Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bryson City, NC

Today, Grenville rode in the engine cab of The Great Smokeygreatsmrr_logo Mountains Railroad (GSMRR) and to say he was excited would be an understatement. You can be sure that he’ll post about his adventures in a separate blog. These images were taken early today after arrival at the depot. We were there very early – did I mention that Grenville was so VERY excited?GSMRR collageWe rode together yesterday, so I took today to explore downtown Bryson City, NC. This is a small town that depends heavily on tourism during the spring and summer months. The GSMRR is a major factor (perhaps only?) in attracting visitors here. Bryson City is centered IMG_1102around the junction of Everett and Main Streets. Main Street is part of U.S. Route 19, which connects Bryson City to Cherokee to the northeast and Murphy to the southwest. Bryson City is the county seat for Swain County. In 2009, the population was 1,353.

Bryson sign collageThe town is surrounded on all sides by mountains: the Great Smoky Mountains to the north, the Cowee Mountains to the south, and the Plott Balsams to the east. The boundary of the Nantahala National Forest passes just south of the city, and the boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park passes to the north. Native Americans have been living and hunting in this area for over 14,000 years. The village of Kituhwa, believed to be the oldest Cherokee village, was located along the Tuckasegee River upstream from Bryson City. It was burned by American soldiers in 1776. Bryson City collageIn 1818, Big Bear, a Cherokee chief, received a 640-acre reservation of land immediately west of the confluence of Deep Creek and the Tuckasegee River, including most of what is now Bryson City. Big Bear sold part of his reservation to Darling Belk in 1819; another part to John Love in 1824. Throughout the 1830s, Belk’s heirs and Love fought an extended legal battle over control of the Big Bear reservation, with Love prevailing in 1840. The following year, Love sold part of the land to James and Diana Shular, who sold off parts of their land to Colonel Thaddeus Bryson and merchant Alfred Cline. A small hamlet called Bear Springs developed in what was once Big Bear's reservation. Today, bear statues are popular throughout downtown Bryson City.bears collageAlong with other artwork seen downtown.Bryson artIn 1871, Swain County was formed from parts of Jackson County and Macon County. The new commissioners met at Lucy Cline’s store in Bear Springs. Mrs.Cline (Alfred’s widow) agreed to sell some lots of her land to form a county seat, initially called Charleston. It was laid out in a T-shape formed by what’s now Main Street and Everett Street (named for the county's first sheriff, Epp Everett).

Bryson City collage2For years, Bryson City had only dirt streets, which were often muddy, and no sidewalks. The first sidewalks were built with the property owners sharing expense on a voluntary basis; some had sidewalks and some did not. There was no stock law then, so livestock ran loose. The early economy of Swain County was farming, trading, merchandising, and manufacturing. The Western North Carolina Railroad laid tracks through Bryson City in 1884. Previously, all travel was by stage, wagons, or horseback. In 1889, the city was renamed Bryson City to acknowledge services rendered by one of its founders, Capt. Thaddeus Bryson, and to distinguish it from Charleston, SC.NCflower colllageThree different courthouses were built in Bryson City between 1873 and 1908. Court was held at the first courthouse until 1882. An 1879 fire created the need for a new courthouse. Construction began in 1881 and was completed in 1882. This courthouse also as completely gutted by fire on January 3, 1908. A third courthouse was completed on the public square in November 1908 and is still there, but no longer used for judicial proceedings.courthouse collage

The increasing popularity of the automobile led to a decline in railroad transportation, and Southern Railway (who had replaced the Western North Carolina Railroad) dropped passenger service in 1948. After Norfolk Southern ended freight traffic on the railroad in 1985, the state of North Carolina purchased the tracks. In 1988, the scenic Great Smoky Mountains Railroad was established with its depot and departure point in Bryson City.

NCpizzza collageWe dined at several places in Bryson City including Anthony’s – recommended by fellow bloggers, Lois and Kjell, who visited in March (we also had a deluxe pizza). We can recommend the Everett Street Diner for breakfast.NCbreakfast collage

This was a long post, but the only one on Bryson City itself. We’re touring part (very small part) of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park Thursday, before starting the return trip home on Friday.


Country Gal said...

Oh WOW ! I would love to go there ! Awesome photos and info. Have a great day !

Daisy said...

Looks like a really interesting place to visit. Great photos! Thanks for sharing the pictures and "taking us along" on your tour. :)

Anonymous said...

What wonderful photographs! Thank you, too, for the information about the area that you are visiting.

Elaine said...

Your collages and history give a wonderful picture of Bryson. It looks like a delightful little town. Enjoy your trip in the Great Smoky NP tomorrow.

Out on the prairie said...

Sorry i missed this area when I was last out in the region.Lovely photos.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photographs and thanks for the history lesson, I love to learn the old history even if I might never get a chance to travel there myself.

It sounds like an area I would love to walk around in and the town itself looks inviting.

Have a great day!

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Hi Country Girl, Daisy, Linda, Elaine, Steve and Christer so glad you enjoyed the trip. It was fun wandering around Bryson City, then learning more about it by way on online research. Steve, maybe you can visit on a return trip, but summer months get really crowded we were told (and the train trips fill up fast).

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