North Carolina Backroads – Ashe County

While it was great to photograph along the Blue Ridge Parkway, I’m always interested in documenting the culture as well. So I took to the backroads in Ashe County, North Carolina to make some images of the fall colors in the countryside. I stopped and talked with people and learned a good bit along the way. I’ll try to pass on some tidbits of what I learned along with the photographs. It’s part of what I like about traveling with a camera, it gives me a reason to stop and ask questions, when I might otherwise drive on by.

The farms in Ashe County are beautiful, particularly as the fall colors begin to emerge.

I like to put the GPS aside and just wander. I ended up spending a good bit of time on Hwy 88, just outside of Boone.

This house was built in the late 1800’s and is still in the same family. The man to whom it was given fought in the Revolutionary War. This land and the mountain which rests behind were a “gift” to this officer from the US Government for his efforts in the Revolutionary War. The land originally belonged to a branch of the Cherokee Tribe.

Barns quilts are popular throughout the Appalachians and the Northeast. They are believed to have originated in Ohio.The patterns do not depict the entire quilt, but usually a square pattern from a quilt.

Muddy Branch Rd in Creston, North Carolina

A barn sits in a field beneath mountains of fall color near Muddy Branch Rd

This is the home of Bill and Dorothy Eller. You can see Mr. Eller sitting on the porch. I was invited to the porch and had a good chat with them, and then met their daughter and granddaughter. They invited me in the house, but I told them I needed to keep wandering. They exhibited the best in Southern hospitality.

In the years before the Civil War there was a small community near the north fork of the New River. In 1852, David Worth, a Quaker decided the community needed a church. The church remained throughout the Civil War. While Ashe County backed the Confederacy, some of the villagers were Union sympathizers. David Worth himself was a Union sympathizer, while his wife supported the South. Neither army ever invaded the town of Creston. After David Worth died, he left money to the congregation and this church was completed in 1902. There was a great deal of craftsmanship in its building. Today the church is being renovated.

I don’t know the story behind this little cabin, but it was around long before the “little house” craze took hold. I think this would make a perfect home for me.

How much more classic can you get? There was even a red tractor parked in front of the barn. Americana at its finest.

A Mennonite community near Soup Bean Branch Rd

I wandered into Tennessee for a bit there and found this abandoned house.

An Appalachian home in Tennessee

Old farm houses and cows, back in Ashe County

They grow a lot of Christmas trees in this region. Here, a man is taking them to market.

A church set among fall colors right off the Blue Ridge Parkway

A group of Hispanic workers pick strawberry plants. The strawberries are grown in North Carolina, then dug up from beneath the root system, placed in boxes and transported by refrigerated truck to Florida, where they’ll be replanted and grown. This process allows for larger strawberries to be grown. Strawberries are also transported to Florida from Nova Scotia, where their interaction with shorter days causes them to produce strawberries at a different time than the North Carolina strawberries. This allows for an extended harvest. I learned all of this from Josh, the owner of the land.

Laborers packing strawberry plants into boxes for transport to Florida.

Looking out over the Blue Ridge Mountains from Jonas Ridge, North Carolina


26 thoughts on “North Carolina Backroads – Ashe County

  1. Fabulous pictures and history behind them. My kind of road trip. I just love old farms, talking to people and finding more about their history and even growing and eating strawberries. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love your stories and photos thanks for sharing! I have some friends who live not too far away from where you were (relatively, that is – Charlottesville – only 300km away) – they send me pictures of their neighbourhood that look similar to yours. Amazing part of the world that I really must see for myself one day.

  3. I had no idea that strawberries were transplanted to Florida…probably Plant City, where most of our strawberries come from. Now, I’ll have to find out. Back roads are the best, as your images in time and stories depict.

  4. I’m with Grant – felt homesick looking at these beautiful photos. Thanks for the reminder that I need to loop back around and include some more hometown exploration in my travels (I used to live in NC).

  5. Seeing these remind me a bit of what Walker Evans did in the early 20th century – depicting American life that may not be so typical to us “city folk”. Great capture of Americana, Russ!

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