickly becomes known for her goofy stage antics as well for her singing. She becomes one of the most popular radio acts of her time based on her lovable "mountain girl" alter ego. She plays the lovesick fool to Red Foley, and the audience laps it up as she pursues him on stage. Here at the height of the depression, "Lulu Belle" is selling out shows, with customers being turned away for lack of space. Then Red Foley marries. His new bride is a little insecure with the onstage antics of Red and Lulu Belle, and so one of the most popular acts on radio comes to an end.

But it doesn't stop "Lulu Belle" Cooper. She pairs up with a new cast member named Scott Wiseman, who happens to be a fellow North Carolinian from Spruce Pine. His shy demeanor is the perfect counterbalance to her feisty exuberance, and they became more popular together than Lulu had been with Foley.

It doesn't take long for their onstage act to become personal. Lulu Belle and Scotty fall head-over-heels in love, and in 1934 they marry. The wild popularity of the act leads to them being crowned the "Sweethearts of Country Music." Their popularity continues to skyrocket. In the thirties and forties, they appear in eight motion pictures while continuing to appear in their highly successful radio and road act.

Scotty Wiseman becomes a widely respected songwriter, but Lulu co-writes his best song with him: "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?" It will become a country and pop standard. In 1936, Lulu Belle is voted "Queen of All Radio," over a slew of her contemporaries from various fields.

Their massive popularity leads to their own radio show, Breakfast in the Blue Ridge. During World War II, they are heard worldwide on Armed Forces Radio. They record for several different record labels, and were among the first radio stars to transition to television, appearing on a Chicago station from 1949 to 1957.

Finally, in 1958, the Wiseman's retire to Spruce Pine to slow down and enjoy life and each other. But as it turns out, not even retirement can contain Myrtle "Lulu Belle" Wiseman. ON THIS DAY in 1974, she is elected to the North Carolina House from Mitchell County. In 1977, during a debate on the merits of the death penalty for rapists, Lulu Belle gives what is probably her greatest performance ever as she gives an impassioned speech on the floor of the North Carolina House, and reveals that she herself was r***d early in her career.

The couple will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame before Myrtle "Lulu Belle' Cooper Wiseman passes away in 1999.

~Kevin E. Spencer, Author, North Carolina Expatriates

"Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?"
Pictured:
Lulu Belle and Scotty in 1949 on The National Barn Dance.
Lulu Belle and Scotty, Sweethearts of Country Music.
Induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=O4EchTx7o2w

Tsali's is one of the stories told in the museum's Native American exhibit.
11/01/2020

Tsali's is one of the stories told in the museum's Native American exhibit.

On November 1, 1838, the Cherokee Indian known as Tsali was captured. Tsali, also known as Charley, was among those who refused to leave North Carolina after a group of Cherokee leaders signed a treat ceding their tribal lands to the United States. Tsali, his family, and a few friends had gone into hiding in the spring. From here the story diverges into what is in the oral histories and what is in the written records. Cherokee oral tradition tells of Tsali’s group being captured and harassed by the federal troops. By this account, Tsali decided to try to fake an injury and ambush the soldiers to escape. In the ensuing skirmish, one soldier was killed and two others wounded, one mortally. The Cherokee escaped and hid until learning that if the men responsible were to give themselves up, all of the other Indians in hiding could remain in North Carolina. The legend maintains that Tsali agreed to be executed so that the others could stay. Among the Cherokee Tsali has become a legendary hero, depicted in the outdoor drama Unto These Hills.

At the time the legend flourished, few of the government records related to the Tsali event had been available for research. What those documents reveal is different from oral tradition. On November 1, 1838, U. S. soldiers and Thomas found and captured Tsali’s group. While being marched to the command base, some of the Cherokee attacked the soldiers and escaped. Oconaluftee Citizen Indians, who were exempt from the removal, and a few other fugitive Cherokees offered help with the understanding that anyone who helped to find Tsali’s band would be allowed to stay in North Carolina.

A former neighbor of Tsali’s known as Euchella (Utsala) led about sixty men in search of Tsali. On November 24, Colonel William S. Foster, who was ordered to find Tsali, wrote to his commander, General Winfield Scott that the mission was a success—that, of the twelve Indians that had been in the original group, all but Tsali had been recaptured and the three men most culpable in the attack “were punished yesterday by the Cherokees themselves in the presence of the 4th Regt. of Infantry.” Foster had made clear in other communications that he did not believe that Tsali was one of the murderers. His conviction is explicit in his dismissal of the search party and leaving the area. However, the next day Euchella and another Indian caught Tsali and executed him. Foster issued a proclamation in support of Euchella and his men and sent Scott a petition signed by residents in favor of the Indians’ wishes to stay.

