History of the Bartram Trail Society

Why Did the Bartram Trail Society Form?

The North Carolina Bartram Trail Society was organized on November 1, 1977, by eleven North Carolina residents. It was the culmination of several years of dreaming, research, and planning. Among the leaders of this group was the late Walter G. McKelvey, Mr. Charles Moore and Mr. Rowell Bosse, all of Brevard. Dr. J. Dan Pittillo, of Cullowhee, professor emeritus of botany from WCU, was also instrumental in the formative years of the Society and continues to serve on the Board of Directors today.

As much of the proposed Bartram Trail was to be within the Nantahala National Forest, the Society reached an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to begin marking the general trail corridor, and to blaze and build the trail, an undertaking now completed. In the future, the Society hopes to reblaze the earlier western extension of the Trail.

Today, the Society has grown to more than 200 members, who come primarily from the Southeastern states but also from across the country and around the world, from British Columbia to New Zealand. It is governed by a 501c3 non-profit Board of Directors that meet quarterly to direct the growth of the Society. Board members come from all walks of life—professors from various disciplines, attorneys, firemen, professional and amateur naturalists, some retired and some actively working—all with one common goal: to keep alive the spirit of the explorer/botanist that the native Americans called Puc Puggy (translates as “the Flower Hunter”) For in keeping alive his spirit of the joy of noticing and noting the wonders and intricacies of the natural world, we are reminded of how precious and yet how precarious our natural resources are and the importance of their stewardship for future generations.

The Society is supported solely by memberships and occasional grants written by board members. Donations are tax-deductible and most welcome. Club members are also from all walks of life bringing with them interests such as hiking and backpacking, natural history of local fauna and flora as well as first time visitors to these ancient Appalachian Mountain Ranges.

The Society's Mission:

  • to recognize and honor the Philadelphia-born naturalist, William Bartram, who traveled through the southeast between the years 1773 and 1777, writing exact and vivid descriptions of the plants and animals he saw and the native tribes he encountered, and who published these writings in 1791 as Travels of William Bartram.
  • to establish and maintain an eighty-plus mile memorial trail, following a route as close as possible to Bartram’s original route through western North Carolina.
  • to promote further enquiry and knowledge about the plants and animals of the southern Appalachians, as well as the traditions and culture of the native Cherokee people, which Bartram encountered on his travels here in 1775.

Interested in becoming a member?