RE: [beemonitoring] A collecting trip to the Highlands of NC in 1920 with Ted Mitchell
- Thanks, Sam:
Very interesting, especially for me who just last November spent a few
days at the Coweeta Hydrologic Lab in the mountains outside of Dillard.
We flew into Asheville, had lunch at the Biltmore, and drove into the
field station in a couple of hours. Lots of nice rooms and separate
beds, lots of fast food places along the highway, etc. AND the USDA
National Forest has preserved the wildness area just as it was in the
F. Christian Thompson
Systematic Entomology Lab., ARS, USDA
c/o Smithsonian Institution MRC-0169
PO Box 37012
Washington, D. C. 20013-7012
(202) 382-1800 voice
(202) 786-9422 fax
www.diptera.org Diptera Website
[mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of Sam Droege
Sent: Friday, January 04, 2008 11:25 AM
Subject: [beemonitoring] A collecting trip to the Highlands of NC in
1920 with Ted Mitchell
Below is a document just passed on to me by Janet Mitchell who is the
wife of Ted Mitchell's only son (both now deceased). For those of you
who don't know, Ted wrote the 2 volume set of the Bees of the Eastern
United States. I have been trying to locate Ted's field notes, but at
this point have to believe that these have unfortunately been destroyed.
Janet had a few documents saved at her home and passed copies on to me.
I thought this one would be of general interest and one of my interns,
Marian Sackey graciously typed it up. If anyone is interested I also
have his notes on his collecting trips to Puerto Rico and Trinidad in 62
and 63 and can mail you copies.
By Theodore B. Mitchell
My next objective after Marion was Highlands, in Macon County,
just north of the Georgia state line. To reach there, according to my
travel directions, I had to get to Dillard, Georgia 3 or 4 miles south
of the North Carolina line. Mail destined for Highlands was routed to
Dillard, and was carried up to the town by a rural delivery mail
carrier, by car, if possible, by mule if not. Just what route I used
getting to Dillard, I don't remember, but it must have been through the
South Carolina counties bordering North Carolina, and into North Georgia
I reached Dillard in the late afternoon (my error- evening). I
had learned that everything after 12 noon is evening in these parts.
Well, it must have been some time between 3 and 6 p.m. My directions
suggested a certain hotel, which turned out to be a private home where
transients were entertained. I had to stay over night, to catch a ride
with the mail carrier the next day.
So I registered, was assigned a room, and soon after had supper
(at least that is what I called it, but maybe it was dinner to my
hosts). I don't remember much about it, for other happenings over rode
What I remember is a couple of attractive young ladies, with
their mother, with whom I chatted after the meal was over. They were
from Alabama, had been up in Highlands on vacation and were on their way
home. Much of our conversation was concerned with our differences, and
we had a wonderful time poking fun at each other's pronunciation of
various words, and comparing our back-home life styles. One of them
inquired- do you Yankees eat pie for breakfast, like I have been told?
Well, that was a new one for me. I replied, "I can't speak for all of
us, but I have never had a piece of pie for breakfast in my life." That
wasn't to say I disapproved, for it sounded like a good idea to me,
especially in consideration of the insatiable appetite I could develop,
up in those cool mountains, after sweltering in the hot and humid summer
weather around Raleigh.
The next day I had to spend the morning in Dillard, for the mail
carrier didn't start until after lunch. We finally got started, early in
the afternoon, behind a pair of mules. He said he had a car about half
way up, and we would put the mules in a barn at that spot, transfer the
mail to the car and make better time then.
That was encouraging, but it didn't work out that way at all. We
were crossing a bridge (sort of a home made affair) and one of the
wheels slipped into a crack. The boards were laid lengthwise instead of
across the bridge. It took about half an hour to get out of that
predicament, and it was getting dark, and not far from the bridge we got
stuck in the mud on a slope, and the car just couldn't pull through the
mire. A couple of men showed up and they tried to help but nothing
worked. Finally they gave up, saying, "You'll just have to stay with us
till morning." We certainly had no basis for disagreement, and
appreciated the invitation, following them along a trial, in the dark,
to their shack. It had two rooms, the front rooms with two double beds,
the back room with a stove, a table and some chairs. There was a woman
and several children, which I never got counted.
There was a story, current at that time, abut a couple of
traveling men who found themselves in circumstances very similar to
ours. The chief difference was the presence of only one double bed. The
men protested that they had better try to find some other quarters, but
were assured that the problem could be easily solved. So the two
smallest kids were put in the bed, and soon fell asleep. Then some
pillows and blankets were put in a corner of the room, and the two
children were laid in the corner. The two next larger of the brood then
were put to bed, fell asleep, and ended up in the corner, until all the
children were taken care of. Then the two men were told they could have
the bed. But "where are you gong to sleep?" they inquired. "Oh, we'll
get along all right; don't worry about us." So they went to bed- and,
you guessed it. They woke next morning in the corner with the kids.
