The History of Sapphire Valley
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A Brief Historical Overview
The early days of Sapphire Valley parallel the early history of Appalachia and North Carolina itself. The mountainous location remained part of the Cherokee Nation until the early 1800’s.
The Indian Removal policy of President Andrew Jackson was prompted by the desire of white settlers in the South to expand into lands belonging to five Indian tribes. After Jackson succeeded in pushing the Indian Removal Act through Congress in 1830, the U.S. government spent nearly 30 years forcing Indians to move westward, beyond the Mississippi River.
In the most notorious example of this policy, more than 15,000 members of the Cherokee tribe were forced to walk from their homes in the southern states to designated Indian Territory in present day Oklahoma in 1838.
This forced relocation became known as the “Trail of Tears” because of the great hardship faced by Cherokees. In brutal conditions, nearly 4,000 Cherokees died on the Trail of Tears. Unto These Hills is an outdoor historical drama staged Monday through Saturday evenings during summers at the 2,800-seat Mountainside Theatre in Cherokee in western North Carolina. Cherokee Historical Association Web Site
It is the second oldest outdoor historical drama in the United States, after The Lost Colony in Manteo in eastern, North Carolina. The first version of the play was written by Kermit Hunter and opened on July 1, 1950, to wide acclaim.
Sapphire Valley Resort operates buses to the Cherokee Reservation weekly during the season to see this historical event
North Carolina Gold
Did you know North Carolina was the first state in which gold was found? Records indicate just before the gold rush in North Georgia, gold was found near Charlotte and later in Sapphire Valley itself - Sapphire Valley Pre-1880!
Sapphire Valley and the Civil War
The Civil War era divided many families in the area. Men had to leave to fight in the war and the economy of the Cashiers - Sapphire Valley stood still until the late 1880s.
image: NC Department of Cultural Resources
Great Inns of the South
Around 1880 Northern Industrialist began to find Western North Carolina with its mountains, lumber, waterfalls, and beauty, a great place to have summer vacations.
The The Lake Toxaway Company built 5 great Inns in the late 1800's and early 1900s - the three most notable being the Lake Toxaway Inn, Sapphire Inn (on what is now Whisper Lake in Sapphire Valley) and The Fairfield Inn - 1896. The Fairfield Inn survived them all until 1986, read more here.
Sapphire Valley and Thunder Road
escaping the early taxation of moonshine in the north in the late
1700's and not only migrated down into Kentucky and Tennessee, but
Western North Carolina as well.
Sapphire Valley Moonshine...
... was legal until just after the
Civil War. With no legal alcohol available in the 1920's, businesses evolved from making small jugs to 1000 gallon and larger batches. Moonshiners had to distribute their product in secret. Some hid it under straw or chickens in a truck.
The most popular method involved a souped-up car to outrun law enforcement. The cars had to be fast enough to not get caught — even while fully loaded. A fully loaded car careening through the hills of North Carolina might have had 22 six-gallon cases of whiskey.
Thunder Road is the title of a 1958 drama–crime film about running moonshine in the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee in the early 1950s.
The story could have just as easily been based on local moonshiners in and around Sapphire Valley!
It was directed by Arthur Ripley and starred Robert Mitchum, who also produced the film, co-wrote the screenplay, and is rumored to have directed much of the film himself. He also co-wrote (with Don Raye) the theme song, "The Ballad of Thunder Road". The movie was filmed partially in Western North Carolina and used actual moonshiner cars from the area!
True local residents in Sapphire Valley keep their moonshine skills intact by making the brew for friends and family!
Image: NASCAR Hall of Fame
Palm Beach Connection
In the 1940-1970's, the owners of Sapphire Valley and the Fairfield Inn invited friends and guest from the Palm Beach area and many came, built homes, and became the first generation resort owners. The Country Club of Sapphire Valley opened in 1956 and is still one of the finest, mountain courses and clubs anywhere.