Euchella and his men were given permission to remain in North Carolina with the Oconaluftee Citizen Indians. Eventually these groups would be recognized as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Tsali’s story began to take shape with its embellished twist in 1849 and he has since become a folk legend. The significant difference in the two stories, of course, is that documents indicate that Tsali never surrendered. Thus he never made the noble sacrifice for which he is idolized. Regardless, the events were tragic and the outcome heartbreaking, and the saga is now immortalized in Cherokee lore.
http://www.ncmarkers.com/Markers.aspx?MarkerId=Q-3

We are open today and have a fabulous new Native American exhibit honoring North Carolina's first peoples.
10/12/2020

We are open today and have a fabulous new Native American exhibit honoring North Carolina's first peoples.

Governor Roy Cooper has proclaimed the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. North Carolina is home to more than 122,000 American Indians, and has eight historic tribes: Coharie, Eastern Band of Cherokee, Haliwa Saponi, Lumbee, Meherrin, Occaneechi Band of Saponi, Sappony, and Waccamaw-Siouan.

Read the full proclamation here:https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/Indigenous-Peoples-Day_0.pdf

Address

301 E Main St
Jefferson, NC
28640

Opening Hours

Tuesday 10:00 - 16:00
Wednesday 10:00 - 16:00
Thursday 10:00 - 16:00
Friday 10:00 - 16:00
Saturday 10:00 - 16:00

Telephone

(336) 846-1904

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Comments

My grandfather Thomas Seddon Burnum of Moulton, Alabama, apparently took a picture of your Ashe County Courthouse @1920 or so!!! I developed this from a negative found among his files. This Courthouse style was very popular in North Carolina at the time and several looked almost exactly the same. Note the "AD 1904" at top and also the bell to the bottom left. The gentlemen at right are wearing period clothing. My grandfather worked building roads all over the South in the big road building boom from 1920 to 1940.
The Copper K**b Mine (AKA the Gap Creek Mine) was a surface mine located near the confluence of Big Gap Creek and Little Gap Creek in Ashe County, near today’s community of Fleetwood. Its lifespan was short; it was opened in 1879 and closed in 1881. Below is a pic. of a Copper K**b Mine stock certificate.
During its lifetime (1875-1902), the A. D. Cowles & Co. store (AKA “Cowles’ Stand”) was the largest general store in Ashe County. Arthur L. Fletcher, in his book ASHE COUNTY: A HISTORY, writes that “[t]he big general store operated at Gap Creek was the biggest store in the county, was housed in the largest building and carried the largest stock of goods.” Fletcher says further that “[i]t furnished the leading market for medicinal roots and herbs in Ashe and surrounding counties.” Besides roots, herbs, and general merchandise, the store also did business in hides, wool, seeds, bark and mosses. The building that once housed the A. D. Cowles & Co. store is still standing today (barely), a short distance from the intersection of US–221 and Idlewild Road. Below are two pictures I took of the building.
Besides a 70-ton Shay locomotive, the Deep Gap Tie & Lumber Co. Railroad (Deep Gap in Watauga County to Bowie (Fleetwood) in Ashe County) is listed as owning a Class B Climax locomotive. I haven’t been able to find much info about this locomotive, except the fact that it was owned by the Deep Gap Tie and Lumber Company Railroad, whose address is listed as Smethport, Ashe County, N.C. The Smethport, N.C. address leads me to believe that the locomotive was used mainly for pulling cars of extract bark from Deep Gap to Bowie via the DGT&LCRR’s trackage, and then from Bowie to the extract plant in Smethport via the Virginia-Carolina Railway’s (aka the “Virginia Creeper”) trackage. The only picture I’ve found is a picture of the greatly cannibalized locomotive abandoned in a field between Deep Gap and Fleetwood:
The Deep Gap Tie & Lumber Company Railroad ran between Deep Gap in Watauga County and Bowie (Fleetwood) in Ashe County. Below is a picture of the Deep Gap Tie & Lumber Co. Railroad's # 3 Shay locomotive rusting away in a field somewhere between Deep Gap and Fleetwood.
We visited today for the first time, what an impressive collection. What is the story behind the unique and touching glazed bricks on the side of the building?
Ashe county news 1915 🚂🚂🚂🚂
1st Confederate Reunion in Ashe County NC 1882
🇺🇸 We had a great Veterans Day program at Ashe County High School this morning. Several Veterans and family members were in attendance. Thanks to the ROTC,Band,Chorus,CTE Food services and all others who had a hand in the program.Our students were very respectful and attentive during this event.Salute to all the Ashe County NC Veterans 🇺🇸❤️❤️
Setting here listening to the great music of the Beckworths and Hardin brothers and friends, made me think of my Grandpa Ben Eller people say he could play anything ❤️
I will be giving a presentation about the “Virginia Creeper” train, which in its heyday ran from Abingdon, Va. to Elkland (present-day Todd), N.C., and reading from my latest book, THE “VIRGINIA CREEPER”: A NOVEL, at the Watauga County Library (Eveline Johnson room) in Boone, N.C. on Sat., Sept. 8, 2018 from 2:pm-4 pm. Plenty of vintage pictures and plenty of little-known local history. The presentation is, of course, FREE and open to the public.