Bethel Rural Community Organization initiates historic marker project
The historic preservation committee of Bethel Rural Community Organization (BRCO) has embarked on a three-year project to designate local historic sites that are ineligible to receive a Cultural Resources/NCDOT state historic marker. North Carolina’s historic markers placed along roadsides recognize over 1,400 locations and people in the state that meet the statewide significance criteria established by the program. In addition to the statewide importance restriction, the state historic marker program does not allow for recognition of trees, ferries, bridges, courthouses, stagecoach and Indian trails.
BRCO, wishing to call attention to significant local historic sites that fall outside state policy restrictions, has begun its own local marker program. The organization’s historic preservation committee selects eligible sites, addresses all legal obstacles, secures land ownership agreement, has member Ted Carr develop artwork for the sign and hires Ted Dake of Moto-Fab to design and build the markers. Dake creates a computer image based on photos and sketches. When the final design is approved, the sign is plasma-cut from 11-gauge steel and placed in a water bath. A black powder coat process gives the image a coating that will protect it for many years. BRCO’s historic markers include brief written details about the significance of the site. The historic preservation committee erects the completed sign in a location chosen for maximum visibility.
The initial local historic marker was erected at Osborne boundary oak tree on Highway 110. This several-100-year-old tree has provided shade for Native American settlements, edged the trail of the Rutherford Trace march and served as a boundary marker in 1792. Since the tree is situated on state land, BRCO worked with the N.C. Department of Transportation, and the marker was dedicated in 2011.
The following year BRCO’s historic preservation committee placed a second marker at Bethel Presbyterian Church, Haywood County’s mother Presbyterian church. The church was formed in 1834, and the historic chapel was built by the Rev. Jesse Stalcup in 1885. The building today serves as BRCO’s community center and is leased by Encouraging Word Baptist Church.
Recently, the committee placed its third historic marker at Lenoir’s Creek Devon farm, Haywood County’s oldest continuing farm (1807) with the county’s longest continuing herd of cattle (1849). The farm has ties to the Lenoir family who have been of local, regional and statewide importance.
BRCO’s historic preservation committee plans to continue the historic marker program, selecting a new historic site in the Bethel Community each year.