Arts Literature

Book Feature: Through The Mountains: The French Broad River and Time

John E. Ross, Author

Wilma Dykeman asked “Who killed the French Broad?” in her 1955 classic The French Broad, a groundbreaking book about the river’s history that motivated watershed residents to take action to undo the damage of years. Author John Ross has published a new book about this iconic river that flows from Rosman through Asheville and into Tennessee where it joins the Holston to form the Tennessee River. “My follow-up question is this,” Ross says. “For 14,000 years, the watershed has sustained human populations. What must we start doing now to ensure that it will continue to do so for our grandchildren, their grandchildren and grandchildren beyond?”

Ross’ book Through the Mountains: The French Broad River and Time traces the watershed’s history from earliest settlement and exploration to recent times of development and activism. In writing the book, Ross came across many striking images, most notably a painting titled A View of Asheville, North Carolina by Robert S. Duncanson, an African American landscape artist of the 1850s–’60s who was called the “finest landscape artist in the West.” Ross writes about concerned citizens going up against the Tennessee Valley Authority over dams and enlisting Al Gore in the 1990s to take on Champion Fibre over its dumping of dioxins into the Pigeon River.

Through the Mountains: The French Broad River and Time, July 2021, history, hardcover, $34.95, by John E. Ross, and published by The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN.

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