Thursday, May 17, 2018

Siler Family Meets Each summer For 165 Years

Siler Family Meeting 1911
Siler Family Meets Each summer For 165 Years

William Siler circled two big dates on his calendar for 2016. On June 23, he celebrated his 100th birthday at his home in Morro Bay, California. And Saturday, he hosts the 165th annual meeting of the Siler family in Macon County. "I've been a strong supporter of this family and our heritage in this part of the state ever since I was a small boy," Siler said. Siler planned to catch a flight to Atlanta where his daughter would drive him to Franklin and his old home place. "I was born seven miles west of Franklin back when there were just dirt roads. Getting to Franklin was an all-day affair and you could figure on getting stuck in the mud. Now it takes just a few minutes."

Early Family Meeting at Cabin of Albert Siler
The Silers and their various descendants are spread nationwide now, but up to 200 family members return each summer in what National Geographic once called the oldest continuously held family reunion in the Appalachian region. Like Bill Siler, they mark their calendar for the first Saturday of every August to congregate at Macon County Middle School. Mind you, it's not a reunion, but a meeting, with minutes taken each and every year and a recitation of the past 12 months' tally of births and deaths, marriages and other family lore.

There is recognition for the oldest family member attending — Bill Siler has that honor sewn up for 2016 —  as well as the youngest. Whoever has traveled the farthest also gets recognition. "I've probably missed just one year when I was overseas," said Richard Jones of Asheville, who serves as the Siler family president this year. "It's pretty much a command performance. With all your cousins coming from California or New Jersey or New York, you certainly better make the effort to be there, especially if you live in Asheville."

Jesse Richardson Siler (1793-1876)

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Jesse Richardson Siler (1793-1876)

Jesse, the fourth child of Weimar and Margaret Siler, was born January 31, 1793, in Pendleton District, S.C. The following sketch of his life was written by himself:

I was brought up by affectionate, and God fearing parents, with four brothers and four sisters. My parents being religious, from my earliest recollection, I was of course restricted in my conduct. I remember very distinctly one violation of their laws. William and I were gathering grapes when little boys. He was in a tree, and I below holding a hat, which had holes in it. As he would throw the grapes in, they would fall through, which aggravated me so much, that, to my shame be it said, I used language which was a very considerable breach of the order of the family. I was aware of the crime, and of the punishment that awaited me if father found out. William availed himself of this advantage and my weakness and kept me "under his thumb" by threatening to report what I had said. So, finding I was in his power or must suffer punishment of my father, I concluded it was a bad business, consequently have never used profanity since to my recollection.

Thus passing through the scenes of childhood and school boy days, I was scarcely ever ten miles from home, until the year 1805. In the spring of that year, my father took me to spend the summer with my brother-in-law, James Lowry, the husband of my sister Esther, who was living in Buncombe county, N.C. This separation from my home, the tender caresses of my mother, and the society of my brothers, from whom I was scarcely ever absent a night in my life, was to me a great trial; but I summoned up fortitude and bore it until the winter of that year, when my father moved to Buncombe county.

In November, 1814, I commenced clerking for J. M. Smith, of Asheville. Being awkward, uncultivated and timid, and unaccustomed to confinement, I would have been much happier with my parents in the country. But having set out with the determination to succeed, I looked forward with bright hopes, and by dint of application, became tolerably expert in business. I determined not to push myself into society, but to act industriously and honestly, with the hope that I should rise by true merit to rank with those of the highest family. I still retained in a good degree, the religious impressions of my education, and, determined not to disgrace myself, or my parents by immoral conduct, I covenanted daily with my Maker, that if He would protect and direct me, and crown my efforts with success in business, I would endeavor to be useful to the church and society.

After serving four years as clerk, Mr. Smith gave me an interest in business for three years, during which time I made the acquaintance of Miss Harriet D. Patton, sister of Mrs. Smith, who became my wife June 23, 1818. At the expiration of the three years, I bought land in the Tennessee Valley, and in the fall of 1821 moved to what is now Franklin, Macon county, and commenced business on my own footing. With gratitude I acknowledge that God's blessings have been showered upon me. In 1829, I joined the Methodist church. We had no house erected for the worship of God, and remembering my promise to Him, I set to work to build a church. I proposed to give the site and build the house. The good people aided me and in 1830, it was dedicated by the Rev. John Barringer. I felt happy in being able to aid in erecting a little monument dedicated to God, where my aged parents, who had moved to Macon county, with my children and friends, could assemble together in a comfortable situation and devote a portion of their time to the worship of God; and where, in the graveyard nearby, out bodies will rest together, when time with us shall be no more.

Mrs. H. T. Sloan adds to this sketch: "My parents lived happily together nearly sixty years, and were ever faithful in their attendance at our family reunions, and while their vacant seats in our family circle cause a pang of sorrow and regret, yet we know they have gone to fairer regions, and await us in the family above."

Harriet Siler died August 19, 1877.

