Sunday, November 30, 2008

1950's era Aerial of Perkinsville Valley

New Posting Update:
At the end of this post there is an updated map provided by Joshua Reese with annotations of existing and past features. Thanks Joshua!

Several folks have asked me about this aerial photograph.
click here for original posting showing school site

It was given to me by Joe Edmisten. There is not a date on it but he believes it was taken around 1950. It is an official National Forestry Service photo. If you can see any features that offer clues to the date taken please let me know.

I received it rolled in a cardboard tube. So this is a photo of a photo. I have finally figured out how to show it all at a scale that you should be able to click to enlarge and then move around inside of it.

See what you can figure out. I have have presented oriented with North at the top of your screen. Notice how much is still in forest. Follow old 421, the only way into Boone until the four lane was built to the 194 intersection on the north west quadrant.

At that intersection was the Jones Minute Mart on the out skirts of Boone! The Farthing farm was there (the silo in New Market Shopping Center) and now Hardees sits on that intersection.
This annotated map shows some of the features I have identified. i am curious about many others and have included some questions.

Annotated full photo
In these four following photos, I have taken four quadrants and enlarged them.

North East Quadrant

North West Quadrant
See if you can find anything familiar or recall any details from these days.

When Perkinsville was the outskirts of Boone East and there was no fourlane. Our new school campus was a farm. The Edmisten Farm.

Southwest Quadrant

Thanks to a reader who gave the following information about this photo above. The ASU area is the "State Farm" that provided food for the college. The road is State Farm Drive. I believe the building on the right is the National Guard Armory. The building on the Left side of State Farm Road is Shadowline.

Shelton says, I never knew why State Farm Road was named that, Thanks!

Southeast Quadrant

I am having more difficulty figuring out these two lower quadrants. Is that State Farm Road? Is that the ASU physical facility? Is that Blairmont Development? Look how sparse it is.

If there is anything you recognize or think helps date this map, please share. For example, when did the water treatment plant get built? When did the Farthing Farm house burn?

The Edmisten Farm ~ A Thanks Given Story ~ Part 3

This is Part Three of the stories of Joe Edmisten as he tells about life on the Farm. Our campus is largely being built on the Edmisten land. These stories of his family and the farm where they worked and lived are a part of our New School heritage and Watauga County history.

I learned a lot from the story on "Saw milling". Knowing that this community and region were mostly explored, opened, and populated by timbering folks gives me an insight to the work of settling in this area.

But, the story about the "Value of Horses" is incredibly insightful and beautifully told by Joe. I hope you readers enjoy learning about the working horses.


After Momma's inheritance from her father, Pa Lige Hollars, and after my parents became more prosperous, they decided to build a modern house near the west side of the farm. They also decided to build a new barn. The house they built in 1951 is the one Baker and Dian Edmisten remodeled and expanded. The "new" barn will be torn down to make room for Watauga High School.

The lumber and timber for the house and barn came from our own family sawmill, placed on the south side of the creek, at the base of the hill that joined Appalachian State University (ASU) property. There was a stand of mature, white pines that had grown up after that crop field was left fallow. The trees were sixty to eighty feet tall, with a diameter of two - three feet. Mr. Hill Bumgarner helped us with the logging.

We learned to fell a tree within inches of where we wanted it to fall. To accomplish this, we used a sharp, two-man, crosscut to saw into the base of the tree, about eighteen inches from the ground. This cut was on the side of the tree where it had to fall and was six to eight inches deep.
Then we took a sharp, double-bit axe and cut out a wedge-shaped gap above the cut. The double bit axe head was placed into the gap with the handle pointing out to indicate the direction the tree would fall. The wedge cut could be modified to fine-tune the direction of the "fell."
Then two people with the crosscut saw would saw from the opposite side of the tree to a spot just above the thin edge of the "felling" gap. We usually managed to fell an eighty-foot tree within a few inches of where it was intended to fall.

After the tree was down, we would take the axes to lop off the limbs up to a point where the tree was too small to be of value in the production of planks. Most of the trees in this stand did not have any branches on the lower thirty or forty feet because they had been grown close enough to be self-pruning, due to the shade.

