Watching all the fires on the west coast, and being a firefighter for 28 years, got me wondering about fire protection here in the Smoky Mountains. As it happens, there is a fire station about 1/4 mile from our campground.
The Savannah Volunteer Fire Department was organized in June of 1978. Darrell Woodard was one of the founding members. He became Chief in October 1984 and continues to hold that position today. On July 1, 2009 he became the only paid permanent member of the department.
I spoke with Chief Woodard today who told me that his fire district covers 27 miles and his department currently has 42 members.
So far this year they ran 147 calls. Most of the calls are for traffic accidents and medical emergencies. They only have about 3 structure fires a year.
The Fire Department gets its name from the The Savannah River drainage basin which extends into the southeastern side of the Appalachian Mountains just inside North Carolina, and runs by the fire station.
Since we are in the middle of a forest, I asked if his fire department is also responsible for forest fires? His response was “if no structures are threatened by a forest fire, they assist the forest service.”
Like Fallston, Md, my home fire company, there are no hydrants in his district, however Dillsboro, with the closest fire hydrant, is only 7 miles away, which allows them to refill the water in their equipment.
In comparing my fire company with his, we found there was no real differences. Same structure, problems, and politics.
Tidbit of Information: Benjamin Franklin, at age 30, established Philadelphia’s first fire department. Sometimes called Benjamin Franklin’s Bucket Brigade, Benjamin Franklin was a volunteer firefighter in The Union Fire Company, formed on December 7, 1736 (that’s 40 years before the revolution).
This area was first settled around 1838 when the Indians left. Originally named Painter, it was renamed Cullowhee in 1903. Downtown Cullowhee was destroyed in the flood of 1940, and never rebuilt.
The area is most noted as the location of the Judaculla Rock. Supposedly this stone was carved 1,500 years ago, that would make it year 520. Petroglyphs are images and designs engraved within a rock’s surfaces to symbolize important places, stories or events. If done today it is graffiti, if done a thousand years ago, a Petroglyph.
The name of the town is derived from the Cherokee phrase joolth-cullah-wee, which translates as “Judaculla’s Place”. Judaculla was the Cherokee legendary giant and master of animals. According to Cherokee legend, Judaculla was a slant-eye giant (that would be considered racist today) who lived high up in the Balsam Mountains. He guarded his hunting grounds from Judaculla’s Judgment Seat, today known as Devil’s Courthouse, a site on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
As legend has it, once, a party of disrespectful hunters came through his land, Judaculla chased them down the mountain. With a mighty leap, the angry giant landed here on this boulder. Putting his hand down to steady himself, he left his mark on the rock’s surface. The impression of his hand can still be seen at the lower right of the rock.
I was not impressed with the rock. In fact, if I were not told it was a Petroglyph, I would have just stepped on it, continuing on my hike.
Maybe the rain and weather of a thousand years has made it less impressive. Here is an illustration of what the rock carvings are supposed to look like:
What do the carvings mean? Fortunately, the Cherokee left us a message:
We visited Cross Creek RV Park, located in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, where some of our RV friends were camping, about 45 minutes from us across a mountain range. (Maggie Valley is 35 miles west of downtown Asheville.)
The first white settlers moved into this Valley, called Cataloochee Valley, in 1805. Maggie Mae Setzer was born in this valley on December 21, 1890. Her father, Jack Setzer, wanted to establish a post office in the Valley as the nearest one was 5 miles away, over the mountains. In 1900 he petitioned the U.S Postmaster. The Post Office Authorities required a name for the post office, so Jack submitted his daughter’s name. Four years later, on May 10, 1904, Jack received a letter from the US Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock that the post office authorities had granted his petition. The official name of the mountain settlement post office was to be Maggie, NC.
The Town is mostly closed because of the China Virus. However, we were informed that there was a hiking trail from the campground up the mountain that led to a spectacular waterfalls.
Our plan was to meet our friends for breakfast, hike the trail to the waterfalls, and then spend the rest of the day and evening playing cards, and games.
The trail was a well marked gravel stone path. However it was a steep 6% to 9% grade.
We hike the trail to the top, about 1.5 miles, which took us an hour and a half. This is what we saw:
No waterfalls. Not even an overlook. Just a circular end.
It took us 55 minutes to go back down the trail. I think the return trip was harder on our legs than the trek up.
200 yards from the beginning of the trail was this:
The campground in which we are staying (Fort Tatham RV Park) has a zip code of Sylva, North Carolina. The city of Sylva, and now the County Seat of Jackson County, NC, is about 5 miles from our campground (see Day 1348). The closest Town to us, about 4 miles, is Webster. In April 1853 for one hundred dollars an eighteen acre tract of land bought from Nathan Allen became the site of Webster, Jackson’s county seat. Five years later an act to incorporate the town of Webster was passed by North Carolina’s General Assembly. Webster was for sixty years the county seat.
Jackson County was named for the Democratic president and North Carolinian, Andrew Jackson, while the County’s government center of Webster was named for the New England Whig, Daniel Webster. Prosperity came to the region. Webster, with its agriculture, mining and small businesses, became an active little town – the nucleus of Jackson County.
During the construction of the Western North Carolina Railroad, county residents fully expected the railroad to run through Webster. However, the county’s state government representative — said to be fond of his drink — was taken aside at a crucial moment in the voting process and plied with liquor by an individual desiring a route through Sylva, 1 mile away.
Change came in 1913, when most of the businesses in the Town of Webster were destroyed by fire. That and the fact that the railroad went through Sylva, resulted in the County Seat of Jackson County being moved to Sylva, where the Court House was built.
Today, in Webster, there is no downtown area. Individual buildings do remain, such as the Webster Methodist Church built in 1887.
And Walter E. Moore’s house built in 1886, one of the oldest homes in Webster that escaped the destruction of the 1913 fire.
The Webster Rock School was constructed in 1937 from local river rock by the Works Progress Administration in colors of tan and brown. The WPA was a New Deal agency, employing millions of job-seekers (mostly unskilled men) to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads. Do you think we need that today?