BRCO News and Events

Bethel Rural Community Organization Receives National Register of Historic Places Designation for Truss Bridge #79

Thanks to the research and vigilance of BRCO President and Historic Preservation Committee member, Carroll Jones, Truss Bridge #79 is finally receiving its due as a National Register of Historic Places designated site. Haywood’s metal truss is the only remaining example of the Phoenix-column truss bridge technology in North Carolina and, with its decorative star-shaped tie-rods and iron finials, is the only one in the state with decorative elements. The bridge is the only survivor of this type of nineteenth century bridge in the United States. The bridge is BRCO’s second success in obtaining National Register site status. The Keeper of the National Register awarded Francis Mill the National Register designation as a result of a BRCO grant, application, and oversight in 2013. Located on Lake Logan Road since approximately 1925, the bridge was originally situated over the East Fork of the Pigeon River not too distant from Jukebox Junction. Bill Terrell assisted Jones in locating the original bridge abutments built by Wood Brothers & Company, and Carol Litchfield researched county records to determine the original May 1891, date for authorization by the commissioners. Dean & Westbrook Engineers built the bridge. Jones conducted the remainder of the diligent and time-consuming research that led to the National Register appointment. According to oral tradition, the bridge was dismantled by two state-supplied bridge workers and, with help from horses and community volunteers, transported to its current location where local citizens offered right of way. Approximately twenty local men worked around their jobs and chores to make time to dig the holes, pour the concrete casings made from river sand, and haul the floor of the bridge across the river by horses, and then hoist it into position. Workers screwed the rivets into place by hand. For almost one hundred years the bridge served the community with its six-ton capacity that limited its use for heavy loads but was adequate for vehicles and light farm loads, servicing approximately 100 vehicles per day, according to a 2009 evaluation. The North Carolina Department of Transportation determined that the bridge was inadequate to serve the needs of heavier traffic and debated dismantling the bridge when NCDOT made plans for a nearby updated bridge. This consideration by NCODT spurred two separate efforts to save the bridge. When plans called for the NCDOT to close the bridge and cease maintenance in 2002, local people led by county activist Philan Medford joined to request that the bridge be saved and maintained. Bethel Rural Community Organization held several community-based meetings in 2007, including two with NCDOT, to encourage the governmental agency to keep the bridge and restore it. NCDOT listened and complied by restoring and painting the bridge in 2013. Today, Truss Bridge #79 is designated as a pedestrian bridge. Sources: Walking in the Footsteps, Legends Books 1 and 6

The Historic Preservation Committee, along with Douglas Chambers as videographer/director/editor and Evelyn Coltman as producer, has received a state history award for our Sunburst and Other Logging Operations in the Bethel & Cold Mountain Region DVD. Carroll Jones also received a book award from the NC Society of Historians for his book, Thomson’s Pulp Mill: Building the Champion Fibre Company at Canton, North Carolina —1905 to 1908. Here are the words of the judges 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…" This is BRCO’s Historic Preservation Committee’s third state history award.

BRCO's Historic Preservation Committee wins state award for Sunburst and Other Logging Operations in the Bethel & Cold Mountain Region DVD

pictured l to r:  Evelyn Coltman, Carroll Jones, Nancy Armstrong, Ted Carr, Frances Adamson, Susan Baxley, Carol Litchfield, Douglas Chambers

BRCO Newsletters On-line

BRCO’s Historic Preservation Committee and Evelyn Coltman are receiving the North Carolina Society of Historians Multi-Media Award for our collection of twenty-four art prints that are on display in our dining hall and are also featured on our website.  Due to COVID-19, the ceremony will be conducted in January via Zoom.  Out of hundreds of submittals, BRCO is one of forty recipients to receive NCSH recognition.   Congratulations!!

