North Carolina Road Trip

I got home today from the genealogy road trip to Asheville, North Carolina that I’ve been planning for a couple of weeks.   Many of my ancestors lived in the Old Fort area (about 20 miles outside Asheville) for several generations before coming to Georgia.  My plan for the trip was to visit the McDowell County courthouse, Old Ebenezer Church cemetery, and Historic Carson House.

We left early Wednesday morning and arrived in Asheville a little after noon.  Our hotel room wasn’t ready, so we had a quick lunch then drove on up to Marion, which is the county seat of McDowell County.  Marion is a typical small Southern town and the courthouse was easy to find, right in the middle of downtown.  I knew from online research that marriage records were housed in the Register of Deeds office, so we went there first.  The ladies in the office were very nice and helpful, giving us a tour of the office and showing us where all the records were kept.  They have a very nice facility – lots of computers where researchers can look up computer records, copiers, microfilm readers, and the largest scanner I’ve ever seen, presumably for plats and other very large, loose papers.

As user-friendly as the facility was, I was quite disappointed in what we found.  The one record that I really wanted was the marriage certificate of my 3x-great-grandparents, Ben Hemphill and Martha Lytle.  They were married in McDowell County in 1854.  McDowell County was created in 1842, so I thought I had a pretty good chance of finding this certificate.  However, they only had marriage records going back to 1857.  So close!  I did get a marriage index entry for Ben’s second marriage to Fanny Saunders.  I also got several birth index and death index pages with entries on collateral lines.  I found it interesting that they had such great indexes going back into the mid- to late 1800’s, but they didn’t have original records for any of the entries that I found.  I don’t know what happened to the original records; we asked if the courthouse had burned or been damaged at some point in time, but the office lady said “no.”  We think we offended her by asking.  Oops!

By the time we finished at the Register of Deeds, it was too late to do any more research, so we went back to Asheville and checked into our hotel.  Then we went to  dinner and to the fabulous, two-story Barnes & Noble at Asheville mall.  Have you read Julie & Julia?  Very, very good book and I highly recommend it.

On Thursday morning, we drove up to Old Fort and found our way to the cemetery.  We did not have GPS coordinates, but I had found directions online.  It was a good thing we had been there before, because the directions were not good.  I took 41 photos of headstones, so I have a lot of work ahead of me, transcribing, enhancing, and uploading those images.

rakuThen we drove around looking for the old Greenlee homeplace where we first met our Greenlee cousins about 25-30 years ago (that’s a story for another day).  After we found the Greenlee house, we drove on to the house where my grandfather’s first cousin, Nina lived the last time we saw her before her death.  A sign in front of the house said “Grove Hill Pottery,” which intrigued us so we stopped to see if they sold pottery.  Leslie, the  person who came to the door was, in fact a potter, and turned out to be Nina’s great-niece, which makes her my third cousin.  We spent a couple of hours visiting and browsing and each bought a raku wall hanging.

Next, we went to Historic Carson House.  My hope here was to find a copy of the old Hemphill bible and get photos of the Birth, Marriage, and Death pages.  The aforementioned cousin Nina and her sisters possessed this Bible at one time and they were all very involved with the restoration of Carson House, so I had hoped that they had donated the Bible to the genealogy collection.  I had emailed Carson House a few weeks ago, inquiring if they had it.  At that time, the executive director responded that they were not aware of it, but would continue looking.  When we got there, we found out that, coincidentally, she had emailed me that very morning saying that she still hadn’t found the Bible, but were about to begin a cataloging project.  I have to praise her, because not only had she looked through the collection, she had also called the prior executive director and asked her if she knew anything about the Bible.  She also promised to contact me if it ever turns up.

Even though they didn’t have the Bible that I was looking for, they do have a good genealogy library, so we spent a few hours going through papers and books on the Hemphills, Burgins, Mackies, and Lytles.  I took a couple of pages of notes and got copies of several pages; none are primary sources, but they hold a lot of clues for future research. I also got a photo of a sea chest, purported to belong to Philip Burgin, the first of my Burgin line to come to America in the late 1600s.


We spent Friday doing “non-genealogy” things, visiting the Farmer’s Market, wandering around downtown Asheville, etc.  Even though I didn’t find everything I wanted to, it was a good trip.

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  1. Chris Gilliland says

    Can you provide directions on how to find the Old Ebenezer Cemetery in Old Fort, NC? I’m in TX, but someday plan to visit. In your headstone photos, did you happen to take any of the Gillilands?


    • Tonia Kendrick says

      Hi Chris, I’m not sure I remember the directions well enough to tell you how to get there. I do have the GPS coordinates, though. Here’s a link to my page about this cemetery; the GPS coordinates are at the top.

      Ebenezer Cemetery

      Be sure you visit both parts of the cemetery. The old section is right next to the church parking lot. Then there is path through the woods to the newer part, which is much bigger.

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