Cranberry High School
Community High Schools have always brought a sense of pride to plenty of small towns throughout the country. Even years after they may close, consolidate, or merge, memories and common bonds with classmates can keep the flame of a fading community alive.
The same can be said about the Avery County community of Cranberry. Located in the mountains of Northwestern North Carolina, the community and its former high school continue to share a prideful link to its past together.
Cranberry gains its name after the abundant amount of cranberry bushes that grew in the area. It was also home to one of the then-largest veins of iron ore in the United States. The mine was worked by the Cherokee and then discovered by white settlers in the 1780s. The Cranberry Iron Mine would be active throughout most of the 1800s and into the early 1900s. The original post office established here in 1850 was named Cranberry Forge.
The Cranberry Iron Mine supplied iron to the Confederacy during the Civil War. Iron would be sent to Morganton, where the iron would then be sent via rail to foundries throughout the South. The Cranberry Iron and Coal Company would be incorporated in 1873 and would operate the mine until 1930.
The Cranberry Iron Mine would be influential in the construction of the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad. Known more affectionately as the "Tweetsie," the railroad came to Cranberry in 1882 linking it to Johnson City, Tennessee. The railroad would later extend towards Boone. Much of the narrow-gauge line in North Carolina was abandoned after a flood in 1940. The remainder of the narrow gauge line ended operations in 1950.
Construction on Cranberry High School began in 1923 and the new building opened in time for the 1924-1925 school year. The school operated continuously until 1968 when all local high schools in Avery County consolidated into Avery County High School in Newland. Home to the Wildcats, the name remains as part of the nearby Cranberry Middle School.
Cranberry High School's design is very similar to many schools of its time - all brick, three stories tall with steps to the building's entrance. Separate construction for the school's library, science building, and gymnasium also occurred.
|The Cranberrian Corporation was formed by Cranberry High School alumni to preserve the school and the grounds.
After the school closed, it was used by a lumber company for storage until a group of alumni purchased the buildings and surrounding grounds in the mid-1980s. The alumni formed the Cranberrian Corporation, a non-profit organization that cares for and preserves the school's campus.
The Cranberrian has slowly but surely renovated the interior of the school, library, and science building. They host multiple events including class reunions and a regular bingo night. The gymnasium is also available; however, as of 2018, they were hoping to repair the gym floors.
|Bingo Nights are a popular and important fund raiser for the Cranberrian Corporation.
Cranberry is now an incorporated community along Highway 19E in the mountains of our state. But thanks to the efforts of many who have called this place home, its history and memories won't be forgotten.
Sources & Links:
- Cranberry Iron Mine ---NCPedia.com
- East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad ---Carolana.com
- Blakenship, Carl. "50 years after closing, Cranberry High School still going strong." The Avery Journal-Times. July 25, 2018.
- Cranberrian Corporation
- Marc Clifton