Once the tree had been topped, and the branches lopped off, it was cut into logs of various lengths, depending on the length of the two by eight that would be needed for the house and barn. For example, if we needed sixteen, foot-long, two by sixes for rafters, one would cut the log at about sixteen feet, with three or four extra inches.

Pulling the logs out of the woods to the sawmill, and down to the bottom by the creek, was difficult and dangerous. Two large, claw-like grab hooks, about three inches long, were connected by three- foot chains to a common swivel joint. This swivel would allow the log to roll without twisting the two chains attached to the grab hooks.

Old Bill, our horse, would then be connected to the swivel joint by a "single tree" bar. Old Bill pulled the log out. The driver would have to be careful to always stay up slope from the log in case it rolled. The logs were accumulated into stacks, always uphill from the sawmill, where they would be rolled one by one by a peavey pole onto the carriage, which carried each log into a large, circular saw powered by an old automobile engine mounted on a sled.

First, the log would be "squared up" by shaving off the round "slabs." Each time a slab was removed, the log had to be turned to square off another side. Somebody strong had to do the turning. Also, it was hard work to carry the generally useless slabs off and out of the way.

It took common sense and three-dimensional forethought to envision the planks, two by fours, two by sixes, and two by eights in each log. I am amazed that nobody was killed or injured. It was rewarding to have been part of the process that produced the lumber used in our own house and barn.

It is also instructive to realize that the fields where I once hoed corn are now covered by dense, tall stands of white pines, ready for the harvest, after sixty years. Incidentally, you can determine the age of a white pine by counting the whorls of limbs from the ground up to the tip of the tree, or in the case of self-pruning, you can count the scars on the trunk, where the limbs had been attached.


We grew up within shouting distance of fifteen first cousins. There were four more cousins relatively close by at Aho; seven more in Johnson City, Tennessee.

The close by, "see them every day" cousins consisted of two sets fathered by Uncle Bynum (Swifty) Green. He married Aunt Blanche, and they had Hoy and Mary Kindle. Aunt Blanche died of appendicitis while Mary was an infant. Uncle Bynum then married Blanche's younger sister Lottie. He and Lottie were parents to cousins Conley and Georgie.

Two more of our aunts married and settled nearby in Perkinsville. Aunt Nell married Lloyd Hayes and they had Helen, Farthing, Margaret, Ed, and Ruby. Aunt Lena married Uncle Rob Shull and they had Ruby, Brian, Rufus, Mary Lee, Nancy, and Della.

The Aho branch of the clan was founded when Aunt Lydie married Uncle Marion Coffey. Their children were Bill, Eula Mae, Geneva, and Nan.

In Johnson City, Uncle Wade and Aunt Johnsie had two daughters, Barbara and Gladys, and five sons: John, Mack, Bobby, Ralph, and Larry.

We lived very close to the Greens, Hays, and Shulls when we lived in Perkinsville. We often visited the Coffey cousins in Aho and even rode a bus to Johnson City to spend a week at a time with the six Edmisten cousins in Tennessee.


All our plowing, logging, cultivating, and hauling was done with horses. In addition to Old Bill, a sorrel gelding, we had Dina, a mare. Even though Dina was about 200 pounds lighter than Old Bill, they pulled a loaded wagon or a large plow in perfect balance.

I spent many days working these horses as a team and even more days working them individually when plowing between the rows of young corn, potatoes, cabbage and tobacco. Most of the time, I only needed verbal commands to control them in the delicate job of plowing within inches of the young plants.

"Gee" was for the right, and "Haw" was for an adjustment to the left. A gentle "Gee" signaled the horse to make a slight adjustment. A loud and repeated "Gee!" resulted in larger adjustments to the right. The same subtle animal communication worked well to go left.

The long leather reins leading back from the horse's mouth were tied together around the back of our necks, as we held the handles of the six or eight plow-bladed "cultivator." In retrospect, now sixty years later, it is impressive to realize what efficient communication was achieved between two widely different mammal species.

We used the horses as a team to pull the large wooden wagon with steel-rimmed tires. (According to legend, that was the same cabbage-laden wagon that slid through "Greasy Corner," marking the last time in history that a legitimate freight wagon passed through Boone.)

