Pigeon Valley Award for Historic Preservation
Bethel Rural Community Organization’s (BRCO) Historic Preservation Committee is appreciative of the preservation and restoration work of its community residents. In order to recognize outstanding historic conservation achievements by individuals in Bethel the group, in 2014, initiated an annual acknowledgement: Pigeon Valley Award for Historic Preservation. Pigeon Valley is the alternate name for Bethel, commemorating the legacy of the now extinct passenger pigeon that migrated to the valley for eons until its demise in 1914. While we could not keep the passenger pigeon from going extinct, with this award BRCO hopes to keep our own local history from sharing the fate of the Passenger Pigeon. BRCO has granted three Bethel citizens with this prestigious honor.
Charles Cathey has assisted BRCO for a number of years as the go-to person in the community who could trace elusive historical data about Bethel. Cathey maintained an elaborate compendium of genealogical, archaeological, historical, and educational records about the area, his family, and Freemasonry. When BRCO needed a strong Appalachian voice with a native tone to narrate The Walking in the Footsteps of Those Who Came Before Us DVD, Cathey agreed to spend long hours reading into a microphone. The North Carolina Society of Historians presented BRCO’s Historic Preservation Committee with the Paul Green Multi-Media Award in 2012 for the DVD. Cathey performed the same story-telling duty when he narrated BRCO’s Cold Mountain Heritage Driving Tour CD. Cathey assisted with the fifth Cold Mountain Heritage Tour when he served as a tour guide at the Masonic Lodge #259/Gateway Club in Waynesville. When the Historic Preservation Committee gave a day-long presentation to all of the History/Social Studies students at Bethel Middle School, Cathey was the featured speaker. For his lifelong love of and appreciation for history as well as for his willingness to share his knowledge, Cathey deserved the first Pigeon Valley Award for Historic Preservation.
Norman Long, retired school teacher and local citizen who can trace his roots to early Haywood County, has maintained an active retirement by moving and restoring the historic Chinquapin Grove School that sat on his family’s property since the school’s inception in the 1860s. Long’s meticulous attention to accuracy and detail has allowed him to recreate the original one-room schoolhouse building that evokes memories of a by-gone era. Not satisfied with an empty structure, Long amassed a museum full of artifacts that define the history of the structure and the community. The building served as a school, a church, a post office, and a home. Memorabilia from each phase of the structure's existence fill every space, each corner, and entire walls. Pictures and relics that have defined the community present the visitor with respect for the caretaker who has cared enough to cherish every bit of history with the reverence it deserves. For his several year devotion to restoration of the school and collection of local artifacts, Long deserved the second Pigeon Valley Award for Historic Preservation.
Dick Alexander was 95 years old when BRCO’s Historic Preservation Committee and videographer Douglas Chambers collected some almost forgotten historical information about a place in the Bethel/Cruso area that played a unique role in Haywood County’s past and in the history of education in this country. Alexander’s encyclopedic memories are captured in the DVD released by BRCO in 2015, From New College to Springdale. In the interview, Alexander relays information about the role his family played in a unique experimental 1930s era teachers’ training program known as New College Community Experience of New College Branch of Columbia University’s Teachers College. Cruso Community’s current Springdale Golf Course/Country Club was the setting for a trial preparatory approach to cultivating a high-quality institution based on the concept of liberal arts infused with a means of addressing the persistent problems of living. Alexander’s father, Dr. Thomas Alexander, instituted farm living as one of the five components of his singular educational training approach. The North Carolina Society of Historians presented Dick Alexander, BRCO, the videographer/editor, and individual Historic Preservation Committee members with the 2016 Multi-Media Award for the From New College to Springdale DVD. For his outstanding contributions to Bethel/Cruso/Haywood County history Dick Alexander deserved the third Pigeon Valley Award for Historic Preservation.