The Transylvania Times -

By Jeremiah Reed
Staff Writer 

Historical Marker Points To Tannery's Past – Roaman NC

 


A N.C. Highway Historical Marker recognizing the importance of the state’s early tanning industry was unveiled Saturday afternoon in front of the Rosman Town Hall.

One hundred years ago, the site of the marker would have been bustling with activity as the Toxaway Tanning Company, which was founded by Joseph Silversteen in 1901, was fully operational.

Michael Hill, research branch supervisor at the N.C. Office of Archives and History, was one of several people who helped the marker get approval from the state. Hill, who grew up in Dana, said he remembered several of his neighbors regularly taking hides to the tannery.

Although Silversteen’s tannery was not the only one in operation during the time, Hill said it was chosen as the site for the marker because of its impact on the community (the name “Rosman” replaced “Eastatoe” in 1905 and was a combination of the names Jospeh Rosenthal and Morris Osmansky, two of Silversteen’s associates) as well as the close proximity to the actual site of the former tannery.

The historical marker is the 10th in Transylvania County. Each marker comes from a foundry in Ohio at a cost of $1,600 each. Funding for the markers comes from the N.C. DOT.

“To get a marker approved, it takes clear importance beyond just the local area. There has to be something exceptional about the site and it became clear that the tannery in Rosman was so important to Transylvania County and the surrounding areas,” Hill said.

Rosman resident Brenda Morgan also spoke at the marker ceremony. Morgan said her grandfather, like many in the area at the time, was employed as a foreman at the tannery during its operation.

“I think I heard something like 90 percent of the people in this area worked either at the tannery, Gloucester Lumber Company or brought logs in from around the area,” Morgan said.

Although the tannery closed in 1951, Morgan said children in the area were ever mindful of its presence thanks to a reminder three times a day.

“The influence stayed because the tannery whistle blew every morning at 8 o’clock for people to come to work, it blew at 12 noon for lunch and it blew at 5 o’clock in the evening to indicate the end of the work day. So going to school here in Rosman, we all remember hearing that whistle three times a day,” Morgan said.

Morgan said she also had fond memories of Silversteen, recalling one encounter where he gave her a dime after she told him that her grandfather had been a foreman at the tannery.

“I remember they still had penny candy at the (Gloucester Lumber) Company Store and you could get three or four pieces for one cent. So if you had a dime, you were rich,” Morgan said.

All the old tannery buildings and water tower were torn down in the late 70s, a sight Morgan said brought a tear to her eye. However, for her and others who grew up during the period of Toxaway Tanning Company, those memories won’t soon be forgotten.

“As children growing up, we knew so much about the tannery because it was just so much a part of our lives,” Morgan said.

 
 

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