When I was about 8 years old I went with my Dad and Grandpa Reese to put up hay on a field near my Grandpa’s farm. The hay was actually on the side of a hill and they used my Grandpa’s horses to pull his hay rake. At one point my Dad took unhitched the team and told me to hold the reins and not to move them. The horses started eating and were soon pulling me along as they reached for new grass. My Dad hollered, “I told you not to move them.” As I held onto the reins with both hands and dug my heels into the ground I hollered back, “I didn’t move them they moved themselves.” Today that hill is covered in trees and to look at the forest there now you would never know it was once a hay field. In fact, my Dad can remember when he was growing up going to that same field and picking corn.
It just shows how fast Mother Nature can take land back once people stop using it. I have often wondered what this area looked like when Daniel Boone and the first explorers came into Iredell County. I always imagined that the east coast of the United States was just one big massive forest when the first settlers arrived. Brian Fannon, the Education Program Director at the Allison Woods Outdoor Learning Center, here in Iredell says that actually, “Iredell County was a very different place! Open forests with little undergrowth, boggy multichannel streams, and areas of open savanna and grass prairies.”
On Wednesday, June 25th, at 7 p.m. Brian Fannon will present a special program on, “The Lost Landscape of Daniel Boone” at the Iredell County Public Library. Mr. Fannon is seeking 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. Prior to being the Education Director at the Allison Woods Outdoor Learning Center Mr. Fannon was an Adjunct Professor of Geography at Winston Salem State University and was a Tour Operations Manager/Interpretive Manager at Denali Park Resorts in Denali Park, AK. His thesis was on the Buffalo Trail which runs from Wilkesboro (Mulberry Fields) to Mountain City (Taylorsville was the original name) Tennessee.
Mr. Fannon points out that there were already settlers in this area when Squire Boone moved his family to North Carolina (ca. 1751) so Daniel probably followed established trails as he moved westward across N.C. “The Native Americans had an extensive trail system that often coincided with animal paths – both Native Americans and animals had been refining the easiest paths for thousands of years.” There are a lot of questions I would like to ask Mr. Fannon like how did so many of the mountains end up “bald,” and did the early settlers follow rivers like the Yadkin and Catawba or did they go straight west seeking new land. Mr. Fannon will be here to answer these and any other questions the audience might have Wednesday night in this free program.
On Thursday, June 26, at 7 p.m. Curtis Able, former president of the Vance House Board of Directors will be at the library to present a program on “Zebulon Vance: The Later Years.” Zebulon Vance was North Carolina’s governor during the Civil War and brought his family to Statesville just before Raleigh fell to Union forces under General Sherman. The Vance House, now at 501 North Sharpe Street, has been preserved as a museum and the Historic Vance House Association has been sponsoring a series of lectures at the library on the life of Zebulon Vance. Thursday night’s program is free and open to the public. For more information contact Joel Reese at 704-878-3093.
Joel Reese, Local History Librarian
Iredell County Public Library
This article appeared in the Statesville Record and Landmark as “Iredell’s landscape in Daniel Boone’s day” on June 23, 2014