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Tag Archives: Asheville History

Asheville Genealogy column: Rewards of city directories – Asheville Citizen

City directories were created as an aid to salesmen and businessmen in contacting residents of a given city or area. Almost all large cities in the U.S. had city directories for at least a period of time. These usually contain a business section with all the businesses in the area listed in alphabetical order.

Most important to family researchers are the names of all residents in alphabetical order by surname. If the person was married, his wife was usually listed; also included were his occupation and/or place of employment and the street name and number at which he lived.

Another feature was the alphabetical listing of all streets, avenues, roads, etc., in the city. In this section all households were listed in the order of the street numbers.

The directories were usually published every year, although some do cover two years. One of the features was usually a map of the city or at least of a portion of the city. Another was a list of abbreviations used in the listings, such as “w” for widow or widower.

One of the most important uses of these directories is tracking a person or family through the years between the censuses. Using these, one can determine within a few months the date the family or person moved within the city or even away from the city. These clues can then narrow the time frame for the search for other information pertinent to the family.

If a person or family owned no property (generating deeds and tax records) or was not registered to vote, the city directory may be the only source of information for several years’ time.

It is indeed a rare researcher who has not encountered at least one “lost” person or family who cannot be located in the census. Many times this problem is due to errors in indexing of the census or to variations in spelling of the family surname. A city directory can be invaluable in this instance.

One may find the person by searching the alphabetical list of surnames or even by searching the alphabetical listing of street names. Once the street name is obtained, one can then locate that street in the census and search all households on that street for the person and/or his family.

Speaking of the census, city directories are an excellent substitute for the 1890 Census, most of which was accidentally destroyed.

Still another use is to pinpoint the date or year of the death of a person of interest. Many directories give the person’s marital status, including whether a widow or widower, often giving the name of the deceased as well. Such a listed might say “Jane Smith, w of James.” This enables a researcher to more closely determine the date of the death, narrowing the area and time span when searching for death, cemetery and probate records.

More than residences

Churches and schools are usually listed complete with addresses in the directories, enabling the researcher to determine which of these the ancestor and his family may have attended or belonged to, opening the door for research of those records.

The occupation of a person is usually given in the listing. By following the person or family through several years in the listings, promotions, changes in occupation and employer/place of employment may be determined.

One may also find that members of the family in addition to the parents and children are living in the household. A younger sibling of the husband or wife may be in the household for at least a brief period of time while job searching in the city, a fact that may never come to light when researching “standard” records.

For example, in recent research, a sibling was found in one man’s household in the listing. By the next year this sibling was listed at a different address with a wife. This enabled determining the approximate date of the marriage of the sibling much more easily, narrowing it down to a few months instead of a few years.

Many researchers know that an ancestor immigrated from the “old country” but do not know the exact date. When the ancestor is first found on a census, it can be assumed that he/she immigrated sometime within the past decade, since the previous census. Researching all the passenger lists for that decade can be a daunting task. But by using the city directories, one can determine the date of the first listing for the person or family, then search passenger lists for the preceding year or two.

City directories can also confirm other evidence. Evidence is always more credible when backed up by another source or sources. Directories are an excellent resource for validating documentation previously found.

Where to find them

Where does a researcher find these directories?

Beginning locally, Pack Library has most, if not all, of the city directories for Asheville. The Old Buncombe County Genealogical Society also has some of the Asheville city directories.

One website — — has attempted to list all the city directories available in the U.S. This site will answer the questions “does a directory exist for a locality?” and “if so, where can it be found?”

It should be stressed at this point that many of these directories have not yet been digitized, but this website will indicate which have been digitized and which have not. Some have been transcribed and the transcriptions listed online.

Some paid subscription sites offer at least some city directories. These include, but are certainly not limited to, and has an excellent article on locating city directories at

One free site listing directories is Still one other good way to locate city directories is simply to Google the search string “city directories” AND “city” where “city” is your city of interest.

There are a number of other less-used records that we will discuss in an upcoming article. Address questions to

On a different note, a researcher has asked us to help in the search for a family Bible. If you know of the location of the John Chambers family Bible, contact info@obcgs. The society will put you in touch with this researcher, who really needs the family information contained in this Bible. Thank you in advance.


Through this monthly column, Old Buncombe County Genealogical Society volunteers address particular family histories as well as genealogical research in general. To submit questions about your family or others, specify that it is for the Family History column and send to the society via snail mail to P.O. Box 2122, Asheville, NC 28802-2122 or via email to For more information, call 828-253-1894.


