Monday, March 28, 2022

NCDNCR Western Office Presents Free Virtual Program on the History of the Railroad in Western North Carolina

Mar 28, 2022

A free online program hosted by the Western Office of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources will examine the history of the railroad in western North Carolina.

It is widely recognized that the railroad opened the mountain region to the outside world, but few realize the Western North Carolina Railroad between Salisbury and Murphy was built primarily with convict labor.

An estimated 95% of the laborers who built the railroad in the region in the late 1870s were inmates of the North Carolina Penitentiary system — and at least 98% of them were African American. A memorial to these incarcerated laborers was recently unveiled at Andrews Geyser outside of Old Fort.

This free virtual program will be presented by Dr. Daniel Pierce and Ashley McGhee Whittle on Thursday, March 31 from 6:30-8 p.m.

Pierce is UNC Asheville’s Interdisciplinary Distinguished Professor of the Mountain South and a western North Carolina native. He received his B.S. in Education from Western Carolina University, M.A. in History from the University of Alabama, and Ph. D. in History from the University of Tennessee. He is the founding member of the RAIL Project and Steering Community Chair.

Whittle received her B.A. in History from UNC Asheville in 2016. She worked in the Archives and Museum Services program at Biltmore House before returning to UNCA where she is an assistant archivist at the Ramsey Library Special Collections. She is currently pursuing a Master’s of Library and Information Science degree from UNC-Greensboro.

To register for the event and attend via Zoom, visit this registration link. For additional questions please call (828) 250-3105, email, or visit

About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state's natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. NCDNCR's mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state's history, conserving the state's natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.

NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, three science museums, three aquariums and Jennette's Pier, 41 state parks and recreation areas, the N.C. Zoo, the N.C. Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, the African American Heritage Commission, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, and the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please visit

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