Courting History: The Town That Bowie Built
by Sam Shumate Special to the Post
As the Virginia Carolina Railroad made its way into Ashe County, interest grew as to the route it would take. Leaders from the county seat met with railroad executives and lobbied for the train to come through Jefferson.
Meanwhile, Thomas C. (Tam) Bowie, Harrison Tucker and E.A. McNeill formed the West Jefferson Land Company and began buying up the valley between Negro Mountain (Mt. Jefferson) and Buck Mountain with plans for a new town. Bowie, Speaker of the House at the time, may have had inside information concerning the route.
Several years ago when my journalism class was publishing “Mountaineer Heritage,” Ginger Goss brought in the following poem her grandmother had clipped from a newspaper. It was in her scrapbook with no date or name of the paper.
THE TOWN THAT BOWIE BUILT
By The Man Who Knows
“When the railroad came to Jefferson
It raised an awful muss.
People seemed to think it a Christian act
To quarrel and fight and fuss,
And every single lawyer, merchant, dude, or fop
Thought the Lord had appointed him to say
Just where that train should stop.
“It will stop right here,” said Gwyn L. Park,
I’ve done staked out the spot,
And I’ll get three thousand dollars]
For my little house and lot.
“It will stop right here,” said Haywood Worth,
“This I can plainly see,
And I’ll get ten thousand dollars for my Gentry property.”
“Oh, no, it won’t,” says Samuel Mc.,
“I’ll stop her here or bust,
It will raise the price of my wife’s stuff
And pay Will’s deed of trust.”
“Not much,” says Dr. Wiley Pills,
“I’ll fix this depot site.
Since Gaither Mc’s not in this now,
I’m not afraid to fight.”
“If it don’t stop here,” says poor old Joe,
“I surely am bereft,
For I surely won’t get one red cent
For the stuff that Millard left.”
So they fussed and quarreled, and fussed and swore,
And each other did bemean,
Until the brainy Bowie
Appeared upon the scene.
He said, “My friends, don’t fight, don’t fuss,
Don’t scratch, don’t quarrel, don’t frown,
For I, the mighty Bowie,
Have built another town.”
He said to Park, “It’s good for you, you’ve got your autimo,
And you’ll find it mighty handy when you want to come and go.”
He said to Worth, “Diplomacy, you surely lack:
So you’ll have to haul your stocks and bonds out in the public hack.”
And he said to all, “Stop fussing! Don’t raise this awful muss!
Your friends can come to see you in the Mountain Hotel bus.”
But the thing that hurt the boys worst and made their spirits wilt
Was to hear the saw and Hammer in the town that Bowie built.
It nestles in the Mountains, this town that Bowie built;
He built it after fighting all the lawyers hilt to hilt.
He conceived it in his fertile brain
And built it in a week
In the Shadow of the Negro*
On the road to Beaver Creek”
*Name changed to Mt. Jefferson
Gwyn L. Park was a lawyer and served as a member of the House of Representatives. Walter Haywood Worth was president of the Bank of Ashe and Mayor of Jefferson. Thomas Contee Bowie became the largest land owner and Ashe County’s first millionaire. He is buried in the family marble mausoleum in the West Jefferson cemetery overlooking his town.
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