Penland Post Office Project
Section 8. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE SUMMARY
Constructed circa 1900 and used by the Bailey Lumber Company as offices from 1900 to 1920, then from 1902 to 1974 as a general store, as well as a post office from 1934 to today, the Penland Post Office and General Store meets National Register Criterion A for commerce and communications.
The Bailey Lumber Company Office and General Merchandise Store building, under Isaac Bailey, served as a base for his various business enterprises along with other locally owned businesses that rented space in the building. It was as a hub for many community residents as the store that offered groceries, dry goods and clothing. It also served as a feed and seed supply store, warehouse storage, a real estate agency for anyone who wished to buy or sell land or houses in the Penland-Ledger-Bakersville area, and an equipment sales office. Isaac Bailey also had charge of all pension claims for veterans in the Toe River Valley and many records of correspondence and telegrams show they came from the Bailey Lumber Company offices. 5 When the post office became a part of this building in 1934, mail arrived quickly on the train from the outside world and brought with it up-to-date business, agricultural, political, and familial news to this small rural community.
The frame board and batten structure is the oldest remaining commercial remnant of this community’s booming logging and mining past. In addition, according to the United States Postal Service, “this is the oldest active postal facility building in Mitchell County.” 6 It is also the only active post office still located directly along the Clitchfield Railroad tracks. All of the others, including the neighboring post offices of Ledger, Wing, Estatoe, and Minpro, were closed in 1889.
The Penland Post Office and General Store served an important role in the Penland community’s communications and commerce from circa 1900 to 1961. Although the post office continues to operate today, the use after 1961 does not meet Criteria Consideration G for exceptional significance.
The mountainous terrain of Mitchell County led to the initial seclusion of what would later become Penland and the rest of the Toe River Valley and limited development to small farms along the many tributaries of the Toe River. All of this changed during the 1870s when what was then referred to as Bailey Station became a frontier post after early settlers found mica, kaolin, and feldspar mineral deposits in addition to extensive logging opportunities in the area. 7 Spruce Pine was the biggest town nearby and was considered a more typical mining town while Bailey Station was a mere trading post in its early days.8 Bailey Station was
5 Bailey, David Coleman. The Penland Chronicles. Asheville, NC: David Coleman Bailey, 2007. Page 71.
6 Little, John T., LSAP ABA Project Manager for the United States Postal Service. “Information Please, Your Complete Guide to Mitchell County.” Mitchell News Journal, June 25, 2001.
7 Hardy, Michael C. Images of America: Mitchell County. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2009. Page 106.
8 Bailey, David Coleman. The Penland Chronicles. Asheville, NC: David Coleman Bailey, 2007. Page 89.
not listed as a town until 1890 in Branson’s North Carolina Business Directory for Mitchell County, with a listed population of fifty. In 1896, the population was listed as sixty. 9
Today, Penland lies on both sides of the North Toe River in the Toe River Valley and is located in the south-central part of Mitchell County, North Carolina. The town is located within the lands that Milton Pinckney Penland acquired starting in 1852. The entire historic land tract was known as the Penland Properties and originally consisted of 50,067 acres. Most of it was located in the Toe River Valley and can be traced back to land grants from the Lord Proprietors of the Carolinas. 10 He originally bought this land because of its prime location along the Toe River and its abundance of first-growth forests and mining deposits. These lands included the land the original post office was built on in 1879, along with the land that the Bailey Lumber Company Office and General Merchandise Store building was built on in 1900. It was because of this wealth of timber and minerals that other settlers came to the community that was then known as Bailey Station and incorporated as such around 1902. The Penlands were an influential family and the largest landowner in the community; because of this the name of the town was changed to Penland in 1905. This also led to the post office being named Penland the same year. 11
Both the Penland and Bailey families have lived in and around what is now Mitchell County since the area was first settled by whites. The Bailey family is documented in the area as early as the 1790s, with family members settling throughout the region in communities like Deer Park, Grassy Creek, Red Hill, Bakersville, and Burnsville in the 1800s. The Mitchell County Penland family trace their roots back to Milton Penland whose interests in minerals and land acquisition in the mid-1800s led him to the area. These families were central players in developing the region, especially the Penland community.
