Cotton Mill Colic vs. the Land of the Sky: From Gastonia to Asheville

This gallery contains 32 photos.

The nearly two dozen posts I have published so far have focused on the Whisnant family, the first of whom entered the North Carolina Piedmont in the 1750s.  My Whisnant grandparents, Asbury and Ella, moved up the mountain to the so-called Land … Continue reading

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Family Challenges in the ‘Teens: A Strike, a Flood, and an Epidemic

Omnibus, Paris, 1828. State Library of Victoria via Wikipedia.

Omnibus (“bus for everyone”), Paris, 1828. State Library of Victoria via Wikipedia.

In my previous post, focused on the daily life of the Whisnant family at 44 South French Broad Avenue from about 1910 into the early 1920s, I noted that–owning to their complexity–three episodes would be held for a subsequent post.

This is that post, and the episodes are:

  • The Asheville Street Railway strike of 1913.  I treat it at some length here because it was Asheville’s first real strike, and  Asbury voted for and participated in it.
  • The flood of July 1916.  I treat it briefly here because it has been commented upon (usually briefly) many times before (e.g., here), because I dealt with it in three earlier posts (herehere, and here), and because Anthony Sadler’s Appalachian State University M.A. thesis, which analyzes it far more thoroughly than anyone previously has, is soon to be available online.
  • The influenza pandemic of 1918-1920, in which Asbury and Ella’s youngest child–my father, then four years old–almost died.  Also treated at length here.

Continue reading

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A Document Answers Some Questions (and Raises New Ones)

Lenoir NC, 1874. Caldwell Heritage Museum.

Lenoir NC, 1874. Caldwell County Heritage Museum. Ella Austin Whisnant was born just outside of Lenoir, on Lower Creek, in 1869.

In writing this blog so far, I have consulted and presented many kinds of documents: photographs, census records, newspaper articles and advertisements, printed catalogs,

Western North Carolina Insane Asylum, Inebriate Admission form ca. 1885. Morganton Public Library

Western North Carolina Insane Asylum, Inebriate Admission form, ca. 1885. Morganton Public Library

maps, postcards, government reports–whatever I have been able to find that seemed useful.

Much of the time, a document ties down some fact or answers some question.  Not infrequently, however, it can be opaque, misleading, tantalizing but unyielding, frustrating in its incompleteness.  It can raise more questions than it answers.

This is a brief account of a single document sent to me recently by a member of the Whisnant family, and my effort to understand what it says (or does not) and what questions it answers (or does not).

Here is the document.  Click to enlarge it, and take a look: Continue reading

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Glimpses into the Daily Lives of the Whisnants

Pack Square, 1910. Pack Memorial Public Library

Pack Square, 1910. Pack Memorial Public Library

My previous post conveyed as much as I have been able to discover about the “little house behind the big house” setting of the Whisnant family’s life on Asheville’s South French Broad Avenue during the second decade of the century.  This present post focuses on the life Asbury, Ella, and their three children (Azile, b. 1910; Bertha, b. 1913; and John, b. 1914) actually lived there. Continue reading

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Working Class Family Behind the Big House: Asbury, Ella, and Their Children: 1907-1918

Asbury Whisnant and Ella Austin on their wedding day, Avery Building, State Hospital at Morganton, November 6, 1907. Image enhancement by Evan Whisnant.

Asbury Whisnant and Sarah Ella Austin on their wedding day, Avery Building, State Hospital at Morganton, November 6, 1907. Image enhancement by Evan Whisnant.

Living Large and Small: Class and Difference on an In-town Estate

This post examines the place where Asbury and Ella lived with their family for fifteen years after 1907, and seeks to employ the resulting narrative–which arches across race, class, and culture–to understand a few elements of working class and upper class life, popular culture, and the aesthetics of domestic spaces, in Asheville during the first and second decades of the twentieth century. Continue reading

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Our Mountain Home: Asbury’s Encounter with a Changing Asheville, 1900-1907

Our Mountain Home, December 1, 1906

Our Mountain Home, December 1, 1906.  Semi-monthly newspaper published in Asheville by Jewish (?) merchant J. M. Stoner

Several previous posts have focused upon Asbury’s and Ella’s earlier lives and work, some key choices that faced them as they contemplated marriage (for more than a dozen years, it seems), and the general character of Asheville between 1900 (when he came) and 1907 (when she arrived).

What I did not address in these posts was the growing multicultural nature of Asheville (it had been biracial for its entire 100+-year history) and Asbury’s encounter with the racial, cultural, and other dynamics of the growing, bustling city where he had chosen to live and work.   This post focuses on some of those change dynamics–partly by using Asbury as a lens. Continue reading

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