Devil’s Courthouse is a
popular sightseeing stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway but it is much more than
just a nice view.
The highest point is 5720 feet
above sea level and offers a 360 degree view.
The large rock outcropping with steep cliffs flows into a mix of bare
rock and shrubby areas and then spreads into spruce-fir and northern hardwood
forests, all home to rare plants and animals.
In An Inventory of the
Natural Areas of Transylvania County, North Carolina Edward Schwartzman
states that there are “eleven rare vascular plant species and nine species of
rare bryophytes and lichens” at Devil’s Courthouse. It is the only place in Transylvania County
where Appalachian fir-clubmoss, sticky bog-asphodel and deerhair bulrush are
Schwartzman also identifies
the Carolina northern flying squirrel, brown creepers, hermit thrush, and
Southern Appalachian black-capped chickadees as rare animals living there.
The site lies in the heart of
the early Cherokee tribal territory and has a significant role in their ancient
story of “Tsul’ Kalu’, or Judaculla, The Slant-Eyed Giant.”
|Devil’s Courthouse at Milepost 422 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.|
Judaculla is a mysterious superhuman
giant who lives and farms high in the mountains. He is the owner of all game and it is here
that he sits in judgement of how animals are treated. In his book, Seven Cherokee Myths,
Transylvania native Keith Parker explains, “Judaculla would consider how
persons dealt with game. Did they take
only what they needed? Did they do the
right ritual before taking down an animal, with apology and thanksgiving?” Punishment would be given to those who
violated the rules.
In the late 1800s travel
adventure books where popular reading.
It is from one such book that the name Devil’s Courthouse and the story
of the devil holding court in a cave within the rock cliff derives. With the completion of that section of the
Blue Ridge Parkway after WWII Devil’s Courthouse became much more accessible. Early publicity passed this sensational but
erroneous tale of Devil’s Courthouse on to visitors.
Parker’s book provides readers
a look at the Southern Appalachians from the perspective of Cherokee traditions
and beliefs. Schwartzman’s book details the
land, flora, and fauna of Transylvania County.
Both are available at the Transylvania County Library for anyone
interested in learning more.
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] or 828-884-3151 X242.