Burnt Rock Ridge – Graham County NC

Graham-County-NC-G-Hormley-Store

Inside Fred Ghormley’s Store, Robbinsville NC – Photo courtesy of Graham County Centennial Book

You all seemed to enjoy Wanda Stalcup’s story of how Hanging Dog got it’s name I thought I’d share another place name story from Wanda this week.

“Burnt Rock Ridge is located in Graham County, a strange fire occurred there one night while some men were traveling through the Santeetlah area. It was getting late and the men decided to spend the night. They had a few spirituous drinks and kindled their fire and soon fell asleep. During the night they awoke and sprang up to find their fire was spreading to great proportion and was behaving strangely. It seemed to be burning into the earth and already burnt a large hole so the men were rushing to leave the area. This was a strange fire and it continued to burn until the entire area was filled with smoke. The fire had a strange odor as if rags were burning and it continued for weeks. With all the rumblings and explosions it seemed the entire mountain was being consumed. The people of Santeetlah became distressed by the fire. Men ceased working and the minister was called. People gathered for prayer, fearing it was the end of the world. The area was dark and the animals acted strange and the chickens remained on their roost. After a few weeks the fire subsided and a strong wind swept the terrain and then the sun began to shine again. And there was a great rejoicing among the people. There was no sign of what started the fire or why it stopped. No later investigation has revealed the nature of the fire. It remains one of the ghost-like mysteries of the mountains but ever since it has been known as Burnt Rock Ridge.”

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I can just imagine how afraid folks were of the fire and I bet it was a story often told in places like Ghormely’s store.

Wanda is the Director of the Cherokee County Historical Museum. She knows more about the history of this area than anybody I know. A few years back she wrote a book “How I Saw Cherokee County”. The book is full of wonderful stories, customs, traditions, and language. If you’re ever in Murphy you can pick up one of her books at the museum.

Tipper

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11 Comments

  • Reply
    Ken
    April 4, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    Tipper,
    Pawpa mentioned “Shepherd of My Soul” in a comment, reminding me of Pap’s Funeral. That is a Favorite on mine, and I bet Pap would have been Proud to see the Family marching in to the tune without any singing. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ken
    April 4, 2018 at 11:56 am

    Tipper,
    That’s a nice story. When me and Harold would get in from school, we couldn’t wait to get our school clothes changed and head into the woods to squirrel hunt, especially when the leaves started falling. The season hadn’t opened yet, but we didn’t pay any attention to that. On the way to the Cleanout, we’d pass by a bunch of big Beech trees with lots of holes in ’em. After we got several squirrels, we’d head for a favorite spot on top of the ridge where we often camped with a bunch of our friends. ( That’s where we could look down on Jimmy’s and Birdie’s Cafe. When we heard “Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”playing, we’d be real quiet so we wouldn’t miss one word.)

    If it had rained recently, we’d build a fire in a big, hollow tree stump, and that thang would be warm for several days and we could warm the next evening. It never got out tho, and after it cooled or went out, one day we found some wild dogs living there. I took one of the babies home with me and it died. The Mother had run off, and after we left, came back and carried the little ones someplace else. …Ken

  • Reply
    Papaw
    April 4, 2018 at 10:31 am

    There is no coal nor peat bogs in them thar hills! There are places where wind and water have deposited a deep layer of organic materials which if ignited would give the appearance of the earth itself burning. I have seen sawdust piles burn like that. I even remember when we had manure in a chicken house somehow catch fire and smolder for days. Every time we thought we had it out, it would catch back up again.

  • Reply
    tamela
    April 4, 2018 at 9:01 am

    Wonder if they were on a small coal patch which burned into the ground then finally burned itself out?
    On another subject, does anyone have seed for Candy Roasters? I’d like to try growing them here in central Texas.

    • Reply
      Ron Stephens
      April 4, 2018 at 2:31 pm

      Tamela, I have 138 candy roaster seed. I think it is two years old but may be three. I saved them from a roaster I bought but I really do not have room in my garden to grow them. I’ll be glad to send them if you do not get a better offer of seed from last year as it would be expected to have a better germination rate. Meantime I will start a germination test to see just how viable they are.

  • Reply
    Pamela Moore
    April 4, 2018 at 8:30 am

    I wonder if it was a peat bog fire. Pretty common in the Southeast and very hard to extinguish.

    https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/06/080613-wildfire-peat.html

  • Reply
    Papaw
    April 4, 2018 at 8:24 am

    Maybe that’s where Pap got the idy for his song “The Mountain Burned With Fire” from the recording “Shepherd of My Soul” sung by himself and Paul Wilson. Maybe that was a sign from God that those men were partaking of the wrong kind of spirits.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 4, 2018 at 7:58 am

    What an intriguing mystery. Kinda like the Brown Mountain lights. Seems it should have been figured out by now but we still run across things there is no explanation for.

    Historically there was a burning coal seam in the Great Plains and a burning natural gas vent in the East. They must have been a wild and weird sight.

  • Reply
    Sheryl A. Paul
    April 4, 2018 at 7:23 am

    Wow, does anyone know if there was actually a fire?

  • Reply
    Bill
    April 4, 2018 at 7:16 am

    Tipper,
    Another interesting phenomena to research about this great country we call “home”.
    Thanks again for enlightening and sharing.
    Bill

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 4, 2018 at 7:15 am

    Now that’s a story, Tip! There must have been something flammable in the earth, like some kind of small oil reserve…. or perhaps there was some kind of meanness being burnt out. You know these mountains are full of strange stories that just cannot be understood through common understanding. I like these stories, they make me think and ponder things beyond my ken!
    Thanks Wanda!

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