Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Mountain Reminder

I have a few more photos left over from our trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway last month that I want to share. These are about a stop that didn't turn out quite as expected.
Shortly after passing the exit for Deep Gap, North Carolina, we came across this church. I was thinking a "Sunday Morning" post. The Blue Ridge Baptist Church is a modern brick building, in a vernacular Gothic Revival  style, dated 1938. The congregation was founded in 1888. The first graves I spotted in the cemetery were Watsons, and I immediately thought of Doc Watson, the musician, who lives in nearby Deep Gap.

Perhaps they are relatives, I thought. And then I noticed this row of small stones.

The first five stones are children of a single family, named Walker, and are for children who died in infancy or early childhood. They lost children in 1909, 1912, two in 1913, and another in 1917. Three daughters were either still born or failed to reach their first birthday, a son failed to reach his second birthday, and a daughter lived seven years. It's hard to imagine the pain this family suffered. But we did get a taste of their fear.

Our older son, now 38 and a father himself, was born prematurely and suffered respiratory distress. That was just a decade after the best medicine in America could not save the newborn son of the President of the United States who had similar difficulties. Fortunately for us, the staff of the neonatal intensive care unit of Los Angeles Children's Hospital was up to the task. We have always been grateful for the medical advances made in that decade, and for being in a location at the time where the benefits of those advances were available. And we are reminded to be thankful for all of the advances that have been made in medicine, automobile safety, and countless other fields. Life is surely better now, and not nearly as frightening.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November Afternoon

It's a quiet day in Rugby; mid-week, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, between special events, between period. People are at work, or if not, at the malls Christmas shopping. Did I mention it was quiet?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Visitors from 1880

This past Friday Rugby held its annual Thanksgiving Marketplace, an alternative to Black Friday shopping. In addition to Christmas shopping at the village shops, there were crafts people scattered about the village and a special cream tea at the historic 1880 Newbury House B&B. These two ladies were spotted entering the gate at Newbury House at tea time. I have heard that Newbury House is haunted ........

Friday, November 25, 2011

Have you read ...?

Today is Black Friday, the day tradition has it that U.S. retailers finally become profitable each year. Each year the day after Thanksgiving becomes an orgy of consumerism with special sales, a limited number of loss leaders to get customers into stores, and unabashed hype. It seems to work. I try to avoid all stores between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, instead looking through catalogs and shopping online. Neither requires getting dressed, wet, cold, or stressed. And I burn no gasoline in the process. If I need to get into the Christmas spirit, I can always watch Miracle on 34th Street again.

As some may have guessed, it's not unusual for people on my gift list to receive books. Since I can't send books to all of you, I send you instead a recommendation for a series you may have missed.
Jefferson Bass is the writing team of Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson. Dr. Bass is the well-known forensic anthropologist and founder of the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility, which author Patricia Cornwell dubbed The Body Farm, and by which name most people know it.

Jon Jefferson is a former Oak Ridge National Laboratory writer and technical editor who also has established credentials in journalism and documentary films. Their first collaboration was in writing Dr. Bass's 2003 memoir Death's Acre.
They have since collaborated on another non-fiction book and six novels. The Bone Yard (March 2011) is their most recent. Both are captivating speakers, and each is careful not to get too graphic when describing the real-life investigations that serve as the technical basis for the books. Many of their stories have become well-known, for Dr. Bass has consulted on some of the highest-profile cases we've all seen on television and in newspapers. Jon is an excellent writer, and Dr. Bass not only points him to fascinating cases, but also keeps the story lines technically accurate. I've certainly learned a bunch while being entertained by them.

To learn more about Jefferson Bass, click here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Today I am thankful for ......

still having my wife with me!  Yes, she is fine, just some bruising from the seat belts.

Have a happy and SAFE Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Glen Oaks, LaFollette, Tennessee

It was the large, beautiful, Victorian house that caught my attention. It sits on Indiana Avenue, just off the main street (Tennessee route 63) through LaFollette, Tennessee. We pass that way several times a year and it just seemed fitting to stop and take some pictures. Then I saw this,

and needed to learn more.

