D. H. Ramsey Library Special Collections and University Archives

George Holcomb Prosser Collection


                                     poss002_title.jpg (155915 bytes)        poss001_title.jpg (162846 bytes)
                                                 Gertrude Parker Prosser and George H. Prosser, c. 1950's, George H. Prosser Collection,
                                       D.H. Ramsey Library, UNC Asheville

Title George Holcomb Prosser Collection
Creator George H. Prosser
Alt. Creator Gwynne P. Smith [daughter]
Identifier http://toto.lib.unca.edu/findingaids/mss/prosser_george_h/default_prosser_george_h.html
Subject Keyword George H. Prosser ; Gwynne P. Smith ; Barbara P. Kerr ; poetry ; Appalachia ; American Enka Corporation ; Smoky Mountians ; recreation ; Great Depression ; western North Carolina life ; Gertrude Parker Prosser ; moonshining ; camping ; poems ; Edgar Guest ;
Subject LCSH Prosser, George H., 1895-
Prosser, Gertrude Parker Prosser
Smith, Gwynn Prosser
Kerr, Barbara P.
Enka Village -- History
American Enka Corporation -- History
Textile manufacturers -- North Carolina
North Carolina, Western -- Social life and customs
North Carolina, Western -- Poetry
Description A small collection of poetry written by George H. Prosser while he worked at American Enka Corporation, a rayon processing plant located in Candler, NC. The poems, referred to as "doggerel" by Prosser, tell of his work, his friendships, the family life-style during the Depression, camping, and other recreation enjoyed by the family. The poems are a graphic reflection of the time and the culture in which Prosser and his family lived. They reflect one man's struggle with tough economic times and portray the rural and urban cultural tug of war familiar to many who have experienced similar shifts of culture.
Publisher D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville 28804
Contributor Barbara P. Kerr (daughter)
Date original 1920's - 1930's
Date digital 2007-05-24
Type Collection ; Text
Format photocopy of 31 pages on 8 x 10" non-archival paper.
Source M77.9.1-7 ; OS77.9.1-11
Language English
Relation John E. Jervis Labor Collection, D.H. Ramsey Library, UNC Asheville ;
Coverage 1928-  ; Asheville, NC ; Western North Carolina
Rights Any display, publication, or public use must credit the D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville.
Copyright retained by the creators of certain items in the collection, or their descendents, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Donor Donor number 138
Acquisition 2007-05-17
Citation George H. Prosser Collection, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville, 28804
Processed by Special Collections staff, 2007

[Notes from Gwynne Prosser Smith (daughter).]

( Background on our father so that the context of these poems can be understood.)
A short biography of George H. Prosser, father of Barbara P. Kerr & Gwynne P. Smith

Some of our father's story

George Prosser, our father, was born in 1895 in near Springfield, Ohio. He grew up on a Shetland pony farm and later a dairy farm.

During the first World War, he served in France, assigned to the Heavy Artillery because he could handle horses and the city boys couldn't. There were no mechanized units then, and both the cannon and the munitions cassions were horse-drawn and man-pushed. The wheels were 6 feet in diameter, and frequently the wagons were frequently sunk into mud down to the axle. George pulled the horses' heads guiding them and encouraging them up and down the slopes and through the mire.

After the war, he and Gertrude Parker Prosser, also of Springfield, married and in due time had a little boy who had severe asthma and heart trouble. In December 1923 they moved to Asheville, N.C., hoping that the climate would help his health. They arrived in Asheville, with the sickly boy Dale, and another baby on the way.   (I was born June 1924, and my sister followed in Dec. 1925. Dale died about 1928.)

When they first arrived in 1923, George found work unloading raw lumber off box cars. His pay for the Xmas week was $6.00. Near the lumber cars, they were unloading cabbages and throwing out the damaged ones. Our father took these home and cabbage was the basis of their diet for a while.

Later George drove a gasoline delivery truck and then about 1927 or 28, he got a job helping construct the new Dutch rayon plant, "Enka", between West Asheville and Canton. When the plant opened, he was very fortunate to be hired as one of the permanent workers. It stayed open during the Depression and though the paycheck was small, it^sleady.and increased with new responsibilities until he became superintendent of the new Salvage Department. This was a very early effort not to throw away useful material. This department restored or repaired plant equipment before it was reinstalled in the production line. What could not be salvaged was sold for scrap.

