A few weeks ago I decided to take a drive on a beautiful late winter day. I love driving down the back roads to discover just what my be around the next bend. On this particular day I ended up in Madison County, just north of Asheville. A friend of mine, Don Haynes, had told me about an old community that had some interesting relics from a bygone era. I soon found this amazing little community and felt like I had stepped back in time. I first saw what looked like an old clapboard white church with a large cemetery, but I decided to drive on past this and explore an old store at Barnard a few miles down the very windy road. The scenery is beautiful here; not much has changed in the past several decades. Old farmhouses still stand neat and proud, cattle grazing peacefully look up curiously as a car drives past. I found the old Barnard Store that has been abandoned for some time now. A man that lived behind the old business said that this was the epicenter of a once thriving community. Old men sat in bright red chairs and watched the French Broad River roll by. The store sold everything you needed from fabric for dresses, vet supplies, canned goods and hams. The gentleman that I talked to even offered to sell me a vintage lawn mower in good working condition, made in the 1960′s. His hobby restoring old mowers keeps him quite busy. I suggest you pay him a visit if you are ever in the market for a good vintage mower.
Next I made my way back up the mountain to the community of Walnut. My next stop was at the beautiful white steepled church. I peered in the window and discovered beautiful wide plank wood flooring and amazing bead board walls and ceilings. As I made my way toward the cemetery I was joined by a local that had lived in this community his entire life. Larry Anderson was eager to share his knowledge of his beautiful home. It seems the old church had been built around 1897 and was originally a 2 room school serving boys and girls through the 7th grade. It would also serve as a courthouse as needed, and the huge oak hanging tree still stands out front ; a testament to some of the severe sentences that were handed down to less fortunate prisoners . As the sun began to go down, Larry pointed out interesting sights; unmarked graves where slaves had been buried, several graves of young men, all friends that had drowned within weeks of each other at Stackhouse, still a popular swimming hole for local teens, and even the grave of his very best friend that fell off the back of a truck several years ago. As the sun went down I snapped a couple more photos of the beautiful white school and church. I promised Larry that I would come back and visit Big Pine to see the house that his grandfather had built by hand. I look forward to taking photos of that home, full of happy memories, but that will have to wait for another day.