This week’s Picturing the Past article completes a series on the
2019 survey of African American heritage resources in Transylvania County by looking
at sites outside of Brevard.
Most, if not all, of the early African Americans in what is today
Transylvania County came here as slaves. Following the Civil War the African American
population declined sharply from 450 in 1862 to 308 in 1870. Nearly two-thirds of the African Americans
were living in Brevard or the Boyd Township (Pisgah Forest area) by 1870. Others lived in the Catheys Creek, Dunns Rock
and Little River areas.
There is only one structure remaining in the county that may have
been used as slave quarters. It does
have some features dating from the ante-bellum period, however further research
is needed to confirm its primary use and date of construction.
|The New French Broad Baptist Church was constructed in 1962 but its
roots go back to services started shortly after emancipation.
African American communities on both sides of the French Broad
River in Pisgah Forest continued to exist well into the 1900s. There were African American churches and
schools on both sides of the river, as well. French Broad Baptist Church first began
holding serves shortly after the Civil War.
Glade Creek Baptist Church was established from it in 1912 to
accommodate a growing population on the north side of the river. Both New French Broad Baptist and Glade Creek
Baptist have active congregations today.
The French Broad School closed in the early 1930s but Glade Creek
School continued to operate until 1948 when the new Rosenwald School was build
and opened in Brevard. The school
building was then used as a community center for many years.
The Pritchard and Ollie Mae Gash house and the Moses and Gertrude
Gash house, both in the Glade Creek community, are the oldest standing homes
outside of Brevard connected to African American families. They were both constructed within the first
two decades of the 1900s.
|This saddlebag style house in Cedar Mountain has two rooms on either
side of a central stone chimney. It was used as servants’ quarters for
the Hanahan family.
In the Cedar Mountain area wealthy seasonal residents often
brought African American domestic servants who worked as cooks, housekeepers
and drivers with them for the summer. The
hotel at Caesar’s Head also employed seasonal African American workers. Because segregated society continued to require African Americans live
separately though servants’ quarters were
typically small dwellings behind the main house.
Social life was limited to occasional free moments
or a night off. A large rock outcropping
near the store in Cedar Mountain served as a gather spot for African American
domestic workers to visit with one another during these times.
L.C. Betsill stated that an old clubhouse was available to them on
Thursday evenings for dances. He said African
Americans from town would sometimes attend as well.
Information for this series of articles was taken from the final
report of the survey of African American heritage related resources, “Walking
Around the World: African American Landscapes and Experience in Transylvania
County, NC” by Dr. Michael Ann Williams and Sydney Varajon. The report, interviews and survey materials
are available in the
Local History Room at the Transylvania County Library.
Photographs and information for this column are provided by the
Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the NC
Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our
history and see additional photographs. For more information, comments, or
suggestions contact Marcy at [email protected]