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Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Tuscarora Ranch: A New Beginning for the Ancestral Land

Buildings, Barns, and Silos
on the Ranch
Sept. 2011

During my trips to the Stony Fork/Mt. Zion Community of Wilkes County, I have been stunned with the beauty of the countryside which is nestled between two mountain ridges in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  As we have driven along Mt. Zion Road, the county road that parallels Stony Fork Creek, I have noticed the handsome brown rail fences along parts of the land and indeed, even around the location where my great grandparents lived for many years before moving to Banner Elk.  In addition, to these fences, various barns, sheds, pavilions, silos, and the like are scattered among the fields.  All of the structures have a commonality, a common personality, which gives the impression that they are part of something bigger.

Of course, I have been aware that much of the land was purchased from the local landowners as they or their heirs sold off their farms.  As I have mentioned in a previous blog, the Mingo Tribal Preservation Trust, which owns about 5,000 acres in the area, apparently purchased much of the land as it became available. 
Land Family Cemetery
Upper Right of Fence
Sept. 2010
Also, in previous blogs I have cited the family cemetery plot, the Thomas Land Family Cemetery, on the land owned by this trust.  I definitely have an interest in this cemetery, since, in addition to having West ancestors who lived on the land, I have Land, Carlton, McNeil, and Barlow ancestors who lived and farmed there.  My 3rd great grandparents, William Thomas Land and Nancy Jane Carlton Land along with two grand uncles, A. Judson West and Willard A. West, who died at young ages, are buried in this plot.   These young children were the great grandchildren of William Thomas and Nancy Land.  My desire is to provide some maintenance of the cemetery on a yearly basis and repair the fence around it. I live too far away (over 100 miles) to do much more.

On my recent visit this past week on Friday, September 9, with the help of BL, the husband of my 4th cousin, who was transporting us in his truck, I was able to meet someone at the Tuscarora Ranch.  Initially, BL drove down the drive from Mt. Zion Road toward the barn so that we could visit the family plot which is located just behind the barn on a small knoll.  As he was driving toward the barn, he noticed a couple of men working in the corral area.  Therefore, he continued through the gates of the corral so that I could speak with the men. 
As I was getting out of the truck, a young man who was working in the barn immediately came out to meet me.  He greeted us in a most friendly manner and introduced himself as Nathan Winebarger.  Mr. Winebarger, as it turned out, is leasing the land where the family plot is located and operating the Tuscarora Ranch.  My husband, Doug, and I found him to be very friendly, gracious, and courteous.  He listened with interest as I explained my mission and indicated that he, as the leasee, had no problem with our cleaning up the plot and repairing the fence.  We enjoyed meeting Nathan, and both of us left with a very positive impression of him and what he is doing with the land.
JJL Walking Along the Front
of the Cemetery Inspecting
Its Overgrowth
Sept. 2011

During a brief visit to the family plot, we continued to be amazed at the thickness of the overgrowth and the deteriorating condition of the fence around the plot.  The crushed grass pathways within the enclosure indicate that animals, more than likely wild animals, are grazing there.  My cousins, JJL, BL, and JP, whom we met for the first time on Friday, hiked up the knoll to the plot with us and helped us evaluate the situation.  They have volunteered to help with cleaning up the plot when we do it in the spring.  We have been told to wait until the snakes are hibernating and the spiders are gone or at least, inactive before we venture into that thick growth.  Also, by March, the growth will be beaten down by the winter weather.  Hopefully, I can enlist other West and Land relatives to help with this project.
Old Mt. Zion Post Office
Sept. 2011
As we drove away in BL’s truck, I felt a sense of comfort knowing that the current use of the land as a rural attraction and the maintenance of it in a natural state of farm and pasture land will be most beneficial to the area and to the preservation of the beautiful pastoral setting.  The buildings and fences that have been erected enhance the pastoral setting.   In fact, the old post office is on Mt. Zion Road across from the land where the West “home place” had been.  I don’t know if the post office has always been in that location or if it has been moved.  I am inclined to believe that it is in its original location.  The sign over the door, a remnant of its past, indicates that it had been the Mt. Zion Post Office.  According to the Tuscarora website, this old post office is now used as the bunk house.  From its appearance, the building is in good repair and still retains its original character. 
I encourage you to look at the web site ( and see the natural beauty of the land as it is presented by the Tuscarora Ranch.  Indeed, this ancestral land of those early settlers, the forbearers of many of us descendants, is experiencing a new beginning.

Site of Former Farm House
of the Thomas Harvey West Family
Sept. 2010 

Mailbox at the Edge
of the Lawn on
Mt. Zion Road
Sept. 2011


  1. Hi,

    My name is Stephanie Watson Matherly and I live in the Mt. Zion Community. I stumbled upon your blog while trying to find out if Mr. Horton has sold what we call "the farm." You see, my son, Ethan proposed to his fiance' back in August at one of the ponds on the property. They plan to marry at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, where many of your family members are mentioned in our church history. Unfortunately there are no wedding reception venues close to our church. Since Ethan and Shanna have such a fond memory of the Tuscarora Ranch we would love for them to be able to leave the church in a horse drawn carriage and arrive at a beautiful wedding reception at the ranch or "the farm" as we call it. If you would like to talk more about our community and church history let me know. I have a facebook acccount as Stephanie Watson Matherly or you can email me at I am a first grade teacher at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School, which is the school that eventually replaced Mt. Zion School. The old school building still stands and is now used as our churchs fellowship hall.


    Stephanie Watson Matherly

  2. Stephanie,
    Thank you so much for your comment regarding the ranch. Yes, I am very interested in your sharing with me your knowledge about the church and the Mt. Zion community. Your personal perspective and first-hand knowledge of the area and its people are very gratifying to me. Thanks, again.

  3. According to legal paperwork filed in Wilkes earlier this year, LifeStore Bank in Boone has initiated foreclosure proceedings on the land currently owned by Mingo Tribal Preservation Trust / Tuscarora Ranch, LLC.

    No sale date has been posted as of yet.

  4. Anonymous, Thanks for ths additional comment. Please keep me posted. Readers, you may read two other comments about the land by Anonymous in my July 30, 2011, post.


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