There is but one final episode to relate regarding the Reconstruction Period in Fairview. The material and social world of the community had been ripped to shreds by the War. Many of the men who lived through it were maimed and crippled. The political structure, state, county and local, was in the hands of the Republican Party.
But as time passed, the old order began to reassert itself. One tactic the Democratic Party used in Fairview was to purge the churches of Republicans. We left James Whitaker and his family in Salt Lake City as a Mormon leader, and in 1865 we know he moved on to Marsh Valley, Idaho. In 1872, he contacted his relatives back in Fairview to collect all the names of his older relatives from the Bibles in the community. As we know, this is a task Mormons feel a strong obligation to carry out. In 1874 Mr. Whitaker came to Fairview to pick up the 599-name family history. He realized that the local churches were ostracizing many of his relatives, and that as a Mormon he had an obligation to seek converts. It helped greatly that Mormon doctrine was anti-slavery. He found great success in Fairview, and for a time some thought the Mormons outnumbered the Methodists and were pressing in on the Baptists. Cane Creek Baptist Church sent a special delegation to the families in the community to confront them about their beliefs. It was not until 1890 that a peace was struck: local Republicans could be allowed back in the churches provided they renounced the Mormon faith.
Before the Civil War, John Whitaker (the man whose loyal dog died on his grave) had placed this ad in The Carolina Baptist.
CANE CREEK HIGH SCHOOL
“The first session of the above named school will commence as soon as the teacher arrives, which will be on or before the second Monday in April. The school is located in Buncombe County, eleven miles southeast of Asheville, near the Hickorynut Road, in the center of an industrious and moral settlement. We have a house well constructed, a new and good [school]. More than this, we have no distilleries, consequently comparatively few drunkards, and but few profane men. We are not perfect but we can safely say there is not a situation between Maine and California more remote from vice of all kinds. Tuition is moderate, being but a fraction over half the ordinary price of schools of the same grade. Any young man desiring a good education can not do better than to come here, nor can he be better situated if he desire civil company, but if to the reverse, he had better go elsewhere.”
These simple words portray what the people of Fairview had worked towards in creating a civil and moral community during its first eighty years. What kind of world could they hope for after the Civil War? Was there any energy and vision left for the ‘pursuit of happiness?’ The War brought vice, disillusionment, hatred, sleepless nights, illiteracy and poverty to Fairview, and left countless families bereft of their sons. Not until 1880 did hope return: when the railroad arrived, with it came travelers anxious to see the beauty of the Southern Appalachians, and with them came opportunity once again.
Strong in its roots, its families interconnected through a century of settlement, and determined to stay true to itself, Fairview remained an agricultural community. Though the valley gradually became more and more oriented towards the growing town of Asheville, Fairview maintained its identity, as it does today; and even today many in the old Cane Creek Valley settlement still harbor notions, and hopes, of being the most vice-free community in America!
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August 18, 2005
John C. Ager
This essay is a kaleidoscopic collection of stories reflecting the early history of the Fairview section of Buncombe County, NC. In large part, the writer is more journalist than researcher. I am indebted to Bruce Whitaker for his lifetime of effort to document the history of families in my community, and freely credit him as the source of the material that follows
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