Tales, History, Geography, Folklore & Wildlife of the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains and Foothills...


Appalachian legends, mountain flora and fauna, Appalachian natural history, extinct and extirpated species, crafts, colorful historic characters, woods lore, mountain landforms, Blue Ridge weather, mountain cooking, Appalachian herbal remedies, past Blue Ridge landscapes, and historic sites.


Blue Ridge Lore contains articles that have been published in various periodicals, as well as new essays that are presented here for the first time. More stories are added occasionally, and old ones are revised with new information, so check back every once in awhile for fresh material.


Fort Defiance
Fort Defiance, Lenoir, NC

Fort Defiance

Learn about the 1792 Caldwell County home of Revolutionary War hero and influential western North Carolinian William Lenoir.

Lenoir is a familiar name in North Carolina, with a city in the west and a county in the east named in honor of Revolutionary War Gen. William Lenoir. But it’s at the secluded home this prosperous plantation owner built in Caldwell County that you get the measure of the man.

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Bordertown Showdown
Bordertown Showdown

Bordertown Showdown

On the Carolina frontier in 1788, Waightstill Avery, one of western North Carolina’s most prominent citizens, clashed with young Andrew Jackson.

Today, Andrew Jackson is well known for his military exploits against Indians and the British, as well as his success in politics and government. Few modern Americans, on the other hand, are familiar with Waightstill Avery. Ironically, the distinction of the two men was entirely different in 1788.

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Nelly's Tale
Nelly’s Tale

Nelly’s Tale

A supposedly true story of an encounter with a Bigfoot-type creature on Thunder Hill, as told to me by an old woman in 1980.

Near the town of Blowing Rock, Thunder Hill rises prominently from the Blue Ridge, dividing the streams of the Atlantic-bound Yadkin River from the waters of the New River headed for the Mississippi. The site has been known as Thunder Hill for generations, even before the Blue Ridge Parkway overlook of the same name was constructed near its crest.

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Making the Cut
Making the Cut

Making the Cut

The essence of frontier America is embodied in the knives and sheaths produced by Watauga County natives Daniel Winkler and Karen Shook.

Few tools are as ancient and functional as a knife. With so many functions, a knife touches on almost all aspects of life at a particular time and place. Accurately designed and made, it can distill the essence of a culture like no other single object. A gun, for example, suggests warfare, and a cast-iron skillet evokes log-cabin domestic life, but a knife calls to mind both.

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Fried Apples
Fried Apples

Fried Apples

Fried apples are a staple in traditional mountain cooking, but they rarely get the praise they deserve.

Fried apples are a simple yet distinctive dish widely served in the upland South. They can be found on tables at any meal and with a variety of other foods. They shouldn’t be confused with stewed apples, applesauce, fried apple pies, or other apple dishes. Genuine fried apples are a cuisine all their own with roots in agricultural history, pioneer subsistence, and plain home cooking.

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Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute
Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute. Photo Credit: NASA.

Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute

The story behind this high-tech facility in the middle of an extensive forest is an intriguing tale of space exploration, espionage, wilderness isolation, Cold War history, and astronomical discovery.

Pisgah National Forest, that sprawling stretch of federal government land between Boone and Brevard, is hard to miss as one travels around western North Carolina. Less visible is the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, located on the site of a former NASA tracking facility.

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Watauga County Sheriff Heads West
Watauga County Sheriff Heads West

Watauga County Sheriff Heads West

The tale of Cobb McCanles’ and Sarah Shull’s adventure in the Old West and his murder by Wild Bill Hickok.

No one was surprised when twenty-three-year-old David Colbert McCanles declared he was running to be sheriff of Watauga County. “Cobb”, as he was known, was a natural politician, with an outsized personality and a striking appearance.

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The Buncombe Turnpike
The Buncombe Turnpike

The Buncombe Turnpike

The story of the great mid-19th century livestock trail through the North Carolina mountains that foreshadowed the later epic cattle drives in the trans-Mississippi West.

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[I wrote this paper for a class in graduate school. While it is obviously a scholarly essay, I still think the general reader will find it entertaining. If you have a hard time getting into it at first, skip over to the third page where it gets more interesting.]
The Bushwhacking Blalocks
The Bushwhacking Blalocks

The Bushwhacking Blalocks

The Civil War adventures of this husband and wife guerilla team are filled with shoot-outs and revenge killings.

Keith Blalock’s first experience with the Civil War came early in 1862. He was persuaded by James D. Moore to assist the Confederate cause by joining North Carolina’s Twenty Sixth Regiment. Keith insisted that his wife, Malinda, be allowed to join also. Moore agreed to the condition. Malinda dressed as a man, went by the name Sam Blalock, and claimed to be Keith’s brother.

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The Atlantic in Appalachia: Shad and Eel on the Move
The Atlantic in Appalachia: Shad and Eel on the Move

The Atlantic in Appalachia: Shad and Eel on the Move

The shad (Alosa sapidissima) and eel (Anguilla rostrata) are aquatic equivalents of migrating neotropical birds; connecting the Appalachians to parts of the planet totally unlike our mountains.

In the past, the yearly shad spawning run reached deep into the continent, in the south as far as the Blue Ridge where they simply ran out of water. It influenced the location of Indian villages and, after European settlement, provided the culinary basis for annual riverside feasts in many communities.

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Return of the Natives
Return of the Natives

Return of the Natives

Indigenous grasses- big bluestem, Indiangrass, Eastern gamagrass, & others- make a comeback in the East.

In 1752 a group of American settlers entered a territory yet unreached by Europeans, which their chronicler described as “a large plain” containing “more meadowland than one could make use of”. He observed that “a man could make several hundred loads of hay of the wild grass. For stock raising, it is also incomparable; pasture in abundance.”

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Worldwide Weather
Worldwide Weather

Worldwide Weather

The world’s largest climate data center calls Asheville home.

The tour of the agency begins in a small museum room containing an assortment of artifacts and information from the agency’s past, like a weather logbook from the 1870s and several historical weather-measuring instruments.

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Alleghany County
Alleghany County

Alleghany County

Alleghany County is mountainous, but not remote; traditional, but not antiquated; agrarian, but not unrefined.

A leisurely drive through Alleghany County reveals its abundant treasures: The two-lane road is part of the scenery, not just a passage through it. Aging barns seem to have grown from the soil.

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The Naturalists Notebook
Bobcat – Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The Naturalist’s Notebook

A series of 28 articles on plants, animals, and other natural features in the southern Appalachians.

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