Murphy a hub of small-town entertainment, adventure

Murphy a hub of small-town entertainment, adventure

September 18th, 2011 by Harrison Keely in Glimpse 2011

A rainbow appears to touch the mountain tops near Murphy, N.C. (AP Photo/Bob Jordan)

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Drive directly from Chattanooga into North Carolina and the small town of Murphy is there to greet you when you cross the state line.

"We're either the first town in North Carolina or the last town in North Carolina depending on which way you're going," said Phylis Blackmon, executive director of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce.

Cradled in the valley of mountainous Cherokee County, Murphy is known among residents as a hub of outdoor activity and vibrant small-town life.

The town is nestled between two rivers famous for whitewater adventure, making Cherokee County well-known territory for rafting novices and aficionados.

Blackmon said visitors can spend the first half of the week learning the ropes on the Ocoee and the second half mastering the feisty rapids of the Nantahala.

Visitors looking for less splash and more serenity can enjoy the 87,000-acre Hiwassee Reservoir in between.

"It's a beautiful pristine lake that's undeveloped," Blackmon said.

Even the weather in Murphy is wonderful, she said.

"It doesn't get as hot as it does in Chattanooga and it doesn't get as cold as it does in Chattanooga," she said.

The environment, however, may play second fiddle to local entertainment.

Musicals, comedies and dramas are performed by area talent year-round at the Peacock Playhouse, a community theater in nearby Hayesville.

Or if visitors prefer to do some of the performing, Murphy's Huntington Hall bed and breakfast gives each guest a character to play during a mystery weekend and a chance to sleuth for clues to find a murderer.

Other attractions include a Native American artifact museum downtown and the world's largest Ten Commandments on a hillside in Fields of the Wood, a Bible-themed park.

And it's not quite as far away as it may seem. Cherokee County residents live closer to five other state capitols than their own. For natives, it's a six-hour trip to Raleigh, and only four hours to Nashville.

AT A GLANCE

-- Population: 1,613.

-- Best places to visit: The John. C. Campbell Folk School located minutes away in nearby Brasstown offers courses in quilting, blacksmithing and woodcarving, as well as concerts and dances, year-round.

-- Biggest employers: Murphy Medical Center and Cherokee County Schools. The largest manufacturer is Moog Components.

-- Miles from downtown Chattanooga: 91.

-- Landmarks: Harshaw Chapel, a historic church built in the 1860s of handmade bricks. The chapel overlooks the valley from a hill above the town, surrounded by a cemetery. It's one of eight local buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

-- Date founded: 1835.

-- Historic info: The town was originally founded as Huntington but was renamed for North Carolina politician Archibald D. Murphey. The area was originally home to the Cherokee Nation, but the Cherokees were removed in 1839 on the Trail of Tears.

-- Unique traditions: Residents ring in the new year by lowering a possum at a gas station. Last year's ceremony was featured on CBS.

-- Fun fact: The county courthouse is built of locally quarried "regal blue" marble, one of only a handful in the country.

-- Something you didn't know: The Christmas song "I Wonder as I Wander" was based on a phrase folklorist John Jacob Niles heard sung by a young girl in downtown Murphy in 1933.