Friday, March 20, 2009

Book Review: The Carolina Mountains by Margaret W. Morley

This book is a reprint of the original edition printed in 1913.

The author Morley was a well educated and well off woman of her time. Born in Iowa, she lived from 1858 until 1923. She was an avid writer, promoting the understanding and conservation of nature and compassion for wildlife. She penned eighteen books for children, many illustrated with her own pen and ink drawings. Two other books were aimed at adults including this one.

She associated with the likes of Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe and William Hooker Gillette in a community of artists in Connecticut. It was through Gillette that she visited Tryon, NC, located in the foothills of the Appalachians. She purchased a house here and began her travels throughout the mountains, collecting information and stories for her books.

Obviously this book is dated from the Victorian era but I found the descriptions of what the mountains were like almost a hundred years ago captivating. With the road system at the time very primitive, Morley traveled from village to village on horseback, on foot or in covered wagon, camping out if there were no accommodations. Pretty impressive for a Victorian woman.

So many of our North Carolina mountain towns, landmarks and customs are described in her travels including, Grandfather Mountain, Asheville, Flat Rock, Chimney Rock, Roan, Highlands. For history buffs, nature lovers and those who like to read non fiction, this book is a wonderful glimpse into the past, a basic text in the mountain geography and a cultural essay on the people's customs. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and my husband has already delved into it.

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