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Focus On African American Sites In County – Transylvania County, NC

Picturing The Past  

 

Last updated 1/20/2020 at 2:59pm

The New French Broad Baptist Church was constructed in 1962 but its roots go back to services started shortly after emancipation. (Courtesy photos)

This week's Picturing the Past article completes a series on the 2019 survey of African American heritage resources in Transylvania County by looking at sites outside of Brevard.

Most, if not all, of the early African Americans in what is today Transylvania County came here as slaves. After the Civil War, the African American population declined sharply from 450 in 1862 to 308 in 1870. Nearly two-thirds of the African Americans were living in Brevard or the Boyd Township (Pisgah Forest area) by 1870. Others lived in the Cathey's Creek, Dunn's Rock and Little River areas.

There is only one structure remaining in the county that may have been used as slave quarters. It does have some features dating from the antebellum period. However, further research is needed to confirm its primary use and date of construction.

African American communities on both sides of the French Broad River in Pisgah Forest continued to exist well into the 1900s. There were African American churches and schools on both sides of the river, as well. French Broad Baptist Church first began holding services shortly after the Civil War. Glade Creek Baptist Church was established in 1912 to accommodate a growing population on the North side of the river. Both New French Broad Baptist and Glade Creek Baptist have active congregations today.

The French Broad School closed in the early 1930s, but Glade Creek School continued to operate until 1948 when the new Rosenwald School was build and opened in Brevard. The school building was then used as a community center for many years.

The Pritchard and Ollie Mae Gash house and the Moses and Gertrude Gash house, both in the Glade Creek community, are the oldest standing homes outside of Brevard connected to African American families. They were both constructed within the first two decades of the 1900s.

In the Cedar Mountain area, wealthy seasonal residents often brought African American domestic servants who worked as cooks, housekeepers and drivers with them for the summer. The hotel at Caesar's Head also employed seasonal African American workers. Because segregated society continued to require African Americans live separately, servants' quarters were typically small dwellings behind the main house.

Social life was limited to occasional free moments or a night off. A large rock outcropping near the store in Cedar Mountain served as a gathering spot for African American domestic workers to visit with one another during these times. L.C. Betsill stated that an old clubhouse was available to them on Thursday evenings for dances. He said African Americans from town would sometimes attend as well.

This saddlebag style house in Cedar Mountain has two rooms on either side of a central stone chimney. It was used as servants' quarters for the Hanahan family.

Information for this series of articles was taken from the final report of the survey of African American heritage related resources, "Walking Around the World: African American Landscapes and Experience in Transylvania County, NC" by Dr. Michael Ann Williams and Sydney Varajon. The report, interviews and survey materials are available in the Local History Room at the Transylvania 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 local history and see additional photographs. For more information, comments, or suggestions, contact Marcy at marcy.thompson@transylvaniacounty.org or call (828) 884-1820.)

 
 

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