I got to spend this past Saturday afternoon taking a small group to some local Civil War sites. We started off at the Pisgah Church Cemetery - not anyone really famous here, but one of the largest cemeteries in Avery County. From Pisgah, we went to Linville Falls. Lead was mined here during the war and shipped off the mountain. After Linville Falls, we traveled to the Bark House. It was here, or just a little south of the Bark House, depending on which historian you read, that Col. George Kirk fought his second battle on his way back from his Camp Vance raid. This was in June 1864.
Next on our adventure was the Montezuma Community Cemetery. William McKeeson "Keith" Blalock, and his wife, Sarah Malinda Pritchard "Sam" Blalock are buried here. Keith and Sam both served in the 26th North Carolina. There are other Civil War vets buried here as well - six total.
Our last stop for the afternoon was the property known as Grasslands - the home of Col. John B. Palmer during the war. Palmer moved here in 1858, and in 1864, on his way back from his Camp Vance raid, Kirk ordered, or at least sanctioned, the burning of Palmer’s house.
We talked about a couple of other sites as well - the Cranberry mines, which produced iron ore during the war. The iron ore was shipped off the mountain by wagon loads to the railroad just west of Morganton. We also discussed the underground railroad that the Blalocks helped run: an underground railroad that helped funnel escaped prisoners from Salisbury to east Tennessee. The Blalocks ran the Blowing Rock-Shull’s Mill-Banner Elk portions (then all in Watauga County) of the line.
Overall it was a great afternoon - the weather was good - a little cool, but sunny. Very unlike today, when it is snowing here in the high country.
You know, if we can put together a tour of Civil War sites here in little old Avery County that covers an entire afternoon, imagine what kind of tour we could do in a place that has a lot more Civil War history...