We needed our horses for plowing, disking, and harrowing the fields in the spring. It took the combined strength of two good horses to split the ground with a large, shining plowshare. It was rewarding to see and smell the renewed earth while walking in the eight inch-deep trench that revealed the moist, black soil beneath.

After breaking the ground with the plow, we pulled a disk over the freshly plowed earth to cut the soil into smaller pieces. Most disk machines had a seat on which the operator rode. Finally, we broke up the soil into smaller and smaller crumbs with a harrow. Soil is made up of various-sized particles of stones, gravel, sands, silts, and clays. A good soil has enough organic matter to cause these materials to adhere, giving the soil structure. The best soils have a crumb structure, which is what we tried to achieve.

In addition to their labor and strength, our horses provided the manure that was important for the soils to hold water and nutrients. Each spring we used pitchforks to clean out the manure and straw bedding that had accumulated in the two barns during the winter. We loaded the manure and bedding onto a wagon and spread the rich, stinking mixture over a field before plowing, disking and harrowing it. In later years, we used a mechanized manure spreader that ground and spewed it out as horses pulled the machine over the field. The value of our horses' contributions on the farm was inestimable.

The recipe for Tiger Stew starts with the phrase, "First, catch a tiger." Before a horse could be useful, we had to "catch it." As a twelve-year-old, skinny, wormy, eighty-pound boy, I found it daunting to be asked to catch and harness one or both horses.

They always wore halters with a lead ring under their necks. The trick was to get the snap of the leather lead strap into that ring. Once that lead was in place, the horse "thought" it was under control. I took an ear of dried corn in one hand and the lead strap in the other.

I repeatedly signaled the horse by whistling a simple two note--high, then low--call. The horse had been conditioned since a colt to associate this call with food. As he took the ear of corn, I snapped the lead line into the halter and led the horse to the barn to harness it. I could write a long essay on how to harness a horse. In fact, Mark Twain did just that.

The short version of harnessing a horse called for first putting a padded collar on it before you threw the large, complicated harness onto the mid-section of its back and clamped its two wooden "hames" to the collar, one on each side of the horse's shoulders. The long hames were critical parts of the harness because all of the force needed to pull a plow or cart was transferred from them via two chains. You pulled the harness back, then over and under the horse's tail.

Once the horse was harnessed, the chains could be attached to a cultivator plow, or a log, or any single horse device. For example, the device might pull a cabbage cart while six rows were cut, or we could plant corn seed using a "drill" that dropped the seeds out of a hopper, while fertilizer was dropped from a second hopper. We found the one-horse rake to be a real labor-saving device.

We grew the hay our horses ate. After harvesting it, we built stacks by sinking into the soil a carefully chosen pole with side branches, made from a young locust tree. We placed split rails around the bottom of the pole to keep the hay off the ground. Having scraped the hay together with pitchforks, we carried it on top of two slender poles to the stack pole and foundation, where I received and shaped the hay as it was pitched to me and also caught by the branches of the stack pole.

I rose with the haystack, continuing to receive the hay, shaping it into a rain-shielding, stream-lined structure up to twenty - thirty feet- high. A well-constructed haystack, properly capped, with its raked sides, was a work of art. I took pride in its symmetry before sliding down the side of the itchy monument.

We usually fenced off the stacks with split rails so cattle could graze the field for a month or more before winter. And, if the weather was mild during the winter, we fed the cattle from the stacks instead of in the barn.

After the horses had spent a leisurely winter, the sudden and intense work in spring and summer resulted in sores and blisters on their shoulders, under the padded collars. The abraded areas soon healed with the salve we applied after each work day, and scars and calluses formed to protect the horses through the hard work of summer and fall.

The horses must have felt great relief after finishing a day's work, when their harnesses were removed. They would trot to a level spot near the creek, drink deep and long, and then roll on their backs in the grass.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Edmisten Farm ~ A Thanks Given Story ~ Part 2

The stories and photos in this series of posts were given to me by Joe Edmisten. The writing is his own storytelling. I hope you enjoy this visit with the family that lived and worked on our campus before it was our campus. In appreciation of that which came before us, our shared community heritage. Thanks is Given to all~~~~~~~~~

Joe Allen Edmisten

I was born in 1933. My first memories of the farm are those of a five-year-old boy. At the time, my family consisted of Momma, Daddy, David, Paul, Betty, and me. Rufus and Baker were born later.

