. . .
is North Carolinas last frontier. It lies against the
Tennessee border. Most of the area is still forest
land, some of it virgin timber. Ninety percent of its
land has a slope of 30 degrees or more. It is Indian
country - past and present. It was the last area in
North Carolina to be entered by white settlers. Most
counties would be happy to have just one large lake.
Graham has three, each surpassing comeliness and
usefulness. Its unpolluted streams rank among the
most fishable in the South. It has the largest single
resort in North Carolina, Fontana Village Resort. Blue Boar Lodge and Snowbird Mountain Lodge both
feature a taste of paradise.
. . .
is temperate. The summers are mild, with cool nights
and high rainfall. Winters are not usually severe,
but include sharp cold spells. The average growing
season is about 173 days. It should be remembered
that in speaking of weather, the term
"average" is used generally. There are
extreme differences in altitude - ranging from 5,470
feet above sea level at Haw Knob down to 1,086 feet
where Slickrock Creek flows into Calderwood Lake. At
the higher elevations the temperature fluctuates
radically the year round (as compared to the
lowlands) and rainfall is more frequent and heavier.
But almost all the people live along the stream
valleys at lower altitudes: the higher ridges remain
in a semi-wild state, with only a lonely cabin here
or there breaking the forests.
. . .
the lowland farm sections, the forests press close
by. They produce both southern and northeastern
hardwood types, and also the spruce-fir species of
the northern coniferous forest. The undergrowth
includes rhododendron, laurel, sourwood, dogwood ,
etc. Altogether, a most attractive botany. This
particular area bounds with a variety of fauna and
flora that is unsurpassed by any other region on this
continent. It displays the presence of about 1,300
tree, shrub, and herb species; 330 mosses; 230
lichens; and there are more than 2,000 kinds of
fungi. There is native ginseng to be found, as well
as popular trees so gigantic that it takes at least
five men to reach around their trunks.
formation, its history belonged to Cherokee County,
of which it was a little-known and neglected part. It
was Cherokee treaty land, until President Jackson
ordered removal of the Indians in 1838. Soldiers
under General Winfield Scott moved into the area and
built Fort Montgomery on the Indians' ballground, now
called Fort Hill, and which overlooks Robbinsville.
names of this area include Ax, Conseen, Jumper,
Teeotlah, Teesateskie, Wachacha, and Welch. Early
settlers came with names such as Carringer, Colvard,
Cooper, Hyde, Kirkland, Millsaps, Shope, Shuler,
Stewart, Wiggins, and Willams. The present population
aptly reflects their ancestry. Today Cherokee blood
is frequently mixed with Scots-Irish.
. . . the act creating
Graham was ratifies by the General Assembly. The
first court was held at Cheoah (Old Mother) Church
the following year. Robbinsville's first courthouse
was built in 1874, but met disaster soon after. A
sensational murder trial was held and attracted so
many spectators that the court house floor collapsed.
Court was adjourned and reconvened in the J.W. King
Store. The county seat, Robbinsville, is nearer to
the capitals of six other states than it is to
Raleigh. Robbinsville is at an altitude of 2,150
feet, and includes the site of one of W.H. Thomas'
Indian trading posts on Rhea Hill.
Tallassee Power Company (now Tapoco , Inc), a
subsidiary of Alcoa , built a construction camp at
"The Narrows", a place where the Little
Tennessee poured through a narrow gorge, and started
work on Cheoah Dam. The dam created the long and
narrow Cheoah Lake which has filled a precipitous
valley of the river. A very scenic highway now runs
above the entire length of this lake.
. . . big development came in
1925-28 with the building of the Santeetlah Dam. This
created the beautiful Santeetlah Lake whose waters
backup almost to Robbinsville and all but drowned out
the Cheoah River. Water is piped from the dam through
mountains to the Rhymer's Ferry generating station on
Cheoah Lake, and all the water left in the Cheoah
river-bed below the Santeetlah Dam comes from
downstream tributaries or overflow.
Even in the 1930's
Graham's wooden courthouse (last in the state) was
ringed by stores with old-fashioned fronts. In its
scenic setting, and with rustic environment, the town
faintly resembled a movie set for a western thriller.
The impression was further heightened by the
occasional appearance of an ox-drawn wagon or groups
of Snowbird Indians in town to shop, their papooses
strapped to the backs of their mothers. Bearded and
booted lumberman and farmers were Saturday visitors.
not until 1931 that an auto could cross Deal's Gap.
