Editor’s Note: This article features news and photos from past editions of the Watauga Democrat.
June 19, 1980
“Construction of the Bone Mall is on schedule for the planned opening next March,” an article in a June 19, 1980, edition of the Watauga Democrat stated. “William Barnett of Henderson, the developer of the mall, said that work was progressing as planned and that Boone’s first enclosed shopping would be open in the spring.”
“We’re satisfied with the construction to date,” Barnett said in the article. “We’ve been enjoying some good weather, so we’ve been making good progress.”
According to the article, most of the exterior walls had been erected and interior work would begin by the end of summer.
“Construction of the 200,000-square-foot mall between U.S. 321 and Winkler’s Creek Road actually began last fall, after the developer obtained the necessary permits to build,” the article stated. “Initial work involved the transfer of large amounts of dirt to fill in the mall site in order to raise it above flood levels.”
“The first was allowed to settle during the winter months, and then was graded off early this spring,” the article stated. “By grading the top layer of fill, the finished floor level of the mall will be made to roughly equal the elevation of Blowing Rock Road, or some 10 feet above the level of nearby Hodge’s and Winkler’s creek.”
According to the article, in order to provide access to the mall, a road will be built from the site to Blowing Rock Road. Four structures along the highway would also be demolished to make room for the access road.
“Once the estimated $2.5 million project is completed, the mall will include Belk, J. C. Penney, Food Town grocery store and numerous other variety, auto, clothing, book and drug stores,” the article stated. “Some critics of the mall, however, have claimed the construction will have adverse effects on flooding in the area.
Loren Raymon, an App State geologist, said in the article the mall would cause an increase in flooding and that the town should have taken more time to examine the effects of the construction.
“Local and federal regulations limit construction in the floodway, but allow construction in the flood fringe as long as the flood height is not raised by more than one foot,” the article stated. “Nathan Thomas, an independent contractor from Raleigh, was hired by the developer last year to verify engineering reports that the construction would have no effect on the flood.”
According to the article, Barnett said he was satisfied with findings by the engineers that no additional flooding would be produced by the mall.
June 18, 1990
Designed to educate visitors about the natural and cultural history of the 1 billion-year-old mountain, the new Grandfather Mountain Nature Museum was formerly dedicated, according to a June 18, 1990, edition of the Watauga Democrat.
“Principal speaker at the dedication ceremonies, C.D. Spangler Jr., president of the University of North Carolina System, said the museum will help lead visitors to a greater understanding of the area’s unique environment and history,” the article stated.
“This nature museum is a step, and not a small step, to change our course toward a better direction,” Spangler said in the June 18, 1990, article. “As a North Carolinian and president of the university system, I feel proud to have this new museum within our borders.”
At the dedication ceremony, which the article stated an estimated 250 people attended, visitors and guests viewed the exhibits and enjoyed refreshments. The article also stated entertainment was provided by Grand Ole Opry star George Hamilton IV.
“The 16 displays officially unveiled June 16 include the legendary Daniel Boone Tree from Tennessee, a block of wood on loan to the museum into which the pioneer carved ‘D. Boon killd a bar on this tre, 1775.’”
According the the article, also featured at the opening event were exhibits of birds of North Carolina, minerals of North Carolina, the North Carolina gold rush, mushrooms of the mountains, edible berries, wildflowers of Grandfather Mountain, black bears, white tail deer, cougars, eagles, ravens, Grandfather Mountain weather records and the four seasons.
Films were also shown during the ceremonies, according to the article.
“Special recognition was given to the craftsmen and scientists who crafted or prepared the museum’s exhibits,” the article stated. “Recognized at the event were Rolland Hower, Paul Marchand, Bill Crisman, Hack Hanahan, Johnpaul Harris and Richard Evnas Younger.”
According to the article, Spangler also praised Hugh Morton, the owner of Grandfather Mountain, for his vision toward making the museum a reality.
June 12, 2000
Rufus Leach, a rising senior and returning guard on the Appalachian State men’s basketball team, died in a swimming accident at Watauga Lake on June 9, 2000, according to a June 12, 2000, edition of the Watauga Democrat.
“Leach, 22, was swimming with Appalachian State teammate Buddy Davis from a boat that was anchored about 50 yards from shore,” the article stated. “Leach apparently developed leg cramps halfway through the swim and drowned. Davis, a forward for the Mountaineers, swam back to the boat. Leach was thrown a life preserver, but neither was thrown far enough to reach him in time.”
According to the article, Leach’s body was recovered June 10 just before 11 a.m. by the Tennessee Wildlife and Resources Authority and the Carter County, Tenn., Sheriff’s Office and was taken to the East Tennessee State Medical Center.
“Though most ASU students are out of town for the summer, a few bouquets of flowers were left at one of the doors at varsity gym, a place where Leach delighted crowds with his 3-point shooting and hard-nosed defense,” the article stated. “Also left was a message on one of the building’s windows that said, ‘Rufus Leach No 5. We will miss you.’”
“All of this has been unbelievable,” ASU athletics director Roachel Laney said in the 2000 article. “The way the word spread, the total shock of people, the phones that began to ring, the tears that have been shed. Rufus Leave was so loved. This university is going to miss a tremendous individual.”
Head Coach Buzz Peterson, who said the 2000-01 season would be dedicated to Leach, talked to the rest of the players the morning after the accident, according to the article, and said that he would remember Leach not only as a player, but as a person who was “always on a mission.”
“Leach, who majored in communication, transferred to Appalachian State from Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Fla.,” the article stated. “During (his time at App State), he worked two jobs including one at Bojangles restaurant. He also continually lifted weights and played intramural basketball during that year off.”
According to the article, Leach’s first season with the Mountaineers started with a 28-point performance in a loss to Oklahoma State. He averaged 16.4 points per game and a school record by hitting 103 3-point attempts.