Things were simpler then. We lived in Perkinsville, in a house without plumbing or electricity. There was also no electricity or plumbing in the old log farmhouse where Grandpa Rufus Farthing and Grandma Nan Edmisten lived. My grandparents cared for a raw-boned, bed-ridden woman, but I never learned about her background. They also had a live-in woman helper named "Aunt" Stella. She was a spinster from Aho who doted on my siblings and me, giving us big sugar cookies when we came to visit. Aunt Stella took on an even more important role when Grandma Nan was alone, after Grandpa Rufus died.

Along about then, we remodeled our Perkinsville home by digging a basement under it and installing an indoor bath. By that time, we also had electricity. During the summers, momma and daddy would rent that house to Mrs. Champion, a "rich" Florida woman and her female companion. So every summer we had to move into our grandparent's farmhouse. We looked like gypsies, moving out of our Perkinsville house in early summer and moving back in fall, when the Florida women left.

Upon grandpa's death, the farm was divided into as many plots as were children, and one extra for grandma. To keep the farm together, our dad, Walter Edmisten, worked and saved hard to buy those plots from his siblings. Once daddy pulled the land together, we moved to our grandparent's farmhouse for good, even though it had no electricity or plumbing. Daddy installed both in the farmhouse about five years after we moved in.


In those early years, we heated the entire farmhouse with a wood-burning "Warm Morning" stove, located in the living room portion of the house. The kitchen cook stove added more heat during the winter since it had a fire going all day, every day, because momma Nelle cooked three big meals a day for our family of nine, which included Grandma Nan. Often we had company and/or hired hands so that there could be as many as twelve to fifteen people for dinner, the noon-day meal.

We kept two milk cows "fresh" so that we always had enough milk to drink and make into butter and cheese. These cows had to be milked by hand twice a day. We raised extra cattle for sale and for our own meat supply. We kept hogs for meat, too. Daddy used to pick up the "slop" from the Daniel Boone Hotel for pig feed. We found many spoons, forks, and even cups in that slop.

We had wild game and fish to supplement our meat. We ate deer, rabbit, squirrel, groundhog, grouse, quail, and turkey. In the fish category, we often had brook, brown, and rainbow trout, red eye, bass, and sucker. Two or three times a summer, we would go frog gigging. I loved frog legs. We could easily gig thirty to forty frogs in two hours.
As we grew older, my two older brothers, David, Paul, and I were on the Appalachian High School football team. Betty started high school a few years later. The chores of milking, feeding the pigs, horses, and cattle had to be carefully choreographed before and after school.

We grew enough corn for our two draft horses and twenty-some cattle. We took corn to a gristmill where it was ground for corn bread and also used to make our own mix for cow "chop." We bartered some of the corn meal for the grinding.

We raised cabbage as a money crop. "Early Copenhagen" was the choice variety for the early crop. A compact, almost blue variety called "Danish," was planted for the later crop. We felt lucky if we got two cents a pound or about $1.00 for each fifty-pound bag. We made a special one-horse cart that straddled two rows. We usually cut six rows at a time, with three people taking two rows each. The boy on the cart caught cabbages tossed by the three cutters, packing them carefully on the cart. The cart held about twenty, fifty-pound bags. "Old Bill," one of the draft horses, pulled the full cart to the side of the field for bagging and weighing.

We hauled the bags of cabbage to the Goodnight Brothers Produce Company in Boone. In the early years, we hauled the cabbages to market on a large wagon pulled by our two horses, Old Bill and Dina. I once hauled a payload of one hundred bags to town. At fifty pounds a bag, that made a load of five thousand pounds! Driving the horses toward "Greasy Corner," I slid through the intersection with the back wheels locked and the steel rims of the wheels spurting sparks. The horses just couldn't hold back that load. I was lucky that no cars were coming.
I always feel good when I remember how the older men at Goodnight's, there to sell their cabbage from trucks, admired me for having backed my horse-drawn load into the chute. It is likely that I was the last person to drive a legitimate draft wagon through Boone.
We grew enough potatoes for our own consumption through the winter and spring, up into the next summer. In the old days, we dug a large hole in the ground, lined it with straw, and then stored the potatoes and cabbages in the hole before covering them with straw and two feet of dirt. In this cool dark place, the potatoes and cabbage kept remarkably well for up to six months. Later, we dug a small cellar under the farmhouse for the storage of canned goods, cabbage, potatoes, and certain apple varieties known for "keeping."

