A Taste of 19th Century Mountain Life North Carolina Style – The Vance Birthplace
Venture back in time by visiting the small pre-civil war homestead of two famous North Carolina brothers
By JP Chartier
Just north of Asheville, North Carolina huddled amidst the rolling hills of the Reems Creek Valley is where you’ll find the small homestead and birthplace of arguably western North Carolina’s most influential figure ever – Zebulon Vance, and his less famous older brother (brigadier general during the Civil War no less) Robert Vance.
So who is Zebulon Vance you ask?
Well Zeb is most famous for being the charismatic governor of North Carolina during the Civil War, but ole Zeb was a busy man, and he lived a very politically-rich life, including that of a – Lawyer; United States Congressman (1858); Commander of the 26th North Carolina Regiment (1861); Governor of North Carolina (1862), and United States Senator for three terms!
It was said that Zeb could mesmerize a crowd of folks with his captivating speaking ability and overall likability, but it was his skill in the art of winning a debate that ultimately won him political fame and celebrity. So yes, it can be said that Zeb was a master debater…
The Ride Out to the Vance Birthplace and Homestead is aesthetically pleasing to say the least, I follow a lonely stretch of road that leads from a charming mountain-village of 1,300 souls called Weaverville in western North Carolina. The road wriggles its way through sleepy mountain vistas and the land is dotted here and there with old-style farmhouses, but this is an area mostly left undisturbed by humans.
Just as the road seems intent on disappearing into the upcoming mountain, I notice a perfectly manicured slice of land encircled by an old wooden fence just off the side of the road. Inside, there are six log-style 19th century buildings, including the two-story Vance home and a visitors center sitting cozily together. And instantly my mind conjures up a scene from “Little House on the Prairie.”
Inside the Vance House
A peek inside the Vance house shows that they had it pretty good. Below is a picture of the original 1795 fireplace.
The Loom House
Much of the cloth and clothing used by the Vance family was produced in the Loom House on a loom much like the one pictured below.
The Tool Shed
Like the name says, this small building was used to store all the tools, and a wooden bench inside was used to do repairs and build things on.
The Spring House
The Vance’s used the spring water from this Spring House to cook, drink and clean with. The small building is constructed over a natural spring, the same one the Vance’s used. Water would be carried from the Spring House to the Vance House in buckets. Inside, there is also a trough, the spring water would flow into the trough where crocks of milk, butter, and other foods could be placed to keep chilled by the cold water.
The Slave Cabin
The original slave cabins (thought to be three) were situated across the street from where they are now. The Vance’s had 16 slaves here in 1811. These slave quarters are very nice compared to the norm.
If you find yourself in the Asheville area and want a family friendly place to spend about an hour or two learning some cool North Carolina history and experiencing first-hand what is was like to live in the 1800’s, then hop in the car, drop the top and enjoy the 20 minute scenic ride from Asheville to the Vance Birthplace.
At Gutter Pup Adventures.com you can expect to read well-written and entertaining articles about the people and places that often get overlooked at many popular vacation destinations around the world.
Sounds like an interesting place! You have given a very clear overview of the history as well, nice work.
Grace @ Green Global Travel recently posted…PHOTO GALLERY: Our Top 20 Photos of 2014
Thanks my friend! I love the mountains of North Carolina and I hope that shines through in my writing
Sounds like a great day trip! I love driving through the countryside. I’m intrigued by the Spring House. I didn’t realize they built a house over the actual spring. Very cool. Nice piece of history preserved! Thanks for sharing.
Nancie Lee recently posted…The Myrtles Plantation – A Bit of the ExtraOrdinary
The house was originally built in 1795 but to my surprise it had many of the comforts we have today, very cozy
Nice work indeed JP!
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Beautiful little place. I could see myself getting some wood, an axe and chopping away to make some firewood.
Loving the design. Spring water to cool down the foods, that’s awesome.
Great pictures here JP. Great to have you in the tribe, too. Keep in touch mate!
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Thanks for having me in your tribe my brother!
The water from the spring was very cold! I’m sure it would have kept food and beverages as cold as a fridge would nowadays.
You just don’t see or hear about many Zebulons running around these days, so good to go back to a bygone era where the interesting name was common place.
Traveling Ted recently posted…A ladyboy waiting for a Bangkok train
He was an important person during the civil war, Asheville has even built an obelisk in his honor in the center of downtown – The Vance Monument.
Looking at those buildings and the fittings within, I realise how many of those old skills I’ve had to relearn, mainly from my neighbours, and how they have shape my understanding of past lives.
As I write this I’m sitting in my Basque home built somewhere between 1598 and 1609 (in the locality of the 3 Musketeers). I’ve been restoring the place (in between writing, mountaineering & sailing) for about 10 years now, and have learned a quite different life to the one I live in Dublin as a writer.
It takes me an hour to walk to the nearest village, the place is frequently dark, you have to continually make your own fixtures and fittings, or do without. Eating is a major planning activity.
I can see from just gazing at those pictures something of the life they led. I mean where would they keep their tinder dry, just to light the fire?
Nice piece. Really enjoyed it. The closest I’ve ever been is Tennessee.
Thanks for your comments David. Your Basque home sounds very interesting! Can you imagine all that has taken place in that house over the past 400 years!! It blows my mind to think of it. The aura that place gives-off is unbelievable I bet, would make for some great writing inspiration!
Living so far from people and all the ruckus of everyday life makes one look inward as I’m sure you’ll attest to, which is a very important thing to do at least once in your life..
Is it just me or does Vance look a little like Orlando Bloom? Always love checking out rustic cabins like this. You can find them around here in Northern Ontario, but they’re rarely endowed with just historical significance or preserved this well. Seems that Asheville has quite a lot to offer!
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You know what he kinda does! Hahaha!
If you get the chance Ryan, you’ve got to check out Asheville! It has a vibe all its own and super nice people too.
Always a pleasure to read your articles my brother. I love seeing old structures such as these, and how they attest to the skill of crafrsmen back then.
Thanks Paulo! These folks really had it pretty damn good compared to most during this time period. The inside of their cabin was comfy and cozy, I could live there for sure.