From 1916 until then, transportation was by rail.
Opening of the road was a tremendous step forward. It
permitted travel to Knoxville and East Tennessee and
gave Graham a new market place. Most important of all
was the seed form which sprouted the tourist trade.
This became more important in 1945, when The
Tennessee Valley Authority completed Fontana
reservoir, creating the largest lake in the
mountains. The old dam construction village, erected
for workmen (5 ,000 were employed at one time), was
converted into North Carolina's largest single resort
enterprise, Fontana Village.
. . .
three lakes are attracting an increasing number of
fisherman, boaters and other vacationers. It also has
thousands of acres of heavily wooded and scenic
mountains, pure streams by the dozen, floral beauty,
cool climate, fish and game, and an unspoiled
countryside. In 1926, Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
was created, setting aside 3,800 acres of primitive
forest as a perpetual natural museum. The Appalachian
Trail extends the breadth of the county.
is as unconventional as the rest of the county's
features. Of the 186,684 acres, 160,000 remain in
forests, and only 6 percent of the county's area is
described as capable of cultivation. As a result,
most farm operators in Graham have other sources of
income, often in forest
product work - cutting timber on contract, or
cutting wood from their own land for sale. This
harvest included saw logs, veneer logs, pulpwood and
locust fence posts. The latter are often seen piled
Mountain high, ready for shipment all over the south.
Sixty-three percent of the county
is off the tax rolls. The U.S. Forest Service manages 60 percent
(111,618 acres), the Tennessee Valley Authority owns 2 percent
(3,522 acres), and 1 percent (2,249 acres) is claimed by the Eastern
Band of Cherokee Indians.
If you visit Graham
County, you will find the people as interesting as
the attractions mentioned in this welcome. Most of
them ascend from the early settlers and the Cherokee
people, whose lives and deeds are so close to this
generation that they have left their mark. They are
generally a lawful and church-going people. There has
never been a legally sanctioned execution in the county.
In Graham County,
the Snowbird Indians live on tribal lands as they
have for centuries. It is rugged and beautiful
country. Most noted of the Snowbird Indians was
Junaluska, a chief who is buried in a boulder marked
grave at Robbinsville. He led the Cherokee in support
of Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in
1814, and he saved Jackson's life during the battle .
In spite of this, he was forced in 1838 to move, with
others, to the western lands. He found his way back
home, however, and the state of North Carolina
granted him a 337-acre farm, where he lived and died
at the age of 100.
clearing of thousands of acres of land for four
reservoirs in Graham County turned hundreds of men
into specialists in this work. They learned what was
required, the best way to do it, and how to make
efficient use of land clearing machinery. After the
dams were built, Graham residents got jobs clearing
right of way elsewhere. Several even went into the
business of land-clearing contractors. They sign
contracts to do the whole job, furnishing men and
machinery, and organize their crews with experienced
land clearing neighbors as key men, employing
additional labor at the site of the job.
. . . several ways to travel
into Graham County. One is to go over U.S. 19 and 129
to Topton (Red Marble Gap), turn and follow U.S. 129
into Robbinsville. You can follow this on to the
Tennessee line and swinging around Santeetlah Lake.
You may completely circle the lake by following a
forest service road (paved part of the way). Another
entry is by way of N.C. 28 which leaves U.S. 19 south
of Bryson City at Almond and climbs to Johnson Gap.
Turn here onto Sweetwater Creek Road which takes you
down into Robbinsville. Highway 28 continues on to
Fontanna if you don't turn off at the Stecoah Gap.
The Cherohala Skyway was completed in and opened in
1996. It follows an old forest service road from
Tellico Plains, TN. This panoramic drive gives access
down Big Santeetlah into the heart of Graham County.
Then there's the entry by way of Andrews. Turn off
here onto the Tatham Gap Road (there's a sign marking
the turnoff). It runs along the original road built
for the "Trail of Tears" in the 1830's.
Here's an entire county embraced with the majestic
beauty of the Nantahala National Forest, touching the
southern edge of the Great Smoky Mountain National
Park in Western North Carolina. For those who seek
new horizons in adventures and recreation - vacation
or retirement - Welcome to Graham County. Play, rest,
and enjoy one of America's most fascinating and