The art prints are by artist Jason Hawkins who is a Bethel native and a 1995 cum laude graduate (Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Art and Historic Preservation) of the Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia.  Hawkins is a resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, but is still passionate about painting historic Haywood County homes.  Historic Preservation members are holding (left to right)  three of Hawkins' paintings donated by his mother: Joseph Turner and Martha Anna Iva Killian Cathey House (started in 1860 and finished by 1864), James Henry and Flora Kinsland Plott House (built in 1904), and the Pingree Priestly and Charity Haseltine Osborne Plott House (built in 1867),   Prints of the paintings are available through the BRCO website.

BRCO's Historic Preservation Committee Receives Award

Bethel Rural Community Organization Art Print Addition

BRCO Historic Preservation Committee- pictured left to right:  Bill Terrell, Evelyn Coltman, Chair, Ted Carr, Frances Adamson, Carol Litchfield.

Anne Carr of McCall, Idaho, recently gifted Bethel Rural Community Organization's (BRCO) Historic Preservation Committee with a black and white pencil portrait of one of Bethel Community's most prominent founding citizens – Colonel Joseph Cathey.  Anne is the sister of committee member, Ted Carr, and does hyper-realistic black and white pencil drawings of western themes, animals, portraits, and giclee prints.

Colonel Joseph Cathey (1807 – 1879) was a mercantile proprietor, postmaster, miller, church and civic leader, farmer, and state legislator.  The BRCO art collection includes three other Colonel Cathey related paintings.  Colonel Cathey's granddaughter, Nettie Vance Penland, created late 1800s paintings of his house that was situated near today's Silver Bluff Village and his mill that was located at the end of the bridge on Max Thompson Road in Bethel. Jason Hawkins created a painting of Colonel Cathey's son's house, the Joseph Turner and Martha Anna Iva Killian Cathey House, that was built in 1860 and remains today on Highway #110.  

The Cathey pencil drawing is the first portrait in the collection that includes 24 other art prints which can be viewed at www.bethelrural.org. The BRCO art collection received two awards in 2020 from the NC Society of Historians.  

Bethel Rural Community Organization

2021 Scholarship Winner - Sarah Mease

Congratulations to BRCO's 2021 Scholarship Winner Sarah Mease.  Sarah is the daughter of David and Leisa Mease.  She is a 2021 graduate of Pisgah High School where she participated in PHS cross county, FFA, Breakfast of Champions, and was a member of the National Honor Society for four years.  During her junior and senior years she interned with the PHS Athletic trainer. Sarah graduated with a 4.15 weighted GPA and was in the top 15 of her class. She plans to attend Western Carolina University to pursue a degree in nursing.

Sarah is an active member of Crestview Baptist youth group and works at Kobe Express and Smoky Mountain Sub Shop.

Tropical Storm Fred made its way from Florida to the Western North Carolina mountains to create disaster for eastern Haywood County.  Some of the hardest hit areas in terms of destruction and loss of life were the Bethel and Cruso communities.  On Tuesday, August 17, waters poured from the high mountains, tearing a pathway through the rural Cruso area, ripping houses from their foundations, propelling vehicles down the river, and creating human misery with five confirmed deaths and one still missing. Hundreds of millions of dollars in damages occurred in a matter of hours.  Many families have become homeless, with 225 structures destroyed.

To support victims, numerous churches and organizations have assisted the command center at Bethel Baptist Church with food/clothing distribution.  Bethel Rural Community Organization (BRCO) will be a collection center for donations for those who wish to contribute.  BRCO has established a “Flood Relief Fund” designated to accept donations.  BRCO's Benevolence Committee is spearheading the effort, and the committee is developing criteria for fund disbursement.

For those who wish to donate to the Flood Relief Fund, please make checks payable to BRCO, PO Box 1333, Waynesville, NC 28786.  Please indicate “Flood Relief Fund” on the check.  BRCO's website can also accept Pay pal donations: donations page   


Bethel Rural Community Organization Establishes Flood Relief Fund

for Fred Victims