Those who have lived in Iredell County for a while have probably heard the name, “Allison Woods.” What Allison Woods is though and where it is located may still be a mystery to the many people who have relocated to Iredell. Allison Woods is 1000 acres of privately owned woodland that hosts the Allison Woods Outdoor Learning Center. You can use 2016 Turnersburg Hwy, Statesville, N.C. to find it with a GPS, but basically you take Hwy. 21 North cross the Yadkin River Bridge and look for the sighs posted at the entrance to Allison Woods Drive. The Allison Woods website is http://www.allisonwoodslivinghistory.org/ and the Allison Woods Outdoor Learning Center is a non-profit educational organization.
“Allison Woods and the Iredell County Landscape” will be the subject of a special program at the Iredell County Public Library in Statesville on Wednesday, July 30, at 7 pm. This free program will feature Brian Fannon, Education Director at the Allison Woods Outdoor Learning Center, who will discuss the development of Allison Woods and the landscape in Iredell County from the time before the earliest settlers to the present. Prior to becoming the Allison Woods Education Director Mr. Fannon was an Adjunct Professor of Geography at Winston Salem State University and a Tour Operations Manager/Interpretive Manager at Denali Park Resorts in Denali Park, AK. Mr. Fannon is working on his Doctoral from UNC-Greensboro in Physical Geography and has a MA in Geography from Appalachian State University and a B.S in Biology from Wake Forest.
Wednesday night’s program will discuss how Allison’s Woods and the landscape in Iredell County looked before the settlers first arrived and how this area has changed geographically over the last two centuries. Allison Woods gets its name from the Allison Family that has owned the land for over 250 years. The Allison’s were Scotch Presbyterians who first moved to Ireland, then migrated to the New World and the Pennsylvania and New Hampshire areas before finally settling into Iredell County. The family started a tannery business said to be only the second commercial tannery in the country. They made all types of leather goods from hides and once produced 2,000 saddles for the British Army. The early Scots and Irish were attracted to lands in N.C. that resembled their homelands. When early explorer John Lawson came through the Piedmont area in 1701 he described the area as, “pleasant savanna land, high and dry, having few trees growing upon it and those standing at great distances, free from grubs and undergrowth.”
Mr. Fannon points out that the landscape in Iredell County probably burned over on an average of once every ten years with fires caused by nature and by Native Americans. The Native Americans set fires to bring in deer and other game that would come to graze on the new grass that would grow after a burn over. What the early settlers of what would become Iredell County encountered when they first arrived was grasslands and forests with little underbrush or vines or poison ivy. The streams were wide and flat and grassy with heavy vegetation so the early pioneers traveled on the ridges to avoid the wetlands. You have only to look at the geographical names we use today to understand what settlers first encountered. The area around Morganton was first called Quaker Meadows, Wilkesboro was called Mulberry Fields, and many of the mountains in western N.C. are still called “grassy balds.” For more information on the “Allison Woods and the Iredell County Landscape” program contact Joel Reese at 704-878-3093 or email@example.com.
Joel Reese, Local History Librarian
Iredell County Public Library
This article was published in the Statesville Record and Landmark in July 2014