BRCO Historic Preservation Committee

THE COMITTEE — Historic Preservation Committee members include Evelyn Coltman, Carroll Jones, Nancy, Armstrong, Ted Carr, Frances Adamson, Susan Baxley, Carol Litchfield and Douglas Chambers.

Bethel Rural Community Organization’s Historic Preservation Committee, along with Douglas Chambers as videographer/director/editor and Evelyn Coltman as producer, has received the multi-media award from the NC Society of Historians for its DVD, Sunburst and Other Logging Operations in the Bethel & Cold Mountain Region.

The judges summarized their selection regarding the Sunburst DVD:

“We enjoyed every aspect of this DVD. It was replete with the most amazing historical data regarding the logging industry, locations of area lumberyards, and some of the most hardworking industrious people the region could boast.

“Everybody associated with this project should be commended for a job well done!

“The video was superb, the music toe-tapping and expertly performed, the content holds a superior rating.

“It was quite surprising to learn when the film ended that we had been educated in such a profound manner about a subject we often take for granted about a profession that has gained new respect by our panel.”

The Sunburst DVD revisits the early 20th Century logging operation on the West Fork of the Pigeon River that resulted in construction of Champion Paper and Fiber (now Evergreen Packaging).

Sunburst was one of the largest and most significant logging villages in the region, and its iconic name is emblematic of a romanticized recollection of lumber barons, lumberjacks, and logging camps that salted the mountains via a series of rail lines after the turn of the last century.

Environmental anxiety resulted from the timber legacy, and, as a result, forest conservation and the Biltmore Forest School also found an early home at Sunburst. A community perspective reveals a spirit of camaraderie centered around social activities, education, religion, small hotel and mercantile businesses, as well as a mingling of Caucasian and African American cultures in Sunburst Village.

While the DVD may idealize the communal spirit that enveloped those who resided at Sunburst, there is also recognition of the danger and difficulty of the lives of Sunburst residents who eked out a living in a harsh environment.

Sunburst Village and logging operation has cast a long shadow and played with the minds of local citizens, students of history, and writers for decades. Locals have fondly recalled the people and events at Sunburst.

BRCO’s Historic Preservation Committee recognized the potential for engagement regarding the Sunburst story. Over a five-year timespan, 20 individuals who knew the story or were directly or indirectly connected to the Sunburst narrative relayed their knowledge in the DVD.

The DVD expands to East Fork logging operations that fed the NC furniture industry as well as to modern woodcraft industries located in Bethel.

In addition, BRCO produced a DVD, Sunburst Sessions, by Possum on a Whale that captures Appalachian music performed in a traditional style. Sunburst, as well as other DVDs and CDs produced by BRCO, is available at Blue Ridge Books and at www.bethelrural.org.

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