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Friday and Saturday, September 8th and 9th, we participated in the Historic Morganton Festival in beautiful Morganton, North Carolina. We couldn’t have asked for a better day, with gorgeous cerulean skies dotted with puffy white clouds and highs in the 70s. Or for a mfbetter site, being placed on the lawn of the historic Old Courthouse, which is where William Waightstill Avery shot his nemesis Samuel Fleming, and which we write about in our book Through the Brown Mountain Lights.

This is the largest festival we’ve yet attended with close to 1000 vendors and I would estimate fifty thousand or more attendees. Somf2 many, the streets were packed throughout the festival. During the day, the crowd was entertained with live music (at one point, I wondered if Tina Turner was actually there!) with live concerts each evening. We loved it when a bluegrass band set up next to our booth and played during the afternoon.

We were pleased when several of those who bought books commented they had read about us in the paper and wanted to come meet us. And even more thrilled when Ed Phillips, Director of Tourism at the Burke County Tourism Development Authority, stopped by to chat and ask if he could add our book to an exhibit he’s putting together about the Brown Mountain lights.  Ed is mf3known for the symposiums he holds on this subject and we’re looking forward to visiting Morganton when he unveils the exhibit around Halloween. We had fun chatting with readers, always asking if they had seen the Brown Mountain lights. More than a few actually had and it was fascinating listening to their stories and descriptions about the lights, which only made them more mf7mysterious to us the more stories we heard.

Our cousins Mary Paris Merriken and Melinda Paris stopped by. We’re related to them through Lucinda Henderson, Bessie’s mother. I knew we were descendants of Clan Henderson through Lucinda, but Melinda and Mary told us we are descended from several other clans in Scotland, one of which is the Balfour clan. Didn’t Diana Gabaldon write about a Balfour in her Outlander series? Whether she did or not, it’s great knowing we can definitely claim Scottish heritage. Mary has done extensive research on Bessie’s cousin Frank Henderson, the first man to die in the electric chair in North Carolina (skeletons in closets, right?), and is planning a book which we look forward to reading.

All in all, we had a fantastic day with the added bonus of breaking our sales record. We’ve been so blessed with these festivals and library and book club presentations and signings this year, and appreciate more than we can ever express our fabulous readers, who are always so inspiring and mf5encouraging. Y’all are absolutely the best!

Up  next: Art on the Island in Marshall, NC on September 30th, and the Mars Hill Heritage Festival on October 7th.

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In researching our next book, Beloved Woman, Cyndi and I are discovering lots of interesting historical facts that aren’t well-known. Did you know that during WWI, there was a German internment camp in Hot Springs, NC? Erected on the grounds of the Mountain Park Hotel (now Hot Springs Resort), it held 2200 prisoners. Supervised by the Department of Labor, these men weren’t considered prisoners of war but rather enemy aliens because they were the civilian officers and crew of German and Austrian commercial ships that took cover in American ports when Great Britain declared war on Germany in 1914 for fear of being attacked crossing back over the ocean.  The officers stayed at the hotel and lived a comfortable lifestyle with heated rooms and electricity while the other aliens resided in barracks built on the grounds of the hotel. The officers played tennis and billiards and bowled in the hotel’s bowling alley while their men busied themselves building two small German villages and chapels out of driftwood from the French Broad River, debris from the Great Flood of 1916 and Prince Albert tobacco tin cans. They even built a german encampment 2carousel with chain-suspended chairs that played music as it turned. 

I’ve placed 2 pictures of these lovely, rustic buildings within this post. In the one to the right, you can see one of the chapels in the background.   

Although the citizens of Hot Springs were wary at first, they soon realized these men posed no danger and allowed officers escorted by guards to have dinner with them and speak before students of the Dorland Institute. A 35-member German brass band played concerts on Sunday afternoons, attended by people from Hot Springs and beyond. Some of the officers’ families moved to Hot Springs and visitation was allowed between the officers and their families in Hot Springs and at the hotel.

The only real discord arose when the citizens realized that the aliens ate better than they did, having meat twice daily while they were bound to honor meatless and wheatless days. Once the DOL learned of this, they required the aliens to observe meatless and wheatless days as well.

german encampment 3In 1920, the government transferred custody of the aliens from the Department of Labor to the Department of War, at which time the DOW decided to send them to a prison camp in Georgia where they would be required to perform labor beside real prisoners of war building roads. No one wanted to leave and a case of typhoid broke out among the aliens – many suspecting they deliberately drank contaminated water so that they could stay.

In the picture above, you can see the detail that went into these small houses. Each had a matching gate and walkway and the aliens heated them with furnaces they built from cast off bricks and stones. One had a miniature widow’s walk and the spindles on one porch railing were made from empty thread spools.

All in all, the people of Hot Springs were proud of this camp and treated the aliens well, so much so that they did not want to leave.

Through the Brown Mountain Lightss

Brown Mountain Lights Book 1

Wise Woman

Appalachian Journey Book 4

Beloved Woman

Appalachian Journey Book 3

Moonfixer

Appalachian Journey Book 2

Whistling Woman

Appalachian Journey Book 1

Madchen, die pfeifen

Whistling Woman (German)

Les deces arrivant toujours par trois

Whistling Woman (French)

Christy Tillery French Cynthia Tillery Hodges