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Andrews Geyser

Andrews Geyser

Christy and I took a mini-Appalachian Journey of our own Wednesday. We spent the day in Old Fort and after we visited the Gateway Museum and the Andrews Geyser (which was repaired and working this time!) we headed up Stone Mountain to visit Stone Mountain Baptist Church with the graveyard where Aunt Bessie and Uncle Fletch and many of the other characters who populate the Appalachian Journey series are buried.

Since our husbands were with us to handle the driving, we were able to take a few detours and get some pictures of our old stomping grounds!

Aunt Bessie’s and Uncle Fletcher’s house, May 2015

First, we took the cutoff to Aunt Bessie’s and Uncle Fletcher’s old house. The road is still mostly gravel but the house has been completely remodeled and it’s very hard to recognize unless you know what you’re looking for. There have been so many changes and, of course, it doesn’t help that Christy and I are looking at it through the eyes of childhood memories–I swear this parcel of land was flatter back then! The bridge over the creek in the front is no longer there, the barn has been torn down, and it has a new front porch and new dark siding.

Aunt Bessie and Uncle FletchThis is what the house looked like shortly before Uncle Fletcher died in 1958. I’m not sure exactly when this picture was taken but that’s Aunt Bessie and Uncle Fletch standing in front of the chimney and that’s how I remember Aunt Bessie so I think I’m safe in saying this was taken sometime in the early 1950s. Even taking into account the trees and foliage, which has grown substantially, the house just appears smaller and more compact in this picture, but maybe that’s just me.

After that, we went on to our grandmother’s house which actually looks bigger since it’s been remodeled and had several rooms added on. Sorry, we forgot to take a picture because the people who bought it, Greg Miller and his wife (I think her name is Sue) were at home and we stopped to talk to them and ask about Camp Elliott. Greg was very helpful and actually took us up to the camp and gave us a tour.

Camp Elliott Lake

Camp Elliott Lake

We hadn’t been to Camp Elliott since our childhood and wow, has it changed. It sits on the site of the old Elliott homestead where Fletcher grew up and the old Elliott graveyard sits. Since it was donated to the boy scouts for a camp long before we were born, we only visited once in our childhood. All we really remember is the lake and a very primitive camping ground. Most recently the camp has been used as a school for boys with behavior problems. They added lots of cabins and a bathhouse plus a kitchen/dining hall, a small community center, and a beautiful chapel.

Stone Mountain Baptist Church and the graveyard haven’t changed much since we last visited. It’s still a lovely little mountain church and though the graveyard has almost doubled in size since we were children, it remains a peaceful and lovely resting place for those residing there.

Camp Elliott Chapel

Camp Elliott Chapel

So, there you have it, another day of walking in the footsteps of our ancestors. It was a wonderful day and driving home we even found a route that’s much shorter and many times more beautiful to get there and back which I hope means more visits in the future!

I’ll leave you with a picture of the Camp Elliott Chapel. Isn’t it beautiful?

 

 

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Moonfixer, book 2 in the Appalachian Journey series, begins with Bess moving with her new husband Fletcher Elliott to Old Fort, NC, where they lived with Fletch’s parents until they bought 400 acres of the Zachariah Solomon Plantation on Black Mountain.

Cyndi and I recently paid a visit to Old Fort and Black Mountain to try to get a feel for what Bess first saw in this beautiful area of the Appalachians. Since Bess and Fletch arrived by rail, our first visit was to the Old Fort Train Station and Railroad Museum, home of the original train depot. This museum is easy to find as the main locus point is a tall arrowhead sculpture standing beside it.  We toured this building which looks much as it did in the early 1900s with original walls showing graffiti dating to 1886 and period railroad artifacts. Of particular interest is a large table model old fort train depotshowing the route the train traveled, winding its way through and over mountains. To arrive in Old Fort, Bessie’s and Fletch’s train ride would have taken them though seven hand-dug tunnels and nine miles of track across the Gap (the Eastern Continental Divide is at the top of the Gap) and the Swannanoa Tunnel, 1800 feet long and the longest tunnel on the route at that time. Greeting them would be a manmade geyser, signaling the start of the long climb to Asheville. A disappointment for us was that we weren’t able to visit the geyser since it was closed for repair.

(A winter picture of the museum with the arrowhead statue is shown above.)

We chatted with the docent who knew some of Bessie’s and Fletch’s kin who still live in the area and toured the railroad car which, compared to today’s standards, seemed so bare and uncomfortable. As we walked through the museum and along the wooden platform leading to the car, I could imagine Bessie stepping off the train and looking about, wondering what her life would be like in these mountains.

From there, we went to the Mountain Gateway Museum and Heritage Center where we watched a short video about the construction of the railroad tracks over the mountains, after which we toured the museum, which has an interesting wall depicting pictures with descriptions of herbs used as medicines for different ailments. Since Bessie was a healer and used herbs, an art she learned from her Cherokee grandmother, we found this fascinating. We fell into a conversation with its docent Peggy Silvers who gave us some interesting background about the Copperheads and other secret societies of Western North Carolina and MountainGatewayMuseumafterward emailed us her research about these, including the Red Shirts, which we write about in Moonfixer. Upon leaving, we noticed two log cabins on the property and enjoyed visiting those.

(This is the museum and here are the two log cabins.)mountain gateway cabins

Then it was onto and up winding Black Mountain to Stone Mountain Baptist Church, to visit the graveyard where Bessie and Fletcher are buried, along with Fletcher’s parents, siblings and a host of relatives. This is the church Bess and Fletch attended, and standing there, looking up at the stately white steeple against the beautiful cobalt sky, time slipped away and I wondered if Bessie knew we were there. I suspect she did.

Outside the church is a fountain offering fresh, clear spring water which tastes sweet but is very cold. The graveyard is large and rambling and (I found) somewhat comforting. Graves are marked with monuments elegant and elaborate to simple headstones and even odd-shaped stones. As we walked along, we were thrilled to find graves of people we’ve written about who we feel are old friends. It pleased us to see someone had put fresh flowers on Bess’s and Fletch’s graves. One thing we have learned is that stone mountain baptist churchthey were a well-loved couple.

(Although this picture of the church is dark, it shows the steeple quite well.)

We plan to return for another tour to visit the geyser and Black Mountain Museum. But walking along these paths, going up and down Black Mountain, I wondered if we actually do live in a dimensional world, as some scientists claim, where we might possibly at one particular moment have been walking beside Bessie as she made her way to the Crooked Creek Schoolhouse or Stone Mountain Church. Or perhaps she was with us in spirit, as we often feel she is. I like to think so. Aunt Bessie has been an important part of this journey Cyndi and I are on and we really hope to do her justice by writing the best books we can about her very interesting life and kindly deeds.

Seeking the Brown Mountain Lights

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

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