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The Mountains of Western North Carolina

Native Americans

The Native Americans were living in the Appalachians for centuries when Europeans arrived on the coasts of America. In the area now known as Yancey and Mitchell Counties, the best known settlement is just west of Burnsville, NC.

Evidence of Native Americans mining mica has been found from the SInk Hole Mine. This mine is around 30 miles northwest of Penland, close to Bandana, NC. 


As well, arrowheads have been found in pastureland, all around Penland.

Cane River Village

A former Native American village has been part of ongoing archeological research just west of Burnsville for a few decades. Behind Cane Creek Middle School, researchers have been uncovering artifacts, leading to a wider understanding of the people who lived here for 2000 years or more.


Today, there is a project to replant the banks of the Cane River near Cane River Park with cane. Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources (RTCAR), an initiative of the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, is sponsoring the project, along with Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) and Yancey County government. The Cherokee people will sustainably harvest the cane to continue to make traditional baskets.

The migration of European Settlers to the Mountains of Western North Carolina

Due to unbearable conditions, hundreds, then later, thousands of people began leaving Scotland and Ireland in the late 1600s, headed across the Atlantic. They first landed in New England and settled mostly in Pennsylvania. As that area filled up with immigrants, waves of people continued south, with many settling in Western North Carolina.


Robert Penland was born on April 22, 1744, and moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina in 1768. He came to the area, joined the army, married Elizabeth Burke, and fathered several children, including Henry Penland, who fathered Milton Penland. He became one of the elders of Quaker Meadows, and died in 1828.Clicking on the link to Robert's name will lead you to several stories about him. 


Milton Penland, whose parents were Henry Penland (1786 Burke - 1854 Yancey) and Elizabeth Parks (*c. 1790), was born in Burke County, December 7, 1813. The 1860 census shows he lived in Yancey County with his family.


Penland was drawn to the Yancey County area with the idea that the mountains were full of minable minerals. The resulting mines of the Spruce Pine Mining District proved that he and others were right.


He was listed as a Postmaster for Burnsville in 1851 and a Yancey County Sheriff in 1858.


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