Pigeon Valley Award for Historic Preservation

Bethel Rural Community Organization’s (BRCO) Historic Preservation Committee is appreciative of the preservation and restoration work of its community residents.  In order to recognize outstanding historic conservation achievements by individuals in Bethel, the committee in 2014, initiated an annual acknowledgement: Pigeon Valley Award for Historic Preservation.  Pigeon Valley is the alternate name for Bethel, commemorating the legacy of the now extinct passenger pigeon that migrated to the valley for eons until its demise in 1914. While we could not keep the passenger pigeon from going extinct, with this award BRCO hopes to keep our own local history from sharing the fate of the Passenger Pigeon. BRCO has granted nine Bethel citizens with this prestigious honor.  



The Historic Preservation Committee awarded Charles and Martha Trantham the fifth Pigeon Valley Award for Historic Preservation.  The Tranthams were recognized for their stewardship of the Lenoir's Creek Farm in Bethel, the longest continuing farm (1807) with the longest continuing herd of cattle (1849) in Haywood County.  The farm was originally owned by Waightstill Avery and was given as a wedding gift in 1806 to his daughter Selina Louisa and her husband, Colonel Thomas Lenoir, who became a three-term NC legislator.  The farm was eventually tended by son, Thomas Isaac Lenoir, who brought to the farm the herd of Red Devon cattle whose line continues today under the ownership of Martha and Charles Trantham.  

The Tranthams have partnered with BRCO on several fronts in ensuring that the history of the Lenoir's Creek Farm and cattle are preserved.  The farm was featured during several of BRCO's Cold Mountain Heritage Tours and continues as a site on the Cold Mountain Heritage Driving Tour CD.  Charles Trantham is a featured speaker on the Walking in the Footsteps of Those Who Came Before Us DVD that received the NC Society of Historians Paul Green Multi-Media Award in 2012. The Lenoir family history by Emily Terrell and Lenoir's Creek Farm's history is detailed in Books 3 and 6 of Legends, Tales & History of Cold Mountain, awarded the Barringer Award of Excellence from the NC Society of Historians in 2010. The two hundred acre Lenoir's Creek Farm is the site of BRCO's third local historic marker.  An art print of Lenoir's Creek Farm painted by Janice Swanger is available at our on-line catalog.



Cheryl Inman Haney is the 2019 recipient of the Pigeon Valley Award for Historic Preservation.  Haney's journey as a researcher began in earnest when she was a teacher at Bethel Junior High School and sent 27 of her eighth-grade students to interview dozens of Bethel residents, research hundreds of leads, and write 161 sections for the book, Pigeon Valley.  She and her students published the book in 1992, and BRCO republished it in 2008.  Haney was also a valued speaker during BRCO's Cold Mountain Heritage Tours that received hundreds of visitors annually to Inman Chapel as one of the tour sites.  Books 4, 5, and 6 of Legends, Tales & History of Cold Mountain, written and produced by members of BRCO's Historic Preservation Committee to accompany the tours, included articles by Haney: James Josea Ballou Inman, The Reverend Hannah Jewett Powell: Universalist Missionary of Inman Chapel, and A Monument to Mountain People: Inman's Chapel and Inman's Chapel Cemetery.  Haney continues to research and educate with lectures about Inman family history at the annual reunions at the chapel.  

Haney's writing continued with the publication of her well-documented book about the Inman family:  My People – History of a Mountain Family for which BRCO nominated Haney for a state history award.  Haney has also written articles for “The Universalist Herald.”  Her knowledge about Sunburst logging village was apparent when she was a key speaker for BRCO's Sunburst and Other Logging Operations in the Bethel and Cold Mountain Region DVD.

Haney's most daunting historical achievement, perhaps, was writing the submittals for two state historical markers that reside in Bethel as a result of her efforts: Inman Chapel and Sunburst Village. Historical markers are notoriously difficult to secure, so the fact that Haney has been successful with two indicates the depth and success of her historical endeavors.  Haney presented her knowledge about the state historical marker process at a BRCO meeting.  


BRCO's Historic Preservation Committee selected Bob and Phyllis Inman Barnett  to receive the 2020 Pigeon Valley Award for Historic Preservation, with the couple scheduled to be the focus of a BRCO program about their role in restoring the historic Inman Chapel, the first Universalist Church west of Durham.  

In addition, Phyllis is a Bethel writer, having composed 3 books: At the Foot of Cold Mountain, Love in the Time of War, and Once Upon a Time: Stories of the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater. A former teacher who is knowledgeable about Bethel and Inman family history, she was enlisted as a presenter for BRCO's Sunburst and Other Logging Operations in the Bethel & Cold Mountain Region DVD.  She was also a frequent speaker for BRCO's Cold Mountain Heritage Tours that were held from 2005-2011; she has also served as program hostess at Inman family reunions.  Phyllis is the third Inman sibling to earn BRCO's prestigious Pigeon Valley Award, with sister Cheryl as the 2019 recipient and brother Ted Darrell receiving the posthumous award in 2017.

Bob's project management skills, his time commitment, and his willingness to do whatever tasks were necessary were essential to seeing the restoration to completion. The two-year project required the couple to secure funding, solicit volunteers, and oversee the day-to-day tasks of finishing the entire project.  Because of their efforts, the 1902 historic chapel constructed by the Reverend James Anderson Inman, one of Bethel's most treasured historic sites, is restored and is featured on BRCO's Cold Mountain Heritage Driving tour CD, is the site of frequent weddings, and continues to bring the Inman family and friends together for Inman family reunions.

COVID-related meeting cancellations meant that BRCO was unable to grant the Pigeon Valley Award in 2020.  Therefore, the honor bestowed as a 2020-2021 recognition. Please click here for a writeup of the restoration, accompanied by photos.    

Bob Barnett

Phyllis Inman Barnett

Bethel Rural Community Organization (BRCO) honored Mack Ledbetter with a posthumous award for his years-long research of rail lines, logging outposts, and memorabilia from Sunburst Logging Village that resulted in the creation of an impressive map that details key locations that existed on the West Fork of the Pigeon River from the early 1900s through 1925 when a massive fire decimated the historic site.  The Ledbetter family donated the Sunburst map to BRCO's Historic Preservation Committee for its art print collection, and the map has become the most frequently requested art print in the selection.

Accepting the award for her father at the September 13th BRCO meeting, Verda Davis, relayed a fascinating narrative (created by Verda and sister Lorna) about her father's intense interest in history, dating from age fourteen with his treks up Cold Mountain to examine the aftermath of the Cold Mountain bomber crash that occurred on September 13, 1946. Ledbetter travelled and studied the mountains throughout the region, honing his expertise of the area with an undying love of the terrain. He volunteered for the Forest Service, trimmed trails, and was presented with his own key to the Cradle of Forestry.  He loved to hike and often took people to popular outlying sites in the area.  Former newscaster, Bob Caldwell, featured Ledbetter in his special about waterfalls in the mountain.  Kathy Ross with The Mountaineer interviewed him in 1997 in the midst of the creation of his map.  A craftsman and collector, Ledbetter's meticulously detailed map is the culmination of his legacy that allows him to continue to be revered in local historical circles.  

Members of the BRCO Historic

Preservation Committee

presenting the award to Verda

Davis (daughter of Mack Ledbetter).

Pictured left to right: Ted Carr,

Carol Litchfiedl, Evelyn Coltman,

Verda Davis, Frances Adamson, and

Bill Terrell

Mack Ledbetter