All events are free and open to the public:

The Madison County Genealogical Society meets at 7 p.m. April 7 in the meeting room of the public library in Marshall. The program will be “The Murray Family of Flag Pond, Tennessee, and Madison County, NC — Revisited,” presented by Dee Gibson-Roles.

The Jackson County Genealogical Society will meet at 7 p.m. April 9 in the Jackson County Public Library Complex. Archivist Heather South will present “A Trunkload of Trouble: The Do’s and Don’ts of Preserving Things.” Those attending may bring their own paper items for evaluation. To learn more, call 828-631-2646 or email

The Old Buncombe County Genealogical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 2 p.m. April 25 in the society’s library at 128 Bingham Road, Suite 950, in Asheville. The program will be “Historical Preservation: Learn More About Archiving Records.” Everyone is invited. To learn more, call 828-253-1894 or email

How Asheville became (and continues to be) the most exciting small city

Asheville, the most exciting small city (Rolling Stone)

Does anyone remember the early 1990s in Asheville, a time when Bill Clinton was president, Jim Hunt the governor of North Carolina, and there wasn’t a parking or traffic problem at all?

Asheville, the most exciting small city

Asheville (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mountain Xpress
wouldn’t come into being until 1994, the year before Gannett Co. bought out the Asheville Citizen-Times. Fine cuisine? Mark Rosenstein had just begun that tradition in Asheville with The Market Place. You could enjoy coffee and a live mic at Beanstreets, savor some of the best vegetarian dishes at the Laughing Seed (an ingenious name for a restaurant), buy beads and bangles on Wall Street, hang out at the eclectic Malaprop’s Bookstore, come to a burgeoning outdoor festival oddly called Bele Chere, and enjoy gourmet sweets at the Chocolate Fetish. It was all just the beginning.

Within a few short years, Asheville had gained its “new age” identity, while North Carolina had lost its image as a progressive Southern state. When conservatives swept most state and national offices, the Mountain Xpress had grown to 80-or-so-page issues, the city actually had a club scene, and Asheville had become a granola ghetto in one of the South’s most reactionary states. It still is.

Perhaps no one chronicled Asheville’s evolution better than Rolling Stone magazine. In the spring of 2000, one of its young writers, Erik Hedegaard, came visiting “the rustic town of Asheville.” There he found not a miniature Charlotte or Atlanta but instead, “America’s new freak capital.” It wasn’t, of course, but it did qualify as one of the most interesting places Rolling Stone had come across, remarkable in itself.

Hedegaard fairly gushed at the number of “hippies, neo-hippies … witches, pagans, the homeless and the lost, … braggarts, … crystal worshippers, … anarchists, performance artists,” Rastafarians, Native American wannabees and dreadlockers in strange conical hats and beards — all of whom had flocked to Asheville in the closing decades of the 20th century.

So had a great many well-dressed, well-connected, well-mannered and well-heeled visitors, many of whom stayed. They, too, fairly gushed at Asheville’s uniqueness. At the Fresh Market in North Asheville, one older, retired Floridian supposedly turned to her husband and said, “Harry, when one of us dies, I’m moving to Asheville.” Many did.

But why? Hedegaard typically found that the new hippies and retirees came not only for “the majestic, electrifying charge of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” but because Asheville promised the best natural high in the nation, an unspoiled, un-urban uncongested, unpolluted, yet still manageable small city.

When combined with lots of empty buildings from the 1970s, reasonable housing, small-town amenities and a tolerant majority culture, Asheville seemed to have hit upon a mystic formula that would make it the most interesting small city in America, at least for a Camelot moment.

Perhaps no one was more astonished at Asheville’s new millennium incarnation than the city fathers themselves. They had envisioned and planned a revitalized city built around streetscapes, a downtown health adventure, a state-of-the-art performance theater, museum, urban trail, upscale restaurants, downtown condos, some indoor/outdoor sidewalk cafés, a restored Grove Arcade and a protected historic district. For them, Asheville once again would be the cultural, artistic, literary, commercial, political and crafts center of Western North Carolina, just as it had been in the 1920s — a tourist haven, but assuredly not the nation’s new freak capital. Asheville’s visionaries did not foresee a born-again hippie culture that resembled that of the 1960s, only with more pierced body parts and less political angst.