Source: Arthur, Mrs. N. C., Siler, F. L., Jones, Paul, Johnston, T. J., Committee Members. The Siler Family: Being a Compilation of Biographical and Other Historical Sketches Relating to the Descendants of Plikard and Elizabeth Siler and Read at the Jubilee Reunion of the Siler Family Held in Macon County, North Carolina August 28, 1901 (Addition August, 1926). Franklin (North Carolina): Franklin Press, 1906/1926, pp.6-7 [some paragraph breaks added].

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Zeb Vance's "Rough and Ready Guards" (1861)

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"Rough and Ready Guards" Members (1861)


1. William Gudger
2. James M. Smith
3. Perry Gastow
4. William Garrison
5. Riley Powers
6. Governor Zeb B. Vance (1830-1894)
7. David M. Gudger
8. P. J. Pittillo
9. Alfred Walton
10. J. J. White
11. John Step
12. Jim Hughey
13. Bacchus Westall
14. Jesse M. Green
15. Capt. James M. Gudger
16. Wesley Hicks (negro bodyguard)
17. Gay Williams
18. Thomas Brooks
19. Capt. J. B. Baird
20. Merritt Stevens
21. Alfred Hunter
22. William Hunter

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When the North Carolina ordinance of secession was passed May 1861, Vance was already a captain in Raleigh commanding the company he had raised. The company was known as the "Rough and Ready Guards" and Vance and his men soon became part of the Fourteenth Regiment. Subsequently in August he was elected colonel of the Twenty-sixth North Carolina. Colonel Vance led his men in the field for thirteen months and the Regiment distinguished themselves at New Bern in March of 1862 and at Richmond in July of that same year. Governor of North Carolina.

Refusing all overtures to be a candidate for the Confederate Congress Vance raised a company of "Rough and Ready Guards" and on 4 May 1861 marched off to war with a captain's commission. By June the "Guards" had become Company F, Fourteenth North Carolina Regiment, and were on duty in Virginia. In August Vance was elected colonel of the Twenty-sixth North Carolina, which he ably led in battle at New Bern in March 1862 and shortly afterwards in the Seven Days fighting before Richmond.

Asheville Rough & Ready Club 1848

Zachary Taylor
Meeting of the Rough and Ready Club of Asheville, July 22d, 1848

The Club came to order by the appointment of James M. Smith, Esq., President pro tem, and Isaac B. Sawyer, Secretary.

The meeting was addressed by Messrs. Jas. M. Edny, N. W. Woodfin, J. W. Woodfin, A. B. Chunn and Gen. B. M. Edney, urging the claims of Old Zack to the Presidency, and against those of "broken sword memory."

When a Resolution was offered by N. W. Woodfin, Esq., and adopted, expressive of the satisfaction of the Club on learning that our patriotic Volunteers are soon to return to their homes, also tendering them a public dinner on their return.

Club adjourned to meet at the Court House on next Wednesday evening.

J. M. Smith, Pres. pro tem.
I. B. Sawyer, Sec.

Asheville Messenger (Asheville, North Carolina), 27 August 1848, Sunday, Page 3.

The presidential campaign of 1848 saw the first strong electoral challenge to the expansion of slavery in the United States; most historians consider the appearance of the Free Soil Party in that election a major turning point of the nineteenth century. The three-way race capped a decade of political turmoil that had raised the issue of slavery to unprecedented prominence on the national stage and brought about critical splits in the two major parties.

In the first book in four decades devoted to the 1848 election, Joel Silbey clarifies our understanding of a pivotal moment in American history. The election of Whig Zachary Taylor, hero of the Mexican War, over Democrat Lewis Cass and Free Soiler Martin Van Buren followed a particularly bitter contest, a fierce political storm in an already tumultuous year marked by the first significant attempt by antislavery advocates to win the presidency.

Silbey describes what occurred during that election and why it turned out as it did, offering a nuanced look at the interaction of the forces shaping the direction of politics in mid-nineteenth century America. He explains how the Free Soilers went about their reform movement and why they failed as they ran up against the tenacious grip that the existing two-party structure had on the political system and the behavior of the nation's voters.

For Whigs and Democrats it was politics as usual as they stressed economic, cultural, and ideological issues that had divided the country for the previous twenty years. Silbey describes the new confrontation between the force of tradition and a new and different way of thinking about the political world. He shows that ultimately, when America went to the polls, northerners and southerners alike had more on their minds than slavery. Nevertheless, while Van Buren managed to attract only 10 percent of the vote, his party's presence foreshadowed a more successful challenge in the future.

Emphasizing both persistent party commitments and the reformers' lack of political muscle, Silbey expertly delineates the central issues of an election framed by intense partisanship and increasing sectional anger. If 1848 did not yet mark the death rattle of traditional politics, this insightful book shows us its importance as a harbinger of change.

