May – The Unique Shire
By Nancy Malik
The Shire, Avery County, is the 100th and final county created in North Carolina. The governor at the time wanted it to be an equal number of counties in 1911. He asked five to contribute land to create one more North Carolina county so it would be an even 100. The five counties; Mitchell, McDowell, Burke, Caldwell, and Watauga Counties donated the common ground and a beautiful county and Avery County was created. It is not only the highest county east of the Mississippi but the county seat, Newland, is the highest county seat east of the Mississippi as well. Beech Mountain Ski Area is the highest elevation ski area, and Sugar Mountain has the longest slope in the eastern US. Also, add Linville Gorge as the deepest gorge in the eastern United States and there are incredible beauties of nature here. Grandfather Mountain is an amazing ecosystem, unlike any other in the eastern United States. The Grandfather may be seen from almost all sides visible. In many ways, the upper portion of the mountain is like Canadian or Rocky Mountain tundra. Avery is a very special place.
But there is another achievement here that makes this part of the Bible belt memorable. Driving through Avery County any time of year is full of gifts of that season. Having four seasons is a special factor in its beauty. Being a link in the Blue Ridge Mountains with view after view expressing deep-seated appreciation really sets it apart. Fall colors, winter snow, spring budding flowers, and trees, and summer’s perfect temperatures are great. But the people are the intriguing added flavor. Many who have grown up here are of Scottish ancestry. Daniel Boone is noted for bringing some here in the 1700s so they could have their own place to raise their families. During the Revolutionary War, many participated with the Yellow Mountain Men and fought a deciding victory at Kings Mountain that changed the war for the American colonists against the British.
Two churches prayer walked the county line over twenty years ago, not knowing the other was doing it. So it has literally been enveloped in prayer. There are over 100 churches in this county. Many were forced to close for COVID and we pray they can reopen soon. The body of Christ of Avery County is an important glue that helps to set values and culture that are unlike the rest of the country. Being part of the Bible belt is a strong point. But the history of a created county to make the number of counties even has its own story. Prayer is important here and on Thursday, May 6th, the National Day of Prayer will be held at Newland Square. It is a very important year to gather in prayer for our county, state, country, and the world.
Avery is high altitude and has two of the most popular ski areas in this part of the nation. With beauty everywhere, many come to visit all of the seasons. But for the county people itself, the most beautiful gift was the soil and climate that is perfect for raising Christmas trees. Their farms are everywhere and give such a peaceful feeling of completeness in their tree formations. When the time comes to cut them, bind them and send them all over the world, one more beautiful gift of this place is the story of the meaning of the Christmas Tree. Martin Luther, over 500 years ago, nailed 99 questions on the church door asking why these 99 things that the church asked priests (pastors) to do, were not in the Bible. It started the Reformation that changed world history! He brought in an evergreen growing in his yard, placed candles and decorations on it to embrace the eternal, evergreen life, with the Lord at the time of year we celebrate our Savior’s amazing birth. Avery County sends out these beacons to bear witness to the world of the abundant life following our Kings leading! And the soil is perfect for the trees. What a blessing to be a county so intense on this glad tiding!
Avery County is blessed with its perfect soil for the trees, people resilient to live in its four seasons and use them, plus over 100 churches to praise God weekly. God, thank you for the blessing of Avery County!
Nancy Malik has lived four years in Avery County. She is a member of Heaton Christian Church. She has taught creations science to children for many years. You will be blessed to listen to her audio devotions for children HERE.