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LOCAL CONNECTIONS / Insight into our community by Scott Hoffmann

INSIDE OUR GATES

 

We came here for the mountain’s natural beauty, to escape the hectic pace of urban life. The following pages provides some background on our subdivision, the adjoining community and several things to consider.

The Linville Mountain Acres and Linville Forest subdivision was formed in 1982, with the first homes built in 1984.

 

After the first flurry of building, the build rate has averaged one home built every 18 months. As of March 2023, there are 66 homes in the subdivision. Two more homes are planned to be built in 2023 and a third home planned for 2024.

 

Of the 66 homes in our subdivision, about a third are full-time residents, with two thirds being either part-time owners (long weekends — 22), frequent owners (living for extended periods —11) or rental properties (11).

 

Lot sizes range from half-acre to over 4 acres, with the average being around 1 1/2 acres.

 

BEARS AND OTHER WILDLIFE

 

Most of us have seen bears and cubs on the roads and in our yards. They are fun to watch but they also are dangerous.

 

In early July of 2021, there were several pets attacked within the span of a week or so in LMA. Our border collie, Tuxedo, was the last of the pets who were attacked that week and she did not survive.

 

Be aware of the dangers of a mother bear, who simply wants to eat and protect her cubs. DO NOT FEED or encourage bears to view humans as a steady food source by leaving trash, bird seed, deer corn, etc.. outside as it only creates problems for others. Bear activity picks up during the summer when fruits are readily available. If there is a bear attack on a pet or a human, PLEASE SHARE IT WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS ASAP on our HOA website.

 

LAUREL BRANCH

 

Laurel Branch is the rocky creek residents drive over midway through our subdivision. The creek originates off the western edge of Forest Road 1238  (also called Old NC 105 and Kistler Memorial Highway), a dusty and rutted state road dating back to the 1940’s that runs from Linville Falls to Lake James.

 

After flowing through our subdivision, Laurel Branch feeds into the new disc golf course across from our entrance gate.

 

Laurel Branch is a seasonal creek that runs whenever rainfall is sufficient. A dramatic 90 or 100-foot waterfall near the upper part of the creek can be viewed from North Oakwood Drive. For those daring enough to tackle a very strenuous trailblazing hike uphill through tick-infested mountain laurel and rhododendron, the waterfall is reachable. But there is no trail so you have to bushwhack your way up to the waterfall. While that may sound intriguing, there are far easier waterfalls to access than Laurel Branch. Several friends and I have the scratches and tick bites to prove it.

 

MOUNTAIN LAUREL

 

According to NCSU extension office, "this plant has a high flammability rating and should not be planted within the defensible space of your home."

 

Obviously, we have an abundance of mountain laurel in our community. What should we do about it? 

 

First, simply be aware of the increased fire danger associated with it. You can try to manage it (I cut some of my laurel back periodically to keep it lower and less straggly looking). But it usually grows back, thicker and more shrub-like in appearance.

 

There are also views that mountain laurel is fairly toxic when ingested in any form, including from honey created by bees that consume the laurel's pollen.

 

I doubt many of us are that concerned about the dangers of consuming mountain laurel but we should keep in mind the risks we face from wildfires fed by the mountain laurel that thrives here.

 

 

WILDFIRES

 

Thus far, Linville Mountain Acres and Linville Forest subdivision has been spared from a significant wildfire. But there have been wildfires near us, including a large fire in the Linville Gorge between Shortoff Mountain and the Chimneys, a recent fire on Dobson Knob as well as the “Sunrise” fire in the two subdivisions south of Oconee Falls, Deerwood and Fox Ridge. “It burned about 700 acres over several days,” said Roger Andrews, a North Cove resident and volunteer fireman for the past 30 years. “We were able to protect all the homes.”

 

 

HURRICANES

 

Hurricanes seem more of a coastal threat but they pose a real threat to the mountains. These storms bring high winds, torrential rains and, occasionally, tornadoes. Oftentimes, the storms simply stall in the mountains, creating the risk of flooding to worsen.

 

Some the most devastating storms to impact North Cove have been hurricanes, including three major storms (in 1916, 1940 and 2004). The 1916 storm sent huge rocks stumbling down the pass into the valley, uprooting trees, houses and bridges. Residents died, others escaped only by cutting holes in the roofs of their two-story houses, where they huddled together and prayed to be rescued. A Charlotte Observer writer who toured North Cove Vally in 1917 described the once pristine valley as “a lost valley.” Fortunately, he was proven wrong. The valley and its residents persevered and they both recovered.


