Carl Ross Papers

Carl Augustus Ross, Jr. (1931-1988) was born in Spring Place, Georgia to Carl and Rosa Smith Ross. Ross received his Ph.D. from University of Georgia in and worked as a History professor at Appalachian State University from 1966 to 1988. He acted as the director of the Center for Appalachian Studies from 1984 to 1988 and taught classes in Appalachian History.

The Carl Ross Papers is a collection of Dr. Carl Ross' academic research and students papers, predominantly from his classes on Appalachian Culture and History. The collection includes a large body of student papers and bibliographies collected from Ross' Appalachian History students, along with a few reports on non-Appalachian subjects. Materials on the Brinegar Cabin, located on the Blue Ridge parkway, include ephemera, blueprints, and transcribed interviews. Academic files include course materials as well as paperwork related to Dr. Ross' position as Director of the Center for Appalachian Studies. Civil War materials include information on Civil War historic sites and living history programs, particularly the reenactment organized by Dr. Ross at Camp Broadstone. Also included are ephemera and notes related to events, lectures, and conferences and Dr. Ross' correspondence and personal files. Research materials are primarily related to the Appalachian Region and include the letters of the Kimbrough Family, 1866-1887, along with a photocopied diary of a Confederate soldier, J. W. Dugger. Photographs include Ross family photographs, historic images of Watauga County, Civil War reenactment pictures, photograph of convicted murderer Lloyd Frazier, and photographs from student papers. Oral history audiocassettes from Ross' student focus on western North Carolina and East Tennessee.

Image from a student paper on "Feuds and Violence in Southern Appalachia" in AC.193: Carl Ross Papers, 1866-1989, undated.

Snapshot: The Birchfields of Roan Mountain

Bill Birchfield (top) and his father, Joe Birchfield (bottom), members of one of the preeminent families in the history of Appalachian string band music. You can watch footage of them playing the old Tennessee fiddle tune "Rattletrap" here. To learn more about the history of the Birchfields and their band, the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers, you can visit their webpage.

Photograph of Bill Birchfield from AC.877: The Plow Collection. Photograph of Joe Birchfield from AC.850: Jack Jeffers Photography Collection.

Modest Lamplighter

The continued story of Appalachia remains firmly connected to the history of the growth and evolution of rural America. From generation to generation, farmers within the region have balanced the growing and raising of crops and livestock for their own subsistence with a strong involvement in the wider sphere of commercial agriculture. One of the most engaging examples of the constant link between heritage and economics is represented in the breeding of cattle. Just as familial ties and last names are important in the daily commercial interactions of many Appalachian communities, the knowledge and recordkeeping concerned with tracing bloodlines of cattle still allows for the same sort of ordination and nominal weight at auctions and markets throughout the region. 

Sharing relatively the same geographical origins of many of the earliest mountain settlers, Hereford cattle first emerged as a distinct breed around the vicinity of Herefordshire, England sometime around the 17th Century. Characterized for their bulky build, red body, and white face, the breed became further solidified in its attributes during Britain's Industrial Revolution as farmers selectively bred cattle for higher beef yield to export and feed the growing non-farm workforce. Although three Herefords were brought to Kentucky by Henry Clay in 1817, the breed truly became seated on the continent with the herd developed by William Sotham and Erastus Corning of Albany, New York in the 1840s. The "Jr. Modest Lamplighter 4" pictured above is an example of one of the prime Hereford lines proliferated across America. A 1949 edition of The Polled Hereford World names descendants of the Lamplighter pedigree on farms in the vicinties of Lewisburg and Washburn, West Virginia.

Image from AC.876: Paul Weston Photographs, 1966. For anyone interested in finding out more on the early history of Herefords and the society who produced them see James MacDonald and James Sinclair's "History of Hereford Cattle" (1886).

Appalachian Land Ownership Task Force Records

The Appalachian Land Ownership Task Force initiated the Appalachian Land Ownership Survey in Fall 1978 to examine land ownership patterns, particularly absentee and corporate ownership, and determine how they effected regional development. The Appalachian Land Ownership Task Force was a coalition of community groups, scholars and individuals associated with the Appalachian Alliance, which served as an umbrella group for many community-based groups. The Appalachian Land Ownership Survey was funded in part by an Appalachian Regional Commission grant and a Needmor Grant. The Highlander Research and Education Center organized the project, and Appalachian State University was a primary sponsoring institution and handled administrative and fiscal details. Scholars working on the Appalachian Land Ownership Survey included Patricia Beaver, John Gaventa, and Bill Horton.

The Appalachian Land Ownership Task Force studied 80 counties within the Appalachian counties of Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Beginning in the spring of 1979, the task force created working groups for each of these six states and chose counties for particular concentration. Within these counties, volunteer and paid researchers examined land deeds of plots with 250 acres or more. Researchers noted the amount of land and mineral tax rates as well as other characteristics such as agricultural or industrial usage and absentee, corporate, federal, or local ownership. They also included over 100 socio-economic indicators to correlate indicators to various ownership patterns. Nineteen counties were used as detailed case studies. Research gathered by the task force members was used in the development of two interlinking projects, the seven volume, 1,800 page study Land Ownership Patterns and Their Impacts on Appalachian Communities and Who Owns Appalachia?

Newsclipping and text from AC.104: Appalachian Land Ownership Task Force Records.

Snapshot: Mr. Payne's Steam Engine

"Mr. Payne and Steam Engine"- Mr. Payne and the location of his engine are a mystery. The photographs are filed with other images from northwestern North Carolina in AC.123: Appalachian Photographs, 1905-1974. Any information regarding Mr. Payne or his engine would much appreciated by those of us here in the collection.

Speculation Land Company Records

New York-based speculator Tench Coxe (1755-1824) came into possession of 400,000 acres of land in North Carolina following the Revolutionary War, much of it purchased from the Rutherford Land Company in North Carolina in 1791, and established the Speculation Land Company to manage and sell the acreages. The Speculation Land Company was one of the largest land owners in southwestern North Carolina from the eighteenth century through the early twentieth century, owning thousands of acres in Buncombe, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford, and Mecklenburg counties. Later owners and trustees included Pierre Etienne DuPonceau and Abraham Kintzig, Isaac Bronson and Goold Hoyt, James J. Hoyt, William G. Ward, John Ward, William Redmond, Jr., Francis Randall, Francis M. Scott, David A. Thompson, George Willett Van Nest and William Redmond Cross. The local agents were based in Rutherfordton, North Carolina. Many of the claims were handled by Company Agent Joshua Forman in the nineteenth century and a number of the surveying records were created by the Justice family. By 1910 over 927 deeds had been distributed by the company. In 1913 the descendants of the original Speculation Land Company sued for changes in the distribution of the proceeds. The Speculation Land Company was dissolved in 1930.

Image found in the top corner of map signed "William Prince" within AC.104: Speculation Land Company Records, 1768-1992, undated.

The Gragg House

According to local memory the Gragg House was constructed some time in the mid-19th Century by Burton and Finley Gragg. The house is notable architecturally for its design, as evidenced in A Guide to the Historic Architecture of North Carolina:

"The carefully hewn timbers are of exceptional width and joined tightly with full-dovetailed corner notches so that daubing was unnecessary." (218)

Top image of Leonard Gragg in front of the home, second and third images unidentified. Photographs are within AC.115: Southern Appalachian Historical Association Records.