Story Telling in Appalachia

Published on 27 November 2020 at 00:17

Greystone Inn, Roaring Gap, N.C. 

Photo by Stacy Hawks

Roaring Gap Church located on Rhododendron Rd, Roaring Gap, NC 

Photo by Stacy Hawks

Blue Ridge Parkway Autumn 2002

Photo by Stacy Hawks

In Appalachia, we enjoy storytelling and sharing with relatives, friends, or neighbors telling stories about their family history. Part of that comes when taking car rides with your grandparents. When I turned 17, I had a memorable car ride with my grandmother, and to this day, I still think about it.


In the autumn of 2002, I was preparing to graduate high school early and venture into a community college for an Associate of Arts in History. However, before my high school class collect their diplomas, we had to first complete and present a Senior Project and paper.


Mine was on the history of Alleghany County, NC, and more importantly, it highlighted historic places and the people who created our community.

Alleghany County has a population of roughly 11,000 people. The county is known for the New River and its agriculture. Since the early 1940s, we were a hub for textiles and manufacturing industries such as Troutmans, Hanes, and others. Many of these industry leaders found their way to Alleghany County because of one other great draw.


The Blue Ridge Parkway. In 2002, my grandmother decided to take me on a tour of the Parkway in our area. We made it as far as Ice Rock and stopped at a great little gas station and general store where it smelled of old-fashioned candy. She had managed to get me to eat just a bite of molasses candy (trust me when I say it was more sugar than sweet).


With my camera in hand, she showed me an array of beautiful autumn overlooks. These photos would become part of my presentation and, ultimately, a photo book that I would give her as a gift. That part was a surprise.


The only thing I wanted more than to graduate, was to spend more time with her after her cancer diagnosis. It was because of the love she had for the mountains and of their history that I too became intrigued with my county's history.


After the gas station stop, we drove some more and went out to another place that would be featured later on in a college graduate my paper.

Roaring Gap. The township received its name from Hugh Chatham. As a young man, he would ride horseback up the mountain to his father's mill. However, when it was windy Chatham described the sound as a roar up the mountain.


The Old Roaring Gap Hotel location was on our list that day. The hotel burned in 1913, but was rebuilt into what is now known as The Graystone Inn.

This three-level, gray brick building with Roman-style columns in the front, which includes a grand overlook upon the Blue Ridge Mountains below, was breathtaking.


That view and the beautiful architecture would keep me going back for years to that spot. Since its opening, the Graystone Inn has been a go-to vacationing spot to relax and enjoy the mountain scenery by many. Although my grandmother and I had not ventured inside the building, nothing would stop me years later.

The small church before the Inn was equally charming. A place I imagined being married inside someday if I were to marry. The fall foliage gave it an extra layer of romance with its burning orange and yellow trees encompassing it.


This project taught me a lot. It was an invaluable history lesson learned through my grandmother's stories as we visited each place. However, I believe that the most important thing I learned was we are all part of history. Although, we live once we can have a major, if not influential, impact on the lives of future loved ones.


Buildings, people, paintings, music, poems, books, all of it ties us together. All we need do is preserve, respect, and learn from them.

If you are researching your family tree, take a moment, and ask yourself, what is my story? What do I hope to learn from my ancestors? You never know. What you find can make for great stories or serve as lessons to future generations.


Contact Dividing Ridge Genealogy today if you have questions or need advice on how to overcome obstacles in your research. We are here to listen and to help you Branch Out. 

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