New Appalachian Moments Blog Post by Scott Ballard
If you’ve heard it once, I’ll be you’ve heard it hundreds of times, “It’s a small world.” Well, what does that mean exactly? It means that, as we get older, we gain a greater appreciation for how truly connected we all are. We recognize that there are very few degrees of separation between us.
A most recent example is Andrew Jackson. Until now I’ve just thought of him as “Old Hickory,” the jut-jawed presidential face engraved on your $20 bill. But we found a story that can connect Andrew Jackson to the mountains of North Carolina, specifically to Avery County.
Back when Jackson was a general in the Army, he was ordered to retaliate against a tribe of Creek Indians at Horseshoe Bend, Alabama. He and his soldiers wiped out the entire tribe, men, women and children…but after the smoke had cleared one of Jackson’s generals discovered a survivor…a small boy alive on the battle field. In the aftermath of the carnage, there would be no more killing. That young Creek lad was taken home to Tennessee and raised by a neighbor…
When he was a young man, he fell in love with a slave girl and they had a boy…his name was Peter Hardin and, according to the law at the time, he became the property of the girl’s family. Peter was sold for $100 in 1852 or about $3,000 today, and taken to the Cranberry section of what is today Avery County.
By the time he was 13 Peter was driving a four-horse wagon of crude iron to a Confederate rifle plant in Linville…can you imagine doing that when you were 13 years old…rolling along rutted and rocky dirt roads, past union-sympathizing bush whackers…
After the war and emancipation, Peter chose to stay in Cranberry and work around the mine. That might have had to do with lovely young Charity Greenlee…a former slave from off the mountain, who had learned to read and write, a rarity during those times, and because Peter could do neither.
Together they formed a powerful team running the commissary for the iron mine, the original Cranberry hotel and serving as post master in Cranberry. When the state officials found out Peter was illiterate, Miss Charity became the first black female post-master in the entire state of North Carolina.
When the family that ran the mine moved off the mountain, they left a large chunk of their land to Peter, several hundred acres in fact. When he was in his late 70s, while at work on the farm, he fell off of a haystack, broke his neck and died….
Hardin’s grave marker is in the shape of an arrowhead, owing to his Creek ancestry, and if you’ve driven down 19E near Elk Park, you’ve driven past Peter’s grave in a wooded and untended burial plot on a shaded hillside… where many other blacks also found their final resting place with arguably one of their more industrious and successful friends…AND Avery County’s connection to Andrew Jackson.
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