Through the years, Mother was able to manage the family on the small income. During the Depression years, it was a matter of honor that she went out immediately and spent his paycheck to set the funds flowing in the community. The grocery, the hardware store and the variety store were desperate for customers and she got good bargains. From the North where they each had many relatives and knew a lot of people, they had moved into a community which had a great mistrust of northerners. To deal with their sense of isolation, they actively worked to develop a wide range of friends at school and at work.

Over the years, Dad wrote a lot of poems which tickled his fellow workers. He called them 'doggerel'; I thought they sounded like Edgar Guest.* Many of these were published in the monthly "Enka Voice". They touched on recent happenings, or gossip that every one in the plant knew about. People got a kick out of seeing stuff about themselves in print. Some of these may be still kept in the Enka Voice archives, if such a file exists. Some of the poems he wrote for himself, but most were widely shared.

I did not realize until years later how unusual was the relationship between the mountain men and my father. They really trusted this northerner as one of their own. Amazing! and a tribute to my dad. Mother was friends with the women, too. Our family went with a group of 4 or 5 native families, camping and fishing together all over the mountains of western North Carolina during the depression years. Gas was cheap, and being in the out-of-doors was a good way to spend the weekends. Our major source of protein during this time was rainbow trout they caught in the little mountain streams.

On the weekends, our little group of cars would search out the most remote streams they has heard about, to try the fishing. Even in places where there was no apparent land owner, as soon as the men started setting up camp, someone (usually a man) would appear out of the woods (usually with a gun) and carefully check us out visually and ask questions. Much of the time we were on Cherokee land which later became part of the Smoky Mountain National Park.

No matter where we were, after slow and lengthy conversations,   someone in our group could find a common relative (example: second cousin twice removed) which would then make us all acceptable. Otherwise it was a little bit harder to get permission to camp. The men did the talking; women and children (i.e. girls) sat quietly in the cars waiting to be told if it was OK to stay.

Once we were camped near a road and a bridge over a remote stream. In the middle of the night, men from the advance car for a bootleggers' run stopped at our camp and woke us up. They questioned the men intensively and shone a bright flashlight into all the tents to make sure that we weren't 'revenooers' and that there really were families with kids sleeping there. Then they went on down the road to finish checking things out. Later we could hear the 'load' vehicle racing along the mountainous gravel road, with the engine whining on the hills and the tires spewing gravel all over the place. (Must have been hard on cars...)

 This may give you a little 'feel' for the ties of blood and the suspicions about those who were not related to someone known. Dad's friends must have done a good job of vouching for him because I can't remember our being harassed ever.

Gwynne Prosser Smith (daughter)
Delaware,  May 15, 2007

[*British born Edgar Guest was often called the "People's Poet," and wrote poetry about every-day life for the Detroit Free Press. His work was syndicated to many newspapers in the U.S. and was widely read in the early years of the twentieth century. Guest died in 1959.]


George Holcomb Prosser Collection - Poetry
Box Folder Item


1 1 Group I  
  Strike at Enka 1941 pros004.jpg (201260 bytes)

pros005.jpg (173925 bytes)

  Hattie's Boy pros006.jpg (198892 bytes)
pros006.jpg (198892 bytes)
  My Sister's Boy  

pros007.jpg (191196 bytes)

pros009.jpg (155622 bytes)

    pros010   Do You Suppose ? pros010.jpg (193597 bytes)
  Do You Suppose II pros011.jpg (192151 bytes)

pros012.jpg (97242 bytes)

  Group II  
    pros013   Look Out Pop pros013.jpg (144863 bytes)
      Group III  
  Vacations pros014.jpg (195712 bytes)

pros015.jpg (110459 bytes)


pros016a missing
  North Fork pros016.jpg (198905 bytes)

pros017.jpg (188877 bytes)


  Young Knight pros017.jpg (188877 bytes)

pros018.jpg (155537 bytes)

      Group IV  
    pros019   Grandbaby pros019.jpg (173189 bytes)
  Do You Suppose III pros020.jpg (188973 bytes)

pros021.jpg (130391 bytes)






  Tennessee Creek pros022.jpg (175447 bytes)

pros023.jpg (169859 bytes)



pros025.jpg (175736 bytes)

pros026.jpg (95517 bytes)

      Group V  


  Cascade Lake pros027.jpg (186907 bytes)

pros028.jpg (168515 bytes)






  Salvage Saga pros029.jpg (133580 bytes)

pros030.jpg (136583 bytes)

pros031.jpg (134607 bytes)

pros032.jpg (155011 bytes)

pros033.jpg (82848 bytes)