Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
—Sir Walter Scott
This work reminds me, on an appropriately more modest scale, of John Lukacs’s book on Philadelphians. Both hearken back to a time when Americans were a semicivilized people who lived in Real Places rather than the rootless inhabitants of a uniform, ugly, and trivial No Place. Joe Scotchie has spent his working life in New York, but he still loves his native place—North Carolina’s little city in the lovely Blue Ridge valley of the Swannanoa. A real conservative—previously the author of books on Richard Weaver, Pat Buchanan, and related subjects—Scotchie knows the history of Asheville and its region both inside and out. That is the best viewpoint for an historian. He tells us the history from the first settlement, wiped out by Cherokees, up to the present incarnation as an artsy and lavender mecca celebrated by Rolling Stone as a rising American “freak city.”
Asheville’s 19th-century history, and its forgotten great figures like Zeb Vance, David Swain, and Elisha Mitchell, will be of interest to those who like politically uncorrected American history. The author’s partly biographical approach...