Asheville’s subsequent history became that of two cultures.

The new Asheville that emerged in the last two decades at first successfully avoided the chains, franchises and corporate clones that clogged faceless cities like Charlotte. In saving the city’s downtown from the mall and franchise frenzy of the 1980s and 1990s, Asheville’s leaders instead inadvertently had encouraged smaller, unique, locally owned businesses to locate in scores of half-empty buildings. Locate they did. Meanwhile, the ubiquitous bookstore chains like Barnes  Noble, the trendy “McBurgers” eateries like Applebee’s and Chili’s, and the typical cineplexes offering the same six movies chose instead to line Tunnel and Hendersonville roads just outside downtown —whether due to codes, coincidences or corporate indifference.

Downtown, a new ambience emerged that reflected the feel of Beanstreets, the Mystic Café, Malaprops, Wings, the Captain’s Bookshelf and Laurey’s — the quintessential Asheville café and caterer. Soon distinctive specialty shops like Indo, Ad Lib, Constance’s Boutique, and more massage, natural health, healing and yoga clinics than any normal stress would suppose sprouted up throughout downtown Asheville.

Yet the hole-in-the wall boutiques and shops weren’t just gaps in Asheville’s new cultural and economic renaissance, but rather their mainstay. Soon small condos and converted loft apartments followed. But would it last?

The greatest threat to Asheville’s culture of eclectic, dynamic young neo-hippies and new middle-class urbanists came not from its city fathers, but rather from the good life these people enjoyed. A commercial as well as a cultural phenomenon, Asheville quickly made the nation’s top-10 list of just about everything. It became a target for corporations, commercial franchises, expensive condominiums, upscale restaurants and tourist hotels. Chain operations, like Subway, Aloft and Starbucks, sprouted around Barley’s and Tupelo Honey Café, with more to come. Rents skyrocketed and suddenly Asheville became unaffordable to many. Julian Price, who tirelessly advocated for affordable housing in the downtown area, would have been dismayed. Lexington Avenue, “the oasis of otherness,” became just another downtown street. Was Asheville’s Camelot moment ending?

Not really. Perhaps the best barometer of what has happened to Asheville since 1995 can be found in the pages of Mountain Xpress and along Haywood Road in West Asheville. The new urban streetscape in West Asheville looks astonishingly like Eric Hedegaard’s Lexington Avenue of 2000, while the best weathervane of contemporary Asheville still can be found in the Xpress’ letters to the editor, club scene, advertisements, articles and coverage of local politics. Mountain Xpress’ first cover featured a crack-smoking rabbit and a more recent one depicts the best brews in the mountains, both challenging us appreciate what makes Asheville one the best natural highs in the nation.

Retired UNC Asheville history professor Milton Ready lives in Mars Hill.

Asheville’s Southside

Asheville’s Southside

Asheville Southside 1960'sA note attached to one photo of a home on Asheville’s southside in early 1960 calls it an “illegal gambling/whiskey house,” or illegal bar.

“We really have to get beyond the nostalgia to say what was there, what was life really like,” Mathews said.


Many, many more structures in Asheville’s southside housed legitimate businesses.

“Many people who grew up here remember (Southside) and being as vital, if not more vital, a commercial district than The Block,” Mathews said, referring to the historic African-American business district around the intersection of Eagle and South Market streets near City Hall.

Mathews shows photo after photo of Asheville’s southside auto repair shops, restaurants, service stations, beauty parlors and hotels, including one where James Brown and

Asheville's Southside once hosted Aretha Franklin

Cover of Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin once played in an upstairs auditorium.

Some homes were small, but many had distinctive architectural features people would treasure today.

“The preservationist in me is saying I could have done something with these buildings,” Mathews says.

And while a family’s home might — or might not — have been humble, it might have also been three doors down from an aunt, a block away from a grandfather or next door to a neighbor who would keep an eye on the kids.

In urban renewal, “A lot of the webs of interconnection that kept those families together were removed,” Mathews said.

He says those in charge of urban renewal did not do a good job of deciding what should be saved and what should not, did not do enough to help people with the transition to new homes and gave Southside residents little say in the whole process.

Many people who were told they would be able to build new homes on cheap Southside lots could not get financing or found other obstacles, Ndiaye said.

There were “a lot of hurt people, a feeling of being injured,” she said. “They were told that something would happen, and it didn’t.”

