Figure 1: A chimney is all that remains of Carrie Dorsett’s home in Cedar Mountain. A steel box for the model Mark C Heatilator was installed in the fireplace. Air circulated behind the box, via convection, from lower to upper openings on each side of the chimney
Figure 2: Allegorical Peace is the central figure in the Apotheosis of Democracy pediment over the east entrance to the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Photo by Andreas Praefcke. CC BY 3.0; commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2268263
Figure 3: Award certificate for Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915 features Carrie Dorsett.
Figure 4: The purple box is the approximate location of a 100 acre parcel granted by NC to Micajah Thomas in 1850. The star is the approximate location of Le Paradis.
The short answer to this question is that Carrie Thrash Dorsett was among the last persons to build a home on private land before it became part of DuPont State Forest. But let’s back up before we tell her story. Native Americans had temporary hunting camps for several thousand years in what is now DuPont State Forest, but their permanent homes were at lower elevations where land was more suitable for farming and milder winters were more hospitable. The first permanent settlers in DuPont Forest were descendants of immigrants from Great Britain and Europe. Those early settlers acquired tracts along the Little River and its tributaries through land grants issued by the State of North Carolina and administered by agents in Buncombe, Henderson, and Transylvania Counties. Surveys conducted in the1800s make references to family cabins, but only a few remains of those cabins can be found today. Building materials were scarce in the 1800s, so nails and stones were removed from abandoned cabins and repurposed for new cabins.
A chimney (Figure 1) located just off Reasonover Road near the Fawn Lake Parking Lot is all that remains of a house with a garage apartment that was built for Carrie Thrash Dorsett in 1947. Carolina “Carrie” Thrash was born in Buncombe County on November 23, 1876. She was the daughter of John Milton Thrash and Sara Jane Luther. John Thrash was a successful business man who acquired more than two thousand acres in Transylvania and Buncombe County from about 1890 to 1921, often by being the high bidder at public auctions at the Transylvania County Court House. Carrie was raised on the 200 acre Thrash family farm (named Evergreen Ridge Farm) at the confluence of the Davidson and French Broad Rivers in Transylvania County. She loved the outdoors and became an accomplished equestrian and markswoman.
In 1903, at the age of 29, Carrie married Samuel T. Dorsett, who was born in Chatham County, NC in 1868. Soon after Samuel’s birth, the Dorsett family moved to Florida, where Samuel was raised. He moved to Asheville in his twenties and found employment with a men’s clothing store and then a local bank. A few years after their marriage, Samuel and his wife Carrie moved to Washington, DC, where Samuel became a real estate agent. In 1909, Samuel along with his brother J. D. Dorsett and two partners formed the Potomac Heights Land Company. They purchased 75 acres for $75,000 in northwest Washington, DC with plans to sell 800 residential lots for approximately $500 each. Within two years, more than 200 lots had been sold and a dozen houses built at a cost of $4,000 to $6,000 each. In 2021, the median price of a house in Potomac Heights was $1.3 million.
While Samuel Dorsett was busy selling lots and building houses in Potomac Heights, his wife Carrie was becoming a sought-after model by painters and sculptors. She initially posed for an artist during a winter visit to Florida. This painting brought her much attention. Artists described her nearly six-foot figure as “perfectly proportioned”. Sculptor Paul Bartlett used her from 1911-1914 as the model for the center figure representing Peace in the Apotheosis of Democracy marble sculpture located on the east side of the U. S. Capitol Building (Figure 2). Charles Y. Turner used her as a model for several figures in murals painted on the walls of the Wisconsin State Capitol Building. She was also the model for the central figure shown on certificates presented as awards by the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915 (Figure 3).
Carrie’s husband Samuel died from complications of diabetes in 1924 at the age of 54. Samuel and Carrie had no children, so Samuel bequeathed half of his estate to Carrie and the rest to his brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews. Carrie remained in the District of Columbia until 1932, when she moved back to the family farm near Brevard. Her father John Thrash apparently left no will when he died in 1930, so his large estate was settled through court proceedings in 1938. The family farm in Brevard was allocated to Jacksie Wolfe, daughter of Rosa Thrash McGaha and granddaughter of John Thrash. Carrie received “The Cedar Mountain Tract”, which consisted of 1,010 acres in ten separate (but mostly adjacent) properties ranging in size from 0.75 to 325 acres. Carrie also received several lots in Asheville. Carrie left the Evergreen Ridge Farm sometime between 1938 and 1940 and moved to Asheville, where she spent her time writing poetry and entertaining friends.
Among the properties included in the Cedar Mountain Tract inherited by Carrie Thrash Dorsett was a 100 acre tract on both sides of Reasonover Road that was originally a tiny part of the vast area west of the Blue Ridge that was acquired by North Carolina from Great Britain when NC became a state in 1789. The 100 acre tract was granted by the State of North Carolina to Micajah S. Thomas in 1850 (Figure 4). It changed hands several times before Carrie’s father purchased the 100 tract in 1909. Reasonover Road was an unimproved dirt road until the mid-1920s, when the Victor Monaghan Mill Company bought 183 acres at the east end of Reasonover Road and built Camp Reasonover for the families of its employees. Over the next twenty years, Reasonover Road was improved, electric utilities were installed, and more families built homes along Reasonover Road.
Apparently those improvements in what had been a rural farming area convinced Carrie to leave Asheville in 1947 and move to her newly built mountain house on Reasonover Road in Cedar Mountain. She named her home “Le Paradis” and celebrated her first Thanksgiving in Cedar Mountain by serving a luncheon of wild game meats to her guests, including two Asheville attorneys and a U. S. Deputy Marshal. In an article for The Transylvania Times on November 27, 1947, the house was described as “appearing to be a primitive house but modern throughout…with a Chinese effect contributed by her collected curios of the Orient.” Doug Pace, who was raised on Reasonover Road across from Carrie’s house, recalls seeing her rock collection displayed on her screened in porch and the unusual skylight in what may have been the garage apartment.
Carrie’s front porch rock collection reflected her on-going interest in the possible value of mineral resources on her properties in Transylvania County. In 1943, 1951, and 1952 Carolina Dorsett conveyed to various entities the sole right to explore and develop all the mica and other minerals contained in her 1,300 acres in Transylvania County. Bud Bishop remembers blasting rocks near Reasonover Creek to look for copper ore, but the samples were low grade and no mines were ever dug.
When Carried died in 1953, she bequeathed her property equally to her two nephews and two nieces. None of the heirs had a strong interest in the ~1,200 acres that Carrie owned in Cedar Mountain at the time of her death, so each sold their one-fourth interest in those properties to others. Eventually Dr. Richard Worsham and James Landon each acquired a one-half interest in the Cedar Mountain properties (1,040 acres at this point), which they sold to Ben Cart in 1967 to be developed as the Summit Camps for Boys and Girls. In 1989, Ben Cart sold about 60 acres of this tract to private citizens. He sold the rest of the property, including the site of Carrie Dorsett’s house, to the DuPont Corporation in 1991. The DuPont Corporation sold a portion (526 acres) of this property, including the site of Carrie Dorsett’s house, to The Conservation Fund in 1996. Finally in 2000 this 526 acre tract was acquired by the State of North Carolina and integrated into DuPont State Forest. Thus after a 150 year journey, the land that was granted to Micajah Thomas and where Carrie Dorsett built Le Paradis is once again owned by the State of North Carolina.
Please note that historical objects and artifacts in DuPont State Recreational Forest are the property of the State of North Carolina and should not be disturbed or removed.
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