The Transylvania Times -

By Marcy Thompson
Picturing The Past 

Oral Traditions Are Essential To History


November 14, 2016

Oral history is defined as the collection and study of historical information using sound recordings of interviews with people who have personal knowledge of past events.

In the past, oral tradition was used to preserve a record of history. As printing methods developed and more people were able to access print resources and read, the sharing of oral traditions faded. Fortunately, that began to change in the mid-1900s and today oral history is an integral part of historical research. In the mid-1980s members of the local Historic Preservation Commission (predecessor of today's JHPC) undertook an oral history project. Rowell Bosse, Dick Albyn, D.S. Winchester and Ken Hay interviewed long-time residents in their eighties and nineties "to record information about the colorful earlier days of the county to preserve them for future generations." Later Nilsa Lobdell, Betty Sherrill and Mike Curtis took over the job of interviewing.

Stories included growing up in Brevard and Rosman or on nearby farms; working at lumber camps, the tannery, or Ecusta; serving in the military; and more.

Kathryn English Anderson recalled the days when her mother, Lila Picklesimer English, operated a summer boarding house. Four bedrooms on the third floor, six on the second, and two on the main floor were rented to visitors who often stayed through the entire summer. Mrs. English typically fed 24 people at each meal. Rates for room and board were $7-10 per week.

A.P. Bell talked about Rosman businesses, including Silversteen's tannery, extract plant and sawmill, and the three town stores. There was White's grocery store, Winchester's general store, and the company store, which "sold everything, everything."

The Oral History Collection also includes interviews conducted by Joe Paxton and Frank Guest, relating to the logging industry and railroads in Transylvania County. Donald McCall shared stories of growing up in the Pisgah National Forest, George Vanderbilt's ranger houses, and working for Gloucester Lumber.

McCall told about counting 98 deer as he and a friend drove from the current Fish Hatchery location to the forest entrance gates around 1937 or 1938. Albert Lyday added more information about the ranger houses, also known as Black Forest lodges, and the National Forest Service's fawn rearing program.

Over a 20-year time span the memories of more than 60 people were recorded. One goal of the project was to transcribe the interviews. ,Renewed efforts are underway to do that work. If you are interested in volunteering to assist with this project, contact the Local History Room staff at the Transyl-vania County Library.

(Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs. For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at [email protected] or (828) 884-3151 ext. 242.)


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