Waynesville's Ann Melton writes history books — handsome, hefty volumes packed cover-to-cover with photographs and maps and correlative narrative.
Her bright red hard-bound treasures bear names like "The Early History of Frog Level;" "Views from the Past, Main Street Waynesville 1896 - 1931" with collaborator Henry Foy; and "The Early History of Woolsey Heights, Millionaire's Row."
Melton wrote her first one, "The Early History of Love Lane," because the winding tree-lined street above Dellwood Road is the oldest residential street in Waynesville and it's where she and her husband Frank live. Robert Love, Waynesville's founder for whom the street was named is Ann Melton's fourth great grandfather.
"I wanted to know who built these old homes," Melton said. "I wanted to hear stories about the families. I wanted to see their photographs."
The Melton home is one of those stately Love Lane residences that rest beneath leafy umbrellas of oak and maple trees and where ribbons of evergreens march across manicured lawns. Built in 1923 by well-known Waynesville dentist Dr. Nick Medford, the Meltons bought it in 1978.
Ann and Frank Melton grew up in Sylva. Ann — actually Dr. Melton — was a public school administrator who served for a time as superintendent of schools in Madison County.
Melton earned her doctorate at the University of South Carolina.
As she researched her Love Lane project she discovered that there was no book in the public library about Waynesville founder Robert Love and his family. So she wrote one: "The Love Family of Haywood County."
Shortly after beginning the Love family book, Matthew Love's great granddaughter made Melton an offer. The Love descendant had inherited all the legal documents of Robert Love and James Robert Love and didn't want them. Would Melton like to have those, she asked?
"A few days later UPS pulled up in front of my house with four big boxes of these wonderful old papers," said Melton. "Who could have known that would happen?"
Melton is quick to recognize folks who came forward to share their stories.
"Bob Breese grew up on Love Lane. His grandfather was Clyde Ray Sr. who was mayor of Waynesville at one time. Bob's stories and photographs are all through the book. The same is true for Walter Talleferro. His great grandfather was Matthew Love who was the third great grandson of Robert Love. Walter has furniture that was saved from the Love Lane home of Matthew Love when it burned. He has original oil paintings of Matthew and his wife, James Robert Love and his wife, and Matthew's brother Samuel. You'll see photos of those paintings in the book," she said.
A third great granddaughter of Robert Love, Debbie Dupas, let Melton borrow and copy irreplaceable old family photographs. They are scattered throughout the work.
Noted western North Carolina historian and writer Duane Oliver crafted a written description of every house on the street.
"I took pictures of the older homes and he described the architecture of those houses," said Melton who included photographs of the interior of each house as it is today, including her own.
"Love Lane residents work hard to maintain the integrity of their houses. For instance, we still have the original wallpaper in the foyer and one bedroom. My daughter is a decorator and when she searched for replacement wallpaper, she realized that nothing would look right except what the Medfords put in here in the 1920s," said Melton.
The Melton home also has its original elegant bathroom fixtures. The welcoming kitchen boasts original cabinetry.
The walls of the antique-filled home are dotted with musical instruments. One is a fiddle.
"Let me tell you about the fiddle," said Melton. "Bud asked me for a banjo when he was in school so I made him a deal. I reminded him that we had a violin hanging on the wall and if he would take violin lessons and prove to us that he would stick with it, I'd buy him a banjo. He took me up on it and learned everything that violin teacher gave him to learn. Then he asked her if she'd let him play some old-time Appalachian tunes. She did, and she also let him sing. We didn't know he could sing. So I sent him to be a violinist and he came back a fiddle player," the proud mother said with a laugh. "He never mentioned the banjo again."
"Bud" is Buddy Melton of Haywood County phenomenon Balsam Range, a bluegrass-and-more band that is topping charts all over the country. Buddy's fiddle playing and high clear tenor vocals helped propel Balsam Range's "Trains I Missed" to the International Bluegrass Music Association's 2012 Song of the Year. Balsam Range will perform on the Grand Ole Opry stage in March.
Ann Melton feels she was somehow chosen to take on the challenge of creating a written history of Waynesville's communities.
"Otherwise, why would all these things just fall into my lap?" she asked. "It's been an amazing journey and I've met so many wonderful people along the way."
In October, Melton was awarded the prestigious Willie Parker Peace History Book Award from the North Carolina Society of Historians.
"I accepted it in honor and memory of the many people who made Waynesville the wonderful place it is today. These were men and women of great moral and physical courage, noble character and strong intellect and their lives helped shape this town," she said.
Melton's books are custom-printed in small batches. To discuss price and approximate order and delivery dates, Melton can be reached at 828-421-7689.