Images of Rail Virginia Creeper In Ashe County By Ashe County Historical Society
Images of Rail Virginia Creeper In Ashe County By Ashe County Historical Society
Images of Rail Virginia Creeper In Ashe County By Ashe County Historical Society
Images of Rail Virginia Creeper In Ashe County By Ashe County Historical Society

Images of Rail Virginia Creeper In Ashe County By Ashe County Historical Society

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Images of Rail Virginia Creeper In Ashe County By Ashe County Historical Society
 
Images of Rail Virginia Creeper In Ashe County By Ashe County Historical Society
Softcover 127 pages
CONTENTS
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1.A New Train, a New Town
2.Nella and Tuckerdale
3.Lansing and Bina (Berlin)
4.Warrensville and Smethport
5.West Jefferson
6.Camrose to Todd
7.The Train in Ashe County
INTRODUCTION
Tucked into a northern corner of North Carolina, Ashe County borders both Tennessee and Virginia. Having few widely recognized attractions, many visitors pass through Ashe on their way to other destinations: the ski slopes of the high country, Grandfather Mountain's quirky visage, or Blowing Rock's quaint shops. But to be in Ashe County is to cross many times what is commonly accepted as the second oldest river in North America, to drive in the shadow of paths trod by Daniel Boone, and to follow roadways first traveled by buffalo and Indians.
Ashe County was recognized as a "separate and distinct county" by the North Carolina General Assembly of 1799. It had been settled by hardy mountain men, but for almost two centuries, it remained virtually isolated from surrounding territories and the rest of North Carolina because access was restricted by mountainous and unfriendly terrain. Traveling the 22 miles to Wilkesboro required an overnight trip because roads were barely more than enhanced cow paths carved into the countryside. Obviously, road building was an awesome task in the 18th and 19th centuries, depending solely on manual labor, but also necessary if communication and commerce were to develop in this rugged mountain region.
Early residents had long hoped for a cheaper way to transport products to market, specifically a railway line. The lure of huge virgin forests and minerals like iron, coal, and manganese, which were thought to exist in abundance beneath the mountains, had led to several abortive attempts in the late 19th century, primarily by the Abingdon Coal & Iron Railroad. Later reorganized as the Virginia-Carolina Railway, and then the Norfolk & Western, track was expanded to Damascus, Virginia, in 1900. And in 1914, the Virginia-Carolina Railway tracks crossed into North Carolina after the Norfolk & Western took control.
With the train's arrival into Ashe County, life began to change forever. Subsistence farming evolved into a commercial venture, and local products found markets. During the 47 years that it offered full service, the rail transported anything that people could buy and sell. The principal commercial use was hauling lumber, but the train took other goods to nearby towns and markets, including kraut from a factory in Boone, dried and healing herbs, mail, passengers, bartered goods, turkeys in the fall, blackberries, and extract from chestnut wood, which was used in the tanning industry.
In his book The Virginia Creeper, Doug McGuinn describes the train as a "friendly train," thought of as a family member. He goes on to say, "Almost human. It came into the world by the hardest of labors. And, like those of the hardscrabble mountaineers who lived in the isolated houses along the wayside, its life was full of hardships, uncertainties, setbacks and disappointments."
McGuinn further states, "The Virginia Creeper quickly became an integral part of the daily lives of the people who lived along the line. In Ashe County many a starry-eyed couple rode the train to West Jefferson and then walked hand-in-hand to the courthouse in Jefferson to apply for a marriage license; sick people gritted their teeth and endured the pain of the bumpy ride, holding queasy stomachs as the coach rocked and rolled over the tracks to Abingdon, Virginia, where the nearest hospital was located; husbands slicked their hair and put on their cleanest shirts, and wives sprinkled their bodies with smell-good powder and changed into their prettiest cotton-print dresses for a weekend in Abingdon."
During its heyday, the 76-mile run was a bustling line with seven trains daily-except Sunday-including two passenger trains. It officially made 18 stops. But in actuality, residents of inaccessible mountain hollows could, and often did, flag down the train to get prescriptions filled and receive emergency transportation. Children lined the track side to await the candy tossed to them by the "candy man" and the train engineers. Along the line, new towns were born and some old towns that were bypassed shriveled and died. In particular, Elkland's growth exploded until it included four doctors' offices, two hotels, and a Ford dealership.
The Images of Rail series celebrates the history of rail, trolley, streetcar, and subway transportation across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the people, places, and events that helped revolutionize transportation and commerce in 19th- and 20th-century America. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.

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