Some observers, Mathews said, see what happened to the people of Southside as a continuation of Jim Crow laws from the 19th century.

Asheville Southside 1930'sMany changes to Southside cannot be reversed. Ndiaye said she hopes, though, that remembering its history can help heal wounds.

“I’m just happy to know that this conversation is going on, that we are acknowledging the fact that certain things happened in this city and it impacted people,” she said.

Leaders want to keep Russia’s history in positive light – Asheville Citizen

MOSCOW – Russian authorities are growing increasingly testy over how the country’s past – particularly World War II – is publicly depicted, and some legislators are backing a law that would protect Russian history from negative portrayals.

Konstantin Ernst, who produced the opening ceremony for the Sochi Olympics, told Ekho Moskvy radio that he was disappointed that the International Olympics Federation urged him not to include elements about World War II in the production. The IOC said it would set a bad precedent.

Ernst said he found it extremely difficult and even painful to omit the segment, which he said could have been “the strongest moment of the whole ceremony.”

Now, a lawmaker wants to pass a law protecting Russian history from some perceived slights in the media.

“Our history and our point of view on historical events” is being deliberately distorted in Russia and abroad, Alexei Pushkov, who heads the State Duma Foreign Policy Committee, told the Russian news media.

“All of this is part of one chain. And when there’s such a battle for history going on, when EU countries pass laws protecting a certain point of view of history, maybe it’s time for us to think about legislation that will protect our history and our point of view on historical events.”

His proposal came in answer to plans in neighboring Latvia to criminalize the denial of the Soviet Occupation of their country, a controversial issue that has divided the two nations for years.

“The law could, for instance, target the rehabilitation of Nazism and equating the Soviet Union with Hitler’s Germany,” Pushkov told USA TODAY on Friday. “Based on international law, such comparisons should be outlawed.”

Pushkov said he believes it is unacceptable for media to make such comparisons. He added, however, that they should face administrative, not criminal responsibility.

“The need for such a law needs to be widely discussed,” he said, adding he was not drafting such a bill himself. “If democratic European countries are passing such laws, we should do the same.”

Pushkov’s statements are the latest in a string of patriotic rhetoric coming from Russian leaders calling for more positive representation of Russia’s history -â?? and that has some Russians worried about creeping propaganda and censorship.

Among recent eye-opening incidents:

â?¢ The Russian Foreign Ministry reprimanded CNN about an article, focusing on unattractive monuments around the world, that called a Soviet war monument in Brest, a city in the former Soviet republic of Belarus, ugly. The CNN article had suggested that some think the soldier “simply looks constipated.” CNN apologized and edited the piece.

â?¢ The vocally independent TV network Dozhd (Rain) was dropped by a a major Russian satellite service after running a poll asking whether the Soviet Union should have surrendered Leningrad to the Nazis instead of enduring an 872-day siege that cost as many as 1.5 million lives.

â?¢ Ekho Moskvy, an opposition-supporting radio station, drew heat after publishing a blog from a satirist who compared the 2014 Sochi Olympics to the 1936 Olympics held in Nazi Germany. The commentary compared 15-year-old Russian figure skater Julia Lipnitskaia to a German shot put champion during the 1936 games in Berlin.

“I really like that little girl on skates a lot, but just imagine how much Berliners in summer 1936 liked the shot putter Hans Woelke,” wrote Viktor Shenderovich.

Deputy parliament speaker Vladimir Vasilyev demanded an apology and told MPs on Tuesday that “society will not accept insults to veterans,” Reuters reports. Shenderovich refused to back down.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on historians to get rid of “ideological trash” when penning school textbooks.

“We are diminishing the importance of what was done by our ancestors,” the Russian leader told historians during a meeting in the Kremlin in January. “I don’t understand why we are doing this. We need to instill respect for our own past and love for our motherland.”

In December, Putin insisted that the head of a state-owned news agency must be “patriotic,” overhauling Russia’s largest news agency and replacing its head.

Last summer, another conservative lawmaker, Irina Yarovaya, submitted a draft bill that would make criticism of the actions of Allied forces of World War II punishable by a three-year prison term.

While such laws are a long way from passage, some experts worry that the rhetoric itself is creating a dangerous environment for historians and journalists with a different point of view.

