Early last week, I drove through the Nantahala Gorge, where the N.C. Department of Transportation was finishing cleanup after yet another landslide. Destination was Bryson City, specifically stores near the depot, because the proprietor of Appalachian Mercantile is an old friend, and he’s written an important new book.
Lance Holland has been doing the research, and then writing his book about the Nantahala section for some years. It’s titled The Nantahala River A History & Guide (272 pages, The History Press, Charleston S. C., $23.99).
He said the first thing he noticed about it is the weight, and I did, too. It’s printed on fine heavy slick paper, which gives the many black-and-white photos a quality presentation.
Many of the pictures he made himself, including landslide photos from last year. Others are historical, contributed by other photographers.
Taking the tour
In addition to his photos, Lance has produced some good, clear maps of the Nantahala country, and he takes the reader on a narrated tour. Along the way he tells the colorful history, with dates and names of principal characters and various enterprises.
The 1838 Removal, also called “Trail of Tears,” sent Cherokee Indians to Oklahoma and cleared the way for white settlers to move in and purchase the now-
vacant land from the State of North Carolina.
A Cherokee named Tsali, supposedly angered by soldiers mistreating his wife, rebelled and two soldiers were slain. The Army was tiring of the Removal but wanted the killer caught.
An Army officer, white chief Will Thomas and a local Indian chieftain named Euchella were all involved with the negotations. Tsali was quickly found and shot, resulting in Euchella and the remnant of the Cherokees left alone, known today as the Eastern Band.
There are at least two variations of the story and Lance presents them both, to his credit.
Nimrod Jarrett (1799-1871) was best known of the early settlers. Got his financial start selling ginseng and other herbs, then branched out into mining, opening a quarry for talc and mica that still exists today, producing road stone.
Living in a fine house at what is today Appletree Campground, Jarrett was a wealthy businessman going to Franklin when he was murdered in a robbery attempt, killer was convicted and hanged near Sylva.
Logging these mountains became possible and profitable when the railroads came in, and Lance covers it well with words and pictures. Circle saws and bandsaws, narrow-gauge little rail lines built into virgin forests by the timber companies, flume lines that floated logs out in a trough sometimes called “a branch in a box.”
The author also knows all the principals in the whitewater industry, which brings thousands of visitors each year and is easily the biggest employer in Swain County. So his coverage of the Nantahala River’s recreational aspect is thorough and detailed, stunning photos included.
I enjoyed Lance Holland’s Nantahala book as I also enjoyed his scholarly book on Fontana several years ago. Good writer and good photographer.
Get him to tell you about his Hollywood movie work, when he worked on films like The Fugitive and Forces of Nature, and hobnobbed with stars like Harrison Ford and Sandra Bullock.
Appalachian Mercantile, downtown Bryson City – tell him I sent you.
Wally Avett first wrote for the Cherokee Scout as editor in 1969. His books are available as signed copies at the Scout office in Murphy. Call him at 837-5531 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.