Saturday, February 27, 2016

Should North Carolina Create a New County? 1911

Originally printed in the News and Observer, and reprinted on the editorial page of the Watauga Democrat, Boone, N.C., February 2, 1911.

The final hearing on the bill to establish Avery county out of portions of Caldwell, Watauga and Mitchell counties was given by the Senate and House committee on Counties, Cities and Towns yesterday afternoon. The bill was opposed by Messrs. J. M. Peterson, superintendent of public instruction in Mitchell, ex-Sheriff A.A. Wiseman, T.A. English and W.W. Bailey, all of Spruce Pine in the county; while it was advocated by T.A. Love Esq. of Saginaw, Mitchell; ex-Judge W.B. Councill of Hickory; Lieutenant Governor Newlaud and Representative Spainhour of Burke.

Mr. Peterson argued that Avery would be another pauper county. The debt of Mitchell at this time is such that, if it were not for the State aid, the free schools would last no longer than two and a half months per year. The question of convenience would be settled, he said, by the removal of the county seat from Bakersville. The erection of a new county would result in doubling the taxes in both territories for the next 50 years, and in addition it would be heavily republican.

Mr. Peterson introduced as one of his associates in opposing the bill ex-Sheriff A.A. Wiseman, now 80 years of age. Mr. Wiseman stated that he was the largest tax payer in Mitchell; that he owns at this time 3,500 acres of land, assessed at $15,500, and that, if the committee wanted to double his tax, why just give us Avery. He was no talking man, he said, but he could say that.

Mr. W. Bailey said that the people of Snow Creek, Grassy Creek, and other townships were all opposed to another county. So anxious, in fact, were they to sign petitions against the proposition that they hollowed to him from every hill top as he passed through.

Mr. T.A. English stated to the committee the terms of his contract entered into by himself and Representative Norman during the campaign. In consideration of Norman’s promise not to spring a new county issue, English was to do all he could to secure Norman’s election, and ever since the opening of the legislature he had received letters from Norman saying that he was undertaking to do nothing along that line now. Until the return of Mr. McBee, who was here last week, they were all ignorant of any attempt to erect Avery.

T.A. Love Esq. of the east end of Mitchell made the opening address for the advocates of the county. He also alleged an agreement entered into by prominent west-enders, among them, George K. Pritchard, ex-Senator Black and others to the effect that the new county would meet their approbation.

As to the allegation that it would be a deficit county, he said this would not be true of Mitchell if the Board of Commissioners were not careful to see to it that assessments were kept too low to insure the State’s getting anything. They would always be a pauper county, he argued, if they were not allowed to manage for themselves.

Judge W.B. Councill said that he had been all over the territory affected, as well as into every county in North Carolina, and that in his opinion, no more meritorious new county prop0osition ever came before the General Assembly. The situation was such in point of court facilities that the people of that section were burdened beyond endurance.

Judge Councill submitted figures ending to show that 130 square miles were to be taken from Mitchell; property valuation, $1,000,000, population 7,???, that Mitchell will be left with 193 square miles, property valuation $1,500,000, population more than 8,600. There are 18 counties with less population than Avery would have, about 10 smaller in acreage, and 12 with less property valuation.
He had come to plead for Avery, he said, without money and without price. He was receiving neither a fee nor his expenses.

Lieutenant Governor Newland and Representative Spainhour both assured the committee that, if new counties were established to answer a necessity in point of convenience, then the Avery proposition is meritorious. Both had gone over the section, and each corroborated the other in the statement that in the winter the road across Cane Creek mountain has been so bad that four horses would have to be put to a hack to haul four men over to court.

Mr. Spainhour said that, while in Mitchell, he had urged upon the people that they should assess their property at a higher figure, something more nearly approaching its market value. For the first time in his life, he said, he heard then the argument that they oughtn’t to do that, since it might mean some money to the State.

Representative Hagaman and Senator Wagoner, of Watauga, told the committee that the people would not oppose the county, in case, as had been agreed, an amendment were adopted to leave the question of Watauga territory to a vote of its citizens. In case the committee should not accept such amendment, they wanted to go on record as opposing the measure.

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