PILOT MOUNTAIN — Today from 4 to 7 p.m., local genealogist and historian Carolyn Boyles will be on hand at Pilot Mountain Town Hall to sign copies of her long-awaited and much anticipated book, “Early Days of Pilot Mountain, North Carolina: A History and Genealogy.”
As described by the author, the book is a mix of area history, genealogy, human interest stories and photos liberally sprinkled with the humor and personality of some of the families and individuals at the forefront of Pilot Mountain’s early development.
Obviously a labor of love, it recounts stories heard throughout Boyles’ own childhood in the town combined with a wealth of information gathered through countless hours of research.
“I remember listening to my grandmother tell stories about growing up in Pilot Mountain,” she recalled. “And I would listen as she’d talk to neighbors about the past. It was fascinating. I was like a little sponge.”
But Boyles remembered one document as the spark that started her on the road toward writing her book. She recalled gaining possession of a 16-page interview done in 1977 by another local historian, Marion Venable, with Sadie Hiatt.
“I realized what was there,” Boyles said, “and that I knew more that could be added. I took that interview and started writing.”
Once begun, the project started Boyles on a journey that would grow to include her own research and that of others who realized the value of what she was doing.
As a result of the Venable interview, Sadie Hiatt had suggested a second discussion later in 1977 that would include such well-known local figures as Kate Nelson Graham, Bernice Swanson, Bennie Frye and Fannie Fowler, documented by Rebecca Blalock. The resulting wealth of history was at first handwritten and later typed.
Other important contributions included interviews with several residents taped by Clayton Fulk.
“This was a wealth of information,” Boyles noted, “from folks born in the 1800s, people who really knew our town’s history.”
Another valuable source of information has proven to be Gordon Thomas, a resident of Arlington, Va., who had stumbled across a stockpile of local history while cleaning out a home in the Pilot Mountain area.
After acquiring the supply of saved newspapers, including a large amount of clippings from the early 1900s by prominent Pilot Mountain businessman and town leader I.M. Gordon, Thomas began to sort the information. He would then send them on to Boyles in thick packets, filled with sometimes overlooked or nearly forgotten history.
And as more information from research and contributions would gradually be assembled, Boyles kept writing.
“I would think I was finished,” she remembered with a smile, “and then I would get more.”
“Originally,” Boyles noted, “I had no intention of writing a book. I wanted to document facts to put in a library file. But it grew to the point it had to be put in a book. I never dreamed it would grow to that point.
“It outgrew my thoughts and could have continued. Information keeps turning up, but the time had come to write and publish it. I didn’t want to go to the grave with this. With the information that had come to me, along with what I already had, this seemed like the right thing to do. If I didn’t put it down, it could be lost forever.”
The book covers several areas of historical interest, including recognition of notable schools, churches, businesses and organizations. But Boyles is quick to admit that while extensive, she is also sure that many important contributions have been missed and left out.
Among the noteworthy tidbits that can be found is a revival held in Pilot Mountain by famed evangelist Billy Sunday. Once a professional baseball player, Sunday went on to become probably the nation’s best known evangelist during the early 1900s.
Boyles also reveals that “seven or eight” plug tobacco companies were once located in Pilot Mountain. All were eventually closed as they were unable to compete with the larger R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, founded in 1875.
“At the turn of the century,” Boyles described, “this was a thriving little community.”
Friday’s book signing will mark the release of the new book, as well as a chance to get copies signed by the author.
“This book is for anybody who has ever lived here,” Boyles said, “or anyone with a Pilot Mountain background. Anyone who enjoys history, I think they will enjoy this.”