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West Jefferson readies for centennial bash

Originally published: Dec. 6, 2012
Last modified: Dec. 14, 2012

Jesse Campbell

Almost 100 years ago, controversy began to brew over where to put a depot station that would serve an up and coming railroad company that was preparing to lay ties and iron in Ashe County. 

Several proponents of the railroad recognized the economical boost and vitalization the transport line would bring to the communities it touched. 

Local historian and lawyer Gene Hafer said there several proposals circulating the county and Jefferson on where the depot would be located in the area. 

Jefferson had long been established the county seat, and at the time, the land that laid to its west was mostly vacant. 

After some debate, it was decided by the railroad company, which over time has held several namesakes before pulling up its tracks in the 1970s, to place a depot station in what would eventually become known as West Jefferson. 

Unknown to the planners, the depot station would lead to the official incorporation of a town that would become know as the county's main business district and hub for regional art enthusiasts. 

To celebrate the efforts of those who had a hand in the town's creation, the West Jefferson Board of Aldermen Monday evening authorized the creation of a nonprofit corporation that will plan and conduct a celebration for the town's centennial anniversary in 2015. 

Hafer, with his expansive knowledge on Ashe County history, was recently approached by town officials about the possibility of him serving as an advisor for the centennial celebration. 

Hafer is no stranger to this type of event.

In 1992, he said he served as the chair of a bicentennial celebration committee for the City of Raleigh. This particular effort, Hafer said, took several years of planning. 

With the West Jefferson celebration, Hafer said he would serve as an advisor instead of a committee member. 

Hafer said the first step in the celebration process is to incorporate the committee as a North Carolina nonprofit corporation, so it can become a tax-exempt organization that is recognized by the IRS. 

“I feel like setting up a nonprofit will make this more simple, and allow it to be later dissolved,” said Town Manager Brantley Price. 

The next step is to develop a volunteer list of those interested in helping with the celebration. Directors, officers, and committee members will be selected for that list, said Hafer. 

Part of the motion filed this to week to establish the corporation is that the committee will make frequent reports to the board on their progress. 

“I really appreciate you helping us,” said Aldermen Brett Summey on Hafer's commitment to advise the town on the celebration. “We are in good hands.”

For more information and stories, see Ashe Mountain Times.