By Marcy Thompson
Picturing The Past 

Devil's Courthouse Is A Popular Destination


Devil's Courthouse at Milepost 422 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Devil's Courthouse is a popular sightseeing stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but it is much more than just a nice view.

The highest point is 5,720 feet above sea level and offers a 360 degree view. The large rock outcropping with steep cliffs flows into a mix of bare rock and shrubby areas and then spreads into spruce-fir and northern hardwood forests, all home to rare plants and animals.

In "An Inventory of the Natural Areas of Transylvania County, North Carolina," Edward Schwartzman states that there are "eleven rare vascular plant species and nine species of rare bryophytes and lichens" at Devil's Courthouse. It is the only place in Transylvania County where Appalachian fir-clubmoss, sticky bog-asphodel and deerhair bulrush are found.

Schwartzman also identifies the Carolina northern flying squirrel, brown creepers, hermit thrush, and Southern Appalachian black-capped chickadees as rare animals living there.

The site lies in the heart of the early Cherokee tribal territory and has a significant role in their ancient story of "Tsul' Kalu' or Judaculla, The Slant-Eyed Giant."

Judaculla is a mysterious superhuman giant who lives and farms high in the mountains. He is the owner of all game and it is here that he sits in judgment of how animals are treated.

In his book, "Seven Cherokee Myths," Transylvania native Keith Parker explains, "Judaculla would consider how persons dealt with game. Did they take only what they needed? Did they do the right ritual before taking down an animal, with apology and thanksgiving?" Punishment would be given to those who violated the rules.

In the late 1800s travel adventure books were popular reading. It is from one such book that the name Devil's Courthouse and the story of the devil holding court in a cave within the rock cliff derives. With the completion of that section of the Blue Ridge Parkway after WWII, Devil's Courthouse became much more accessible. Early publicity passed this sensational but erroneous tale of Devil's Courthouse on to visitors.

Parker's book provides readers a look at the Southern Appalachians from the perspective of Cherokee traditions and beliefs. Schwartzman's book details the land, flora, and fauna of Transylvania County. Both are available at the Transylvania County Library for anyone interested in learning more.

(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 marcy.thompson@transylvaniacounty. org or (828) 884-3151 ext. 242.)

View of Looking Glass Rock from the top of Devil's Courthouse.


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