Historic Happy Valley
Sample Story Ideas
Historic Happy Valley comes alive in the spring with the opening of the Whippoorwill Academy, a storied village reflecting the past life of this rustic area featuring a replica cabin of hunter and explorer Daniel Boone, concerts at the serene Chapel of Rest and Mow Day and Plow Day at the Tony Jones Farm, bringing together the community to enjoy traditional fiddle, guitar, mandolin and banjo music of the region as they witness demonstrations of how the land has been worked with animals for generations. The Jones Farm is also the location of an annual fiddlers’ convention, which brings thousands to the valley every summer to play the songs of their ancestors. The Jones Farm has a long history, which includes it being a part of the 1780 military campaign conducted by the Overmountain Men that concluded in the defeat of the British army at Kings Mountain during the Revolutionary War. The southwestern section of the present-day Jones farm includes part of the old Yadkin Road, and National Park Service staff has approved eligibility of this property for designation within the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. Sample story ideas include:
In the Valley – The Yakin River is a constant along this stretch of rural road in the shadow of the Blue Ridge. In September, about 2,000 people attend the Historic Happy Valley Old-time Fiddlers’ Convention on the Tony Jones Farm, northeast of Lenoir on N.C. Byway 268. Fiddlers and their families camp out along the river, taking in the valley’s cool summer breezes. Children relish the hayrides as the fiddlers play the old-time mountain music from dusk to the wee hours of the morning. Local church groups and vendors sell homemade cornbread, barbecue chicken and pinto beans along with other Southern favorites. Furniture lovers and history buffs alike should also visit Fort Defiance, the home of General William Lenoir built in the late 1700s. The home showcases more than 300 original furnishings. This rich farmland still untouched by commercial development makes Happy Valley a place to visit and make yourself at home — at least for a little while.
A Quiet Respite – Just go in and sit in a pew at the Chapel of Rest. The beautiful light streaming in from the stained-glass windows makes you want to pause from your busy life and reflect. You feel obliged to obey the message above the altar: “Come unto Me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The historic chapel built in the early 1900s is open to the public during daylight hours. Perched on a hill, the chapel offers a panoramic view of Happy Valley. The chapel hosts public concerts as well as Easter Eve, Thanksgiving Eve and Christmas Eve services. The 25-year-old concert series has included bluegrass, blues, jazz and classical music often from local musicians or those located in the western part of the state. The timeless and simple chapel is also a wonderful place to marry or renew vows. For more information, visit www.chapelofrest.org.
Bring the Family – Moms, dads and kids can learn at the Whippoorwill Academy, operated by retired school teacher Edith Carter. Open from April through December, Whippoorwill is located at 11928 N.C. Highway 268 West in Ferguson. Whippoorwill hosts annually Daniel Boone Day on the second Saturday in May, Old Fashioned Day Worship Service on the first Sunday of September and Christmas Open House on the first Sunday in December. Carter, a Ferguson native and the granddaughter of one of the town’s early postmasters, shares the stories of the valley and its inhabitants as she shows off her village with 12 buildings including the Whippoorwill Academy, a one-room schoolhouse, Daniel Boone’s replica cabin, the Smokehouse Art Gallery, a Chapel of Peace, a blacksmith shop, a country store, a Yadkin River jail, and the Daniel Boone Tavern, where a nickel could get you a warm bed to sleep in and some possum stew in the morning. Spend the afternoon learning whether or not Civil War soldier Tom Dooley or “Dula” really killed his lover Laura Foster in the late 1800s or was the real murderer her jealous cousin. Handy with the ladies as well as the fiddle, legend has it that Dooley was supposed to meet Foster on the mountainside and propose. Instead she was found dead and he hung for her murder. The Foster-Dooley story is often repeated in this storied valley among residents and as well as in the legendary song The Ballad of Tom Dooley. Bring lunch so you can sit at the picnic table and read poems by native James Larkin Pearson, N.C.’s second poet laureate, or select from the numerous works based on the Tom Dula saga.
Other family friendly places include the Caldwell County Pathways, which offers miles of trails for walking, biking and running. Several miles of their trails are located in Happy Valley. Another place to take a stroll or ride is Wilson Creek, which provides a guide for hiking trails, wildflower walks, mountain bike trails and beginning fly fishing lessons. The W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir also have great mountain bike trails.
Arts Around Every Corner – Lenoir is a great location for a family getaway or a romantic weekend for two. This textile and furniture city, home of Broyhill Furniture, Bernhardt Furniture and others, boasts plenty of sites to see and places to go. Start by stopping by the Caldwell County Arts Council so the staff can point you in the direction of local jam sessions, art shows or give you directions to the county’s 79 pieces of sculpture located in various places including post offices, schools and the hospital. With nearly 80 installations, Caldwell County has the largest collection of permanent public outdoor sculpture of any county of its population in the U.S. This fall marks the 25th Annual Sculpture Celebration. More than 70 regional sculptors will be competing for prizes totaling $10,000.
Play the Mountain Music While You Eat Some ’Cue – Folks come to Sims Country Bar-B-Que in Granite Falls for the live music every Friday and Saturday night. Visitors and locals love coming to listen to hours of finely played bluegrass and old-time music as they pile their plates with pit-cooked chopped pork, beef and chicken off the buffet. Another place to eat and hear live music is F. Futs and Company in downtown Lenoir. On the first and third Thursday of the month, local legend Pop Ferguson and his son Clyde Ferguson play “pure blues” of the 1920s to1950s variety. The 82-year-old Pop Ferguson transforms into the teenage boy of his youth playing his guitar with the exuberance of the young man. Bo Diddley once told Pop to quit his job at the gas station and tour with him. Yet in his lyrics, Pop Ferguson tells the story of the man he’s become. Pop’s son, Clyde Ferguson, says the blues was the African-Americans’ “way of expressing our misery and unfortunate circumstances.” But the Fergusons have turned this expression into a sheer art form not to be missed.
The N.C. Arts Council produced podcasts highlighting stories and traditions of the area along with a Web site that includes maps, descriptions of sites and programs, an events calendar and artist profiles, and information about the cultural traditions of African-American communities in the valley. For more information or to get a copy of the CD,