Growing Up in Swannanoa in the 1950s and ’60s, Part 2

by Bruce Whitaker

Henry H. Ingle Sr. (1884-1973) was my grandfather. In the 1940s, he was living on the Young farm near Beacon Manufacturing Company.

By that time, most Beacon employees had cars, and parking spaces for them at work were getting hard to come by. To solve this problem, Beacon bought the Young farm and moved 14 houses to that property, which freed up space for a parking lot.

This meant my grandfather had to move. Bordering the Young farm on the east was land that had belonged to the late Rhoda Alexander White. Rhoda was the daughter of George C. and Elizabeth Foster Alexander, who had built the Alexander Inn in Swannanoa that stood on Old 70 near Grovemont. (It fell down in the 1990s.) Elizabeth (1799-1885) was an older sister of my grandfather Henry Ingle’s grandfather, Benjamin Franklin “Frank” Foster (1817-1893). My grandfather bought part of the former Alexander-White property and built two houses. One was for my parents, who moved in in February 1950. I had not been born yet. The other was for him, his wife, his grandparents, and their unmarried daughter, Dorothy Ingle. They all moved in in March 1950.

My grandparents were getting old in the mid 1960s, so they decided to divide their land. The Rhoda Alexander White land had been laid out as a development by her husband T.L. White after her death. The development went nowhere but the land was still laid out in lots.

My grandfather got all his information on the land from a woman called Mother Mann, who had rented the land for many years and lived on part of it across US 70. I do not know if my grandfather had misunderstood what she said or he really did not know what she was talking about—or both. Anyway, I was told that there were supposed to be two rows of lots across the driveway from my parents’ and grandparents’ houses, a row of lots across from the land where my parents and grandparents lived, and a strip of land in back that was not in lots.

My grandparents gave my Uncle Bud (Henry H. Ingle Jr.), my Aunt Mildred, my Aunt Frances, and my parents each a lot and then sold the “strip” to my father. My parents deeded their house to the unmarried Dorothy. This left a lot between my parents’ house and my grandparents’ house that belonged to my Aunt Dorothy. My grandparents decided to sell that lot to me.

I was raised as my grandparents were. You were expected to start working, at least a little, at age 6. You were also expected to save most of the money you earned. I would plow with a push plow, sell strawberries, and do other jobs. My Aunt Mildred and Aunt Frances sold their lots to my parents for $500 each. My grandparents sold me the lot between my parents and Aunt Dorothy for $500. Even though I was 12 years old I had the money.

I was excited about being a landowner. I got the plat for the development and grandfather’s 50-foot-tape and decided to find out the exact boundaries of my lot. There were supposed to be two rows of lots between the driveway and the railroad. One row faced the driveway, and the other faced the railroad. This would be a distance of around 300 feet. I measured the distance and it was only around 150 feet. I told my grandfather that his house (now my Aunt Dot’s) and my father’s were not on their property. My grandfather said, “I don’t give a [darn] what you measured. Mother Mann said there were two rows of lots across the driveway and that is it.”

I went to my daddy as soon as he got off from work. I told him I had measured the land across the driveway and there was only one row of lots across the driveway and he did not own his house. My father laughed and said the bank (Swannanoa Bank and Trust, which was owned by Roy Alexander, a great nephew of Rhoda Alexander White) had loaned him money when he built his house. If a bank lent him the money, he knew it was OK. I asked him if Roy Alexander had the property surveyed. He said no. Roy lived across the Swannanoa River in back of the house on a hill. He said he saw (from his house) that daddy was building a house on his Aunt Rhoda’s land and asked if he wanted to borrow some money. Daddy told him yes. Roy Alexander handed him a check and father signed a piece of paper and that was it.

Father smiled at me and said he would measure the lot and show me I was wrong. He did, but his eyes got as big as saucers. “You’re right!” he said. The next day father called his lawyer, George Winston Craig (1894-1985), who was the son of North Carolina Governor Locke Craig (1860-1924) and had represented Buncombe County in the state House of Representatives in the 1930s. He told Craig what I had found. Craig said, “When you punch out at work don’t you even stop to go to the bathroom. You get your [butt] over to my office! If we don’t get this mess straightened before that old man and woman [my grandparents] die, it will take 20 years to get if fixed.”

Grandfather always used Paul Young as his lawyer. He married the daughter of grandfather’s first cousin (also through the Fosters).

George Craig called Paul Young and asked him, “How in the [heck] did you make those deeds for Henry Ingle.” Young told him, “He would make Mr. Ingle a deed for Buncombe County if he asked him to.” Craig had a fit at that answer. Young and Craig were connected, so nothing was done to Young. George Craig went to the court house and had Register of Deeds George A. Diggs Jr. withdraw the bad deeds from the register.

I was out in the back yard playing with my dog Jack a few weeks after George Craig got all the deeds straightened out. A car pulled up in the driveway and Buncombe County Tax Collector Eskridge got out. He said to me, “I want to know if you can tell me what in the heck is going on up here. I have never seen such a mess in all the years I have been in office.” I told him the story of what I had found. Eskridge asked me, “[Who] drew up those deeds?” I said Paul Young. Eskridge said, “Say no more; that tells it all.” Eskridge laid down a tax plat on the ground of all the surrounding area, including the Rhoda White property. He asked this 12-year-old boy to tell him who owns each piece of property on the map as he pointed to each one. I told him and he wrote it down on the map. After we finished, he said, “Well, I will go back to the courthouse and change them to what you said. Thanks.” He got in his car and left. That was the end of it.

Local historian Bruce Whitaker documents genealogy in the Fairview area. He can be reached at 628-1089 or [email protected].

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