Saturday, March 12, 2011

Buncombe County: A Brief History

In 1791, David Vance and William Davidson presented to the North Carolina House of Commons a "petition of the inhabitants of that part of Burke County lying west of the Appalachian Mountains praying that a part of said county, and part of Rutherford County, be made into a separate and distinct county." The original bill to create the county gave as its name "Union." The name was changed, however, to Buncombe in honor of Col. Edward Buncombe, a Revolutionary War hero from Tyrell County. The Buncombe bill was ratified on January 14, 1792. The new county included most of Western North Carolina and was so large it was commonly referred to it as the "State of Buncombe." Approximately 1,000 people lived in the county.

Monday, March 7, 2011

North Carolina in the Civil War

The North Carolina Office of Archives and History is sponsoring the first of three Civil War sesquicentennial conferences at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh on May 20, the anniversary of the state’s secession from the Union, entitled “Contested Past: Memories and Legacies of the Civil War.” The agenda features eighteen speakers including the keynote address by David Blight of Yale University. Registration is $25 which includes refreshments, a boxed lunch, and afternoon reception. The program can be found at:

North Carolina in the Civil War

Click on map for larger image.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Highland Hospital (Asheville, North Carolina)

Asheville, N. C., March 11, 1948 (AP) -- Fire roared through a mental hospital here early today and snuffed out the lives of nine women patients. They died as 20 others, some screaming, some calm, were led to safety. Flames quickly engulfed the four-story central building of the Highland Hospital for nervous diseases. Wailing of some of the 29 women echoed over the spacious grounds. Firemen, police, nurses, doctors and townspeople rushed to the rescue. But seven women were trapped on the upper floors. Two others removed by firemen died in a short while. It was the third fire in the hospital in less than a year. Fire Chief J. C. Fitzgerald said two broke out last April. One ignited a mattress and the other started from oil-soaked rags tucked under a stairway.

Chief Fitzgerald said he believed today's fire started in the kitchen of the hospital's central building. But that had not been officially determined. DR. B. T. Bennett, hospital medical director, estimated the fire loss at $300,000. Miss Betty Uboenga of Lincoln, Ill., assistant supervisor, described how she and Supervisor Frances Render of Scarboro, W. Va., first went after the helpless patients. "We felt that the others were awake and would help themselves," she said. "As soon as we got the helpless ones out and safely put away elsewhere, we rushed back to help others. By then we knew some had been trapped. Some of them were awake, we know, and were rousing the others. It seemed no time at all until the entire building was like a furnace."

Florence Morning News (South Carolina) 12 March 1948.

Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald (July 24, 1900 – March 10, 1948), born Zelda Sayre in Montgomery, Alabama, was an American novelist and the wife of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. In 1936, Zelda entered the Highland Mental Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, and she was in and out of this facility until her death. Scott died in Hollywood in 1940, having last seen Zelda a year and a half earlier. She spent her remaining years working on a second novel, which she never completed, and she painted extensively. In 1948, the hospital at which she was a patient caught fire, causing her death. On the night of March 10, 1948, a fire broke out in the hospital kitchen. It moved through the dumbwaiter shaft, spreading onto every floor. The fire escapes were wooden, and caught fire as well. Nine women, including Zelda, died.

In 1939, the founder of the Highland Hospital Dr. Robert S. Carroll entrusted the hospital to the Neuropsychiatric Department of Duke University. It was during this time that on the night of March 10, 1948, the deadly fire mentioned above broke out in the main building and took the lives of nine women. Duke owned the property until the 1980s, and today the complex functions as an office park and shopping plaza.

National Register of Historic Places: