The Transylvania Times -

Gladys Taylor: Historical Society A Labor Of Love-Transylvania County, NC


July 8, 2019

Every organization needs volunteers who roll up their sleeves and work, often anonymously, in the background and away from the limelight.

The Transylvania Historical Society found someone who fit that selfless mode in Gladys Taylor. Now, she’s stepping away from most – but not all – of her volunteer commitment.

For more than 20 years, the Brevard native has given tours, regaled visitors with stories of the early days of the county and otherwise helped to promote and preserve Transylvania County’s past.

All of which she’s done while doing what needs to be done. She never served as a society officer. Rather, Taylor is the quintessential worker bee.

“I’m not an organizer,” she said. “I’m a good helper. People would say ‘do this, do that.’ And I’d go out and get it done.”

Taylor Grew Up Hearing About History

The seeds of Taylor’s interest in Transylvania County’s past were planted early.

She recalls childhood Sunday car rides with local history a frequent topic of family conversation.

When the family car drove past the wooden Deaver house on the east side of Brevard, her father would recount the 1865 mistaken identity murder of William Deaver, shot dead on his front porch by bushwhackers who were AWOL from the Confederate army.

The renegades were actually in pursuit of William’s son, Confederate army captain James Deaver, who was charged with rounding up deserters who took refuge in the mountains above the town.

According to local lore, a board stained by the elder Deavers’ blood endured for decades until a porch renovation by the historical society some years later.

Yet Taylor’s two-decade involvement in the society (starting in 1998) took a little bit of arm twisting early on. She and her husband Dennis worked full time. They were in the midst of raising three children. There was scant time for good works in the community.

Their energies were directed elsewhere.

The Call Came And Taylor Answered

It took a phone call in the late 1990s to prod Taylor to her stint in public service.

Departing society member and lifelong Brevard resident John Huggins told Taylor the society needed more Transylvania natives to serve, and would she take a look at volunteering. With her children grown and now with more free time, she took the leap of faith.

“When they called me, I took that opportunity to see what it was all about,” said Taylor.

What she found were newcomers to town who largely took charge in preserving the county’s past. They seemed the most interested in learning about their new home and its heritage.

“The ones who had saved our history were those who retired here,” she said.

So, in 1998 Taylor joined the Transylvania Historical Society.

She pitched in to help here and there on a variety of projects, from $5-per-ticket fundraisers at the old Belk store on Main Street to any other task that was needed to keep the society and its mission afloat.

That also includes staging Pioneer and Centennial days, hosting other celebrations to stir interest in the county’s yesteryear and even helping to find and purchase period objects and furniture original to the house.

The centerpiece of the county’s history, and close to Taylor’s heart, is the Allison-Deaver House, co-named for the family that built the structure in 1815 and the Deavers, who bought it in 1830.

Taylor soon became a docent, giving tours as she retold to visitors the glories of the county and its past. She gives credit where it’s due for her oral history abilities.

“I got some storytelling ability from my father,” she said.

The house is indeed special.

“It’s amazing that the first part built in 1815 is still standing,” said Taylor. “The outside of the house has been reworked, but when you walk in that house, we’ve kept it as it would have been in 1815. One thing we bought at auction is a “swing arm” that sits over the fire place where women could swing pots over the fire.”

Although Taylor retired from significant volunteer duty in December, 2018, she will keep on with a favored assignment.

“I’ve enjoyed being a docent and telling the story and I’ll continue doing that,” she said.

She trains new docents but even so there’s a shortage of such guides, and that directly limits Allison-Deaver House visitor hours: since there’s no one to guide tours, the house is only open two days per week.

Genealogy Makes History More Popular

Interest in history seems to be on the uptick in the U.S. and Transylvania County is no exception.

And Taylor is only too glad to promote what some Transylvanians know but others don’t.

Taylor met with visitors from more than 20 states and three countries last year. She also spoke to school groups who are frequent visitors.

Still, there’s a long way to go for the public to fully utilize, and get to know, both the Allison-Deaver House and another historic property, the McGaha Chapel.

“People didn’t know we were there, they didn’t know we were open. People say they know the place is there but ‘I’ve just never taken the time to visit,’” said Taylor.

The society board, she said, has been particularly active in the past 10 years.

“We’ve had more events to get people out,” she said.

Taylor points to genealogy as stirring up general interest in both family and local histories.

“People are more interested in history now than ever before, I think history is talked about a lot more,” she said.

People, it seems, want to know their history and roots.

“It has a lot to do with genealogy, even if people are transplants here. They take an interest in the area. They come out and find out more of the history,” she said.

And that includes native Transylvanians and newcomers alike who have yet to visit a location so central to the founding of the county in 1861.

According to Taylor, “People know more about Silvermont because they pass by it every day” on the east end of Main Street. “I’d like to see more Transylvania County residents use it (Allison-Deaver House). I wish they would visit.”

Taylor may have spent her time at the historical society in the background, but her work and commitment of time has not gone unnoticed.

“Her work in the historical society has been nothing short of phenomenal,” said Keith Parker, former board member and himself a Brevard native. “She’s quiet and unassuming. She always worked behind the scenes but is very hard working. And any time there was work to be done, Taylor was right in the middle doing it. She’s been the most inspiring worker. And when she spoke it was of wisdom and experience.”

If anyone is interested in guiding tours, call (828) 884-5137 or visit


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