History of Golden Valley (continued)
When elections were resumed, Republican and Democratic parties were in fierce opposition. Neighbors rode against neighbors as the KKK was born. One of the most thoroughly documented KKK trials, that of Randolph Abbot Shotwell, a Democratic newspaper editor, had it’s origins here. The Cherry Mountain Park, now in the community of Sunshine, is the site where Shotwell made a blunder that sent him to federal prison along with Amos Owen’s the famous Cherry Bounce distiller.
Education had always been important to the Scot-Irish who often built a church and hired a teacher before they hired a preacher. Fairview Baptist, First Broad Baptist, and Golden Valley United Methodist all sponsored schools. These were one teacher, one room school houses which, along with several others, continued to operate until their consolidation into the Golden Valley school in 1932.
Of all the schools started in the area, only one is in existence today, Burke County’s South Mountain Institute. It was one of the first residential home-schools in the nation. The school opened in the valley in1903 as the Golden Industrial Institute.
With or without an education, with or without slave labor, it was difficult to farm in the mountains. Roving threshers came each year to harvest wheat, community mills ground cornmeal and flour, but the mountain farmer couldn’t compete with the farmers in the flat fertile fields of the Piedmont region. Even if he was able to make a large crop it couldn’t be brought to market. There were no roads! It had long been known that the bottom lands that were good for cotton and wheat were also good for corn. A corn crop, handled properly, could turn a profit like no other. Golden Valley became notorious for moonshine.
With the arrival of fast, black-topped highways the first overnight delivery services sprang up. Late night “ridge-runners” drove fast cars and often out ran the law, but persecution by the IRS and the end of prohibition ultimately made these employment opportunities too risky to be considered profitable.
Employment opportunities were limited. Golden Valley is twenty miles from Forest City, Shelby, Morganton, and Marion. Getting to and from work in these cities posed a problem. During the 1930’s and 40’s a bus carried people to and from textile mills in Forest City and Spindale. But there were no major employers here.
In the 50’s, a monazite mine on the First Broad River offered employment closer to home. Monazite had been used in manufacturing of mantles for incandescent lamps as early as 1886. However this time it wasn’t being used for lamps. Monazite is one of two primary minerals which contain thorium. Thorium and uranium are used in atomic bombs.
The monazite mine came and went, as did the gold mines, and the stills. Even the big farms slipped away. Years rolled by and the passage of time proved what several residents knew of old; there was money to be made in timber. Of all the industries that have come and gone in the Golden Valley area, this one has stood the test of time.
There were only so many jobs available in the timber industry. People needing work had to find it outside of the community until 1969. That’s the year Milliken’s Golden Valley Plant opened it’s doors. To this day it employs a number of local people.
It was local people who chartered the Golden Valley Community Club in 1952. It has, like the timber industry, stood the test of time. The community club has been responsible for many improvements. Early projects pushed for telephone service and indoor toilets. More recent projects dealt with a manned recycling center and a caution light at a busy intersection.
A really-big deal was hashed out in 1998 with the purchase of the 17,829 acre Rollin’s tract, land that locals hunted for generations. The Rollins property ties into the South Mountain State Park and the Morganton Watershed creating a 35,000 acre wilderness in the South Mountains. The Foothills Conservancy, the preservation group that negotiated the deal, sprang from our own local South Mountain Coalition. Under state ownership the land will be kept as a wilderness / recreation area for generations to come.
There are three, not so wild, wilderness camps in today’s Golden Valley. The Pioneer Girl Scouts built their camp in the valley on land they purchased from Edison Queen in the sixties. “The Golden Valley Girl Scout Camp” caters to girls scouts of all ages. Doctor Charles S. McCall, a Forest City dentist, gave his camp “Show Me the Way” to the United Methodist Church in October of 1960. Renamed “Camp McCall” it has been in operation ever since and is open to the public. A relative newcomer “Lone Mountain Camp” caters to the private sector, bussing children to the property for an unforgettable week long, day-camp experience.
Music left it’s mark on local history. Valley visitors might catch a show at one of our two Music Parks. The Ottis Cook Memorial Music Park under the direction of Butch Cook, and the Golden Valley Music Park founded Paul Toney offer fine, mostly bluegrass, entertainment.
Besides hikers, campers, and music aficionados this community is proving to be fertile ground for the 90’s generation of entrepreneurs. Whether it’s craftsmen and women, retailers, service providers, builders, used car dealers, or truck owner-operators, small businesses abound. And every entrepreneur, every industrial effort, and many residents of this small township are sure to leave their own footprints in the sands of time.