Extensive damage was also felt here by hurricanes in the 1990s. “There was a bad one in 1994,” Andrews said. “We about lost the golf course, it tore out roads and the original bridges I had built. But it was worse in Bakersville, Mt. Mitchell and Road Mountain. People were killed over there.”

The most recent major storm was in 2004, when two hurricanes, Frances and Ivan, hit back to back. The North Fork of the Catawba River flooded its banks, destroying nearly everything in its path. “17 inches fell in a few hours,” Andrews said of the 2004 storm. “It took out bridges, wiped out the golf course, there were landslides on the Parkway still visible today. And the sewer plant near Lonon’s store was taken out, too.”

 

The valley was closed for over a month, Andrews said. “LMA wasn’t really impacted that bad,” Andrews said. “It fared pretty well, the water just ran down the mountain into the valley. I think they had some choked culverts but that was about it.

 

27 inches of rain fell during Hurricane Ivan but it fell over several days so it was not as destructive, Andrews said.

 

Monitor weather conditions. Even if the drenching rains run right off the mountain to the valley below, bridges and roads can still be flooded or washed away.

 

 

DISCOVERIES

 

According to Roger Andrews, who has worked extensively in Linville Mountain Acres and Linville Forest, no Indian artifacts or dinosaurs have been discovered in our subdivision. “I have never found an arrowhead or dinosaur bones or fossils,” Andrews said. “Nor have I heard of any.”

OUTSIDE THE GATES

 

The 3-plus mile stretch of Highway 221 between Faith Baptist Church and Mountain Paradise in North Cove is reported to be the longest straightaway in McDowell County.

 

Closer to our subdivision gate stands a collection of buildings and facilities, some dating back to the 1920’s.

 

LONON’S STORE

 

The antique store you pass by near the railroad overpass has a long and colorful history. Originally built in 1927-28 by Clarence Wiseman, the store was a popular general store, post office and polling place. For a time, there was even a corn mill operation behind the store.

 

The store was run by two Lonon’s — Mac and Otis — whom many people still remember the store by. Otis Lonon closed the store in 1971 and it has been open and closed ever since. Later, it housed an antique store called “Fast Eddie’s.”  Currently, LMA property owner Rudy and Cheramy Vivona own the property.

 

 

MOUNTAIN PARADISE

 

Mountain Paradise is the water park and campground you pass when you approach Linville Mountain Acres from Marion.

 

Most locals know it as “Rogers.”  That name is given for the park’s owner, Roger Hollifield, who created the campground and water park in the 1980’s. “Roger was a PE teacher and he ran the water park while he was working and then after he retired,’ said Roger Andrews. “His someplace is right across the road.”

 

“There are only a couple public pools in McDowell County, so it gets used a lot by local kids who drive up from Marion,” Andrews said. “Roger’s son, Matt, does the majority of work there today.”

 

 

THE OLD ROCK STORE / ALPINER”S LODGE

 

The old Alpiner Restaurant  was known by locals as “The Piner Diner.”

 

In its heyday, it was a popular spot for music and dining (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Large trees once stood where the front parking lot is today. Pickin’ and grinnin’ nights were held on Saturday nights.

 

There have been many owners of the property over the years and its name has changed repeatedly. “Nobody seems to be able to make a profit there,” Roger Andrews said.

 

Half of the building was removed after extensive hurricane damage in 2004, creating the building that remains today.

 

The building’s most recent incarnation was Crazy Granny’s restaurant, owned by Darlene Jordan, who ran an antique store tin the building before opening Crazy Granny’s.

 

WISEMAN”S CORN MILL

 

Earl Wiseman’s corn mill is the small building you pass on Hwy 221 North across from Mountain Paradise and the intersection with Swofford Road. Earl had a store beside of the corn mill that is no longer there.

 

Members of the community brought in corn to be ground on Saturday morning. It’s been said that Wiseman liked to sit out in front of the store on his wooden chair.

 

 

CONCORD UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

 

We pass by signs for all-you-can-eat breakfasts and other social gatherings posted on Highway 221. But unless you have dropped in for one of these meals or to attend church there, you may not realize the history behind this rock church.

 

The Concord United Methodist Church was founded in the early 1800’s and grew to become a well-organized church by 1854. The church roll for 1855 showed a membership of forty-five; the entire church budget for 1861 was $35.00. Four buildings served as a place of worship for the Concord congregation, with the first building destroyed by fire. The present stone church was built in the 1920’s, with a historic cemetery adjoining it.

