A Pilgrimage to Sacred Ground

The Context

In the beginning of time, the Cherokee creation myth explains, the great raptor buzzard flapped his broad wings over the flat earth in what is now northern Georgia, western North Carolina and Tennessee. Flying here and there, the aeronautic force cracked the earth to create the great mountains, deep valleys and flowing waters of Appalachia. The Broad and Catawba rivers, among others, flowed and fell in cascading waters. Mountain streams bubbled up from the ground, then skipped and jumped the rocky and sandy beds down to join them in their journey to the coast. 

For millennia Ameridian people, who would become Cherokee and Catawba nations, roamed the deep and rich forests, hunting plentiful game in the home of the bear, deer, fox, bobcat, mountain lion, coyote and wolf. The pileated woodpecker caw-cawed as her aviary relatives squawked and chirped amidst giant oak, tulip poplar, and pine trees. The squirrel and lowly mole found their way among the dogwood, holly and mountain laurel.    Ferns and moss would not be outdone and spread their shallow roots in a blanket of green. And it was good.

Great Buzzard wood sculpture from an old reclaimed pitch pine root found on Pheasant Street.  Corbitt, 2020.

It has been well over three centuries since French, German, English and Scots-Irish hearty pioneers and settlers–some would say invaders and land grabbers–made their way to the hilly and rugged area in the foothills of Appalachia known as Rutherford County. “…Formed in 1779…It was named for Griffith Rutherford, leader of an expedition against the Cherokee in 1776 and a general in the American Revolutionary War.” (Google)  

A c. 1724 English copy of a deerskin Catawba map of the tribes between Charleston (left) and Virginia (right) following the displacements of a century of disease and enslavement and the 1715–7 Yamasee War. The Catawba are labelled as “Nasaw”. Public Domain. Library of Congress.

A ‘no war’ hunting land between the Cherokee and Catawba Nations, settlers in the 1700s–some with their slave labor–would gain land from their Revolutionary War service and add to their holdings at cheap prices from the Philadelphia-based Land Speculation Company that held over 400,000 acres of mountain land.  This Speculation land included the land where Asheville now sits, and specifically where I now stand 20 miles away, southeast of Asheville, in a section called Uree.   

On the land between the Broad river, that runs through hilly farmland, Walnut Creek to the southeast, and Island Creek to the west, there is a high point of 1411 feet above sea level called Grassy Knob. The best farmland had already been taken by the Whiteside, Egerton, Dalton and Flynn families, in the fertile fields of Uree and Bills Creek.  The Brown family also settled, in the area of Grassy Knob and further south, past Cooper’s Gap, toward Columbus and Spartanburg.  

The most direct route from Grassy Knob, near where Grassy Knob Baptist Church now sits, to the big crook in the Broad River and entrances to Riverbend POA, is a 400 acre section where the Great Buzzard must have gotten lost, as it is full of ridges and deep crevices with little land suitable for farming.  It had plenty of trees, hardwoods and pine.

We don’t know when, exactly, but sometime between 1788 and 1823, the Brown family who owned farmland and apple orchards atop Grassy knob built two sister log cabins, an upper smaller cabin, and a lower larger one of about 800 square feet, between Grassy Knob and the Broad River.  At 1117 feet above sea level, the larger cabin, which has been called Posey Brown’s Cabin, was constructed from hand hewn logs and notched together, with wooden shingles covering the roof.  The one room log cabin sits on a ridge halfway down the trace from Grassy Knob with, then, several acres of farmable land.  Below the cabin is a stone water catchment built at the same time as the cabin.  There was a large fireplace and a root cellar, not unlike traditional log cabins of the period.

Daniel John Marcone

In 2016, I purchased what I would learn to be Posey Brown’s Cabin. It is both a retirement project and a place of refuge.  Part of the physical restoration of the cabin included an historical restoration through the history I have summarized above. Based on deeds,  Posey Brown’s cabin has passed through 15 generations of owners in nearly 200 years of existence. I have approached this much like I would researching my family genealogy.    Deeds, maps, written histories of the area, along with interviews have been essential to gaining an understanding why this old cabin is still standing, when so many others in Appalachia have fallen. 

I am indebted to Daniel John Marcone who owned the cabin between 1983 and 2001. A high school history teacher, he left a summary sketch of his own research findings.  He passed away in Hendersonville, NC in 2019.  

This post is a story of the restoration journey. Click Page 2 below to read the story.

13 thoughts on “A Pilgrimage to Sacred Ground

  1. So much rich history. Felt like I was with you there. Had a difficult time discerning some of the detail and context but overall, such a nice surprise that you were able to meet this person who shared so much with you.

  2. Nathan, you worked on the Posey Brown cabin and did the research to tie land and family. What a gift. Reading about Sacred Ground brings back memories of my too-short week with you at Posey Brown cabin. For this short while today stay-at-home doesn’t matter. You take us out for quite journey. Ron

  3. It is so great that you are able to collect so much information about the history of the cabin and the area. I expect that you know it already, but I was told that the original Uree post office still stands adjacent to 6651 Hwy 64 . Also, do you have a copy of Virginia Dare Dalton Wilson’s book, “Precious Memories”?

    • Ken, thanks so much for reading and responding, you know a lot about this area. I do have a copy of Dalton’s book and was able to speak with her last week. Apparently, the managers of Riverbend (Ecological Development Corporation,) when they acquired the property, destroyed the old Uree Post Office which was in bad repair. I do have a question for you. I am trying to find out about a road through Hickory Nut Gap through the old town of Buffalo, where 74/64 is now. Any idea?

      • Based on pics that Thelma Phillips had, and Jim Proctor probably also has, the old road followed the river, from approximately the site of the current Point of View restaurant to the west near Boys Camp Road.

    • Thanks Ken. I actually have seen that map. At 1924, it seems to show the lake. Russ Meade suggested the town’s name under the lake was Buffalo (https://hickorynutgorgehikes.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/the-town-beneath-the-lake/). We did interview Becky Wright, married to a Whiteside descendent, about the history of the family from the late 1700’s. Seems the village was in what was called Whiteside Valley. I do have a 1923 map, which your response prompted me to review that is pre Lake Lure. I am getting there on this part of the history and will post later. Thanks so much for your assistance. Merry Christmas!

  4. That is very fascinating Uncle Nathan! Being able to talk to someone that has a connection to the land and culture of that very spot is a treasure in itself. Through my hikes having come upon and even slept in a few cabins and school houses from that time, I seem to always romanticize what life was like in the calm of Southern Appalachia while the rest of America was rushing through the Gilded Age, and this has given some good imagery to that. I find it interesting that the Corbit family traveled through Buncombe County to go to Buncombe, Illinois, passing through an area that would very soon become the Buncombe Turnpike!

    • Hey Neph. Thanks for reading. I know you know the area of WNC very well. I still remember you created an app of hiking trails. and that you have been through the caves over here, including eating snakes for dinner! Happy New Year! to you and Charla.

  5. That is very fascinating Uncle Nathan! Being able to talk to someone that has a connection to the land and culture of that very spot is a treasure in itself. Through my hikes, having come upon and even slept in a few cabins and school houses from that time, I seem to always romanticize what life was like in the calm southern Appalachia while the rest of America was rushing through the Gilded Age, and this has given some good imagery to that. I find it interesting that the Corbit family traveled through Buncombe County to go to Buncombe, Illinois, passing through an area that would very soon become the Buncombe Turnpike!

  6. Pingback: Looking for Gold: Seek and Ye Shall Find-Maybe, Maybe Not | Not So Random Thoughts on Artful Living

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s