Harvey Marion LaFollette (1858-1929) was born in Wisconsin to a politically-active family. Family members included members of the U.S. House of Representatives elected from Wisconsin, Indiana (2), and Washington; two U.S. Senators from Wisconsin; and a Wisconsin Governor, as well as lesser state-level officials. Harvey LaFollette served as Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction before moving to Tennessee.

In about 1891, Harvey and his brother, Grant, bought 37,000 acres of land around Big Creek Gap, southwest of Cumberland Gap. Here they founded the Lafollette Coal, Iron, and Railway Company which would soon employ 1,500 people and operate the largest blast furnace in the south. They would lay out a town they would name LaFollette, and Harvey would build what remains the largest house in the city.

The twenty-seven-room house, named Glen Oaks, was designed by Knoxville architect George F. Barber, who was a leading designer of catalog house plans. Glen Oaks is reported to have been shipped by train to LaFollette as a "kit home," but it's not clear that George Barber was involved in the manufacture of the components. Glen Oaks was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, one of more than four dozen George Barber-designed houses placed individually on the Register, as opposed to being included in National Register Districts.

An interesting sidebar discovered while researching this post was the reason behind LaFollette's unusually wide streets. It seems Harvey Lafollette asked his good friend John Fox, Jr., to help him design the town that would be his base of operations. Fox told his friend to build the streets extra wide because everyone would someday have two buggies and two wagons and would need lots of room. As a result, LaFollette is one of few towns where buildings haven't had to be torn down for highway widening projects. This John Fox, Jr., of course, is the famous author of the prototypical Appalachian novels The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come (1903) and Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1908). And, yes, I own and have read copies of each.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Deck the Halls

Rugby's historic buildings will be decorated for Christmas when visitors arrive for the events scheduled over the next three weekends. It's a tall order and Historic Rugby always needs lots of help to make it happen. So every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, village residents and other volunteers gather in the Community Building for the annual Greens Workshop.

Volunteers fashion wreaths and sprays from greenery supplied by more volunteers outside, who collect and pre-cut white pine, hemlock, boxwood, holly, and other species into easily-worked sizes.

Here are a few of the volunteers who made it happen this year

and the one employee who is responsible for it all.

Those events include Thanksgiving Marketplace, which also offers a Victorian Cream Tea in the 1880 Newbury House (Nov. 25); Christmas at Rugby, a Victorian Christmas with wassail, caroling, and a lantern-lighted village (Dec. 3); and the Rugby Holiday Home Tour where private homes will be open and decorated according to Victorian customs (Dec.10). In addition, Rugby's Christ Church-Episcopal will be offering a traditional service of Christmas Lessons and Carols on December 3.

For details and reservations, check the Historic Rugby, Inc., website here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A morning run

We rose much earlier than retired folks are wont to do yesterday. Our daughter-in-law was running a half-marathon in Oak Ridge and it seemed a good chance to cheer her on. So down off the mountain we went and stationed ourselves along the route.

I was told there were more than 700 runners, and she ran pretty much mid-pack. That's great, especially since this is her first season to run. After being alerted by my wife, who was stationed upstream for the runners, I caught her just as she crossed the bridge approaching the marina.  She was running close behind a fellow who seemed to be in agony!

She obviously was doing much better! Then it was off to greet her at the finish line.

Now is that a winning smile or what? In fact, she looks great for having just finished a 13.1 mile run.  Well done, Karen. We're proud of you.

Friday, November 18, 2011

November Rains

We've had a beautiful October with sunny skies, warm weather, and abundant color. But no one can cheat the calendar; November is here. Our November rains usher in the cold fronts that bring winter to our region. For the next few months we'll have a lot of damp, cool days with overcast skies. That's how winter is in Appalachia. With luck, there won't be a lot of snow. (Yes, I know some people actually like snow. That's why we've reserved a whole tier of states across the top of the map just for them!)

The village has been quiet the last couple of days. For some reason this kind of weather doesn't seem to attract large numbers of tourists. Last winter Historic Rugby, Inc., closed for January and February.  There hasn't been an announcement yet, but I've heard they plan to be open weekends only this year. That would be good, since we do get some fine days in January and February. Until then, we do have some special events planned between now and Christmas. You can see them by clicking here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sgt. Alvin C. York

On a knoll in the Valley of the Three Forks of the Wolf River lies a pioneer cemetery that also is the final resting place of one of the most decorated soldiers of WWI. Alvin Cullum York is perhaps today most often remembered, if at all, because Gary Cooper played him in the now-classic movie Sergeant York. But to his neighbors, Alvin York was, and remains, very much a hero.

