Terry Ruscin thumbs through his new book, The Hidden History of Henderson County, faster than it takes to ride from Crab Creek into town.
The book is the result of many hundreds of hours work at the more leisurely pace required to interview dozens of old-timers or to make pictures in the right lighting or to comb through pages of old deed books and church records. Finished product in hand, Ruscin, a California transplant who has adopted Henderson County with a depth that few natives can claim, preaches county history with an evangelist's zeal.
"The book begins with vernacular Appalachian log architecture, the original pioneer structures, dwellings," he says, flipping to the first few pages. "Most of the ones that are still standing probably would not be still here today if someone has not moved them before they were razed or fell down on their own.
"Long John McCarson cabin, it's attached to the Riddle house, and those wonderful steps," he says, pointing out sturdy rough-hewn wooden steps.
Ruscin pauses again on Page 25, a section on the Hiram King Jones homes of 1853 and 1880.
"I got help from Dr. (George) Jones on this," he says. "He has been moaning for years about how these folks at Pisgah Forest, the Cradle of Forestry, they call that the Hiram King cabin. Dr. Jones has copies of deed records he got from the Transylvania County Courthouse that show this was the nephew of Hiram King, Hiram King Jones, who actually built this for his mistress and their bastard children. I have a footnote in here crediting Dr. Jones. That's been a personal beef of his for years. Well, now it's in print."
Along with lots of other stories, a few well-known, some hazed by memory and lore, some forgotten.
After the log cabins, Hidden History gets more interesting.
"I also have a section called, 'What was that?'" the author says, and off he goes again, page by page, photo by photo, placing a history sketch on dozens of familiar sights:
The old Tuscarora home on Greenville Highway. John Maybanks' Appledore. Dawn Hill, at Old Kanuga and Price roads, where DuBose Heyward collaborated with George Gershwin on Porgy and Bess. The House of Seven Gables, also known as "the Top." ("I got some information from those letters they found in the barn there.") The old Blue House in Dana. ("And there is blue paint behind that peeling paint, and it has an incredible history, when it was a Methodist camp....") The steeples on Dana Road, on the Thompsons' land.
There's the Ottary Cannery, also on Dana Road. "I always wondered what that rock building was; it was the biggest cannery in North Carolina and considered one of the largest in the Southeast."
After "What Was That?" comes "Who Was That?" a 20-page chapter with sketches of a variety of Henderson County figures, past and present, known and unknown. Somewhat random in nature, the chapter includes everything from Hollywood producer Albert Warner's escape to Crail farm (now Crooked Creek) during World War II to a 1950s performance by James Brown at the Carolina Theatre to the curve on Little River Road where the retired Alley Oop cartoonist David Graue died in a collision with a dump truck.
Chapter IV, 119 pages, is a tour of Crab Creek and Kanuga roads from DuPont Forest to Busy Bend in Hendersonville. Ruscin plans subsequent books that will lead readers on tours up and down streets of Hendersonville and out into the county.
Subtitled "A Ramble Through Henderson County History, Including a Comprehensive Tour of Crab Creek Path," Hidden History would be a worthy addition to the libraries of those who enjoy the county's rich heritage.
Readers will "learn some aspects of Henderson County that they may not have ever known or that they may have forgotten and it certainly goes into a lot more detail than a lot of the published material covers," he said. "In fact I had to purge out almost as much content as I have in there because they put a limit on the number of words. Essentially I have volume II on the way, and if I have to do a volume III so be it. I love it. I love the whole process; I especially love meeting the people."
Hunters of local non-fiction are finding "Hidden History" already. Book buyers have already reserved all the seats for the book launch at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Skyland Theater, although standing room is available. Ruscin will also talk about the book at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, at the Historic Courthouse.