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Stephenson Center at Lees-McRae College to Host an Illustrated Lecture by Dr. Scott Huffard Jan. 30

Jan. 16, 2014. Beat the winter blues by coming out to enjoy the Stephenson Center for Appalachia’s Lecture Series at Lees-McRae College. The lectures begin on Thursday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. in Evans Auditorium with an illustrated talk by Dr. Scott Huffard, “The 1891 Wreck at Bostian’s Bridge and the Haunted History of Western North Carolina Railroad,” and run through the middle of April.

A variety of programs, scholars, poets, novelists and natural historians will pour the light of their work into the gloom of winter. All Stephenson Center lectures are free and open to the public. 

Dr. Huffard’s program will discuss the controversy surrounding a derailment of the Western North Carolina Railroad outside Statesville in 1891. After the wreck, locals blamed the railroad for shoddy track maintenance, while the Railroad blamed the wreck on an anonymous gang of train wreckers. This community-level dispute highlights issues surrounding railroad development in the South at large. The wreck is also allegedly haunted, so the talk will cover some of the spooky legends. 

“In addition to discussing the events of the wreck itself, I will describe the history of the Western North Carolina Railroad and lay out some of the debates surrounding railroad development in North Carolina and the South,” said Huffard.  “Though it was first chartered in the 1850s, corruption and the difficult terrain meant that the railroad was not finished until the 1870s, when the state sent convict labor to build the road. John Ehle’s novel The Road deals with these issues.”

Dr. Huffard is an Assistant Professor of History at Lees-McRae College. A native of Pennsylvania, he received his BA from Pennsylvania State University (2007) and his Ph.D. in history from the University of Florida (2013).  His work has appeared in the Journal of Southern History (2013) and he has a forthcoming article in Southern Cultures (Summer 2014).  He is currently working on a book manuscript on railroads, capitalism and the mythology of the New South.

Other Stephenson Lectures will follow during the spring semester. On February 27, Dr. Joseph Bathanti will read from his original poetry, and, on March 20, Dr. Stewart Skeate will present a program “Nature of the Elk River Valley.”  Both presentations will be at 7:00 p.m. in Evans Auditorium.  During the week of April 7 through 11, the Stephenson Center will host Appalachian Heritage Week at Lees-McRae with music, clogging, crafts, horse drawn wagons and the presentation of the Stephenson Center Lifetime Service to Appalachia award. The schedule will be announced soon.

“We have a variety of exciting programs this year, and we invite everyone to join us,” said Dr. Michael Joslin, director of the Stephenson Center. “Dr. Huffard’s lecture on the railroads covers an important part of Appalachian history.  I look forward to his presentation to start our series this year.”

The Stephenson Lectures are free and open to the public.  Evans Auditorium is located in the Cannon Student Center on the Lees-McRae Campus. For more information, contact Megan Hall, director of communications, at 828.898.8729 or hallm@lmc.edu.

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, Lees-McRae College is a private, four-year college offering diverse baccalaureate degrees, strong athletic programs and outstanding faculty. With 850 students hailing from 40 states and more than 10 countries, Lees-McRae’s broad core curriculum is enhanced by field-specific career preparation and experiential learning with an emphasis in leadership and service. For more information, please visit www.lmc.edu or call 828.898.5241.