In Roan Mountain A Passage of Time, by Jennifer Bauer Wilson, multiple aspects of the Roan and the Cloudland Hotel can be found. Wilson describes General Wilder, the Cloudland, and the Roan in great depth.
The name of the Catawba Rhododendron that cover the Roan is said to be derived from the Native American tribe Catawba. The legend says that the tribe fought the Cherokee Indians for the land atop the Roan. The crimson stain of the plants is due to the blood stained soil left from the battle. The Catawba Indians won the fight and supposedly the name of the rhododendron. There is no evidence to support the Native American settlements on the mountain, but surrounding valleys do support evidence of tribe settlements. The scientific name of the plant is Rhododendron catawbiense.
Some of the first explorers of the mountain were botanists with a great desire to catalog the multiple plants of the region. In 1794, Andre Michaux studied the Roan and found many Alpine species that were thought to exist in only Canada. A Scottish botanist named John Fraser studied the Roan in 1787, 1789, and 1799. Fraser is credited with discovering the Catawba Rhododendron and the Fraser Fir. Other explorers with no desire to determine plant life climbed the Roan. In 1799, John Strother and a team of explorers took on the feat of mounting the Roan. Elisha Mitchell, for whom Mount Mitchell is named, is also credited with spending time atop the Roan. He believed the mountain was the most beautiful of all the tall mountains in the region. Another man, Asa Gray, explored the mountain in 1840. Gray was a Harvard botanist that discovered the Lilium canadense (a lily) on the Roan.
By far the most important chapter of the novel, it divulges a great detailed history of the two former Cloudland Hotels. This portion of the book begins by questioning what motivated Wilder to build the hotel on the Roan. Some suggest he built the Cloudland to help others with their health because he had moved to the region to better his own health. The Cloudland was soon known for its benefits to hay-fever sufferers. The hotel took its name from the clouds that would roll into the valleys beneath the top of the Roan.
In 1877, the first Cloudland Hotel was built by L. B. Searle from logs and contained 20 rooms. In 1885, the second Cloudland Hotel was constructed close to the first one. In an image from the novel the two hotels are shown standing at the same time, however the first hotel and surrounding structures were supposedly burned within a year of 1885. The second hotel is said to have contained 166 rooms although this is not a known fact. The Cloudland did contain only one bathroom and this is a fact. The cost of the second Cloudland was said to be around $40,000 and its construction was no easy feat. Its construction lead to the building of a sawmill on top of the mountain along with the first Carver's Gap Road to the Roan.
The wood from the top of the Roan was used to build much of the furniture and structure of the hotel. Cherry was used largely for furniture, Balsam was used for the structure of the hotel, and Maple was used in the flooring of the hotel. The great structure of the Cloudland contained many large fireplaces and was steam-heated. There was also the opportunity to golf, bowl, and play croquet on the Roan.
The guest book from the Cloudland has not been found, however the fliers such as the one shown under the images tab caters to European visitors and the population outside of Roan Mountain.
The novel also has chapters covering the fauna and flora of the Roan and the life of General John Wilder. This information is summarized under the links at the left side of the screen.
Wilson, Jennifer. Roan Mountain A Passage of Time. Winston-Salem, NC: John Blair, 1991. Print.
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