Wade Brown - Boone's Elder Statesman

Wade Brown - Boone's Elder Statesman

You can't talk about this century in the High Country without mentioning Wade Brown. Brown was born in the Blowing Rock area in 1907, and with his license plate motto of "Think Positive," has seen and been a part of many changes in the area. He settled in Boone and started a law practice in 1931, and served a term in the state Senate and two terms in the House of Representatives. He was also mayor of Boone from 1961 to 1968, and currently serves as one of the High Country's great historical resources.

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Blowing Rock was already something of a resort town, with wealthy summer visitors coming up from other areas to pass the hot months on a shaded hotel porch. Green Park Inn was the destination of choice, and opened a nine-hole golf course around 1910. "It was crowded in the summertime, and the hotels would fill up, but in the wintertime, you couldn't find enough people to put out a fire," Brown says.

There were very few second-home owners in the area at the time. Of course, the most famous one, Moses Cone, who owned an estate above Blowing Rock, died around the time Brown was born, but his widow kept the estate going until it was donated to the National Parks Service after her death. Brown's father J.D. Brown had owned the land where Cone's manor was built, then became manager of the estate. J.D. Brown bought another piece of land and operated a farm, and Wade Brown says the family raised much of its food.

"We had plenty of vegetables, and we'd kill a beef each fall and cut it up and put it in brine, then put it in a big barrel down in the spring and eat on it all spring. "Nobody had much money. It seemed like a rarity. The rich people would come up and play golf. I caddied for two of them all day and made four whole dollars. I thought I was rich."

"Most of the folks who stayed in Blowing Rock stayed at the hotels," Brown says. "There weren't any motels. A few houses in town had gas generators for electricity. The town had a generator that made a thumping noise that you could hear for miles."

Brown saw his first automobile at the age of three or four. His uncle George Suddreth had one of the earlier cars in Blowing Rock, and came down to give the children a Sunday afternoon ride. "We were thrilled with seeing it," says Brown. "When he started to take us for a ride, he found he'd lost his crank. It cranked from the side, not at the front. We pushed it to a hill and got it started it. It made a right loud noise."

Brown says that transportation is one of the most obvious difference between then and now in the region. Boone was the only place that had a paved street. All the other roads were dirt, which made travel difficult or impossible in bad weather.

"It was a different life, and we didn't consider it hard," says Brown. "I thought we were doing fine. When I was twelve years old, I worked on the dam at Broyhill Park and I drove a team of mules. I made ten cents an hour."

For people interested in a closer look at the area and Brown's history, he's published a book called Wade E. Brown: Recollections and Reflections, which is available at local bookstores.

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