Buncombe County Literacy

Buncombe County led the state in the early 1920s in fighting adult illiteracy. Its adult literacy program was copied throughout the south and even received national recognition. From 1917 to 1920 Buncombe County adult community schools, often called night schools, taught over 3000 adults to read and write. However, a newspaper article from February 1925 said that Asheville had 1486 illiterate adults with a county total of 3,893. Literacy classes were often held in schools and churches, and one class for factory workers was held in a railroad car. Instructor Della Day stands at the chalk board.


“Continuation Class/Railroad School,” 1923.

One Community School contest was held on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate. In the photograph below Mrs. Edith Dresser Vanderbilt is shown welcoming several hundred of the Community Night School members on the Biltmore Estate on 6/24/1923. Other teachers in the program are standing below the platform.



From the same event, Miss Cornelia Vanderbilt is shown standing on the left with others at the welcoming of several hundred of the Community Night School members on the Biltmore Estate; Della Day standing front right. Students hold signs from their community.


How is the state of literacy faring in Buncombe County today? The Literacy Council of Buncombe County reports these Buncombe County facts:

  • 1 in 10 adults in Buncombe County cannot read at a basic level, according to a U.S. Department of Education literacy study (2003).
  • Approximately 8% of county residents do not speak English at home.
  • 12% of Buncombe County residents lack a high school diploma.
  • 24% of Buncombe County children live in poverty

Post by Zoe Rhine

Blizzard of 1936


Real photo postcard of the blizzard of March 17, 1936 showing cars and snow along intersection of College and Patton. Sign for Brown Book Co. on right and the Palmer-Lipe Paint Company on left in clear view.

Here’s an image for everybody who’s snowed in this weekend. One of the worst snowstorms of the century swept across Asheville and Western North Carolina in 1936. Snowdrifts up to eight feet high buried parked cars in the city and caused hazardous driving through the area.

Image donated to the N.C. Room collection by Win Anders. AD146

Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian.

Grace: A Community That Got Absorbed by an Avenue

The loaded question is  when did Grace begin, what area did it include, and where did the community get its name?

Where was Grace? My best guess is, if you are driving north on Merrimon Avenue, after you top the hill at the intersection of Gracelyn Road at the Avenue M restaurant, from that point and looking out at the beautiful stretch of land in front of you, especially taking in the mountain view past Grace Episcopal, that was the community of Grace.

Drivers today coming up over that hill at Gracelyn would hardly expect that these building used to be there.

MS285_001B Photo 21

Coming north on Merrimon, Grace Pharmacy, seen in view before the supply company, is listed after the intersection with Clairmont, at 633 Merrimon Ave., at Grace. Grace Supply is listed at 637-641 Merrimon.

We have one newspaper article in our clipping files in the North Carolina Room to help point to the history of the community. “Grace Area Taking On a New Face” was published in the Asheville Times July 25, 1973.   “Grace was a cluster of stores at the end of the street car tracks. Merrimon was an avenue of fine homes, and Grace was a community way out in the country . . . As late as just a few years ago, Grace was an independent community. Civic pride centered around Grace High School athletics. Its football and basketball teams often won the county championships.”


Grace HS

Grace High School, taken from “The Pinnacle,” the Grace high school annual for 1937.

Grace High School was built in 1914-15 and torn down in 1960, replaced at the same location with Grace Elementary school built in 1962 and the name changed to Ira B. Jones to honor the principal who had served there since 1931.

Realtor and developer J.D. Bledsoe built Grace Pharmacy on top of the hill in 1927. (The building has “Hamilton” at top.) The Grace Supply Company was formed in 1918 by Holmes Bryson, Asheville mayor from 1937-1941. It was a stock company with Jim McElroy (former county commissioner) and Frank Edwards. It served the community as a grocery, feed, clothing, and hardware store and a coal yard. It was a successor to J.E. Johnson and S.K. Green and Co. Grace Supply.

MS285_001B Photo 23

Some of you may recall Citizen’s Hardware in the lot now housing Walgreens Pharmacy. I hadn’t realized Citizen’s was a local business. It was formed in 1941 by Thomas Arthur Groce Jr.

K255-S copy

Citizen’s Hardware at 941 Merrimon Avenue on its 19th anniversary, July 17, 1960.

The 1973 newspaper article said then, “Anyone who’s been away from Grace the last few years wouldn’t recognize it now. Not a landmark remains in the area, except the present cafe building and the soon-to-be torn down Citizen’s Hardware Building.” That would have been the building in the above photo. A second Citizen’s building had been built in 1973, set back further from the street. The business was sold by Thomas Groce’s son Jim to new owners Max and Beverly Corte in 1998 and the 1973 building was razed recently for the construction of Walgreens.

As far as when the community came to be called Grace and why, the post office at Grace was established November 9, 1889 and Charles B. Way was the postmaster– being the earliest found date for the name, as well as proof that the community was not named for the first postmaster, as some communities were.

