The Mid-1800's - Gold and the Civil Ware
Native Americans, Europeans and Northerners expanding and looking for land all met in the hills of Western North Carolina including the Highlands - Cashiers - Sapphire Valley plateau.
Pioneers began carving out a life in the Sapphire Valley area and finding and using all the natural resources around them.
The hills of Western North Carolina, including the plateau of Highlands, Cashiers, and Sapphire Valley, became a meeting ground for Native Americans, Europeans, and Northerners, all seeking to expand their territories and find new lands. Pioneers started to establish their lives in the Sapphire Valley region, utilizing the natural resources that surrounded them.
In the early 1800s, the discovery of gold in North Carolina marked a transformative moment for the region, altering its trajectory forever.
Gold in Sapphire Valley
Historical records reveal that as far back as the 1800s, gold was extracted from Sapphire Valley. The mine, known as Georgetown, was situated at the foot of Bald Rock Mountain, now the location of Camp Merrie Woode.
The Georgetown Mine Account Book, dating from 1844, contains clear entries documenting mining activities. Gold extraction persisted until around 1900.
Gems in Sapphire Valley
The geological composition of Sapphire Valley made it conducive to the presence of various gemstones, such as emeralds, rubies, garnets, aquamarines, sapphires, topaz, amethysts, citrines, smoky quartz, rose quartz, moonstones, peridots, and many other types. Even today, the allure of discovering precious stones draws rock enthusiasts and gem collectors from all corners of the world to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Historical accounts recount that in 1888, a trio of individuals unearthed around 50 pounds of sapphire gems within the valley.
During the construction of the Country Club of Sapphire Valley, a valuable quartz vein was uncovered on the eastern end of the property, which is now the primary parking area. Members of the Howerdd family frequented this area and stumbled upon numerous precious stones, including a blue sapphire and an amethyst. Several of these stones were skillfully transformed into exquisite jewelry by early Country Club members who operated high-end jewelry businesses on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. Notably, Tiffany & Co., based in New York and involved in mining activities in the region, took an interest in the Georgetown mine and its potential for extracting valuable gemstones.
The later years of the 1800s witnessed a significant transformation with the establishment of the Lake Toxaway Hotel Group and their construction of five hotels. This shift saw the evolution from mining operations to resort endeavors, attracting the business elite of the nation to the scenic Western North Carolina area.
Sapphire Valley and the Civil War
The American Civil War (1861-1865) had a significant impact on Western North Carolina, just as it did on the rest of the state and the nation as a whole. While Western North Carolina was not a major battleground like other parts of the South, it still experienced various effects of the war:
Economic Disruption: The region's economy was primarily based on agriculture, and the war disrupted trade and caused shortages of essential goods. Many men from the area enlisted in the Confederate army, which led to a labor shortage on farms and plantations.
Divided Loyalties: Western North Carolina had a more diverse population and fewer plantations with large numbers of slaves compared to other parts of the South. This contributed to a more divided sentiment in the region. While many supported the Confederacy, there were also those who sympathized with the Union or were against secession.
Guerrilla Activity: The region experienced some guerrilla warfare and irregular activity. Bands of Confederate sympathizers known as "bushwhackers" and Union supporters called "Jayhawkers" engaged in skirmishes and raids, causing insecurity and fear among local communities.
Occupation and Control: Due to its strategic location, Western North Carolina was subject to both Confederate and Union forces attempting to exert control. The area changed hands multiple times during the war, resulting in disruptions and hardships for the civilian population.
Infrastructure and Communication Disruptions: The conflict disrupted transportation networks, including railroads and roads, making it difficult for goods to move in and out of the region. This had a negative impact on trade and daily life.
Social Impact: The war led to significant social changes as families were divided along political lines, and the loss of lives had a lasting impact on communities. The war's aftermath brought challenges of rebuilding and healing.
Emancipation and Reconstruction: The end of the Civil War marked the beginning of Reconstruction, during which efforts were made to address the issues of emancipation, civil rights, and integrating formerly enslaved individuals into society. This period of change had effects on Western North Carolina, as it did in other parts of the South.
Overall, the impact of the Civil War on Western North Carolina was complex and multifaceted. The region, while not a major battleground, still faced economic, social, and political challenges that shaped its post-war trajectory. The scars and legacies of the war continued to influence the region's development for years to come.
sapphire valley civil war
Sapphire Valley Historical Society
110 Carnoustie Drive, Sapphire, North Carolina 28774, United States
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