Sibley, Joel H. Party over Section: The Rough and Ready Presidential Election of 1848 (American Presidential Elections). Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2009.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Langren Hotel Site

"Portrait of the Past: Asheville’s Langren Hotel"

News of the hotel that BB&T Building owners plan to build on the site of the related parking garage, on Broadway Street, evokes former hotels at that spot.

The first was the Buck Hotel, built by James McConnell Smith in 1825, according to several sources. Hanging "very high between two immense posts," a "citizen" recalled in a 1906 issue of the Asheville Gazette-News was "an immense stag with his head erect, bearing aloft the finest pair of antlers I have ever seen … Many times have I listened to its creaking as it was set in motion by the wind." The Buck was a drover’s inn.

The Langren (pictured here), which replaced it, was for 20th century businessmen, distinguishing it from the Battery Park and Vanderbilt Hotels, which appealed to tourists.

The Langren's completion, on July 4, 1912, followed the five years it took to settle Smith's estate and benefited from financing by Gay Green and John H. Lange, from whom the hotel got its name. It was fireproof, making early use of reinforced concrete, purchased from C.H. Miller's plant on Spruce Street. The BB&T razed it in 1964.

Source: "Portrait of the Past: Asheville’s Langren Hotel" by Rob Neufeld, Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, North Carolina), 19 June 2014.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Asheville Has Few Landmarks 1902

"Asheville A New City, And Has Few Landmarks"

Asheville Daily Gazette, Saturday, 19 July 1902

It was the original intention to have this article deal entirely with the building landmarks of Asheville. In collecting information for the subject it was found that inasmuch as there now stand only two buildings within the city's limits that have the distinction of being landmarks, correctly speaking, that mention of other than historic structures of "ye olden times" would necessarily have to be brought into use to make anything like an interesting story.

Asheville is the newest town in North Carolina of any importance. It has grown faster than any other and continues to do so. Sixty years ago there were only 200 white people in Asheville and 300 negroes. In 1880 there were 2000. In 1890, 9000 and 1900, 15000.

There have been more houses built within the last two years than ever before within the same length of time. One may visit any town of importance in the state and have pointed out to them homes and places of business that have been standing hundreds of years and over. Such is not the case in Asheville. Two buildings, one on North Main and College streets and one near the corner of Eagle and South Main streets are the only buildings standing that were here sixty years ago.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Buck Hotel: Passing of Old Tavern

"Buck Hotel," The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina), Sunday, 4 March 1906, Page 1

Passing of Old Tavern. The Buck, Asheville's Oldest Hotel, to Give Place to Modern Six-Story Hostelry.

Asheville, March 1. -- The old buck Hotel and the wooden structure adjoining are going. The work of tearing away these old landmarks was undertaken this morning. The work is in charge of McDowell & Spears and will consume probably two weeks. The buildings are located on North Main street in the very centre of Asheville and were built more than half a century ago. They are to be replace by a handsome and modern hotel of six stories of frame steel and concrete reinforcement with a roof-garden. The removal of the Buck Hotel means the passing of an ancient landmark; the taking away of the oldest structure in the city and a structure withal around which hovered much that had to do with Asheville when the city was a mere burg. The Buck Hotel at one time was a principal tavern in western North Carolina. It was for years conspicuous by a unique sign denoting its name--the antlers and head of a great buck. The removal of the Buck Hotel has been threatened for many years. It was some ten years ago that rumor had it the Buck was to go. This rumor inspired Will Aiken, now private secretary to the Governor of Montana, but then doing newspaper work in Asheville, to write what was declared to be the best story of the day. The story had to do with a "convention of bed bugs" held in the Buck Hotel "for the purpose of discussing the cruel report of destruction." But now the old landmark is assuredly going. Already portions of the buildings have been torn down and before the middle of the month all that will remain of the famous tavern will be piles of dust-covered timbers and soft-clay bricks. The tavern in the days before the war housed many prominent men. The Buck was the stopping place of hot and cattle drivers that passed through Asheville with great droves of animals before the days of the railroad. At that time there were great vacant stretches of land surrounding the tavern. This land was fenced and into these enclosures were fed great droves of hogs and cattle every night and day. It was a well-known stopping place for the drivers and usually these men spent the night at the tavern.

The building that will replace the old tumble-down frame structure will be a modern and commodious hotel. The hotel will be erected by C. H. Miller in charge of the Smith estate. It will be a thing of beauty and credit to Asheville. Plans for the building as accepted were drawn by Architect R. S. Smith of Asheville. The structure will be six stories in height with a frontage on North Main street of 128 feed and 129 feet on West College. It will cost about $125,000.

There will be 158 bedrooms, with telephone service in every room, two passenger elevators, a dining room to seat 200 persons, and 60 baths. There will also be an independent electric-light plant. One feature of the building will be a court with a glass roof which will extend from the main floor to the roof and the arrangements of rooms so that each room will be bounded by a corridor. On the sixth floor will be a ball-room, with a roof garden. Flowers and potted plants will find place on and around the roof garden and the whole structure will present an artistic appearance. There will be no bar-room in the building.