Transylvania County is a rugged territory with many peaks and hills which have been named both formally and colloquially. One such land feature is Cold Mountain. No, not that Cold Mountain. Charles Frazier’s book that was based on his family heritage and the subsequent movie of the same title were set in Haywood County. Haywood County’s Cold Mountain is much bigger than the rounded peak that sits on the border of Jackson and Transylvania counties.
The Cold Mountain in Transylvania can be seen in this picture of a Moltz Lumber Company logging camp. These portable housing units were used when loggers were on the job and would sometimes even accommodate their wives and families, as seen in the photo.
Documentation shows that the mountain once had a different name that was given after two hunters attempted to traverse the ridge, then lost their footing, and slid down the exposed area of an ice-covered wall of granite. They both survived but had cold rear ends, and so the original name was an indication of that experience, and which happens to be unsuitable for print. The name was shortened to Cold Mountain to make it more socially acceptable.
Other nearby land features also have storied names. Panthertail Mountain is a virtual neighbor to Cold Mountain and secured its name from John J. Green, one of the legendary Long Hunters of early Transylvania. The story goes that a panther attacked the livestock of John and his wife Nancy. It should be noted that Nancy’s father was also a noted Long Hunter. The couple ran out of the house and gathered their hunting dogs to chase away the panther. Nancy returned to the house to retrieve the gun the couple had left behind, and meanwhile John kept heaving rocks at the animal to keep it at bay. One of the rocks stunned the panther, at which point John grabbed it by the tail and hit its head with the large lighter-knot torch he was carrying. Although his death wasn’t until many years later, local legend claims that John was eventually killed by a panther. His solitary grave sits atop Flat Top Mountain, which is obviously named for its appearance.
One last land feature in the vicinity with an unusual name based on a story is Bonas Defeat. A hunter who lived in the area had a skinny hunting dog named Boney. One day on a hunting trip, the dog chased a deer and when the deer leaped off a cliff, the dog followed. Both were found dead at the bottom of the ravine, but the courageous dog was memorialized by calling the precipice Boney’s Defeat. Over time the name was altered to Bonas Defeat. The stories of placenames, even in this one small geographical area, are an interesting glimpse of the lives and experiences of early settlers in Transylvania County. Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. This article was written by Local History Librarian Laura Sperry. For more information, comments, or suggestions, contact NC Room staff at [email protected] or 828-884-1820.