Real estate projects in western North Carolina date back to 1722

Speculators have been trying to lure settlers into the Eden of Carolina since Daniel Coxe IV published “A Description of the English Province of Carolana (sic)” in 1722. Coxe took up the torch from his father, who, 30 earlier had “purchased the provincial patent” of “Carolana” – an Atlantic-Pacific deal – after giving up a million acres in New Jersey.

In his “Description”, Daniel IV proposed to form the United States – the first known proposal of this nature – apparently for commercial purposes.

Daniel IV’s grandson, Tench Coxe, delegate to the Continental Congress and later Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, proposed the industrialization of the South. In the 1790s, Tench added hundreds of thousands of acres of western North Carolina to his portfolio.

Tench Coxe, land speculator from western North Carolina, pictured here circa 1800 in a portrait by Jeremiah Paul.

Tench’s grandson, Colonel Frank Coxe, continued the family’s interest in the area. He helped fund the Western North Carolina Railroad and purchased Joseph McDowell Carson’s mansion on the Green River in Polk County.

We skip another two generations. The Coxe heirs were unable to keep their property, which ended up, after some exchanges, in the hands of Dennis Palenscar. During a brief, poorly funded period in 1986-87, Palenscar attempted to create “the fantasy island for southerners”.

Palenscar’s executive assistant, Claudia Hamrick, said in an article written by Tony Earley for the Forest City Daily Courier: “If you question anything in a sales meeting, especially its credibility (Palenscar ) or the project, he would become extremely defensive. He always told us that if we didn’t make the sale, it was a credibility problem.”

The Paradise Seekers had purchased 58 lifetime memberships and RV sites by December 1986, but the company’s checks began to bounce. Hamrick said Palenscar “often asked him to tell creditors he was in Toledo visiting his sick mother when he was in the next room.” She said she “heard Palenscar tell a creditor that he was having trouble paying his bills because his employees stole money and checks from him.”

This is the story of a dream gone wrong. It’s a piece of high-end development history in western North Carolina that deserves its own literature. It turns out that the author of the Forest City article is Tony Earley, who went on to become one of our country’s most famous novelists, author of ‘Jim the Boy’ and ‘The Blue Star’.

Shortly after the Palenscar fiasco, Ellen and Eugene Cantrell purchased the Green River Plantation, authentically restored it, and established a viable business of historic tours, bed and breakfast accommodations, and special events. The Green River Plantation is the crown jewel in a rural county that suddenly becomes studded with gems.

Stories as romantic, tragic and epic as those surrounding the Coxes reside in every development on the mountain. Another of the most famous examples – judging by its place in literature – is the Beaverdam Road development, home of the late great author Wilma Dykeman, in North Asheville.

In his foreword to the 1974 edition of his classic column “The French Broad,” Dykeman wrote, “Businesses that cater to the recreational, resort, and leisure needs of a restless urban public…amass significant mountain empires and “developing” them at a breathtaking rate… It seems to be becoming more and more evident that the development of a basic philosophy for the use of resources… is long overdue.”

Dykeman also put his developmental stories into memorable fiction: Lydia McQueen restoring the source to her home in “The Tall Woman,” and Clay Thurston, the construction worker protagonist of “The Far Family,” driving his car over the ledge. a winding courtyard. mountain road like those that descend from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Elk Mountain.

Rob Neufeld, Citizen Times columnist

Rob Neufeld wrote the local history feature “Visiting Our Past” for the Citizen Times until his death in 2019. This column was originally published on May 14, 2008.

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