Appalachia Gardening

Grandpa Pressley’s New Ground

Today’s guestpost was written by Charles Fletcher.

Charles Fletchers Grandfather Pressley from Canton NC
Charles Fletcher’s Grandpa Pressley in later years.


Grandpa Pressley’s New Ground written by Charles Fletcher

When I read Tipper’s article about New Ground it reminded me of a true story that happened over eighty years ago.

Looking to the left while traveling down old highway 19-23 going south toward Clyde from Canton North Carolina you can see a range of mountains called, PRESSLEY MOUNTAIN.
The west side of this mountain belonged to a wealthy family called Patens. The east side belonged to my Grandpa “Charlie Pressley” where he and his family lived.
The Paten family owned all the land from Canton down the Pigeon river nearly to Tennessee. They had the largest plantation home and even had their private slave cemetery where they buried their slaves when they died.

On the other side of the mountain the Pressley’s depended on farming the land for a living.

It was at one of my many visits to Grandpa Pressley’s that I remember helping him with his NEW GROUND.

The youngest of his eight children, (three girls-five boys) was Clifford. Clifford was a little over one year older than me. We always enjoyed being together and always found ways to have fun.

It was on this visit that Grandpa Pressley had Clifford and me helping him in his latest NEW GROUND. They had worked all the winter removing the trees and brush, had used their old mule for plowing. It was about ready for planting and ready for placing the scary Crows in the field to keep them from eating the seeds.

“Going back to the house and fetch the corn seed. You boys stay here until I get back.” Grandpa said to Clifford and me.

Now no one expects two young boys to lay around doing nothing.

They were discussing the western movies they would see every Saturday in town if they could save at least ten extra eggs that they could get the dime cost of the movie. The grocery stores would give us a penny each for eggs.

While discussing the horse riding and the calf branding Clifford said to me. “I heard some cattle up here somewhere. Let’s take a look.”

When Clifford an me topped the mountain there was cows all over the mountain side. Big cows and steers-little calves and middle size steers.

“Let’s ride one of them small steers,” Clifford said to me.

“We don’t have a bridle for their head.” I said to Clifford.

“We’ll make one with the scary crow,” Clifford said to me.

The halter was made, a small steer caught and had a bridle on him when Clifford said. “You can have the first ride. I’ll ride next.”

I was setting on the steer and Clifford turned it loose. Here goes the steer straight down that mountain side kicking and twisting. Suddenly he stopped, over his head I went, directly into the biggest blackberry patch on Pressley Mountain.

Clifford helped me out of the brewers and said. “Guess we better get back to the NEW GROWND before Papa gets back.”

Grandpa came back with the corn seed, we helped plant them and returned back to the log house where Grand Pa and his family lived on the side of Pressley Mountain.

This was my first and also my last NEW GROUND I ever helped with.

written by Charles Fletcher


I hope you enjoyed Charles’s memory about working new ground.



You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    David Templeton
    January 26, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    Charles is a good story teller and a good writer. I hope lots of people get to read his recollections. Thank you, Tipper.

  • Reply
    January 25, 2016 at 10:45 pm

    When I read Mr. Fletcher’s essay today I got curious about where Pressley Mountain might be. He spoke of going south from Canton toward Clyde and it being on the left. I looked south of Canton and to the left (which would be on the right on the map) on all the maps I could find. No Pressley Mountain! I worried with it all day long (we are sorta snowbound here). Sorry bout that!
    Finally tonight it dawned on me. Clyde is almost due west of Canton. So south of 19-23 going west. There it is! Pressley Mountain! It took me all day but I learned a lot about Haywood County today. Lake Logan which you mention often is southwest of Canton. I had pictured it as being northwest. Waynesville is bigger than Canton. I had always thought the opposite. Cold Mountain (from the movie) is south of Canton and is where some of your husband’s people have lived for 200+ years. Yes, there were slaves in the mountains. A very small percentage of our mountain ancestors owned slaves. Most of those who did had “household servants” who lived in the home and were the cooks, housekeepers and childcare providers. A typical situation might be an older white couple with a black married couple and their children living in the home or an adjacent house. But, there were a few rich families who owned many slaves. Many of these slaveholders didn’t even live in the mountains. They hired overseers to run their endeavors while they lived their lives of comfort far away in a city somewhere.

  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    January 25, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    Nice story memory.
    Reminded me of just how hard it was for a child to sit and do nothing, and boy – was it ever.
    I remember at least one time Mom got mad at me for something and said she didn’t want my help for the rest of the day. Every time I’d try to do something, she’d coldly remind me she didn’t need my help and to get gone. Wasn’t long after I was sitting on the steps outside doing nothing. Someone, I don’t remember who, said, it must be great not having to help. I remember looking at them and saying, “Seems nice til it happens (cause all I felt was alone and guilty).” Moms have a way of doing that, don’t they. LOL
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    January 25, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    I enjoyed Charles story so much. I remember the older folks at church talking about planting new ground. I also remember hiking on Pressley Mountain, between Canton and Clyde, and picking cherries out of an orchard on an abandoned home site. There was no road to the house and not even a path, but if you knew where to look, you could find it. It was falling down but I used to stand in it and wonder about the folks who lived there and their lives. Maybe it was some of Charles folks.
    One of the things I miss most about the old days was the ability to hike just about anywhere and not worry about being on private property.