Alvin York's wartime exploits were sufficient to garner him the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor, the French Legion of Honor and Croix de Guerre, and the Italian Croce di Guerra. But his neighbors honor him for his humility and his generosity. In Pall Mall, Tennessee, he wasn't Sgt. York, he was simply Alvin. As far as I can determine, he never used his fame for personal gain. But he did use it to benefit his neighbors, most notably getting a highway built connecting Jamestown with the larger world (The Alvin C. York Highway, now U.S. 127), Jamestown its first high school (The York Agricultural Institute), and an interdenominational Bible School (financed with proceeds from the movie).

The Alvin C. York homeplace is now preserved as a state park and museum (Sgt. Alvin C. York Historic Park) and includes the grist mill he operated for many years.

With advance reservations, or just plain luck, you can have a tour by Alvin York's youngest son, Andrew, who works part-time as an interpreter at the home.

And spend some time at the cemetery, looking up at the Yellow Doors and cliffs of the Cumberland Plateau that Alvin York loved so well. It's a beautiful spot.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mabry Mill

This may be the most photographed mill in America. The Mabry Mill is located in Floyd County, Virginia, at mile 176 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Pioneer displays plus a gift shop and restaurant nearby assure lots of people stopping in. When we stopped in early October, the crowds were so large we could hardly move, and getting pictures of the mill without people in them required more patience than I normally have.

Most sources give 1910 as the year the mill was built. It has an overshot wheel that is fed by a long millrace. When we were there, Virginia Creeper was showing its color as it climbed to the peak of the end gable, and the large maple nearby was in peak color. It's really a fine mill. My best advice is to try to visit mid-week.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Babcock State Park

Babcock State Park, near Clifftop, West Virginia, offers more than 4,000 acres of mountain forest, a lake, a trout stream, and cabins. The Glade Creek Grist Mill is actually a re-creation, completed in 1976. Many of its components, however, came from other, historic mills and a former, historic mill stood nearby. During season the mill grinds flour and cornmeal weekends that may be purchased by visitors.

This mill gets my vote as most photogenic.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Camp Washington-Carver

Near Clifftop, West Virginia, sits a reminder of  Jim Crow laws and racial segregation in the United States. Camp Washington-Carver was established by the state legislature in 1937 as the West Virginia 4-H Camp for Negroes. It was administered by West Virginia State College, a then-segregated school for African Americans, which renamed it in honor of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver.

The lodge is constructed with American Chestnut logs, the largest building in the state built of chestnut logs.

There are dormitories, an activity building, picnic shelters, ball fields,

and invitations to just sit and relax.

The last of the Jim Crow laws were voided by 1965 and in 1979 the camp was transferred to the state culture and history division. Since then it has been used for cultural events, such as the annual Appalachian Stringband Music Festival. It also is available for weddings, reunions, and picnics.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Standing Stone

The Standing Stone monument sits next to the public library in Monterey, Tennessee. Atop the man-made  pedestal is a now-unremarkable small boulder that is only a remnant of what must have been a very impressive stone. The stone originally was shaped like a sitting dog and is variously reported to have been 10-16 feet tall. It served as a boundary between different Native American Indian nations, and was used as the boundary marker for a 1785 Indian Treaty. A marker beside the memorial tells its story:
The stone had been chipped away by white souvenir hunters before the railroad blasted it to pieces in 1893 to make way for new track. The fragment seen atop the monument today was rescued by the Narragansett Tribe No. 25 of the Improved Order of Redmen (a fraternal organization), the words "NEE YAH KAH TAH KEE" (Cherokee language translated "Standing Stone") and a tomahawk inscribed on it, and placed on the pedestal.  The monument was dedicated  October 17, 1895.

 The City of Monterey observes "Standing Stone Day" each October with Native American programming and a ceremony at the Standing Stone. Native American storytellers, musicians, and speakers provide entertainment and education to visitors.