History at 35 miles per hour

The North Carolina Office of Archives and History in Raleigh has just published the 10th edition of its Guide to North Carolina Highway Historical Markers.

You’ve no doubt seen the markers — cast metal signs with the state seal at the top, followed below by a sentence or two about an historical happening that took place or a figure that lived nearby. Buncombe County has more than 40 of them, commemorating everything from Union cavalry raids to the former law office of Lillian Exum Clement Stafford, who in 1920 became the first female legislator in the South.

The historic marker program dates to 1935, when the General Assembly established a program to “provide for the erection of markers at points of historic interest along the public highways.” Erected most recently in Buncombe County is a marker located on Haywood Road in West Asheville, drawing drivers’ attention to the fact that the state’s first electric trolley line opened here in 1889, thrilling tourists and residents alike with its speed and lack of manure.

The new book takes readers on a county-by-county tour of the markers, and should earn a place on every history nerd’s bookshelf. Consider keeping one by the throne and one in the glove compartment, just to be covered.

Click here to learn more about the state’s roadside markers.

— Kent Priestley, staff writer


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