We always had an apple orchard, cherry trees, and a raspberry patch. We picked wild blue- berries and strawberries in season. Momma converted these fruits into preserves, jams, and jellies to get us through the winter. She also canned a grape juice drink in half-gallon Mason jars.

Picking blackberries and raspberries with Grandma is one of my favorite memories. She and I would pick every second or third day when the raspberries were in season. We would gather about eight to ten gallons which she processed into preserves. Blackberries were more scarce because Daddy was fastidious about keeping the pasture mowed for grazing. We often picked blackberries on the lands of our neighbors' who were not as industrious.

We kept chickens for eggs and meat. My brothers and I had to catch a young hen, chop her head off, dip the body in hot, scalding water to loosen the feathers, and then pluck them. At young ages, we learned to butcher the chicken after removing the entrails, always saving the liver, crop, and heart. It was fascinating to see eggs forming in the chicken's urogenital tract.

We also raised rabbits for meat. We could kill, skin, gut, and dissect a rabbit for a meal within thirty minutes. We fed the rabbits various greens during the summer and home-grown grain during the winter.

We harvested chestnuts, even though most of the large chestnut trees that had been abundant had already been killed by the blight. Every hillside had many large, white, dead chestnut trees, but there were sprouts up to five inches in diameter around the base of the dead ones. These ten-fifteen-foot-high sprouts would have a good crop of sweet chestnuts.

The chestnut had a relative known as the chinquapin. This small shrub was abundant, and we picked gallons of them in the fall. The "chinkeypin" nuts were sweet and nutritious. We would load our pockets with the nuts and play a game with them called "Hulley Gulley, Hand-Full How Many?" If you guessed the exact number of chinquapin nuts in your opponent's hand, you could keep them, but if you guessed twenty, and the correct number was ten, you had to give him ten nuts.

The newly installed electricity in our grandparent's farmhouse was wonderful. I no longer had to fill kerosene lamps, clean the globes, and trim the wicks. We could play a radio any time, except when doing chores or working in the fields and forest, doing homework, or going to bed early. In other words, we seldom listened to it.

There was only a single, bare, bright bulb with a pull chain hanging in the middle of the boy's bedroom, where my four brothers and I slept. We became adept at locating the pull chain in the dark. In many ways, the old oil lamps were superior to the electric light. At least, you could get close to an oil lamp at a table when you had to read or write. The living room had the luxury of a wall switch, and there was one wall outlet in the thick log wall. Boards covered the insides of the logs; the outside was covered with a siding of fake, brown bricks.

We lived in that old farmhouse while we attended high school. At one time, David, Paul and I were on the same football team at Appalachian High School. David was a senior and played quarterback; Paul, a junior, playing end, and I was a 110-lb- freshman, playing varsity football. (There were only thirteen to fourteen boys on the team.) David wore a "Jim Thorpe"- style, leather helmet. We played larger high schools from Winston Salem and often got beat 65-0.
So far, I've concentrated on what life was like for my brothers and me. I want to devote some time to my beloved sister Betty, who had a unique role in the rich, complex life on the farm.
Being the only girl with five brothers (Our daddy used to say he had five sons, and each of them had a sister.), she was overworked and overprotected. We three older brothers felt like we had to screen and approve her suitors, and she had many because she was, and is, a real beauty. While we worked the fields and forests, Betty was expected to do all the things that momma and grandma did to support the field hands. I've always believed that Betty was, and is, smarter and more capable than any of us five boys.
Part 3 to be posted soon.
Shelton says ~ I hope you enjoy these heritage posts. . Let me know if you do
If you have stories or photos of the heritage of our campus please send them to me.

The Edmisten Farm ~ A Thanks Given Story ~ Part 1

Thanksgiving is a time of family, food, heritage, and tradition. Many folks make time to travel to the old home place. The old home place, the farm, and the heritage of the valley that has become our new campus will be the stories that will unfold over the next few days. This is Part 1.

Readers and community members will remember that a large portion of our campus was know as the Edmisten property. This was their family farm.

