Liz Torres Course Blog

UNCA Class of 2018 (hopefully)

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Mile Marker 0

Today I went for a ride through a small stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway that is near my home. As I drove up the winding road I had quotes running through my head. Kristen and I started our research this week and as we looked through secondary sources covering the Parkway we were met with incredible quotes from Senators and conservationists in the 1930s about the value of the proposed road. The Blue Ridge Parkway brings millions of people every year to this corner of the state, people come from all over the world to see the breathtaking sights and beautiful colors. These people are what we are interested in.

Not only do we want to examine the people that came to construct this engineering marvel, we want to look at the types of visitors it has attracted since then. This movement of people, in our eyes, constitutes a migration. Given the time of year it is, we could even go out in a couple of weeks (with the permission of the Parks Service of course) and talk to those coming out to see the leaves change. My mother has been a leaf-looker since we moved to North Carolina in 2000, and if others are as serious as she is about, they come back at the same time every year. There are also cyclists who train on the Parkway, and bikers who ride it up and down. The conservationists who come and hike the trails that jut off of the Parkway are also plentiful. These folks may only come here temporarily, but they come from far and wide. Towns along the Parkway have geared themselves to be attractions for people to exit the road and come in to visit them. Tourists have shaped our area, and the Blue Ridge Parkway has shaped the type and quantity of tourists.

We have a long road ahead of us if we hope to embark on studying this 469 mile path. Kristen and I are both enthusiastic and ready to do the work required! We have created a Google Doc with our annotated secondary source bibliography that will be updated as we go along.

A Stroll Through the Mountains

Today we ventured to the Western Regional Archives and sat down with an archivist, Heather South, who gave us more information than we were ready to receive. She took us back to early exploration of Western North Carolina, specifically in an area known today as Morganton. There is currently an archaeological site there where they uncovered the Fort San Juan from 1567. She told us about other early explorers and we spoke about the Cherokee population that was forced out of this area and came back. This area of focus interested us slightly and Heather pointed us in the direction of the Museum of the Cherokee and their website as well as the Western Carolina University digital archive on the Craft Trail.

Another group that Heather recommended we take a look were the Scotch Irish clans that came to this area and the Highland Games which have been going on for well over 50 years. An interesting thing about the Games is that one of the original organizers is still alive and participating today so if we decided to work with this group we could talk to someone who was there when the Games began.

Hot Springs, NC is a small town that was built by German ‘enemy aliens’ who were basically prisoners of war, which is something I had no idea about until today. There were internment camps there during WWI which forced thousands of Germans to this small town. Once there they created a village and influenced the architecture of the town. When the war ended most of the Germans were transported to Georgia but many came back with their families and made Hot Springs their home. There is an event there in the second week of September commemorating the centennial of this internment camp and community, which we will definitely be making our best efforts to attend.

At this point, the conversation turned slightly. We asked Heather what brought people to this area. The mountains of North Carolina are beautiful, but there is no land for plantations, and getting here before the railroad was no easy task. So why come? As we talked we realized that tourism has always been a huge draw to this area of the state and so we brainstormed ideas to bring that into this project.

The first idea was the Alexander Inn. There are boxes of visitor logs and their sales records as well as family photo album in the archives that we were able to look through a bit today. Below is a picture of the Inn from the early 1900s. This inn was a stopping point in Swannanoa for those who did journey up the mountain pre-railroad. They could rest there, feed their horses, send mail, and buy goods. The Inn is now a private residence where the family still lives to this day, and a member of the family who was around when it was still functioning is still alive to this day as well and gives tours of the area.


Another idea that we had related to tourism in WNC was to look at the Blue Ridge Parkway. Construction of the Parkway took place during the 1930s and brought new people to the area to cut into the mountain and construct the miles and miles of roads. We were thinking about comparing it then and now, potentially looking at the types of people that visit the Parkway every year and how that has changed since its completion. Looking at the cultural impact of the Parkway would also be fascinating. Heather told us about the Teapot Museum, an idea proposed to bring people off the Parkway and into a small town. Also important about the Parkway is that the land was, in some areas, being used prior to construction. What happened to those people? Where did they go? Resources on the Parkway are plentiful in this neck of the woods and taking a dive into them and looking at the Parkway from a different perspective would be fun.

The last idea that we discussed, also related to tourism, were summer camps. Church camps have been coming to this area for decades. Many churches have archives about the camps and the folks who attended them. An option for a project could be to go through those archives and see if people who came for camp were enticed to come back later in life and park themselves in these mountains.

All in all, we got so many ideas from Heather today. Ideas on where to go to do research and who to talk to, as well as ideas on what groups to focus on and what angles to come at them from. There is so much to consider now and deciding on what to research is going to have to do a lot with guidelines for the project. Will we be allowed to study an area instead of a people?

Week 2 Reading Response

Taking migration away from the construction of nations and nationalities is something that I have always thought about but have never been able to put into words. The essay by Gabaccia really examined what the movement of people means to the people themselves instead of simply tying it up into the narrative of nations. This view is something that I hope to do as we begin our project as well. While we’re researching the impact of a group on our area we cannot forget that they are also individuals and were not necessarily concerned with carving out a corner in this area of the world. I think it is very important, as an aspiring historian, to be aware of the limitations of the field of history as well as its trends. The discussion at the beginning of this essay about the role of history as a nation building story or, conversely, as the search for truth despite the national narrative was one that I also found very interesting. It is always important to consider if your work is helping to contribute to a certain national myth. This is especially true when considering migration and putting people in boxes based on nationality.¬†Goodmans argument to me was one of decolonizing language and thought. By calling into question the United States myth of immigration it is easier to examine migration and migrants instead of borders and the qualifications for citizenship that we discussed last class. I really enjoyed reading this article and it pulled into focus for me the importance of the work that we’re doing. If we can help shift the narrative away from the ‘nation of immigrants paradigm’ as he calls it and towards a more inclusive view of the movement of people, we will have done excellent work.¬†The introduction by Gerstle brings the focus back to the United States specifically. The look at race and how racial injustice has shaped the idea of American identity is not a new perspective for me. The discussion of war as central to the idea of a nation is also not new for me but it is nonetheless true.


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