Do you recognize this wildflower? Do you remember seeing those very distinctive spotted leaves at Rockbrook? It’s an American Trout Lily (Erythronium Americanum). This is the time of year it begins to bloom, and sure enough it’s everywhere at Rockbrook! Being a perennial, this wildflower returns every year, blooming about now, signaling the Spring season. Its name comes from the elliptic, green and deep maroon spotted leaves that resemble the coloring of brook trout, a native Appalachian species. This flower is also called a “Dogtooth Violet,” (even though its flower isn’t violet at all!) because its underground bulb is shaped like a tooth. Unfortunately, they also contain a dangerous plant toxin called Colchicine, so you (or your pet dog!) should never eat them. We love seeing these beautiful flowers at camp. They are gorgeous reminders of summer being right around the corner!
The Transylvania County Historical Society has made an interesting find that ties the Rockbrook Camp property to the oldest Presbyterian church in the area. Local historians Keith Parker and Gene Baker now believe the “Mamre congregation” had its “Presbyterian Meeting house below the mouth of Dunn’s Creek” right across from the main entrance to Rockbrook. What’s phenomenal is that this church was in place in 1798. That’s the same year that the U.S. government officially obtained this land from the Cherokee! This means the property that would later become Rockbrook Camp (when Nancy Carrier’s father Henry Peck Clarke purchased it) was a thriving community more than 100 years before the camp was founded. This area, known as the Dunn’s Rock Township, was the third largest in the area when Transylvania County was formed in 1861.
Now take a look at this view of the French Broad River valley from the top of Dunn’s Rock. We’re not sure what year it was made (and whether it’s a colorized photograph or a painting based on a photograph; thanks to Roger Raxter for giving us a copy), but you can clearly see, along the bottom edge, the old “Dunn’s Rock Bridge” crossing the river. Right next to it, you can make out the red roof of what we think is that old Presbyterian meeting house from 1798. It was just south of where the bridge crossed the river. Like the church, this bridge is no longer there.
Such important history surrounding Rockbrook!
Here’s a real surprise. It’s a postcard from 1923 showing the mountain view from the “Lakeview Lodge” at Rockbrook. Now, of course, the trees behind the lake are much, much taller and this view is obscured, so it’s wonderful to see what it was like soon after the Lodge was built.
The postcard was mailed to a “Miss Oakley” who lived at “Oakburn” in Asheville, NC. A camper named Fanny mailed the card. We’re not sure who these people are (Let’s us know if you do!), but it’s nice to see this snapshot of Rockbrook’s history.