Memorial for incarcerated laborers who built WNC Railroad to be dedicated Oct. 17

Press release from Western North Carolina Historical Association:

The RAIL Memorial Project Committee is pleased to announce that the dedication of the RAIL Memorial will be held on October 17 at 3:30 at Andrews Geyser near Old Fort, NC. The dedication is the culmination of over a year’s work by the committee to raise awareness of the sacrificial labor performed by the thousands of incarcerated laborers who built the Mountain Division of the WNC Railroad in the 1870s.

At least 139 workers died in the process and hundreds, if not thousands, suffered from disease, deprivation, and injury. Many, if not most, of these workers were arrested, charged, and incarcerated on baseless or trumped- up charges or were given severe sentences at hard labor for minor offenses. Their labor resulted in perhaps the most important infrastructure project in Western North Carolina history and opened up this region of the state to industry and development.

To date, there has been little recognition of these laborers’ signal accomplishments and sacrifice. The public is invited to share in the dedication of this long overdue memorial. This will be an outdoor event and guests should bring a lawn chair for seating. Further information can be gained by visiting our website at: or at our The RAIL Project page on Facebook. Donations to the memorial can be made through: 

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