Golden Valley

by Karen Day McCall

Before the words "First Broad" were heard, Native Americans hunted the First Broad River basin. Their passing left evidence, shards of pottery, arrowheads, and spear points, turned up on the plow end of a horse. Footprints in the sands of time, artifacts that tell a story of life before brass-buttoned, white-wigged gentlemen with quill pens and paper arrived to document their heritage, and title the land.

In colonial times land was divided and sectioned into districts. Morgan District, where Golden Valley would later be located, was made up of fourteen companies. Each company had a "captain" - a mayor of sorts, who was in charge of taxes, acted as a peace officer, justice of the peace, and headed up the local militia.

William Whitesides was in charge of Whiteside's Company. His village in Rutherford County was, for the most part, peopled with Scotch-Irish and English settlers who came in wagons and on foot from Pennsylvania and Virginia. When the settlers resolved to rebel against their government, Whitesides signed the "Association" agreement. His company would stand with the Continental Congress. William's son James and their neighbor Richard Singleton fought at the Battle of Kings Mountain and surely there were others.

Eight days after the Battle of Kings Mountain, Sunday, October 15, 1780, victorious soldiers encamped near the foot of Cherry Mountain court-martialed and hung nine of thirty-six condemned Tory prisoners. A State Historical Marker on Whitesides Road, now in Whitesides Community, marks the location of the "Biggerstaff Hanging Tree" where the first court martial in Rutherford county if not the first court martial in the United States was held. At the end of the war the Tories were pardoned and rejoined their families.

In the early years of North Carolina's statehood many British land grants signed by King Charles were not honored, but most families kept their property. The Fortune - Melton Farm, listed on the National Registry of Historic Sites, is one case in point. Things settled down under the new American government and life seems to have run a pretty smooth course until gold was found in Burke County.

Gold! In 1828 a gold laden stream was discovered at Brindletown and within weeks every creek within a hundred miles was prospected. Hordes of miners descended on the valley. To serve them, the post office established a branch office, Golden, on what is now the Cane Creek Mountain Road; hence the name, Golden Valley.

By the time of the Civil War (1861 - 1965) the miners had pretty well drifted away and entire river bottom was farmed. Several land holders owned slaves and raised cotton, but there were no large plantations to tend and relatively few slaves, consequently, the Emancipation Proclamation did not disrupt farming here as much as it did further south. Even so, with the fall of the Confederacy Rutherford county fell under the leadership of the "carpetbaggers".

When elections were resumed, Republican and Democratic parties were in fierce opposition. Neighbors rode against neighbors as the KKK was born. One of the most thoroughly documented KKK trials, that of Randolph Abbot Shotwell, a Democratic newspaper editor, had it's origins here. The Cherry Mountain Park, now in the community of Sunshine, is the site where Shotwell made a blunder that sent him to federal prison along with Amos Owen's the famous Cherry Bounce distiller.

Education had always been important to the Scot-Irish who often built a church and hired a teacher before they hired a preacher. Fairview Baptist, First Broad Baptist, and Golden Valley United Methodist all sponsored schools. These were one teacher, one room school houses which, along with several others, continued to operate until their consolidation into the Golden Valley school in 1932.

Of all the schools started in the area, only one is in existence today, Burke County's South Mountain Institute. It was one of the first residential home-schools in the nation. The school opened in the valley in1903 as the Golden Industrial Institute.

With or without an education, with or without slave labor, it was difficult to farm in the mountains. Roving threshers came each year to harvest wheat, community mills ground cornmeal and flour, but the mountain farmer couldn’t compete with the farmers in the flat fertile fields of the Piedmont region. Even if he was able to make a large crop it couldn't be brought to market. There were no roads! It had long been known that the bottom lands that were good for cotton and wheat were also good for corn. A corn crop, handled properly, could turn a profit like no other. Golden Valley became notorious for moonshine.

With the arrival of fast, black-topped highways the first overnight delivery services sprang up. Late night "ridge-runners" drove fast cars and often out ran the law, but persecution by the IRS and the end of prohibition ultimately made these employment opportunities too risky to be considered profitable.

Employment opportunities were limited. Golden Valley is twenty miles from Forest City, Shelby, Morganton, and Marion. Getting to and from work in these cities posed a problem. During the 1930's and 40's a bus carried people to and from textile mills in Forest City and Spindale. But there were no major employers here.

In the 50's, a monazite mine on the First Broad River offered employment closer to home. Monazite had been used in manufacturing of mantles for incandescent lamps as early as 1886. However this time it wasn't being used for lamps. Monazite is one of two primary minerals which contain thorium. Thorium and uranium are used in atomic bombs.

The monazite mine came and went, as did the gold mines, and the stills. Even the big farms slipped away. Years rolled by and the passage of time proved what several residents knew of old; there was money to be made in timber. Of all the industries that have come and gone in the Golden Valley area, this one has stood the test of time.

There were only so many jobs available in the timber industry. People needing work had to find it outside of the community until 1969. That's the year Milliken's Golden Valley Plant opened it's doors. To this day it employs a number of local people.

It was local people who chartered the Golden Valley Community Club in 1952. It has, like the timber industry, stood the test of time. The community club has been responsible for many improvements. Early projects pushed for telephone service and indoor toilets. More recent projects dealt with a manned recycling center and a caution light at a busy intersection.

A really-big deal was hashed out in 1998 with the purchase of the 17,829 acre Rollin's tract, land that locals hunted for generations. The Rollins property ties into the South Mountain State Park and the Morganton Watershed creating a 35,000 acre wilderness in the South Mountains. The Foothills Conservancy, the preservation group that negotiated the deal, sprang from our own local South Mountain Coalition. Under state ownership the land will be kept as a wilderness / recreation area for generations to come.

There are three, not so wild, wilderness camps in today's Golden Valley. The Pioneer Girl Scouts built their camp in the valley on land they purchased from Edison Queen in the sixties. "The Golden Valley Girl Scout Camp" caters to girls scouts of all ages. Doctor Charles S. McCall, a Forest City dentist, gave his camp "Show Me the Way" to the United Methodist Church in October of 1960. Renamed "Camp McCall" it has been in operation ever since and is open to the public. A relative newcomer "Lone Mountain Camp" caters to the private sector, bussing children to the property for an unforgettable week long, day-camp experience.

Music left it's mark on local history. Valley visitors might catch a show at one of our two Music Parks. The Ottis Cook Memorial Music Park under the direction of Butch Cook, and the Golden Valley Music Park founded Paul Toney offer fine, mostly bluegrass, entertainment.

Besides hikers, campers, and music aficionados this community is proving to be fertile ground for the 90's generation of entrepreneurs. Whether it's craftsmen and women, retailers, service providers, builders, used car dealers, or truck owner-operators, small businesses abound. And every entrepreneur, every industrial effort, and many residents of this small township are sure to leave their own footprints in the sands of time.

For more information, or to submit material for this site, contact Karen McCall

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