Historic Preservation Committee's Yearly Projects
- Renowned New Orleans artist and Bethel native, Jason Hawkins, and his mother, Yvonne Hawkins, donated three paintings of historic houses to the Historic Preservation Committee art print collection. Hawkins is a cum laude graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design with degrees in Fine Arts and Historic Preservation.
1. The 1860 Joseph Turner and Martha Anna Iva Killian Cathey House is considered to be the oldest framed house in Bethel and one of the oldest in Haywood County. The house is located in Highway #110.
2. The James Henry and Flora Kinsland Plott House (1904) garners the attention of passersby on Highway #110 with its Victorian/Queen Anne style enhanced by a gazebo. Family members dispersed artifacts and collections prior to its sale, and the collection was donated to six museums.
3. The Pingree Priestly and Charity Haseltine Osborne Plott House (1867) was built just after the Civil War, and its elegance continues to grace a hillside on Lake Logan Road.
- BRCO’s Historic Preservation Committee has now collected twenty-four art prints which are displayed at the community center, with reproductions available for purchase via the website.
- BRCO’s Historic Preservation Committee’s historic art print collection has received the NC Society of Historians Multi-Media Award of Excellence.
- The Historic Preservation Committee was featured at a presentation sponsored by WNC Communities. The program focused on the many accomplishments of the Historic Preservation Committee.
- Further research about post offices in the Bethel and Cruso communities of Haywood County revealed a total of 14 structures that once served the area. Details about the buildings, location, postmasters and mistresses are presented on BRCO’s website.
- The committee performs upkeep on the 1800s historic site – Pigeon Gap Watering Hole.
- The committee conducted research about the history of Bethel Rural Community Organization as well as its predecessor, Bethel Community Organization (1991). BRCO occurred as the result of the waning of the BCO organization, the development of the Pigeon Valley Citizens for Rural Preservation, and the merging of the two groups at approximately 2000. The history is documented in the “About BRCO” portion of the website.
- A desire to learn about community clubs that existed in Bethel in the earlier part of the 20th Century initiated newspaper archival research about the six community clubs that existed in the mid-1900s: Cecil, Cruso, Center Pigeon, East Pigeon, Stamey Cove, and West Pigeon.
- In researching the previous community organizations in Bethel, the committee learned about the Pigeon Valley Fair that thrived in the 1950s. A search of newspaper archives revealed details about the massive event that was successful for several years.
- Cannery operations began to develop at the end of World War II as a result of the concepts prompted by President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress (Projects) Administration. Community canneries enabled local citizens to process their produce in professional canning facilities. The popular project flourished from just after the war until the end of the 1950s when lack of both funds and governmental support doomed the program. The Historic Preservation Committee scoured newspaper archives in order to compile a detailed history of the four canning programs in Haywood County and, in particular, the Bethel Cannery. The history of the Bethel Cannery is detailed on the BRCO website in the “About Bethel” header.
- The Historic Preservation Committee filmed current owners, Phyllis and John Gaddis, at the location of the Mountain Grove School on Love Joy Rd. The school existed from the 1870s to the early 1900s.
- With assistance from the Beautification and Maintenances Committees, the Historic Preservation Committee refurbished and organized a file library to house general organizational documents as well as files from each of the BRCO committees. The Historic Preservation Committee files include data about Bethel families, Bethel sites, and research data about Haywood County.
- Research about the Tiffany Sapphire Mine on Shovel Creek is ongoing.
- Received documents concerning the Confederate Veterans Memorial Forest & Marker on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
- Assisted Western Carolina University’s Archive Department in identifying several historical photos from the Plott family collection.
- Received from John Olin documents detailing the Cold Mountain B-25 Bomber Crash that occurred on Cold Mountain on September 13, 1946.
- The committee has researched the locations of Bethel’s earliest schools.
- Phyllis and Bob Barnett have been selected to receive the Pigeon Valley Award for Historic Preservation for 2020. They were overseers of the Inman Chapel restoration project. Phyllis has written a book about Bethel history: At the Foot of Cold Mountain.
- Following an interview and site location visits, Jay Field’s Closely Held Stories of the Community project sponsored by WNC Communities will include a section on Bethel.
- The Historic Preservation Committee presented a program honoring Bob and Phyllis Barnette for their noteworthy work of restoring the 1902 Inman Chapel. The couple are the eighth and ninth recipients of the Pigeon Valley Award for Historic Preservation.
- Filmed a segment about Spring Hill School that existed in the Henson Cove area of Bethel from the late 1800s until the early 1950s. Lowell Grogan, former Bethel student and teacher, recalled details about the three succeeding structures that housed the school as well as fond memories of teachers and school activities. Also included in the filming were Teresa and David Mitchell whose home was the former school. Grogan also relayed information about the history of Spring Hill Baptist Church.
- We have added links on the website for the following: Francis Mill application for the National Register of Historic Places by Patrick Willis and Clay Griffith, Truss Bridge #79 application to the National Register of Historic Places by Carroll Jones, and the NC Society of Historians nominations for both Sunburst and Other Logging Operations in the Bethel & Cold Mountain Region DVD and for the art collection consisting of 24 art pieces - nominations written by Evelyn Coltman.
