In Highlands (2008), part of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series, Randolph Preston Shaffner documents though photographs the fifty-five years before and after the founding of Highlands, North Carolina, in 1875 by New Yorker Samuel Truman Kelsey and Vermonter Clinton Carter Hutchinson. As the legend goes, the two men simply drew lines from Chicago to Savannah and from NewOrleans toNew York. They believed the place where the two lines crossed would eventually become a great trading center and commercial crossroads. What resulted was a seasonal resort that at just over 4,000 feet provided “common ground” for pioneers from both the North and South only a decade after the Civil War.
The author begins with chapters on the region’s rich botanical diversity and physical beauty, and then briefly reviews the families who first settled the land that would
become Highlands. The next two chapters cover the years 1875 to 1930 and account for the bulk of the book. These chapters include numerous photographs of Highlands’
first homes, including those of its founders. There are photographs of the first sawmills, schools, boardinghouses, general stores, and churches, some of which have long since disappeared from the landscape. The author concludes with chapters entitled, “Architectural Gems,” which focuses on several of Highlands’ more unique homes and buildings; “Artistic Creations,” which reflects on Highlands as an artist’s haven; and “Then and Now,” where Shaffner compares several present-day photographs with their historical counterparts.
Like similar titles in Arcadia’s Images of America series, most pages have two wellprinted black and white photographs, each accompanied with a one-paragraph
informative caption that often includes interesting trivia. People seldom think of their old photographs with their sepia-toned images of awkwardly posed ancestors as
historical documents, but Highlands proves once again how such “artifacts” can express more about how people lived than dozens of pages of historical text. The author’s
personal ties to the area and sense of place lend an engaging authenticity and homespun perspective to the book. Highlands is a pleasure to read and compares favorably with other titles in the series. There are few attempts to connect the founding of Highlands to larger historical currents in North Carolina history, but the book’s regional appeal is undeniable, and its strength is in its well-crafted portrayal of the unique families and
individuals that helped to build Highlands. The 127-page paperbound book is available for $19.99.—JEFF FUTCH, Western Office, North Carolina Office of Archives and