McDowell County Oral History Project

Have you ever read about a place with historical significance or a time long since passed and wished that you could go back and have a one-on-one conversation with the people who lived during that time? We always feel a stronger connection with the past when we find stories told by the very people whose lives are woven into the fabric of an area’s history — stories that have been thoughtfully and carefully preserved for present and future generations.

The McDowell County Oral History Project has been successful in capturing memories and passed down stories of seasoned residents of our beautiful area of the Western North Carolina mountains. What a fantastic endeavor! We feel so fortunate to be able to listen to our county’s residents as they tell about the Flood of 1916, stories of prominent families like the Adamses and the Carsons (no relation to Brigette’s Carson relatives as far as we’re aware), the historical significance of Davidson’s Fort, the history of the Cherokee, strong traditions such as Old Fort Mountain Music and the area’s arts and crafts heritage, and more. The Project’s website says it best:

We’ve heard stories of the Cherokee, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the building of the railroad, the Great Depression and other historical events. But mostly, we’ve heard stories of how real people lived their daily lives in the times before every convenience was available at the flick of a switch or at the push of a button. Remembrances of a time when folks relied on the land around them for their food, helped their neighbors and knew how to make just about everything they needed. It is the story of self-reliance and a strong community. It’s a spirit that lives on in residents of McDowell County to this day.

One piece of history that we enjoyed learning about was the old hydroelectric dam along the picturesque Catawba Falls trail in Old Fort (about 20 minutes from the Inn on Mill Creek…photos of the falls and the dam can be seen at our Catawba Falls geocaching adventure blog post). The dam was constructed by the larger-than-life Colonel Daniel W. Adams, who was not only a World War I veteran and member of the U.S. Forest Service, well-known conservationist interested in geology and forestry, builder of the Glendale Springs Inn & Restaurant in West Jefferson, NC, and inventor (he built the world’s first fire tower), but was also instrumental in bringing electricity and water into the town of Old Fort.

To learn more about the McDowell County Oral History Project and to listen to (and see some of) the interviews of McDowell County residents, visit

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