History & Traditions

The Early Settlers to Foxfire Mountain

With the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1567, Prince James VI of Scotland became King James I of England. In order to keep tabs on the rebellious Irish, he ordered many of his fellow Scotsmen to move to Ulster Ireland and spy on the Irish. By the 1600s, the fully assimilated Scots-Irish were suffering famine, religious persecution and inescapable poverty. The Ulster Scots-Irish fled to America aboard trading ships, carrying flax from Belfast to Philadelphia.
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Once in the new world, many headed south through the Cumberland Gap and ended up in the highlands of what is now Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee and eventually to Foxfire Mountain.

The Scots-Irish brought with them a democratic spirit, simple Calvinist beliefs and a love for the mountains reminiscent of their homeland.

Scots-Irish beliefs, arts, crafts, music and dance proved to be lasting influences on mountain culture. Their Irish music became our Bluegrass, their Irish jig became our Cloggin’, and their Irish whiskey (with the help of Cherokee maze) became our Moonshine or White Lightning.

The Scots-Irish also brought Rock Art

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When walking around Foxfire Mountain and Prosperity Mountain you may see rocks piled on top of each other at various places. These artistically balanced stones are called “Cairns” and they too have a history dating back to those same Scots-Irish who settled these mountains.

The stacked stone custom originated in Scotland where it is traditional to carry a stone from the bottom of a hill to place on the cairn at the top of the hill or at the base of a spectacular waterfall.

There is an old Gaelic blessing that goes:

‘Cuiridh miclach air do chàrn’
‘I’ll put a stone on your cairn’

This was a way of wishing someone health, wealth and prosperity.

At the end of America’s Bridge to Prosperity there are many stones perfect for building cairns. You may build one at the base of Prosperity Mountain or you may pick a stone to carry to the cairn at the base of Lost Mine Falls (about a half mile hike).