History of the Graham County Historical Association

The history of the county and the histories of the families of Graham County have been passed down from one person to another since the county was formed in 1872. Our ancestors were strong people who tamed a rugged land and the GCHA wants to continue to tell their story.

One of the folks who began recording stories, writing things down and keeping scrapbooks for county events was Mrs. Belle Slaughter. Mrs. Slaughter’s historical collection was a critical resource in the compilation of the Graham County Centennial book that was published in 1972 for Graham County’s one hundredth birthday.

Sometime in 1970 a committee was formed to plan a centennial event. Soon there was a committee dedicated to compiling the county’s history. Our organization considers this to be our true beginning.

Two major organizers of this county history project were Jack D. Lovin and Marion Ingram. Lots of other folks worked to gather information for the 100th birthday book as well. Some of those who contributed were: John Veach, Doyle Brock, William L. Nothstein, Robert Barker, Hildred Millsaps, Ruth Elliott, James Barrette, Joyce Jenkins, Howard Edwards, J.D. Carver, John and Mary Howell, Annette Stratton Edwards, and Voyce C. Lovin. The Centennial in 1972 was a great success and so was the booklet about Graham County’s first hundred years.

With the county centennial in 1972 and the nation’s bicentennial only four years later in 1976, a lot of interest in history began to develop. However, it was not until 1990 that another project idea spurred the formation of a group that wanted to record the history of local churches, organizations, and families.

The Graham County Heritage Book Committee was officially formed in 1991 when all interested parties were invited to attend a meeting. The county commissioners leant their support to the endeavor and the committee was off and running. Histories and stories were gathered from local historians, amateur genealogists, and other storytellers.

Some members from the original centennial committee joined the Heritage Book Committee. This included Marion Ingram and Joyce Jenkins. Two committee officers, Bill and Wilma Millsaps, completed cemetery surveys that would be included in the book and helped edit stories submitted by hundreds of individuals. Other officers were Carolyn Cooper Stewart, Dorothy Allen, and Jean Millsaps. A contest was held to design the cover of the book and was won by Marlon Jackson. The design was so good that it continues to be used as the county logo. Walsworth Publishing Company printed the Heritage Book and Don Mills presented it to the committee. At the last committee meeting in February 1992, members voted unanimously to disband and establish the Graham County Historical Society. Meetings would be held on the fourth Monday of each month.

Meetings continued for a while, but with no huge projects to work on, number dwindled. Eventually, meetings stopped altogether.

The Graham County Historical Society tried to revive again sometime after 2000. Efforts were made to get the USFS to allow the old USFS building to be used as a county museum. Efforts failed and the group became inactive once again.

Finally, in 2016 a small group of people wanted to pursue the possibility of creating a county museum. The group named themselves The Graham County Historical Association and received their non-profit status. The group continues to collect local histories, family stories, old photographs and artifacts important to telling the story of Graham County, North Carolina.