About Happy Valley
There's an art to experiencing North Carolina's Historic Happy Valley. As you drive along this scenic 28-mile stretch of road, listen as valley residents describe the area's musical traditions, stories, legends, and traditional farming practices. They're captured in the world-famous ballad, "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley," and brought to life in Charles Frazier's award-winning book, Cold Mountain. They're recalled in tales of frontiersman Daniel Boone, who lived here with his wife and six children in the mid-18th century before settling in Kentucky. Today, Happy Valley retains its historic connections to the arts, storytelling and traditional ways of working and living.
The headwaters of the Yadkin River, located at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, give the valley its distinctive beauty. One story has it that Happy Valley was named by the daughter of William Lenoir, whose historic home, Fort Defiance, is now open to visitors. Others say that Happy Valley derived its name from the whiskey, brandy, and other spirits made from corn and rye grown by early settlers in the river bottomlands, and from apples cultivated in orchards on the nearby hillsides. Today, the valley remains dotted with century farms, historic churches and cemeteries, and distinctive barns and homes.
Happy Valley residents continue to make their own music on fiddles and banjos here. In addition to constructing traditional pole and log barns, they also build furniture. They have passed down ways to train and work horses and mules, cultivate heirloom fruits and vegetables, and raise bees for honey.
Yet they are also quick to blend new ideas into older traditions. The lush sounds of violins, violas and harps are heard in chamber music concerts that co-exist with a local fiddlers' convention. Although oral tradition is strong, a beautiful and historic school stands in the center of the valley, a testament to residents' passion for education. Goat cheese dairies and sturgeon roe farms are found these days alongside fields of corn and hay. The clear waters of the upper Yadkin River unite all. It winds through the valley among the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, flowing by historic farms and churches, and through pastures of grazing cattle.