A good guess would be that the community was named after the early mission there, Grace Mission, established by Trinity Episcopal, which became Grace Episcopal Church, but the church’s history says that the mission “began in 1867 with the construction of a log chapel known as Beaverdam Mission. By the 1880s, the mission had taken on the name of the little community in which it was located, Grace.” A history of the church published in 1967, and quoting a history written by Miss Fannie Patton, says that “it is around 1889 that the name ‘Grace Mission’, or ‘Grace Chapel, comes to be used consistently, having replaced the earlier designation of ‘Beaver Dam Mission,’ Grace being the name of the steadily growing community in which the mission church was and is located.”

In Beaverdam: Historic Valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Rex Redmon writes “We searched diligently to find the source of the name, feeling sure it was associated in some way with His Grace the Bishop Francis Asbury.” Asbury traveled to this area to preach in 1800 and stayed at the Killian home, still in existence on Beaverdam Road. That’s a long stretch of time between 1800 and 1889, but it seems possible that remnants of his visit might have given cause for the name of Grace. That’s the answer I’m leaning towards, right now, anyway.

Please comment with any corrections or additions that might add to the history of the community of Grace.

This blog post was a result of a new collection of photographs MS285 loaned to the North Carolina Room for us to scan by Aaron Mundy of Brevard. They belonged to his grandfather, Judson “Buster” Mundy (1921-1981) of Weaverville. The two views in this post of Grace were new to our collection and we are grateful to Mr. Mundy for loaning them to us so that we can share them with you.

Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian.









Walter B. Gwyn was an Asheville attorney, real estate man and…


United States Patent No. 414,527, dated November 5,1889 appears to be…

…drum roll please…

a brush with a hook on it!!!

Toilet brush1

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best I suppose. He had some big local names willing

to sign on as supporters of the Toilet Article.

Gwyn's patent

He had some other ideas for various tools. Here is his “claw bar” from 1894

Claw bar

Charles E. Lyman was mostly known for his poetry. We have five of his books here in the NC Room.

In addition to waxing poetic he also applied his creativity to more practicle matters.

In 1917 he had an invention that became quite a success.

Lyman signal1

Asheville C-T Sept. 11,1923

Browsing old microfilm, I see many articles on pedestrian injuries and deaths. There was definitely a need for something to keep pedestrians safer.

Asheville’s Mayor Cathey even wrote to the New York Times to disabuse them of the idea that this traffic signal was invented by…gasp!…a Frenchman.

NYT Cathey

Posted by Lyme Kedic

Happy New Year To All

Asheville Citizen’s readers enjoyed decades of cartoons and the political views of “Billy” Borne.  Willis “Billy” Gustavus Borne, whose father was from Switzerland, came here from Toledo, Ohio.  He became the Citizen’s cartoonist in 1907 and was referred to as Asheville’s Tom Nast. One hundred years ago Borne gives a nod towards the end of 1915.

borne 12.30

Asheville Citizen, December 30, 1915 with jay bird saying, “I hope he puts me off on easy street.”

Borne’s cartoons were used by the newspaper to accompany presidential election returns which were broadcast on the newspaper’s outdoor screen.

His cartoons were also used in Buncombe County’s “Swat the Fly” campaign that began in 1910. His signature jay bird picked up some Spanish when the same campaign took Borne to San Juan in 1915 where thousands of posters using his work were distributed in Spanish throughout Puerto Rico.

The jay bird was often featured at the bottom of the newspaper’s front page with the day’s forecast.

borne jay bird

Borne was last listed in the 1929 Asheville City Directory, living in the Carolina Apartments. More than likely due to the Depression, he left Asheville and returned to Toledo in 1930, where he lived with his brother Delbert and wife Addie Borne. He died there in 1944 at the age of 60. Borne notes the repetition of the years as 1916 takes the reins.

new year borne 1916

Asheville Citizen, January 1, 1916 with jay bird saying, “I’m going to sware off swearing off.”

Post by Zoe Rhine, librarian.

Montford Community Scrapbooks: A Glimpse of a Forgotten Multiracial Neighborhood

The North Carolina Room recently received a new donation of Montford materials, including photographs, newspaper clippings and early newsletters.

In the mid 1970’s Montford and Montford Hill residents rallied together to clean up the neighborhood and to work at renovating houses in need of repair. Work was organized through the Montford Community Club and the Montford Hills Community Club.

Notice anything different about this newspaper article?

Montford officers

Circa 1976 Asheville newspaper article announcing new officers for the Montford Hills Club, (L to R) Ralph Weber, Mrs. Oralene Simmons, Rev. L.C. Ray and Mrs. Elrita Nesby.

Or these photographs taken in Montford Park?

Montford group photoMontford group photo 2

Oh, yea, I remember now, that’s why we all chose to live in Montford. What happened?


Montford materials donated were previously passed down from one newsletter editor to the next for use for historical articles. Previous editor Joe Newman placed the collection in the North Carolina Room.

Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian