Tom was very excited to show me the property it was obvious that he had already fallen in love with it. So we we took a drive from Charlotte to the outskirts of the small town of Traphill in the NC foothills.
The 47-acre property was comletely covered by woods, and was bordered to the west by Brewer Mill Road, north by the east prong of the Roaring River, and adjoining other wooded properties east and south.
The only way to really see the property was to walk through it. So we entered the woods and headed down towards a sun-filtered flat area where two creeks are joined into one. The ground was covered by ferns, and a lovely trailing plant I had not seen before called "Running Cedar". We walked along an old logging road as Tom explained that the woods had been logged before probably some 30 to 50 years ago judging from the regrowth. That is why the woods were criss-crossed with logging roads.
We started climbing a slope to find the eastern border and,surprise, found the remnants of moonshine sites that were easily recognized due to the telltake signs: located in well-hidden spots, near a water source, sone distance well-traveled paths, littered with crushed and rusted barrels, lacations that were only known to locals who knew the land like the back of their hands.
Along the way I found a deer antler as we crossed a couple deer trails. We also came across some suspicious flowerpots in the middle of nowhere and I was reminded of a 60 Minute Program on television about the marijuana raids over NC a few decades ago. Maybe some of that was still going on a smaller scale?
Finally we made our way to the othern border of the property delineated by the east prong of the Roaring River. The seller had carved out a narrow 3 acre parcel that was part of the original 50 acres along the river, starting at the bridge for a distance of about 700 feet. You can go to the artist's rendering of the vineyard and you'll see it on the left (bottom) side of the rendering.
We walked the property along the river and decided to meet the owner of that property. So we walked over and knocked on his door. He invited us in and we had a lovely conversation with him. His name was Jonathan Stuart, and he told us how he found this property some years ago while he was visiting the area and fell in love with it. He was dating a local area woman at the time, and decided to relocate from Alabama to this beautiful spot on the river where he planned to build a house and marry the woman of his dreams. Originally he lived in a one-room cabin without water or septic. Later, after he purchased the property, he moved into a trailer and build a deck over-hanging the river. He had a very kind heart and kept all the dogs people abandonned by the river; they numbered six at the time and were not the best behaved dogs around.
He gave us a short history of the place as we were walking over to the bridg where he pointed out the swimming hole that was very propular with the locals and that was also used for baptisms. Neaby stood the remains of a dam that once stradled both sides of the river and powered two gristmills simultaneously onopposite side of the river. Near the swimming hole, facing east, were the ruins of a sawmill and the miller's cabin that was not occupied at the time and looked very distressed. There were also tall stone pillars that had once supported the sawmill and rusted equipment that had fallen to the ground.
Across the river stood the foundation of the gristmill, and inside the ruins stood three iron rods that held the grinding stones. Jonathan stated that the building was still intact at the time he bought the property and that soon after the purchase was completed, the gristmill was burned down. The rumor is that the other prospective buyer was so upset that he was not able to buy the property set it on fire on one fateful night, fled after that and has not been seen since then. It was a dream of Jonathan to someday rebuild the gristmill and have an antique business of some sort.
Since Jonathan was lonely he enlarged the parking area near the swimming hole and interacted with the visitors. He even landscaped around the swimming hole, erecting a fence and planting some butterfly bushes. There were sometimes seven or eight cars parked there at a time, and people coming around on all-vehicles (ATV). There was a lot of stuff going on under the bridge. At one time an alcoholic woman lived there an entire summer. People drank there, and it was also a popular spot for making out.
Apparently, Traphill has quite a reputation in the state, due to its long history with moonshine, drugs,
outlaws, and the law. We were told of the murder of a sherriff in the early 1900's in one of the "hollers" not far frrom here. The law feared the locals so much that they refused to patrol or respond to calls from the area after the murder.
The Appalachia rural area is rather poor and devoid of industry and one can understand why the local population took to making moonshine. It was during the time of prohibition and economic downturns when there was a strong demand for liquor and quick way to make money with a minimal investment.
They had to survive in a difficult environment and did whatever it took to make a living. They may not be the most educated people in the world but they have acquired a vast amount of knowledge, and strong sense of community because they depended on one another for survival. Knowledge had to be shared and passed along from one generation to the next. These traditions continue to this day.
In the next episode I will expose the relationship between moonshine and NASCAR..