 

CLINCHFIELD RR

The sound of train whistle blowing is a familiar sound to anyone who has lived in the North Cove over the past 100 years.

 

People often think its engines from the Clinchfield railroad they hear but the Clinchfield Railroad company ended service 40 years ago.

 

Instead, the sounds you hear today come from CSX trains making their way through The Clinchfield Loops, a series of switchbacks and train tunnels that enabled trains to traverse steep mountain grades. When The Loops were constructed in the early 1900’s, it was considered an engineering marvel, akin to the Linn Cove viaduct below Grandfather Mountain. More than 4,000 workers were involved in the construction, which reflects the massive scale of this project.

 

Overlooks and historic markers posted along the Parkway give motorists a glimpse into the history behind The Loops and the Clinchfield Railroad. The history of the Clinchfield Railroad and the Loops’ construction are both interesting and easily researched online for greater detail.

 

GOLF COURSE / DISC COURSE

 

The property across from our entrance on Highway 221 has been a golf course for around 30 or 35 years. At least six or seven owners have struggled to make it successful but it has generally faced challenges, both financially and from storms that have wreaked havoc on the course. The North Fork of the Catawba River flows through the center of the course and often overflows during heavy rainfall.

 

“Owners spent a lot of money there, they did a lot of work,” Roger Andrews said.

 

But it never seemed to fully pan out. “It sprang up and fizzed,” Andrews said. “When the hurricanes hit, it ate the second owner ’s lunch.” Roads and bridges were washed away, one golf hole was lost, requiring that area of the course to be reconfigured.

 

Currently, the property is marketed as a disc golf course, the North Cove Leisure Club and Disc Golf, with tentative plans for expansion that include an amphitheater to host live music for several thousand people.

 

FARMS

 

Just across the LMA gate at the north end of the golf course stand two abandoned buildings that were once part of Arthur Thompson’s dairy farm. “Those are the milk barn and the short silo,” Andrews said. “The Thompsons owned a lot of land all the way down through half the golf course. The farm closed either  in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

 

There were 17 dairy farms in McDowell County in the 1960’s, Andrews said. Now there is only one.

ENGLISH DAIRY FARM

 

Further north on 221 is the  English Dairy Farm, the last dairy farm still operating in McDowell County. Dairy farming has run in the English family for four or five generations, including the farm’s current owners, Terry and Susan English. Terry’s great-grandfather, started the farm and once sold jugs of milk packed in ice on the side of Highway 221.  Their cheese shop, English Farmstead Cheese, is run entirely by women and will celebrate its 10th anniversary on May 6 from 10 to 4. The cheese store concept came about by chance after Terry English gave his wife, Susan, a small cheese press. As they say, the rest is history.

BILL PHILLIPS FARM

 

You likely admire the two burros on the farm just south of LMA gate. They belong to Bill Phillips, who owns the acreage south to Old Linville Road that includes the small A-frame building at the intersection of Highway 221 and Old Linville Road. In the 1980’s, that A-frame building housed the realty office for LMA and  Linville Forest. Today, it is a residential rental property.

 

RELIGIOUS CULT

 

In the mid to late 1970s — shortly before LMA began to be developed — a religious group called The Way, The Truth and The Life led by a former hairdresser from Florida named Ben Sapio set up shop in the motel near Lonon’s store. “They didn’t fit in well with the old-timers here,” Andrews said. They were devoutly religious, some claimed them to be a cult. I think it was more of a real estate or investment scam than a cult.”

 

Rumors spread of member’s wages being garnished, of infants being confined to “cages” that were cribs with covers over the top..and other forms of abuse.

 

Complaints were filed with NC Senator Jesse Helms and with the McDowell County Sheriff’s Department.

 

“There was a lot of pressure on them. Eventually, they ran them all off,” Andrews said.

NOTE:

 

This information was collected online and through a series of interviews. It is intended to serve as an ongoing project that will involve additions and revisions. If you would like to make a suggestion, make clarifications or report an error, please do so by contacting Scott Hoffmann through the HOA website.

SOURCES:

Roger Andrews

Adrienne Chafee

Kimberly Wright, Straight Outta North Cove

The North Cove Valley – Some Personal Thoughts and Observations Dr. W. Douglas Cooper

NC Dept of Cultural Resources

The Avery Journal

Blue Ridge Outdoors

CHECK BACK TO THIS PAGE AGAIN FOR ADDITIONAL TOPICS WE PLAN TO ADD.

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