I had the opportunity to visit with Joe Edmisten and his sister Betty Edmisten Church earlier this fall. Joe told me some wonderful history, shared great stories, his writings, photos, and also gave me this 195o's era aerial photo. It is the oldest aerial I have seen of the Perkinsville Valley.

In the photo below you can orient to the location and the time. Bisecting the center of the photo is Old 421. Near the upper right corner you will notice a circular drive and open field. That is Mountlawn Memorial Gardens just after it was created as a cemetery for Boone.

Perkinsville was truly the outskirts of Boone. If you click to enlarge this photo you might be able to recognize many other features from the fifties.

If you follow Old 421 to the left or West your will see how little development there is along that part of town. The road making a right angle on the left off of 421 is Highway 194. Not too far up that road is Perkinsville Baptist Church. You will notice there is no Hardin Park school, no Newmarket Shopping Center, no Hardees or Wilco at that major intersection. The small store at the intersection was Jones Minute Mart.

But back to the Edmisten farm. I have zoomed in and cropped down to the major portion of the farm. The farm house, barn, and family garden are on the left side of this photo.
This zoom takes you in on the family cemetery. If you want to orient to the current campus, our Webcam view is from the edge of that plot.

The photo above gives a better orientation to the size and location of the original Edmisten Family Farm on our campus.
The home and working farm are on the left or west side of the property.
Now that you know where the Edmistens were, we will begin to explore what it was like to live on this farm by the New River in Perkinsville Valley. I hope you enjoy this Thanksgiving journey over the river and through the woods to the Edmisten Farm.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Deep Winter before December

BRRRRR ~~~~~

14 degrees and winds howling, gusting up to 45mph through our site on Friday the 21st made the worst working conditions of the year so far.
That said, the project continues to move forward ahead of schedule. Much of the exterior masonry is in place on the classroom wings. Some of our roof is being finished. Drywall should begin in 3 to 4 weeks. That will be a milestone. Winter came early, but at least our construction crews will be working indoors soon!
I was looking at the live broadcast real time webcam during this blast of winter. Which, by the way is a good way to check actual current weather conditions in the greater "Perkinsville Valley" and East Boone .

Click here for live feed

The camera would rock and sway on the pole when the big gusts would rip through at 30-45 mph blasts. I could only imagine what it must feel like to be working on the site in those conditions! This is the view looking from Old 421 down our driveway and entrance. In spite of the weather today, the project is 33% complete and we are now 54 days ahead. Isn't this great news!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Early Morning Light

Some mornings when I am driving in to school I stop by the main entrance and check out the progress of our new school. I love the morning light in this valley. Complemented with the fall color, this is going to be a beautiful campus.
The next photo is taken directly from our driveway. If you go up old 421 in front of the Wilco Hess station headed east you will see our driveway about .5 mile on the right. It is directly across from Mountlawn Memorial Gardens. Pull over to the side and enjoy seeing the campus and our main building. This is the view from the top of our driveway. This photo is a stitched panorama that when you click to enlarge should allow you to look around inside of the school.

The viewer will notice the masonry work on the wing on the right side. I love the colors we have chosen. It is not a bright red brick, but a burn flashed darker brick. The split face CMU is also a warm earth tone. Soon the exterior wall will be up and we will not be able to look inside. Another new feature to note is our roof finish! We debated long about what color the roof should be (Blue, Green, White?). I am really pleased to see how nice the Charcoal Gray looks and how it harmonizes with our masonry.
Behind those columns (which are along the front walkway) you will see an open space with a strong diagonal shadow. That is the inside of our Theater! To the left you can see the two tiered balcony. Our theater house will have a 6% rake and a raised stage will be on the right in this photo. BTW Pioneer Playmakers are at State Competitions this week, "break a leg"!In this photo, the morning light shows our roof design very nicely.
For the Art of the Photograph:
The next photo is shared simply for the beauty of the form and composition of the image. I love the curves and angles, verticals and textures, light and shadow of this photo.

Sometimes it is worth taking a minute to reflect upon the beauty that can be found in the moment. It is at these times I can imagine the future in our new school. I so hope I get to teach in our new WHS.
If you haven't driven by the site recently, go be inspired. :-)