- Received approval from NCDOT to locate a local historic marker at Truss Bridge #79, North Carolina’s oldest metal Truss Bridge
- Collected two of four publications that were produced by Bethel School in the 1923-1924 session, “Bethel News.” The six-page publication, printed by The Carolina Mountaineer and The Waynesville Courier newspaper in Waynesville, was written and produced by Bethel students.
- Contacted NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to conduct an analysis with owner Lisa Leatherwood at the Pigeon Valley Rest Home (formerly the County Home) to determine National Register of Historic Places eligibility of the 100 + year old structure. Analysis concluded that the facility structure has changed to too great a degree to allow National Register designation.
- Filmed a video session at Springdale Country Club of brother and sister, Dr. Gordon Berger of California and Dr. Suzanne Berger of Massachusetts, whose summer ventures at High Valley Camp 65 years ago document the summer program of Columbia University’s New College Teacher’s project operated under the tutelage of Dr. Thomas Alexander. The college also operated Springdale Farm and Springdale School at the site as a part of its five-pronged teacher training program.
- Filmed a DVD session with Norman Long, 55- year veteran teacher at Bethel, who was also one of the first teachers at Haywood Technical Institute (Haywood Community College). The community college’s first classes were held at Bethel School
- Continue to add to the Bethel Writers and Media Contributors portion of the website which has now over 90 listings
- Received recognition via a Zoom awards ceremony that in addition to the “Multi-Media Award of Distinction” received by the Historic Preservation Committee for its collection of 24 historic art prints, the entry also received one of 5 “Lighthouse Awards” for extraordinary achievement.
- BRCO’s Historic Preservation Committee’s historic art print collection has received the NC Society of Historians Multi-Media Award of Excellence.
- Commissioned a painting by artist Janice Swanger of the 1821 Blanton/Reece Log Cabin, the oldest standing structure in Bethel and one of the oldest in Haywood County.
- Jay Field is working with WNC Communities to detail special achievements of some of the approximately 70 community organizations in the western region. BRCO’s historic preservation accomplishments are featured in section three of his study: Closely Held Stories of Community. Bethel Community is featured in the “Favored Ground” and the “Hand-Me-Down Stories” segment of Field’s study.
- Filmed Ann Crawford and Brenda Raulerson with information about Cruso School, the 20th century grade school that fed into Bethel School, beginning in 1928.
- Conducted research about the following cemeteries in Bethel: Burnette Siding (Old Spruce) Cemetery, Bethel Community Cemetery, Cathey Slave Cemetery, Cecil Community Cemetery, Cecil School Cemetery, Center Pigeon Cemetery, County Home Cemetery, Edmonston Slave Cemetery, the Gwyn Cemetery, and Piney Grove Cemetery. Much work on each of these remains. We have consulted with both WCU’s Mountain Heritage Center and the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources in Asheville for a better understanding of how to conduct the research as well as the appropriate manner for listing cemetery information and directions to these cemeteries.
- Filmed a segment of our Historic Schools of Bethel DVD with Wayne Woody at Laurel Grove Baptist Church on Schoolhouse Road off of Little East Fork. The school and church existed in the church building from 1920 – 1930, replacing the earlier Panther Branch School that existed on Little East Fork in the late 1800s. Laurel Grove merged with Burnette Siding, Ivy Hill, and Sunburst/Spruce Schools to form Cecil School on Lake Logan Road in 1930. That school merged with Bethel in 1954, but the rock building still exists as a lovely home.
- Thanks to Anne Carr, Idaho artist, we are the owners of a black and white pencil drawing of Colonel Joseph Cathey. Carol Litchfield photographed it for the website. Colonel Joseph Cathey was a mercantile proprietor, postmaster, miller, farmer, civic and church leader, and state senator in Bethel in the 1800s.
- Art print reproduction of Blanton/Reece Log Cabin, believed to be Haywood County’s oldest standing log structure (1821), pastel painting by Janice Swanger, is available for purchase on the BRCO website.
- Sewah Studios of Ohio created the historic marker for Truss Bridge #79, NC’s oldest metal truss bridge (Pratt through truss) and the state’s only truss bridge with decorative elements (starbursts and finials). The bridge’s unique Phoenix columns and cast-iron joining system make the bridge rare nationally. The structure received its National Register of Historic Places designation (nomination by Carroll Jones) in 2019.
- The committee received a generous gift for the historic preservation library from James and Linda Duncan of four of the five cemetery records books of Haywood County Cemeteries from 1980 – 1983, that were compiled by George Augustus Miller, Sr.   Miller published his original recording of Haywood County’s cemeteries in 1979 which includes data about known and previously unrecorded cemeteries in all communities of Haywood County.
- Jewell Beall donated a photo and other data concerning the early 1900s hotel, known as the Idle Hour Summer Home, which existed on Evans Cove Road in Bethel.
- Evelyn Edward Lanning donated a copy to the historic preservation library of the Bethel Methodist Church history from 1886-1996.
