Thursday, September 10, 2009

Avery county, home of tall mountain men

Get ready for a weekend Autumn in Oz. In Avery county the first weekend in October, they recreate the home of the Wizard of Oz in the amusement park we remember as the Land of Oz. Now I've not been since the amusement park closed, but this party's coming up so I thought I'd tell you.

AND, by Jove, the courthouse in Newland, still in use, looks just like the Wilkes County Heritage Museum which used to be a courthouse. There is another one like it in Ashe county too...

It is historic too. It was the last county formed in NC. The old 100th was formed on land granted to Col. Waightstill Avery on November 9, 1783. Obviously, he was a Revolutionary colonel and finally, a settler in the far west with English origins. Here is his family history and his stories from the Revolution. Col. Avery lived pretty much all over the state. His father was from Groton, Connecticut. He graduated from Princeton in 1766 and delivered a Latin salutatory. He became a lawyer. He was one of the group which wrote the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence; of the Hillsboro Congress which formed a plan of government for the state; a member of the Halifax Convention of 1776 when it instructed its delegates to the Continental Congress to vote for independence; also a delegate from Mecklenburg County to the convention which drafted the State Constitution of 1776. He was appointed the first attorney general of North Carolina under the new constitution.

So, he was very well known, educated, well-liked and eccentric. Listen to the following stories...

"......Col. AVERY was very fond of honey and ate it in unusual quantities. On one occasion he met a woman on the road as he was traveling; discovering she had a bucket of honey, he asked what she would charge for as much as he could eat. Supposing he could not eat more than a pound, she said, "Twelve and a half cents." Getting off his horse, seating himself under a tree, he began eating from the bucket. The owner, seeing her honey was rapidly diminishing, said: "Stranger, if you will stop, I will charge you nothing for what you have eaten." "That was not the bargain", he said, finishing; he gave her double the amount promised."

But he was particular... He was in the habit of taking his dinner, when in town, at my grandfather's, and was fond of a very rich pudding; before eating, he would invariably ask the writer, "Does this pudding have any butter in it? I cannot eat anything that has butter in it." The servant, who was prompted, would answer, "Oh, no, sir." Eating heartily of the pudding, although rich in butter, he never discovered the fact.

AND of his character.. My grandfather McENTIRE became blind several years before his death, so that he couldn't read. His good friend, Col. AVERY, sympathizing deeply with him on account of his bereavement, would read to him for hours the newspapers of the time, always beginning with the name of the paper, where published, editor, date, etc., including every item, and ending with advertisements."

Well, I'm interested in Avery county because it was the place the western overmountain men entered NC at Yellow Mountain Gap in 1780. This is on the Appalachian Trail. Here is another video. Check out how LONG the Appalachian Trail is.

The Overmountain men entered NC in the Gap between Yellow Mountain and Roan Mountain. In the expedition to King's Mountain, Col. Campbell, Col. Shelby, and Col. Sevier rendezvoused at the Sycamore Flats, on Watauga, at the foot of Yellow Mountain, on the 25th of September, 1780. Next day, the 26th, they ascended this mountain, mostly on horseback, and encamped at night in the gap of the mountain on the opposite side. The ascent over this part of the mountain was not very difficult. There was a road; but not one on which wagons could pass. No provisions were taken but such as each man could carry in his wallet or saddle-bags. The sides and top of the mountain were covered with snow, shoe-mouth deep. On the top of the mountain there was about one hundred acres of beautiful table land, in which a spring issued, ran through it, and over into the Watauga. Here the troops paraded. On reaching the plane beyond the mountain, they found themselves in a country covered with verdure, and breathed an atmosphere of summer mildness.

It must be a beautiful land. It was formerly part of Watauga county. In 1780 it was part of the Old Watauga Settlement "Washington District " and later the state of Franklin. The state of Franklin only existed for four years. Later it broke away from NC and became Tennessee.

These men really came from the back side of the mountains to fight the British at Kings Mountain.

Now, one of the famous families other than the Averys is the Burlesons. I have to mention them because their famous son, Tommy Burleson, is the only man I have ever met taller than PJ. I had a student when I taught science, Victor Davila, who is playing basketball at Virginia Tech, but PJ is now the same height as Victor. Tommy B. on the other hand is over 7 feet tall. He was at NSCU when I went there. Every year he sells Christmas trees on Kildaire Farm Road in Cary. He is there the day after Thanksgiving. We stopped to visit with my brother one year. Tommy met PJ and RG. RG threatened to bring his banjo back and hang out. "Come on!" Tommy said. We have to do that this year. Tommy is expecting it.

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