West Jefferson by the Book
West Jefferson has discovered what most communities in Western
North Carolina have known for some time.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, and the photographs are proof.
To coincide with West Jefferson’s upcoming centennial celebration, the Ashe County Historical Society has compiled a pictorial history book to illustrate how the town has changed, while at the same time kept its small-town charm.
Simply, yet eloquently captured in the title, “West Jefferson” contains 202 images that depict the changing streetscape and the people who frequented the county’s business district. The book was published as part of Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series.
In collecting photos, the historical society had the advantage of choosing from more than 700 pictures sent in from townspeople, said Lonnie Jones, who sits on the organization’s board of directors.
“There was an issue of quality,” Jones said. “We need a clear photo that could be reproduced was the primary thing, but we also needed anything that told the story of the founding of the town, the people that lived there and the churches and the schools. We wound up with a tremendous number of pictures.”
The pictures captured pivotal moments in the town’s history, including shot of the auctioning of section of lands shortly after the town’s charter was written. These plots of unearthed topsoil would soon be the plots of future homes and businesses.
Other early snapshots show unpaved downtown streets and dusty buildings, as well as the now-defunct Greyhound bus station that served all walks of life and saw several soldiers leave and return from war.
One particular photograph and vantage point that caught Jones’s interest is that of what is now N.C. 194 that snakes up Radio Hill. Today, the road continues northward before heading down the hill toward Smethport. In those days, however, the road stopped at the top of the hill. If motorists wanted to reach the nearby community they would have to head east to Doggett Road and circumvent that side of the hill to reach their destination, Jones said.
Another image show’s a bustling Miller’s store, which is now the home of the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce.
“West Jefferson” will be available for sale on Friday, May 9.
Several promotional events will be in Ashe County over the coming weeks to celebrate its publication. The book will also be available for purchase at the Gift Shop of the Museum of Ashe County History, which is located in the 1904 Courthouse. You can also purchase the book at Antiques on Main and Sweet & Savory on Jefferson Avenue. The cost of the book is $21.99 plus tax.
About West Jefferson
Almost 100 years ago, controversy began to brew over where to put a depot station that would serve an up and coming railroad company that was preparing to lay ties and iron in Ashe County.
Several proponents of the railroad recognized the economic boost and vitalization the transport line would bring to the communities it touched.
Local historian and lawyer Gene Hafer said there were several proposals circulating the county and Jefferson on where the depot would be located in the area.
Jefferson had long been established the county seat, and at the time, the land that laid to its west was mostly vacant.
After some debate, it was decided by the railroad company, which over time has held several namesakes before pulling up its tracks in the 1970s, to place a depot station in what would eventually become known as West Jefferson.