Well, that story was running through my mind. Of course, there
were two beds, but that was hardly enough. Where the woman and the
children slept, I do not know. They disappeared, and the mail carrier
and I had one bed, and the two men, the other, I guess they had some
nearby neighbors, or another sack. But the whole affair impressed me.
Southern hospitality was no myth.
The next morning, with some daylight, and possibly a little
drying out of the mud, we finally made it up that hill, and got into
Highlands fairly early. So that was my introduction to Highlands.
I registered at the Smith House, a country-style hotel, right in
the center of town. It was a cross-road which meant that there were four
directions, east and west, and north and south. Two of them however were
local (streets), so there was one way in and one way out. On one of
these, a block of two from the center, was the town hall, and I found
that every Friday night (or was it Saturday?) they had square dances
with country music. I guess that was just during the summer.
In the opposite direction the street led up a slope, to a trail
up to the top of Mt. Satulah, practically in the town. Elevation of the
town is about 3800 ft., and the top of Satulah somewhat over 5000. So it
was quite a climb. Another of the streets led to the edge of the plateau
on which Highlands sits, and over a winding road, down into Horse Cove,
a valley about five hundred to a thousand feet below.
As I recall it, I had two places to visit, one down in Horse
Cove, and the other on the other side of town toward the Georgia line,
on a south-facing slope. I forgot how I got to these places that first
summer. Maybe I found someone with a car that could be hired to take me.
But I remember hiking out to the second one, in one of those visits, to
make the inspection. It was my initiation to the extreme uncertainties
of the weather in that area. I went in my shirt sleeves, without a
raincoat, but with my bug net, and before I had gone a mile, on the
trail through the woods, a sudden shower burst on me. I think I had
heard some rumbles in the distance, but this must have blown up from
Georgia, and with the rise in elevation, let loose a torrent of cold
rain and lightning that hit so close I could hear it sizzle before the
bolt came. I didn't seek shelter under a tree and I got soaked through.
The rain was ice cold. Well, it didn't last but a few minutes, and after
it passed, and the sum came out, I warmed up somewhat, and by the time I
reached my destination, was about dry again.
In spite of such experiences, I fell in love with the place.
Rhododendrum thickets covered much of the area, especially along the
water courses, and there were trails to various scenic spots, past
outcroppings of rock, where garnets and various other interesting rocks
could be found; and the insects I collected were interesting, in that
they were mostly species that inhabited New England and Canada. Along
the North Carolina coast, conversely, the species are more nearly
related to those in Florida and the Gulf Coast states to the west.
So after a few days in Highlands, learning the area and doing
considerable general collecting, I hitched a ride with the mail carrier
back down to Dillard, catching a train that afternoon (pardon me),
evening, to Franklin, the county seat of Macon County. According to my
travel directions, it was possible to arrange passage by car from
Franklin north to Sylva, a town on the railroad connecting Asheville
with Murphy, in Clay County, at the western tip of the state. I believe
the limit was four passengers; Franklin at 5 a.m., have breakfast.
According to the schedule, we would leave at a farm house on the
way, and were due to reach Sylva by noon. So I made the arrangements at
the Hotel in Franklin as soon as I arrived, and luckily there was still
room for me in the car.
Next morning I was called about 4:30, and with the other two or
three passengers, started out ( I forgot that detail ) and after a
couple of hours ( the road was not what you could call a fast one). We
arrived at the farm where breakfast would be served. Well, that was some
breakfast. I believe it was the biggest breakfast I ever ate. The
two-hour drive, through the bracing air and clearing mists had enhanced
my appetite, which really didn't need enhancing. So we had fried eggs,
grits with red eye gravy, country ham, fried chicken, hot biscuits, and
ended up (believe it or not) with apple pie. So now you know where I got
the idea for the title of this account. I had actually had pie for
After the meal was over we started out again. We had to cross
Mt. Cowee to reach the valley on its north side where Sylva is located.
It was quite a climb, as I recall it, but easy going down the other
side, until we reached the valley floor. There had been plenty of rain
down there, and the road was deeply rutted, the ruts filled with soupy
mud, and rocks underneath that couldn't be seen, nor avoided. I was in
danger of losing that big breakfast, but reached Sylva just in time.
Ela, Bryson City, Cherokee, Oconoluftee Riv., Judson
I forget whether I caught a train westbound that afternoon for
Bryson City, or if I had to spend the night in Sylva. I think it was in
Sylva that I hired a man to drive me out to the nursery, probably that
same day, which suggests that I stayed over night. That really isn't too
important, but my memory chiefly concerns the man who was driving. After
we had gotten well on our way, in our conversation the fact came out
that he was on ex-deputy sheriff, and (about everyone we passed) he had
some comment to make- i.e. "We never could catch him," or "He had a big
operation." I began to get a little nervous, wondering if someone would
take a pot shot at us, or possibly think I was a federal agent, up there
to do no one any good. My fears proved to be groundless, however, and we
made it safely back to town after I made the inspection.
I stayed in Bryson City that night, and the next morning
back-tracked to Ela, and up a spur of the railroad to the Cherokee
Indian Reservation. That community lay along the banks of the Oconolufty