My love of history began when I was in fourth grade. However, it would not be until I got to high school that I discovered my true passion for it. So, when it came time to pick a topic for my senior project I chose to do the history of Alleghany County in photos. I photographed historic buildings, churches, businesses, locations and sites where businesses had once been, and so on.
Of course, I had help. Tom Horne of the Alleghany News agreed to be my mentor and let me borrow his camera for a select few of the photos. I would later take photos on one of the wind-up Kodak disposables, but those were the best of times.
I would be standing in the rain with the disposable and an umbrella holding it up and snapping a shot of some building or location. Afterward, or sometimes before, I would be conducting background research to learn as much as I could.
Attorney Donna Shumate’s office, for example, is the oldest house standing on Main Street, built in 1889 by Guy Woodruff. Senator Eugene Transou’s home located across from the Alleghany Inn on Hwy 21 North in Sparta, was the first home in the county to have upstairs and downstairs bathrooms and was built in 1900. Today the home is the new residence of the Junior Appalachian Musicians, or JAM, program.
Then there is the fact that a Frenchman named William D. Journette is responsible for our county boundaries and for finding the center which became the county seat, Sparta. Mr. Journette moved to North Carolina in the 1880s after serving in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army. For his survey work the county paid him a total of $25.00, which equates to about $759.05 in today’s currency.
This project proved to me the old saying is true, a picture is worth a thousand words. However, it also proved that you never truly understand what makes a community a community until you dive in and learn more about the people who helped shape it.
Sources: Alleghany County Historical-Genealogical Society. Alleghany County Heritage North Carolina. Winston Salem, NC: Hunter Publishing Company, 1983.
Alleghany County Historical-Genealogical Society. History of Alleghany County 1859-1976. Winston Salem, NC: Hunter Publishing Company, 1976.
Sizemore, Jean. Alleghany Architecture: A Pictorial Survey. Alleghany Historical Properties Commission, 1983.