  • Reply
    January 25, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    It is amazing how much fun kids could have using nothing but what was available in nature. Now they get bored with technology plugged in everywhere.
    My parents would have said sworn they used slave labor in these mountains with 12 children in both families. Many stories about their struggles to raise enormous gardens and keep livestock fed while toughing out hard winters. Mom often laughed because she never ate a good apple because they ate the ones with ”bad spots” first, and by then all the good apples were ruining. Did not hurt them–laughingest happiest family I have ever known!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    January 25, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    I just love reading things that Charles writes. I laughed when he got thrown into the Briar Patch. And I’m like Cindy, didn’t know we had slaves in the mountains. But I really enjoyed the story.
    Me and my older brother went with daddy and walked to his mama’s house one day for a visit. While the grown-ups talked inside, me and Harold went exploring. We didn’t have to look far to see that grandma had just fed her Turkeys and they were just finishing up. We both were excellent at throwing those Sailing Rocks and we went to work. After hitting several in the bodies, an older Tom got enough here he come. That booger got me down and I never took such a beating with his wings. My little ribs was sore for several hours and
    it’s a wonder that Turkey didn’t peck my eyes out, but daddy heard me whining and came running. Course, when daddy asked what happened, my brother and
    I just swore we were innocent and those blooming Turkeys just jumped on us.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    January 25, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Thanks for posting this story about new ground by Charles Fletcher….His opening sentence about where the new ground was located, flooded my mind with memories….I am positive I stood in my Aunts front yard and viewed Pressley Mountain many times in my youth…My Aunt and Uncle’s property sat right next to the old highway between Canton and Clyde….They are both buried at Bonaventure Cemetery….I remember when my Uncle cleared the hillside by their home for new ground to add to his small garden…The view from there was much better of the mountains across the highways and small farms and pastures…
    Thanks Tipper and Charles…..

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 25, 2016 at 9:14 am

    We tried that cow riding as boys. One rider one time was enough. Cows do not like being ridden. The brier patch fall recalls for me running compass lines. The unwritten rule was that it would lead through the worst possible place. Seemed to work more times than not.
    I think probably the availability of fertilize ended the folkway of making new grounds. In my time I do not recall seeing even one, much less being involved with one. But I know they were still being made in the previous generation. I worked with a man who told me that when he was a boy they built brush piles on the new grounds then piled the limestone rocks on the piles and burned them in the spring. Finally they spread the lime back out on the ground. That was over on the western edge of the Cumberland Plateau were the sandstone caprock gave way to limestone. I thought it was an ingenius way to clear the ground of both brush and rocks.

  • Reply
    January 25, 2016 at 8:56 am

    Charles is an amazing story teller with a memory that is unbelievable. This story happened over eighty years ago. Most of us can’t remember things that happened eight years ago. I guess flying over a steer’s head into a blackberry patch would be hard to forget. Clifford was like my cousins when we tried out new adventures. “You go first” didn’t always mean I was special.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    January 25, 2016 at 8:33 am

    As we say in the mountains, Charles Pressley’s story about “Grandpa’s New Ground” ‘put me in mind of’ the new grounds my Daddy, J. Marion Dyer, cleared around our Choestoe Farm. A good portion of his land was in woodland, and he seemed every few years to “pick out’ another spot to clear and make into a “patch.” Part of our income was from the vegetables we sold fresh, either to people coming to our farm to buy them, or taking a load by full pickup truck all the way to Atlanta to sell at the Farmer’s Market. So this new ground, in particular, was to be our “bean patch”land–land on which we grew green beans for market. I was too little when it was first cleared to do more than pile the smallest brush from the trees. I remember the great bonfire set when the limbs got “seasoned” enough to burn. Finally, with much grubbing of roots and turning of land, Daddy was satisfied that the more-than-acre patch was ready for its first crop of beans. To make a long story short, that “patch” was our bean acreage for years. Even during my first year in college, proceeds made from the bean patch’s yield helped me have some money to pay college bills. It’s been many years since I’ve tried to go to the bean patch, but I doubt if my brother who inherited the land now plants beans there. It’s probably “gone to forest” again.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 25, 2016 at 7:31 am

    What a wonderful kid story. Boys will be boys, as they say. Lucky he didn’t break his neck but I guess that could be said of all boys and a lot of girls.
    Thanks for the story, Charles. I didn’t think there were slaves in the mountains so I’ve learned something today.

  • Reply
    January 25, 2016 at 6:11 am

    Good Story, sounds just like two boys adventures together.. Been on a few myself..

  • Leave a Reply