Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Zebulon Vance

Zeb Vance is one of those larger-than-life figures of American history, much like Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone, yet he is not well known outside of his home state of North Carolina. Perhaps it's because Walt Disney never made a movie about him. He was a lawyer, Colonel in the Confederate Army, three-term Governor of North Carolina, U.S. Congressman, and was elected to four terms in the U.S. Senate. While all that speaks of success, what made him larger than life was his life-long tie to and empathy for the people who inhabited the mountain coves of western North Carolina. For more than 30 years he was their face in the circles of power.
Perhaps that tie stemmed from his roots, now interpreted at his birthplace farm along Reems Creek near Weaverville, North Carolina. The reconstructed pioneer farm speaks of wealth built from primitive materials with hand labor in an isolated, yet beautiful, mountain cove.
The main house, built of dressed logs, was reconstructed around the original chimney. The chimney is brick, instead of the stone that might be expected and which was used in the farm's subordinate buildings. That alone speaks of a certain level of acquired wealth.
There is a spring house a short distance away. It would protect the family's source of water from an accumulation of leaves and other detritus, as well as possibly serving as a refrigerator for short-term storage of perishables, such as fresh milk. In front of the spring house are two large, iron kettles. Water was heated in these no doubt for washing clothes, and even for dipping hog carcasses to aid in hair removal.
Everyday tools are on display, such as this drawhorse, maul, and froe, which were used to rive wooden shingles or shakes for roofing.
Not all of the hand labor was done by the family, however, as evidenced by this reconstructed slave cabin located below and away from the family compound.

The house contains period furnishings (1795-1840) and a modern visitor center houses exhibits outlining the life and career of Governor Vance, along with traditional southern Appalachian crafts. Outbuildings include a tool house, loom house, smokehouse, and corn crib, in addition to the spring house and slave cabin shown above. Admission is free, but the site is closed on Sundays, Mondays, and most major holidays.

1 comment:

  1. Weird that it closes on holidays - you'd think that would be when it got most visitors. But it looks a really interesting place and what resourceful people they were in those days. Mr Vance looks a bit scary though!