Beech Mountain was a fertile hunting ground for its first inhabitants, the Cherokee Indians, who called Beech “Klonteska” (Pheasant). It is said that The Great Trading Path, originally an old animal trail that Indians used, which originated in Virginia and stretched across the Carolinas to Georgia, crossed Beech Mountain.
In 1774, the first white settler to our area was Samuel Bright. Bright helped guide pioneer families from the Yadkin and Catawba River Valleys into the early Watauga settlements.
Around the turn of the 20th century, Beech Mountain was an important lumbering area. Small cabins were built where men lived during the week. Ruins of these lumber camps can still be found in some areas of Beech.
In the 1930’s. Mr. Clinger, the head of the Department of Industrial Education at Lees-McRae College introduced the idea of skiing to his students and Beech Mountain had its first novice skiers. The students even established their own ski organization, the Skiing Zero Club.
In 1961, Thomas Brigham, a dentist from Birmingham, Alabama, envisioned a ski resort in the South and purchased a large tract of Beech Mountain land, which he later sold to the Robbins brothers. Harry and Grover Robbins, from Blowing Rock, were in the sawmill/lumber business, but soon became interested in developing a resort on Beech, and to that end joined other investors to create the Carolina Caribbean Corporation in 1965.
To promote land sales, the Carolina Caribbean Corporation enhanced the mountain’s appeal with a ski resort, which opened in the winter of 1967, the Beech Mountain Club, with an Olympic-sized, heated pool, 4 tennis courts, a bathhouse, and a gazebo which opened in 1969, and the Land of Oz theme park in 1970. During that same year, Carolina Caribbean created the Property Owner’s Association to “promote the health, safety and welfare of homeowners”. One of their first missions was to improve infrastructure and establish the Beech Mountain Volunteer Fire Department.
By 1975 activity at the slopes had begun to decline and the overextended Carolina Caribbean Corporation filed for bankruptcy. That winter fire and vandalism devastated the Land of Oz and while it was reopened in 1976, it never lived up to its old glory, closing down for good in 1980.
The six years to follow the bankruptcy were critical in the survival of the Beech Mountain community. The slopes and Land of Oz were released from bankruptcy and managed by the Tri-South Mortgage Corporation. Meanwhile, the Property Owners Association took on the mission to acquire, operate and maintain recreation facilities for their members. The POA board negotiated the purchase of the Club and recreational facilities from the bank and led the difficult process of incorporation. After the property owners mobilized to preserve all that had been established, in 1981, Beech Mountain incorporated and reinvented itself as a quaint town and popular resort destination.