Our Avery County: ‘Hunting’ up the past: A portrait of early Linville Falls
Michael Hardy / (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This writer for Charlotte Observer noted in August 1910 that, “The river is just recovering from the heavy rain of the last day of July and is again clear for fishing. The latter half of August and all of September is considered the best season for fishing except a few weeks in May, and various anglers ... are making reservations at Wiseman’s and Penland’s for the next six weeks.” The article went on to discuss the visitors already enjoying the area, some from as far away as New York, Chicago, New Orleans and Columbus (Ohio), as well as from closer locales, like Charlotte, Johnston City and Burnsville.
“The roads are in good condition ... between this place and Linville City” was the report a week later, probably by the same unnamed correspondent. “More discerning people have been driving about the mountains this year than ever before. Many of them leave ... Morganton [and] drive 25 miles to Cold Springs for the night.” After arriving at Linville Falls, some of the visitors continued. “The next stop is Pineola, 10 miles, or Linville City, 14 miles, or MacRae’s, at the foot of Grandfather Mountain ... From MacRae’s it is only [2.5] miles to the summit of Grandfather ... the highest point now readily accessible from a good road in Western North Carolina.”
The anonymous reporter chronicled in September that, “Several wildcats have been killed or captured within a few miles” of Linville Falls. “The bobcats seek to fatten themselves on young chickens, and it must be admitted that they are successful much oftener than the hunters are in tacking their skins to the barn to dry.”
In October, bear hunting at Linville Falls made the pages of Charlotte Observer. “Two black bears were killed recently in the canyon of the Linville River,” reported the unknown journalist, “near Bullface cliff, one about a mile from the post office and the other only a little further down the river ...”
“Friday, Oct. 14, three different hunting parties were out on Linville mountain and on the other side of the river, coming together in the gorge. The dogs started up three bears, one of which was finally killed, while another was wounded. The tracks were so numerous that the dogs became confused and ran after new bears, leaving those first ‘jumped’ to go their own ways. The one captured that day was rather small and had evidently just come into the locality, as he was poor and travel-stained. He was cornered and killed by a combination of shotguns and heavy revolvers, John Wiseman and Cliff Wise doing the execution.
“Next morning at daybreak two parties started out to look for the wounded bear. When but a short distance from the falls, not over a mile ... a new bear was started by John Wiseman, while the others had gone several miles further down the river. Wiseman followed this animal and his dogs across the river, up and down the river, through brush and briars, over rocks and burnt woods, for two or three miles till the fat old rascal, unused to such a fast pace, took himself up a large, high white pine, with the dogs furiously yelping at the foot. Wiseman soon reached the spot and sent two charges of buckshot up into the bear, which fell nearly 50 feet ... and immediately gave battle to the dogs, laying several of them out. The whole fighting, snarling mass rolled down an incline into a small creek, where Wiseman managed to finish the bear with several more shots. After some delay the other hunters were rounded up and the bear carried on a stout pole over the roughest kind of country that God ever made, to the road, where a wagon was sent for it.
“[W]hen it was weighed it showed 180 pounds ... 14 men and more than that many dogs took part in the race, but John Wiseman was alone when he killed the bear. The men in the race were John Wiseman, Mitch Burleson, Cliff Wise, Burt Aldridge, Ben Aldridge, Stover Wise, Thurman Wise, Carfield Aldridge, Stokes Aldridge, Adee Wiseman, Herbert Wise, Charles Buchanan, Adam Wiseman and C. B. Carpenter. According to mountain custom the bear meat was divided among all who were in the race, while the proceeds from the sale of the pelt goes to the owners of the dogs. Other hunts will be started, for the bears are more numerous than they have been since three years ago.”
Other areas around Avery County likewise shared in the adventures during summer and fall months. The tourist trade was an important part in sustaining the local economy, plus provided diversions for local residents. Maybe more of these glimpses into our area will turn up in the future.