Saturday, February 7, 2009

Hendersonville Public Library

All of these photographs were made at the Hendersonville Public Library two nights ago. There was a photographer there from the Asheville Citizen-Times and to my amazement, he took over thirty (30) shots while I was telling stories. I had a packed house despite the below freezing temperature and the icy roads. A few more appearances like this one and I'll start to believe my own publicity.

Another wonderful thing came out of this night. I was given a copy of a little 18-page pamphlet entitled "The Happy Land Kingdom" which was published by Mattie Smathers Patton back in the 70's. The copy at the Hendersonville Public Library may be the only copy in existence and the folks who sponsored my program simply made a photo copy and gave it to me. It even has a map!
"The Happy Land Kingdom" was a commune/utopia established by freed slaves back in 1864 over near Saluda. At one time it had over 400 inhabitants and here is the surprising thing: It worked. At least it lasted until about 1900. Happy Land had a king and a queen who actually
made the laws that governed the people. For approximately 40 years, the inhabitants of Happy Land grew crops, devised land parcels and prospered. Not only were they self-sufficient, they
provided valuable services to the world beyond their boundaries. They sold produce and developed a thriving craft center (furniture and weaving) which found a market in the surrounding area. Some of the inhabitants even worked in nearby towns, returning each night
to Happy Land.

I am fascinated. I will probably spend a lot of time researching Happy Land. As near as I can tell, very little survived in the way of records and practically nothing has been written about it.