Swain history, veterans will share spotlight in wall project
Swain County is permanently etching its history in stone.
In the next couple of months, the first of about 60 black marble panels will be installed along the wall outside the county government building and courthouse in downtown Bryson City. The panels will detail important points in Swain County’s history and also list the names of its veterans from various wars and conflicts.
“It will sort of be set up like the Vietnam Wall,” said Elise Bryson, chair of the Heritage Board, which has planned the project. The wall is “something that can really make Swain County proud. It is going to be impressive.”
The 11-member board, appointed by the county commissioners, was formed in February to create and plan different projects that focus on the history of Swain County. In addition to the wall, the county is remodeling the vacant historic courthouse at the corner of Everett and Main streets into a museum and visitor center.
The wall will start with an etching of the county seal and map of the county itself with markers denoting Bryson City and the Cherokee reservation. The subsequent handful of panels will feature significant times in Swain County, including its founding, notable settlers, the Trail of Tears and veterans of the American Revolution, Mexican-American War and the Civil War.
“This is going to set a model for the whole region,” said County Commissioner David Monteith at a meeting last month.
People can review a list of Civil War veterans’ names at the administration building during the next couple weeks. This will help the county to make sure names are accurate and veterans are not left off the wall.
“We would really like to have the public’s input,” Bryson said.
The Heritage Board is also compiling a list of veterans for wars or conflicts following the Civil War. However, Swain County history and veterans postdating the Civil War will not be added until sometime later. The board is still discussing what other items should be included on future panels, possibly an etching of Fontana Dam or the county’s first schoolhouse. And, it will need more time to gather enough money to fully fund the wall — a $100,000 cost.
“It’s going to be an expensive project,” Bryson said. So far, $12,000 has been raised.
Money for the project will come from TVA funding, donations, a Build-a-Bear workshop grant and possibly interest accrued from the Swain County North Shore settlement money.
Anyone wishing to contribute can send donations to the Swain County Administration Building and indicate that the money is intended for the Wall of History.
Bryson said she did not know when the wall would be fully constructed, but she hopes to hold a dedication ceremony about this time next year when Swain hosts its annual Heritage Festival.
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