- The Historic Preservation Committee held a competition with five artists participating. The committee selected Stephanie Quis-Garret to create a painting of the historic Pigeon Gap Watering Hole atop Waynesville Mountain. Weary travelers and their animals going from Bethel to Waynesville took respite from their journey at this historic location during the 1800s and early 1900s. The Community Club of Waynesville built a wall and erected signage there in 1924. In 2013, Joey Rolland cleared the debris and overgrowth and built a bridge for his Eagle Scout project. In 2016, the Historic Preservation Committee stationed a historic marker adjacent to Highway #276 to commemorate the location. BRCO maintains the site with routine mowing.
- Ricki Rogers donated a painting by A.E. Allen of the second of three church structures of the Piney Grove United Methodist Church in Stamey Cove.
- Videographer Doug Chambers continued the multi-year project of filming the Historic Schools of Bethel DVD with sessions by Bill Terrell (early meeting house that served as a school, Bethel’s early schools located on the site of the current Bethel Middle School, and Bethel Academy that was situated at the location of the Masonic Lodge in Bethel). Shawn Parris, Principal at Bethel Middle School, detailed the history of Bethel Middle School and its programs. Zac Guy relayed data about early education programs in Bethel at the site of Bethel’s first school, a poplar log structure that lies buried in Guy’s front pasture. Also filmed were the following: Ricki Rogers and Keith Rogers about Piney Grove United Methodist Church and school as well as eleven former students from Bethel, Cecil, and Cruso Schools. Hugh K. Terrell, Jr. was filmed regarding his oversight of the Sonoma-Valley of the Moon-Sunburst book.
- The Historic Preservation Committee began a project of researching the twenty-two cemeteries located in Bethel. This multi-year project began in 2022 with the first cemetery listing on BRCO’s website – Bethel Community Cemetery. The committee researched and documented two other historic cemeteries in Bethel for the website: Burnette Siding (Old Spruce) Cemetery and Piney Grove United Methodist Church Cemetery. Consultation with the NC Department of Natural & Cultural Resources will enable exploration of the data involving two Bethel slave cemeteries: Cathey Slave Cemetery and Edmonston Slave Cemetery.
- Added the following writers to the Bethel Writers and Media Contributors section of the website: the Reverend Kris Estep and Nick Muerdter who are Bethel natives and Gerald Ledford and Ron Sullivan who are not from Bethel, but they included a book about Sunburst in their series, If Rails Could Talk … Logging the North Carolina Great Balsams, Volume 2, Sunburst & Champion Fiber, , and Lori Thompson, BRCO member who has written books about floral arrangements as well as two children’s books..
- Diana Fulbright Berg sent photos of the Cruso Post Office and surrounding structures that existed in the early to mid-1900s, enabling a complete listing on the website about Cruso Post Office.
- WNC Communities donated a book about the history of community organization in WNC, In Pursuit of a Greater Good, by Jay Field and Janet Moore. BRCO is one of seven community organizations in the region featured with a story in the book.
- Consulted with Bob and Mary Noel, U.S. Forest Service archaeologists, and Carroll Jones concerning the history of Spruce Community on the West Fork of the Pigeon River.
- The Historic Preservation Committee conducted research about the complex folklore involving Abraham Lincoln/Abraham Enloe/John C. Calhoun. We reviewed Edie Burnette’s article about the connection as well as Kin McNeil’s book: Strange Stories of Carolina.
- NC Department of Transportation pruned, and Element Arbor treated the historic Osborne Boundary Oak, a several hundred-year-old tree that was a boundary marker in 1792. BRCO’s Historic Preservation Committee has provided maintenance on the tree three times.
- The Haywood County Board of Education approved the Historic Preservation Committee request to reprint the 1978 book produced by Hugh K. Terrell’s eighth grade class at Bethel Junior High School, Sonoma-Valley of the Moon-Sunburst. In addition, we reprinted for the second time Cheryl Haney’s eighth grade class project, the 1992 publication, Pigeon Valley. Both are for sale, with a portion of the funds donated to Bethel Middle School.
- The Bethel Rural Community Organization website added two historical sites: The Joseph Augustus and Mary Shook Hargrove House, currently owned by J.R. and Wendy Rogers, and the Alma Elizabeth Cathey and George Bascombe Justice House, owned by Will and Lori Thompsen. The second house and grounds are now listed with Preservation NC with a preservation easement stating the following: This property is under the protective covenants of the Historic Preservation Foundation of North Carolina, Inc. Lori Thompson discussed the protective covenant process at a community meeting. The Justice House is perhaps the first house in Bethel that is listed with PNC.
- The Historic Preservation Committee recognized Mack Ledbetter (posthumously) with the Pigeon Valley Award for Historic Preservation. His daughter, Verda Davis, presented the September program at which she gave details about her father’s life and featured several of his craft pieces as well as his original Sunburst Logging Village map for which he is recognized.
- A query about his family’s 1920s cabin on Little East Fork from the grandson of former Haywood County residents prompted a lengthy discussion among committee members regarding the Lesher cabin. The committee, through map and onsite searches determined that the cabin has been dismantled.