The most wonderful time of the year is upon us, and we’re not just talking about Christmas. It’s the annual show-and-tell session of the Haywood County Historical and Genealogical Society, when precious heirlooms and artifacts that tell the story of Haywood’s past are proudly paraded before a roomful of fellow local history nuts.
“It’s one of our most popular meetings of the year. People like to show off their special items, whatever those are,” said Mike McLean, president of the historical society.
It’s also a chance to crowd source that mysterious item you found in grandma’s attic but aren’t quite sure about. Chances are, someone in the room will be able to shed some light.
“You can either know all about it, or want to find out more,” said Alex McKay, historian for the Haywood County Historical Society.
The annual show-and-tell session will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, in the downstairs auditorium of the Waynesville library. It happens to be the first meeting of the historical society since the pandemic began, thanks to the library finally lifting its ban on group meetings held on the premises.
McKay, a prolific collector of anything and everything to do with Haywood history, will be debuting quite the historical artifact at this year’s show-and-tell. McKay has come into possession of lumber contracts and property deeds dating to the early 1900s for the 8,000-acre Waynesville watershed, which was once home to a logging camp known as Quinlantown.
McKay stumbled upon the priceless historical documents on eBay, although he didn’t realize initially just what a treasure they were.
“The eBay listing just said ‘Waynesville lumber contracts.’ When they came in the mail and I opened them, that’s when I realized,” McKay said.
McKay jokingly went to visit Waynesville’s Assistant Town Manager Jesse Fowler with the documents in tow.
“I told him I was going to claim the watershed, that I had the deed for it,” McKay said.
McKay bought the documents from a man in Washington State, whose father picked them up years ago at an estate sale. There’s an easy explanation for how they ended up on the other side of the country. As the logging boom in the Southern Appalachians came to an end, there was a mass migration of those in the logging industry to the Pacific Northwest.
One of the documents — a contract dated 1900 — spells the timber sale from Haywood Lumber and Mining Company to the Quinlan-Monroe Lumber Company, though logging operations were later assumed by Champion Fibre Co. Another, dated 1923, is the deed for the sale of the property to the town of Waynesville, signed by the mayor and bearing the town seal.
The show-and-tell session is more than a chance to ooh-and-aah over historical relics. It coincides with a major milestone for the Haywood Historical Society.
The group has been busy turning the historic Shook-Smathers House in Clyde into the official Museum of Haywood County History — a permanent home for historical artifacts, collections and exhibits.
Those with special historical items can donate or loan them to the museum to be displayed.
“It’s a great opportunity for people looking for a place to house them or exhibit them instead of staying in a box in your attic,” McLean said. “Let’s exhibit our things we are proud of.”
The society has already turned four rooms of the house into themed exhibits: military heritage, industrial heritage, the history of Haywood County’s communities and Clyde history. A museum docent has been hired, with plans to make the museum open to the public three days a week starting in January and five days a week come spring.
To celebrate the first in-person meeting of the historical society since early 2020, anyone who attends the show-and-tell session will get a free one-year membership.
“With it being the first meeting since COVID, I imagine it will have quite a crowd,” McKay said.
The show-and-tell session will begin following a business meeting of the society at 10 a.m. For more information, contact 828-564-1044 or firstname.lastname@example.org.