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Hiram C. Wilburn Collection

Identifier: MSS 80-17

Content Description

Hiram C. Wilburn was the principal surveyor of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and unofficial founder of the Park museum.

Wilburn was born February 28, 1880, in Union, SC. He graduated from Clemson College in 1908, with a degree in agriculture. From 1908-1916, he taught school and served as a high school principal in Union, SC. After this he owned and operated a farming and general supply store in Union. In 1925, Wilburn moved to North Carolina, where he found work as a surveyor in Tryon and Hendersonville. According to Wilburn's recollections found in this collection, from 1933-1941 Wilburn served with the Civilian Conservation Corps as a foreman, conducting much of the surveying of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In April 1937, Park Superintendent J.R. Eakin appointed Wilburn "Acting Park Historian." Wilburn served in this capacity until about 1940. When the Civilian Conservation Corps was dissolved in 1942, Wilburn was released from the Park Service. Wilburn was later hired as a surveyor for the Parkway.

During his time as acting Park Historian, Wilburn collected historical materials to be included in the proposed National Park Museum. His collections included such names as Col. William H. Thomas and Dr. John Mingus. He made extensive surveys and studies of the historical aspects of the Park area, particularly with regard to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Because of his work he became an expert on the history of place names in western North Carolina and as such began serving on North Carolina’s Historical Markers Committee in 1949.

In 1952, Wilburn became a charter member of the Western North Carolina Historical Association. In 1960, he received its Historian's Cup Award for his distinguished achievement in mountain history.

In August, 1967, a month before his death, on September 6, 1967, he was honored by North Carolina Governor Dan K. Moore with membership in the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, for recognition of contribution to the state.

The collection is grouped into correspondence, biographical material, professional material, newspaper clippings, and writings.

Correspondence: Prior to 1935 the majority of the correspondence is regarding a relief map of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) that Wilburn constructed himself. From 1935 to 1947 the correspondence is of either Park matters or GSMNP Museum matters. After 1949 the correspondence shifts more to historical markers and place names. Correspondence of note: Feb. 24, 1935, from Mrs. F.L. Siler re: Jesse R. Siler and Professor Arnold Guyot; Feb. 6, 1935, from H.T. Hunter re: loan of artifacts to GSMNP Museum; June 5, 1935, from Hubert Hayes re: Presentation to GSMNP Museum original script of "Tight Britches;" June 8, 1935, from Mrs. P.F. Patton re: Gillespie family (rifle markers); July 2, 1935, from Wilburn re: exploring Mt. Kephart with George Masa; Aug. 7, 1935, re: Gillespie Rifle; March 22, 1939, re: home of Dr. John Mingus; March 24, 1939, from Wilburn re: Chastain Raegan Place on Bradley Fork; Aug. 21, 1940, from Wilburn re: Asbury Trail; Sept. 23 & Oct. 26, 1942, re: Meigs/Freeman line; Feb. 15, 1943, & Oct. 5, 1945, re: Fontana land and road; April. 15, 1947, from George Stephens re: appointment of Wilburn as University of North Carolina trustee; Jan. 24, 1948, from Wilburn re: William Holland Thomas books.

Biographical and Genealogical materials: The biographical items are work resumes and statements of employment. The genealogical material consists of a notebook of cemetery and legal records from Union, SC, notes from Mrs. Andrew Smith on Wilburn history, and a paper titled "Ray Traditions and Reminiscences."

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Contains sketches of Park development; a statement by Wilburn charging "malfeasance in office" by Park officials; a report on GSMNP road system; and National Park Service news releases.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Museum: Contains development sketches and exhibit plans and descriptions. A guide to museum committee members and a report on the preservation of mountain culture in GSMNP are contained.

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC): Contains a report of CCC by Wilburn and beautification committee reports.

Historical Markers Committee and Land Descriptions: Contains lists of suggested historical markers. Also contained here are land descriptions of W. T. Shelton lands; Z. L. Massey; Peachtree Indian Mound; the Junaluska area skyline, its ridges, ranges, and peaks; a key to old trails and Native American village sites is contained, but no information as to what map it is key of.

Western North Carolina Historical Association: Contains constitution and by-laws of WNCHA, initial committee assignments, and paper and notes read at initial meeting March 15, 1962.

Legal Papers: Contains transcriptions of Cherokee legal papers.

Wilburn Articles: The following articles are included: "The Cherokee Indians of Jackson County," "Walking Along the Top of the Smokies," "The American Indian In North Carolina," "Types of Architecture in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park," "The Kentucky Rifle," and unnamed articles about early settlement of western North Carolina, and an account of Brig. Gen. Griffith Rutherford's campaign against the Cherokee.

Junaluska: A biographical pamphlet written by Wilburn.

Maps: Several original maps of western North Carolina and GSMNP and two tourist guide maps.

Photographs: Includes two unidentified photographs, a view of Balsam range, view of Blockhorse farm, TN, view of Track Rock, grave of Nancy Ward, riverbank carving near Brasstown, NC.

Newspaper Clippings: Most are from the Asheville Citizen and regard the GSMNP or western North Carolina history.

Writings: Includes a photocopy of a typed manuscript entitled: "The Removal of the Cherokee Indians, by Harry Wheeler with additional manuscripts collected by Hiram C. Wilburn." A photocopy of Wilburn's "Place Names" notebook, Museum information notebook, and an interview notebook are included. In this final grouping is a book about Welborn/Wilburn genealogy.

There have been two additions to this collection. The first is made up of printed material, chiefly pertaining to dealing mainly with western North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the Southern Appalachian Mountains.The second addition to Hiram C. Wilburn’s papers is chiefly correspondence, concerning a variety of topics, including Horace Kephart, preservation of structures and cultural resources in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and items of a personal/family nature. Correspondence to and from, notably:

Horace Kephart

George Masa

I.K. Stearns

Kelly Bennett

George Stephens (Stephens Press, Asheville)

Sadie Patton

Carlos Campbell

William Ernest Bird


  • 1829 - 1962

Conditions Governing Use

No publication fee is made for use of Western Carolina University Library special collections material in scholarly publications. The Library retains sole right to judge what constitutes a non-scholarly or commercial publication. Permission to publish commercially, in circumstances where the Library is qualified to grant it, requires proper authorization. Please contact Special Collections at for more information.


6 Linear Feet

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Repository Details

Part of the Hunter Library - Special Collections Repository

Cullowhee United States