The West

Join us in a magnificent journey through western North Carolina and meet a few of the dedicated people working diligently to preserve our past and our heritage.

William Cecil, Jr., Chief Executive Officer of the Biltmore Company, takes us on a tour of one of the largest personal homes in the country. Preserved exactly as George Vanderbilt left it, the Biltmore is a beautiful piece of North Carolina's living history.

Eustace Conway created Turtle Island Preserve through sheer force of will and lives within its boundaries, teaching people how to return to nature and live in harmony with the forces that shape our lives.

Hugh Morton's family purchased Grandfather Mountain, home of the annual Highland Games, in 1885. Through their kindness and dedication, Grandfather Mountain has become one of the largest, privately owned conservancies in the country.

Robert Bushyhead, a Cherokee Indian Elder, lives on the Qualla Boundary where he works to preserve the Cherokee language Kituhwa.



Bunker Hill Covered Bridge

This bridge, built in 1895 by Andy Ramsour and local residents, spans 85 feet across Lyles Creek and is one of two surviving covered bridges in North Carolina. This recently preserved and renovated bridge is the world's only surviving example of the General Herman Haupt truss design. This beautiful, fully functional bridge is accessible to the public year-round.

Contact: (828) 465-0383

Turtle Island

Eustace Conway realized a dream in 1987 when he took the first step towards establishing this 1,000 acre preserve. Eustace brought people to his reserve to live on the land, as our ancestors did. To learn where food comes from, to supply their own energy, to get closer to the earth and its living relatives. Eustace and his staff at Turtle Island hold camps throughout the year to further his goals of bringing humans closer to the land and preserving the methods of our ancestors.


Museum of the Cherokee Indian

By the 18th century, the Cherokee tribe's territory encompassed parts of North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. At this museum you can learn more about the Cherokee Indians, their culture, beliefs, environment, technology and the Trail of Tears on which between 4,000 and 8,000 Cherokee died.

Contact: (828) 497-3481

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

In 1923, Mr. and Mrs. Willis P. Davis began to propose a new National Park that would preserve the Great Smoky Mountains. Work began in 1925 to raise the necessary funds to buy the first 300,000 acres that straddled North Carolina and Tennessee. When John D. Rockefeller donated $5 million, it was enough money to complete one of the largest national parks in the country. Open year round, the Great Smoky Mountains attract thousands of visitors to its preserved vistas and protected lands.

Contact: (865) 436-7318

The Biltmore Estate
George Washington Vanderbilt built this 250-room estate, located in Asheville, in 1895. Originally planned as an example for a sustainable farm, this estate and its 8,000 remaining acres of land have become a national treasure. Vanderbilt's family has maintained this home for the last 70 years since it was opened to the public in 1930. While the estate and its land continue to perform as a sustainable farm, the home itself has become a living museum preserving the rich heritage of one of America's oldest families.

Contact: 800-624-1575

In 1987 a small group of musicians and a few thousand fans gathered to remember Merle Watson, the legendary folk guitarist, their accomplishments were beyond their wildest dreams. From these humble beginnings, Merlefest was born. Every year since then more musicians have come to play and more people have traveled from afar making Merlefest one of the largest outdoor bluegrass festivals in the world. Groups have established special areas for teaching their crafts so that the youngest can learn them and pass on the knowledge. Traditional dancing, picking, fiddling and storytelling are all represented.

Contact: 800-343-7857

The Homespun Museum

This museum, located in the Biltmore village, maintains the history of turn of the century textile techniques. Using photos, film and artifacts from the time period, the museum honors the traditional, industrial age methods for manufacturing textiles.

Contact: (828) 274-9707

Grandfather Mountain

Hugh Morton inherited this privately owned park in 1952 from his grandfather, Hugh McRae. This unique area protects 4,500 acres of undisturbed wilderness in the Blue Ridge Mountain chain, including Calloway peak, which at 5,964 feet is the highest peak in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This vital park preserves more than just forests and mountains; the park is also home to 42 rare and endangered species. Grandfather Mountain also hosts the annual Highlander Games, one of the world's largest gathering of Scots, for four days of traditional fun from the Highlands.

Contact: 800-468-7325

William A.V. Cecil, Jr.
Chief Executive Office
The Biltmore Company


"When my father first returned to Asheville in the early 1960s Biltmore House was losing over a quarter million dollars annually. He was, and continues to be, determined to preserve it, as a part of his family's history and contribution to our community and, on a broader scale, as an important National Historic Landmark.

This same respect and sense of place remain at the core of our preservation mission today. As CEO of The Biltmore Company, I am charged with seeing that the estate is preserved for my children and future generations. And while my children discover this beautiful farmland - much as my sister and I did - I strive to protect the place that may come under their stewardship. May it long be a symbol for America's commitment to being the best."


William Cecil, Jr. is the current family member heading up the Biltmore Company, owner and operator of the Biltmore House and Gardens. Mr. Cecil is carrying on George Vanderbilt's tradition of a working estate, while preserving an important part of North Carolina's history.

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Eustace Conway


"Experiencing the structure of that integrity of moist fibers and example of traditional instruction from Mr. Rayfield left me that day with more than a feeling of joy; it gave me a foundational theme onto which I wove a lifetime of values and interests. Fulfillment was found not only in having the careful attention of a respected elder, but also in newfound empowerment by knowledge of how to go into the forest, stalk an appropriate oak and transform it into a serviceable basket."


Eustace Conway is a self-taught wilderness expert whom some have called a modern-day Davy Crockett. Now much of his time is spent teaching others self-reliance, independence and a respect for and knowledge of the land.

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Hugh Morton
Preservationist, conservationist and photographer


"Ownership of land is really about stewardship. There may be a deed at the courthouse that says I own Grandfather Mountain, but I have never thought of myself as owner. I am the legal guardian of Grandfather Mountain, and I consider it is my responsibility to look after it as best I can. Many people have given me the impression that Grandfather is North Carolina's most loved and respected mountain. If this is true, preserving it is no trivial responsibility."


Hugh Morton is well known not only for his preservation of wild and scenic Grandfather Mountain but also for his devotion to preserving all aspects of North Carolina's environmental heritage. 

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Robert Bushyhead
Cherokee Indian Elder


"A few years ago a friend said, 'Robert, if you don't do anything about saving your language now, you're going to lose it. And there is no way we can replace it.' I thought, 'That's right.' This friend was a doctoral student, and he received a grant. For a few years, we worked together at Western Carolina University where I taught the Kituhwa dialect. I have heard the older Indians pray in church, and to my ear it is like the sound of a waterfall. Kituhwa's so flowing, so beautiful. I am doing this work, at this age, because this is the only thing I can leave to my people... our common language, Kituhwa. It is the focus of my life now: to save this language that sounds like a waterfall flowing whenever Cherokees gather together to pray."


Robert Bushyhead and his daughter Jean Bushyhead devote much of their time to preserving the heritage of the Cherokee language. Robert is an eloquent spokesman for the beauty of the spoken word, and the power of the oral traditions that have passed on the history of the Cherokee to each new generation.

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