Final Spikes: Reconstruction, racial conflicts and completion of the railroads to the Land of the Sky

Published 2:28 pm Friday, October 6, 2017

Saluda Train Tales resumes Oct. 20

 The completion of the Western North Carolina Railroad from Salisbury to Asheville in 1880 and the line from Spartanburg to Asheville in 1885 marked the end of the tumultuous era of rail construction, political corruption, economic sleight of hand, prisoner exploitation and racial violence that led to the impeachment and conviction of North Carolina Governor William W. Holden in 1871. The rails from Saluda to Asheville played a central role and Ray Rapp will describe that period and the progress that was made.

 Ray Rapp retired in 2009 as dean of Adult and Graduate Studies (formerly Continuing Education Program) at Mars Hill University where he served from 1977 (32 years). He currently serves as consultant to the president of Mars Hill University and adjunct faculty member in the Department of Political Science.

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 A historian by background and training, he curated the recent rail exhibition at the Rural Heritage Museum, “How the West Was Won: Trains and the Transformation of Western North Carolina.” Over 3,000 persons visited the exhibition in 2015, and it is now on display in the NC Transportation Museum in Spencer, N.C. and a partial exhibition is proudly displayed at the Saluda Historic Depot.

 Ray served as aldermen for two terms, mayor of Mars Hill for three terms and as state representative of House District 118 (Yancey, Madison and Haywood Counties) for five terms from 2003 to 2012. While in Raleigh, he served as a member of the Transportation Committee and co-chaired two committees on expanding and improving rail service in North Carolina.

 Saluda Train Tales is a free monthly event to educate the community in the importance of Saluda’s railroad history and the Saluda Grade. These events are at the Saluda Historic Depot, 32 W. Main Street, Saluda, NC. Doors open at 6:30. Presentation is from 7:15 to 8:30 p.m. The events are free and voluntary donations are appreciated.

 For more information, please contact Judy Ward at 828-674-5958 or or Cathy Jackson at 828-817-2876 or for schedule updates.

– submitted by Cathy Jackson