Land of the noon day sun
By Arthur Howard Cross
The Nantahala area includes the part of Macon County west of Wayah Gap. I remember when there were six distinct communities in this area.
Aquone was once a stage route from Asheville to Murphy. Mrs. Laura Stepp was in charge of a stage stop here for many years.
When the Indians were being rounded up for the Trail of Tears March, there was a detainment center, Camp Scott, near the mouth of Wine Spring Creek. This area is now covered with water by Nantahala Lake. This information was verified by Joe Stepp, whose father, Craig Stepp was very knowledgeable of local history.
Aquone had a church, a school, a post office and at least two stores and a cornmill. There was once a Campbelite Church at Aquone, which is a member of the christians known as, “The Diciples of Christ”. I haven’t been able to find when the first Baptist Church was established, but I have read that the Rev. Mark May was pastor of a Bapitist Church in the 1860’s.
It is hard to imagine what Aquone was like before it was covered with water from Nantahala Lake in 1942. There were several farms; also a cemetery from which the remains were removed and transferred to the present Aquone Cemetery, and Little Choga Cemetery when the Nantahala dam was being built.
Nantahala Power & Light Co. built two churches in the area to replace Aquone Baptist Church. Nantahala #1 was on little Choga and Nantahala #2 was across Highway #1310 from the present Aquone Baptist Church.
Kyle was another community with a church, at least five stores, a post office, a school, and three cornmills. The school was located where the present Aquone Baptist Church now stands. The Kyle Baptist was near the present location of White Oake Flats Baptist Church.
Briartown was a community with a church, which was established in 1863 near the present Briartown Baptist Church. (Bethel Hill Baptist Church was established in the late 1930’s). The first Briartown Church building was built of logs and served as both a church and a school. My mother Allie Dalrymple Cross attended this school. (She was born in 1886). At one time there was also a school on the Winding Stairs Rd. approximately ½ mile above the intersection of Partridge Creek, known as the Owenby School, and the other on Otter Creek, known as Otter Creek School. At first this school was in two buildings, near the intersection of Otter Creek, Otter Mtn. and Vestal Cochran roads. The school was later moved up Otter Creek Rd, just across from the intersection of Otter Creek and Brairtown Church road. This was in the mid 1920’s. There were finally three buildings. This became the first high school in the Nantahala area. This school was moved to the present location of Nantahala High School in 1951.
Briartown has three cemeterys: Briartown Church Cemetery, Bobbie Hill Cemetery and Bethel Hill Cemetery, which was once called the Owenby Cemetery.
Flats Post Office was on Otter Creek. The first Postmaster was Palmer (Uncle Parm) May. At one time there was a Duvall Post Office. It was located in the John Wikle Store building. John Wikle was the postmaster.
Over a period of time Briartown had at least 9 stores. They were owned by Milton Jeff May, Samuel Jefferson May, William (Uncle Bill) Jones, John Wikle, John Wishon, Frank Wilson, Harley May, George Douthit and Weaver Cochran; also Mose Duvall.
There were also 8 cornmills. They were owned by John Duvall, Mark Shields, John Wishon, Dave Owenby and William F. Cross. Later there were 3 more, owned by W. Frank Cross, Dill Grant and George Douthit.
The Shields cornmill was one of a kind. It was water driven, but the gear wheels were all made of wood. It made a terrible noise when it was operating, but it worked.
Briartown consisted of Otter Creek, Partridge Creek and several homes on the lower end of White Oak Creek. Fairview, Happy Top, as it was once known, had a church, which was established in 1909, a school, and at different times, at least three stores. One was owned by Joeph Bars Mason, Bry Lowery and a fellow Chambers who also had a “gasoline station.” They also had a post office and two cornmills. These cornmills were owned by Ervine Grant and Leonard Mashburn.
Camp Branch had a Baptist Church, which was established in 1892. It is now known as Union Hill Baptist Church. There was also a school, and at various times, four stores, two corn mills and a cemetery.
Beechertown, which is now considered to be in the Topton community, had a school. It was located where the present Rowlands Creek Church now stands. Nantahala Power Plant, which is operated by water from Nantahala Lake, is located in this community; also Queens Creek Power Plant.
I Remember When By Arthur Howard Cross
I remember when the only road leading from highway 19, which was highway #10 at that time, near the Nantahala Railroad Station to Franklin was the old winding stairs road, which was a much steeper grade than the present road. It was rebuilt and much of it was relocated in the 1920’s; also a bridge was built across Nantahala River. Prior to this, there was just a wide ford that you could cross with horses, oxens and wagons, and even motor vehicles when the streamflow was not too high. There was also a swinging foot bridge. This road intersected with Otter Creek Road, which at the time was called Tellico Road. You followed this road to Lost Bridge on Tennessee River, where it intersected with Highway 28.
The Tellico Road was just a dirt road, no gravel at this time; also there was no road down Whiteoak Creek below Kyle. To get to Kyle and Aquone, you had to drive the old Otter Mountain Road from Otter Creek through Upper Long Branch. The road from Aquone to Andrews was built many years before this.
There was no electricity in the Nantahala area of Macon County until the late 1940’s, and no telephones until the 1950’s.
Until 1949, the main road leading from highway 19 through the Nantahala area, was the Winding Stairs Road. Nantahala Power and Light Co. built a road along Nantahala River from Highway 19 to Nantahala Dam when the dam was being built. This road was started in 1929, but due to the “Great Depression” it wasn’t completed until 1940. This road did not intersect with the winding stairs road just below the present Nantahala School until 1949. This road (highway #1910) was paved in 1952.
The first time I went down the Winding Stairs with my father in the mid 1920’s, highway 19 was not paved. They were just getting it ready to pave. (The first black person that I had ever seen was working on this road.)
I remember when a mail carrier, Carmen Sams, carried the mail on horseback from Nantahala post office to all the Postoffices, ending at Aquone.
In the 1930’s, Oscar Cross re-wired a 1928 Dodge generator and changed it to 110 volts. He did all the necessary building and gear work so that it could be driven with a water wheel that operated the cornmill owned by our father, Frank Cross. He ran a 110 volt power line to the house which he had wired, so their home had electric lights and a radio that used no battery years before their neighbors had power, needless to say, the neighbors would come to listen to radio. They could start and stop the water wheel from inside the house.