East Rising

Block Number: 123

By Ginger Todd


The title “East Rising” is an appropriate and meaningful name for the newest block added to the McDowell Quilt Trail. The 5.5’ X 5.5’ block was attached to the front entrance brick wall of East McDowell Jr. High on Thursday morning September 27, 2012 using a series of scaffolding tiers. Trail volunteers Mike Lucas and Alan Scholl were provided installation assistance by the school’s maintenance personnel.

The acreage on which the present day East McDowell Junior High School is located is rich in history dating back to the 1800’s when railroad construction was first begun from the coast to the mountains. Delayed by the Civil War, then problems caused by weather and landslides, Marion became a regular stopping point around 1870. Eventually tracks were completed leading to Old Fort and Asheville.

At the time, travel by horse-drawn buggy was the only means of transportation available after arriving at the train station. The name “stagecoach “was given these buggies as an indication that the distances traveled between stopping places on the route to final destination was done in “stages”.

Special Education teacher and history buff Paige Brown aided in providing some of the school’s back-ground, including that of Marion’s first hotel. There being no facility nearby the Marion train station to stay, construction was begun on what was to be a large “resort” hotel. Located on the present day campus of East Jr. High, it was to be named The Catawba Hotel, an impressive, rather ornate and imposing building. However the project was short-lived and due to bank failures and other governmental problems work was suspended in 1893. The building was around two-thirds complete when the financial crash occurred and until several years later remained in semi-completion.

In 1898 Mattie Perry, a prominent business woman, purchased the building and property for a fraction of its original cost. Her goal was to complete the construction of the building and establish a private school and orphanage. In 1899 Elhanan Bible Training Institute and Orphanage was opened, owned and operated by Ms. Perry. It was home and education center to approximately 130 boys and girls ages 1-20.

In 1914, a fire destroyed part of a dormitory and a portion of the school was phased out at that time. It continued serving as an orphanage and school through the early 1900’s until it permanently closed in 1927. In 1929 the abandoned school was burned down completely and most remaining adoption, placement and other records were lost. Since that time although there were no reports of children on the premises when the fire occurred, the site and grounds of East Jr. High School have been implicated to be haunted or at least to be home to lost spirits.

There are stories that continue today reporting the muffled sounds of children crying, moaning and pleading for help. These cries are supposedly from the fire victims, even though the orphanage had been unused and deserted for well over a year prior to the final destruction. Or, could these possibly be from the little-detailed fire of 1914??

The tennis courts, back parking lot and auditorium are rumored to be especially subject to imperiling feelings. There are reports of a small child’s mysterious footprints on a newly mopped floor when no child was around. When walking through the area it is rumored that one feels an eerie sensation of someone being nearby. Sightings of shadowy figures wandering through the premises exist to this day with overtones of even other unexplained mysteries of the past connected with the vicinity.

Are these and other unexplained stories nonsense and meaningless suggestions of one’s imagination? Or, do reminiscent spirits of the past inhabitants still remain unsettled and roam the grounds? Later this month the school will present its 2nd Annual Haunted School production to the public. Not a typical “scare you to death” event, it will be based on the ghost stories of orphans yet also relate some history of the school through “theatrical enhancements”. It promises to be an exciting Halloween adventure of haunts, legends and tales of the unexplained phenomena blended in with historical facts.

It wasn’t until 1955 that the present school building was built, known as Marion High, the “million dollar school”, with even the Governor attending the dedication. Around 1972 it was consolidated and became a junior high school, presently serving around 640 students. It rates 5 out of 5 stars from the school community based on performance and state standardized tests and is scheduled to be transformed from a junior high to a middle school next year.

The faculty and students had a difficult time in deciding on the final pattern of the quilt block. The upcoming transition involving grade and student changes as well as expansions and renovations to the building were considered. The mission statement of East Jr. High begins: “to impart knowledge and skills students will need in order to become long learners and productive members of society”. A scheme that would continue that mission and portray what the school stands for through the years was desired. The symbol of the sun, ever-rising in the east, was decided upon as a meaningful representation of continuing education. Thus, the block design “East Rising” was chosen.

A compass rose was decided on as the centerpiece, incorporating the school’s colors of orange and black, with the image of the sun rising on the eastern point. “East Rising” provides direction to students, the compass star similar to that of a light-bulb flashing, encouraging new ideas and endeavors. During the preparation and creation of the block, approximately 30 ninth grade art class students visited the Quilt Trail studio located at the McDowell House. Volunteer Mike Lucas, builder and artist of the blocks, instructed the students on various aspects of computer and graphic design implemented in the construction of the blocks. He also demonstrated techniques involved in painting and preserving the block.

The block, #123 on the McDowell Quilt Trail, sits on the diagonal and is easily seen from 676 State Street. The gradual variations of yellow and orange portray a sunrise and serve as the background to the eight black and white directional points of the compass. A drive through the key-shaped parking lot provides an even closer and more detailed view. A Certificate of Quilt Block Authenticity was presented by Chairwoman Jill Lucas to Principal Charles Gaffigan and other school faculty.

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