The Center for Pioneer Life

The Center for Pioneer Life

A project of the Strawbridge and Martha Wilson Young Foundation

Our mission is to preserve the legacy of the pioneer families who settled this region and experience how they lived.

We are creating a center for experiential education where visitors will learn how pioneer families lived as they take an interactive journey through time. We envision a model subsistence farm brimming with activities and learning opportunities while also providing a high-quality academic and research environment.

The Center utilizes a skillful combination of research, publications, lectures, videos, exhibits, oral history, genealogical studies, and hands-on activities to meet these objectives:

  • Preserve and promote the heritage of the pioneers who settled this region.
  • Understand how they lived and make these experiences available for future generations. 
  • Become a significant destination site for researchers, descendants, students, community members, and visitors.
  • Become a valuable economic asset for the region.

Our program is designed to answer these questions:
Who were the pioneers who settled this region?
Where did they come from and why did they come?
When and how did they come?
What did they find when they arrived?
How did they live?

If you have questions or would like to get involved contact us here. 



Sunday, November 4, at 3:00 PM

Do you know that this is not the year 2018, but rather maybe 2022 or even 2024? No kidding! The monk who, in the 6th century, first calculated the year of the birth of Jesus made a little mistake!

Do you know that Jesus was not born on December 25 but likely in the spring?  Do you know that the date was not set until centuries later, likely to take over a Roman celebration of the annual rebirth of the sun at the winter solstice?

Do you know that when Pope Gregory revised the calendar in 1582, what was in the Julian calendar as December 25 became what is now January 7 in the new Gregorian calendar? Groups such as the Russian Orthodox still observe “old Christmas,” as Protestant groups in Appalachia continued to do for centuries?

Do you know that the word “xmas” still has the word “Christ” embedded in it? Learn why there is no need to put “Christ” back in “Christmas”.

Do you know why the traditional picture of a roasted pig with an apple in its mouth has an association with Christmas?

Do you know the possible origin of the piggy bank?

Do you know about slaves in Yancey County getting Christmas vacation as long as the yule log burned?

Do you know why firearms and fireworks are still discharged in Appalachia on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?

Ah, the things that you will learn!

This lecture series is free and open to the public and will take place in The Earl and Betty Banks Young Center at 134 Shoal Creek Rd., Burnsville on Sunday, November 4, at 3:00 PM. Arrive early or stay late to tour the Josiah and Frances Ray Young Cabin (circa 1847) which has been reconstructed on this property. Furnishings at the Cabin are items dating from the 19thcentury (or quality reproductions) meant to demonstrate the lifestyle of the families during that time period.

Dr. Lloyd Bailey of Durham, North Carolina, is widely recognized as an authority on the history and genealogy of the Toe River Valley. He was born in Yancey County in 1936. Now retired, he taught for twenty-eight years in the Divinity School of Duke University. A semester at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Was named Distinguished Barrow Professor of religion at Mount Olive College and Professor of Religion at Methodist University.  He is a member of the Strawbridge and Martha Wilson Young Foundation Board. In his academic field, he published twenty books and more than 100 articles in periodicals, dictionaries, and encyclopedias.  He has appeared in television documentaries by The History Channel, A&E, and The Discovery Channel.  Photo of Lloyd Bailey courtesy of Jim Young.