Walking thru the Mosers’ land, hearing about balladeers


The Swannanoa Valley Museum’s first hike of its 2017 Valley History Explorer Series on Saturday, March 11 will explore the Moser family’s historic property in the Buckeye Cove community.

This will be the first time the museum has hiked in Buckeye Cove. With special permission from the Moser family, hikers will be allowed to explore their mountain property and learn about the family’s role in preserving Appalachian traditions.

The museum’s exclusive Valley History Explorer hiking series introduces participants to the history of the many distinct communities within the Swannanoa Valley. The series is composed of eight moderate hikes about three miles long held on the second Saturday of the month from March through October. Historians and hikers are invited to discover the secrets of the valley, unknown to many, through this series.

Artus Moser Sr. has often been called a “renaissance man of the mountains.” He was born in 1894 near Asheville and raised near the Biltmore Estate where his father David “Fate” Moser was a forester. Artus became a collector of ballads for the Library of Congress, a noted painter, sculptor, singer, storyteller, gardener, actor and teacher. His life’s work was greatly influenced by his life-long residence in Western North Carolina and especially in the Buckeye Cove community near Swannanoa.

Artus Moser Sr. passed away in 1992, but even into the 21st century, the Moser family continues to be well-known keepers of important highland traditions. His daughters Joan and Irene, and indeed the whole Moser family, including their brother Artus Jr. and their many nieces and nephews, continue to preserve traditional Appalachian song and dance, crafts, healing arts, storytelling and plant lore.

Joan founded the Appalachian Studies program at Warren Wilson College in 1977, and for many years Irene has lent her skills in teaching and as a librarian at colleges and universities across North Carolina and West Virginia.

“What we did whenever the weather was good was, we went hiking,” Joan said in a 2003 interview with the Swannanoa Valley Museum. “My mother being particularly interested in all the botanical names of the plants, she would teach all those and she had plant books ... So we would take plant books, and we would go for all-day hikes.”

Many members of the family form the old-time music Buckeye Band of Swannanoa. “My father (Artus Moser) bought a second-hand guitar out here at the pawn shop in Asheville,” Joan said. “He got a little book that showed where to put your fingers and he had a good ear, so he would tune it up and so we started. … when we were 8 or 9 ... (my mother) taught us how to play the piano (and) we learned the ballads that my grandmother knew.”

Though Joan had a group called the Mountain Women’s String Band that played together for some 20 years, she eventually tired of it and, “that was when we all together decided to just get together in an informal way out our houses from time to time,” she said . “ ... Now we have put together a family band (the Buckeye Band) and we sit in the big house about every other week and all of us play together.”

The Valley History Explorer hiking series visits seven communities that dot the landscape of eastern Buncombe County, including Riceville, Bee Tree, Swannanoa, Black Mountain, Ridgecrest, Montreat and North Fork. Each hike highlights the unique history of a specific community. Though this hike will explore the community of Buckeye Cove, those who complete the hike will receive credit for the “Bee Tree” hike in the series.

Led by experienced hikers and historians, the hikes in the series range between two to three miles long over gradual terrain. Participants can hike a single hike or complete the entire series. Series finishers will be awarded an embroidered Patagonia fleece during a hike celebration at the end of the series.

The cost of each hike is $25 for members and $35 for non-members. The cost of the full series is $175 for members, and $225 for non-members. Led entirely by volunteers, all the proceeds of the hikes benefit the nonprofit Swannanoa Valley Museum, established in 1989 for the preservation and interpretation of the Valley’s history through engaging exhibits and dynamic programs for all ages.

The museum will host a special “interest meeting” about the series on Thursday, March 2 at 6:30 p.m. at the museum, located at 223 W. State St., Black Mountain. The meeting is free.

To register for a hike or learn more about the Swannanoa Valley Museum and the Valley History Explorer Series visit swannanoavalleymuseum.org. You can also register for a hike by contactinng info@swannanoavalleymuseum.org or 669-9566.

Valley History Explorer Hike

Hike: Buckeye Cove

When: 9 a.m. March 11

Meet: Swannanoa Valley Museum, 223 W. State St.

Difficulty: Moderate, 3 miles

Cost: $25 museum members, $35 nonmembers

Register: swannanoavalleymuseum.org, 669-9566