I recently learned that this county along with two neighboring counties (Alleghany and Watauga) were nicknamed the “Lost Provinces” because in the early 20th century they were virtually inaccessible due to the abrupt slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Although they were a part of North Carolina, their trade and transportation were linked with neighboring Tennessee and Virginia, which were more easily accessed.
The Cherokees, Shawnees, and Creeks had hunted this territory for centuries, but the first recorded visit by white men occurred in 1752 when a band of six explorers, led by Augustus Spangenberg, arrived after a harrowing ascent of the Blue Ridge. Spangenberg, a Moravian bishop from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, had been charged by church elders to find favorable land for a new settlement, and thus his expedition to Carolina. Spangenberg’s diary described the natural beauty and resources of the land that would later be Ashe, noting especially the fertile soil, wild game, and abundant pasture. The Moravians moved on, but other settlers began flowing into the region by the end of the 18th century. Some found their way through the treacherous mountain passes of the Blue Ridge, others came over the Stone Mountains from Tennessee but most traveled along the ‘Great Wagon Road’ through the Shenandoah Valley southward into North Carolina. These immigrants were mostly English, Scotch-Irish and Germans, who brought with them the culture and music of their homelands, traditions that gradually found fresh expression in the rugged Ashe territory. Life in the Lost Provinces was strenuous, and early homesteaders were by necessity tough, hard-working and self sufficient. Winters were harsh and transportation was severely limited; there was no industry, and even rudimentary agricultural implements were rare in the early days. Doctors were few and mail service was practically nonexistent, but such hardships were mitigated by the lure of adventure and the promise of independence