Historic Routes

Much of the High Country's history is hidden away or long since decayed, but for visitors with the time and inclination, there are several structures and sites that capture the life of yesteryear.

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The original "settlers" were the Cherokee, whose trails generally followed the winding streams and rivers. Tales of abundant buffalo, elk, beaver, and other game brought European trappers and hunters.image

Boone is, of course, named for Daniel Boone, Daniel Boonethough several other cities have claimed the name and the heritage. That's mostly due to the fact that Boone never stayed in one place very long. His itching feet led him in the 1760's into the area that would become known as Watauga County.

imageBoone used a hunting cabin belonging to Benjamin Howard. The cabin stood on what is now Faculty Street, which runs through the Appalachian State University campus. From this location, Boone searched north into Tennessee and Virginia. Daniel Boone eventually claimed a thousand acres, but lost his land after moving on to Kentucky.

The peak above Boone became known as Howard's Knob, because Benjamin Howard allegedly hid from the Whigs there in the 1770's. Many of the main roads in the area were originally trails used by Daniel Boone and other early settlers. Part of Highway 421 was once a wagon trail used by Boone and others. One stretch of the wagon trail veers off 421 on Jake's Mountain Road.

During the Revolution, Capt. William Riddle and his band of Tories had their headquarters on a place called Riddle's Knob. Wolfden There on April 15, 1781, a group of Patriots rescued Col. Benjamin Cleveland, their leader, who Riddle had captured the day before. The Tories hid in a place high on the Knob called the Wolf's Den. Riddle, by the way, with some associates, were later hung in Wilkesboro by Cleveland and his men. The remains of the cabin are still standing, visible from Hwy. 194 on a little side road. The cabin is located on private property, and is not open to the public. Pictured is an early 20th century photo of the Wolf's Den.image

Highway 194, or the old Jefferson Road, leads through Todd, which was once the bustling center of the High Country. The Buffalo Trail intersects the road, though the original route is no longer accessible by car. The trail wound to Deep Gap and continued down to Wilkesboro. There is a cabin just up the road in a place called Riddle's Knob where Tories and Whigs clashed during the Revolutionary War (see right).

Another good place to begin a road tour in the High Country is Blowing Rock. The historic Green Park Inn The historic Green Park Inn has stood on the west side of town since 1882, a place where governors, senators, and the wealthy visited in the summers around the turn of the last century. On Main Street is St. Mary's of the Hills, built in 1918. Running behind Main Street is a gravel road known as Globe Road, which was the original wagon road between Caldwell County and the High Country.

imageHead out of Blowing Rock onto Highway 221 and you'll see the Cone ManorCone Manor up on the hill, on what is now National Park Service property. The Cone Manor was built in the 1890's and was the summer home for a wealthy textile baron, Moses Cone. The manor is now open to the public as a crafts center. From Cone Park along Highway 221, you can see most of the estate, which at its peak measured 3,500 acres. Continue up 221 and you'll reach Linville Caverns, which reach up to 2,000 feet underground. There are guided tours through the caverns, and you can see where Civil War deserters from both armies once hid to escape the travails of war.

Between The Mountains:

Another scenic and historic route is to take Shull's Mill Road, which is just outside Blowing Rock. The road was originally the Yonahlossee Turnpike, built in the late 1800's to connect the resort communities of Linville and Blowing Rock. Shull's Mill Road goes under the Blue Ridge Parkway and winds about 4 miles, offering some of the best views of Grandfather Mountain to be had. Midway along the road, you'll see Camp Yonahlossee, a nearly 80-year-old summer camp for children. At the end of Shull's Mill Road, you'll see the Shull's Mill Country Store and across the road, the Shull's Mill Baptist Church. Both were built around 1850, when Shull's Mill was a robust settlement. The road was a toll stop between Lincolnton and Abingdon, Virginia, meaning travelers had to pay to get between the mountains. A sawmill was erected at the site, as well as a train depot, and during 1915, a thousand people lived in the area due to the logging industry. The area was devastated in the famous 1940 flood, and lost its place as one of the larger communities in the High Country. Now Hound Ears Club covers the slopes, with some of the most expensive houses in the western part of the state.

Turn right toward Boone on Highway 105, which is the old Burnsville Road, and after a half-mile you'll come to a bridge over the Watauga River. Turn left onto Broadstone Road just before the river and you'll see some of the oldest structures in the High Country, as well as one of the most scenic valleys around. Samuel Hix claimed 1000 acres of the valley in 1780, then later traded it for a gun, a dog, and a sheepskin. Valle Crucis, or "Valley of the Cross," got its name for its base as an Episcopal mission in the mid-1800's. About three miles along the road, you'll see Mast Farm Innthe Mast Farm Inn, which is an example of an old-style farmhouse back when large families and large acreage were the norm. The structure was expanded over the years from a cabin built in 1812.

Up next is the Mast Store Annex, built in 1909. Nearby is the Valle Crucis Methodist Church, which dates back to 1894. The famous Mast Store is two-tenths of a mile up the road on the right. The store was built in the 1880's, and is a treasure trove of old advertising displays and products. The store still operates as a general mercantile business and post office.

Turn onto Highway 194 north and you'll wind your way into some of the most undeveloped valleys in the region. Taylor HouseThe Inn at the Taylor House was built in 1911 and is one of the more relaxing places to spend the night in the area. The Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross sits around one curve, and adjacent to that is Bishop Ives' cabin, built in 1844. Ives traversed the mountains on horseback to minister to the settlers. Episcopal Mission 6 miles down the road you'll come to Banner Elk. From there, you can go back to Boone, follow 194 to Elk Park, or go up to Beech Mountain, which is the highest incorporated town east of the Rockies.image

You can pull off the road along any of the peaks and bluffs of the High Country, and with a little imagination, you can see the lands spread out before you just the way the Cherokee and the Catawba and Daniel Boone himself once did.

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