“This is part of a top-down policy (of patriotism) coming from the Kremlin,” said Denis Volkov, a researcher at the independent Levada Center polling organization. “Part of it is deliberate policy from the presidential administration, part of it is coming from lawmakers themselves who are currying favor in hopes of getting promoted, but who also sincerely believe in these (patriotic) proposals. Even if such laws are not passed, (the rhetoric) forms an (environment) where independent analysis is suppressed. Under that system, everyone is vulnerable.”

Russians have complex attitudes toward their own history. About half of the population – 49% – have a positive view of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, who presided over World War II and a purge that saw millions of people killed, according to a 2013 survey conducted by the Levada Center.

In the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Russian communists have unveiled plans to erect a monument to Stalin in a Siberian city where he spent time in his final exile before his rise to power, a local lawmaker said Friday.

The monument is planned to be built by next year to mark the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II on May 9.

Stalin’s approval has grown since the 1990s, sociologists say, but that may be the result of state rhetoric.

“It’s hard to talk about public opinion if only one point of view predominates,” Volkov said. “When there are three state-controlled channels and when the majority of the population gets its news exclusively from them, public opinion is largely shaped by the government.”

Historian Boris Kagarlitsky says that among a lot of people on both the left and the right, Stalin is more popular even than Lenin because he is seen as a tough leader “who got things done.”

Sergei Markov, head of the Institute of Political Studies and a member of the public chamber, says there is a “big, intensive discussion” among the leaders now on how to present Russian history because it “produces citizens’ attitude toward the country.”

He said there is an attempt to the blend the various stages of Russian history – from tsarist to present day, and even its Byzantine roots, while not ignoring its repressive elements.

He notes that Russia, under Putin, has adopted the music of the Soviet national anthem, a flag from imperial Russia and a two-headed eagle as a state symbol dating to the Byzantine Empire.

Putin “attempted to bring some peacemaking between different historical periods,” he says.

But one aspect of Russia’s history – the soldiers from what Russia calls The Great Patriotic War – is inviolable.

Markov says he supports a criminal law, if only with a “small, symbolic punishment,” for those who deny the country’s sovereignty and who “deny the heroism of Soviet soldiers fighting against Nazis.”

“Don’t touch big heroes,” he says.

Historians call the proposals part of an ideological doctrine that Putin has been trying to implement since he became president in 2000. But rather than a return to Communist ideology, Putin is tapping into the ideology of the Tsars, according to historian Irina Karatsuba.

“This is a lot like ideological doctrine of Orthodoxy, autocracy and collectivism that was being implemented during the reign of Nicholas I (from 1825-1855),” Karatsuba said. “I think we will reach a point where we see laws being passed that will make arguing with this ideological doctrine a criminal offense.” History, she fears, is being pressured to turn into propaganda, calling the trend “neo-totalitarian.”

How the new plans to shape history will be put into place remains to be seen, another historian said.

“The government is using its resources, financial and informational, to create a new ideological doctrine, to create an official historic truth” that excludes all other points of view, says Artemy Pushkaryov, senior researcher at the Institute of Russian History at the Russian Academy of Sciences. “We’re not going to see so much censorship as lack of financing for research that doesn’t cater to the official point of view.”

“There is a fine line between propaganda and science,” he added, and that line is likely being crossed.


Copyright 2014


Read the original story: Leaders want to keep Russia’s history in positive light

Live Views of the Clinton Rally

Preparations for the Bill Clinton Rally - Asheville NCBill Clinton will be speaking today at around 12:30 PM in an effort to drum up some more voter support for Heath Shuler in the upcoming election. Asheville Live Cam is happy to bring you live streaming views of the rally, the preparations (going on now) and the aftermath. We’ve temporarily moved the East Cam to the front page, where it will remain for the rest of the day. From the Asheville Citizen-Times:
Clinton is stumping for U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville, who faces a strong challenge from Hendersonville Republican Jeff Miller in the Nov. 2 election. Hayden Rogers, Shuler’s campaign manager, said they’ve

Mountain Women in Fiction

Look Homeward Angel 365.153
Image by loonyhiker via Flickr
Blue Ridge Community College will be hosting a free program on Wednesday, March 17 at the Patton Auditorium in celebration of Women’s History Month.
Gwen Ashburn, chair of UNC Asheville

Annual Montford Music & Arts Festival

Just around the corner and its time for the Montford Music & Arts Festival. Come out and witness Montford come to life. Bring the kids, comfy shoes and be ready to enjoy some great music and good times. There are going to be some great performers at this year