By the mid-1800s, branches of both families had acquired some wealth and influence among those who had begun to populate the Toe River Valley. Bailey's Peak, visible from the current Penland community, was named for patriarch John Bailey whose extended family lived in the area around 1850. Milton Pinckney Penland (1813-1880) married Althea Coleman of Asheville and settled in Burnsville. Penland owned and managed several businesses, including a store in Burnsville, several grist mills, and a tannery, as well as a store at Flat Rock, referring to a large flat rock that the store was built on. The flat rock, an immense solid expanse, is located very near the entrance to the road to Penland from the Spruce Pine-Bakersville Highway. 12 He also
9 Branson’s North Carolina Business Directory. 1867-1896. Online archive. http://www.archive.org/details/bransonsnorthcar1867rale . Accessed June 11, 2010.
10 Bailey, David Coleman. The Penland Chronicles. Asheville, NC: David Coleman Bailey, 2007. Pg 71.
11 Bailey, Lloyd Richard Sr., ed . The Heritage of the Toe River Valley Vol IV Area News 1777-1949. Tipton, Cordie M. A Brief History of Penland. Mitchell County Historic Society, Section 663, 2004. Page 350.
12 Branson’s North Carolina Business Directory. 1867-1896. Online archive. http://www.archive.org/details/bransonsnorthcar1867rale . Acessed June 11, 2010.
organized a school for boys and girls and spent years exploring the mountains and the abundant minerals contained therein, all the while amassing thousands of acres of profitable landholdings. 13
The Penland and Bailey families were united in 1875 when Penland's daughter Louisa (1850-1927) married Colonel Isaac Bailey (1843-1926), a Confederate Civil War veteran (he served four years in the Confederate States Army) and a North Carolina state senator from Mitchell County (1887-1893). Isaac Bailey was born in the Red Hill forestry district of Mitchell County near the Highlands of Roan Mountain. Isaac and his father James Bailey were members of a pioneer family of lumbermen. When Milton Penland passed away in 1880, Isaac Bailey took over many of Milton Penland’s businesses. He expanded these businesses to create the Blue Ridge Mining Company, General Mica Company, Bailey Lumber Company, Jefferson Distributing Company, Carolina China Clay Company, and the Penland Feldspar and Kaolin Company. His biggest and most successful company was the lumber company which harvested, manufactured, sold and shipped lumber. This business included two sawmills, the Bailey Lumber Company Office, and a few lumber storage warehouses. His other endeavors included; warehouse storage, mining and prospecting, a gristmill, a livery stable, welding and blacksmithing, fertilizer dealer, dam building, lake and pond impoundment, windmills, a fish trap, and an electric power generating station. 14 Ten years after Milton Penland’s death, the 1890 population survey listed Col. Isaac Bailey as one of the first residents of Bailey Station. 15
The coming of the Clinchfield Railroad in 1902 opened up tremendous business and shipping opportunities due to the ease of transportation that the railroad brought. It was in anticipation of the railroad’s arrival that circa 1900 Col. Isaac Bailey erected the Bailey Lumber Company Office and General Merchandise Store building (today known as the Penland Post Office and General Store) as a part of a larger commercial building complex. It was the only lumber company listed from 1900 to 1905 in town, and became one of his most profitable businesses as they made caskets from the lumber as well as provided building materials and other lumber products, which were heavily used throughout Penland. He occupied the building from 1900 to 1920.
The Bailey Lumber Company Office and General Merchandise Store building also housed the local general store and numerous other businesses that were an intrinsic part of daily life in Penland. The Baileys, primarily Col. Isaac Bailey, were instrumental in the development of the small commercial center of Penland around the turn of the twentieth century. Many of the houses and commercial buildings in the community used lumber from the Bailey Lumber Company as their building material. Today the Penland Post Office and General Store is the only commercial structure remaining as a reminder of Penland’s boom time during the
13 Bailey, Lloyd Richard, Sr., ed. The Heritage of the Toe River Valley. Volume II. Section 26. Durham, NC: L. R. Bailey, Mitchell County Historic Society, 1997.
14 The North Carolina Yearbook and Business Directory. 1903-1916. Online archives. http://www.archive.org/stream/northcarolinayea1915rale/northcarolinayea1915rale. Accessed April 20, 2011. Pages 382-383.
15 Branson’s North Carolina Business Directory. 1867-1896. Online archive. http://www.archive.org/details/bransonsnorthcar1867rale . Accessed June 11, 2010.
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