James Whitcomb Riley, Fletcher
The memorial is one of a series of large granite mountain boulders, all about the same size but
of different shapes that comprise the “Open-Air Westminster Abbey of the South.” Each marker contains a bronze plaque with date of birth and death and a statement about the person’s significance to southern culture or in some cases their relationship to Calvary Episcopal Church.
Images: Plaque | Rear view | View of memorials at "Westminster Abbey of the South"
IN LOVING MEMORY / JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY / “THE HOOSIER POET”
BORN IN GREENFIELD, INDIANA, OCTOBER 7, 1853 / DIED IN INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA, JULY 22, 1916 / A FRIEND OF “BILL NYE” / A VISITOR AT “BUCK SHOALS” ON THE / FRENCH BROAD RIVER / NEAR THIS CHURCH
ERECTED BY DOCTOR JOE SHELBY RILEY / COUSIN OF THE POET / SUMMER OF 1927
Calvary Episcopal Church
July 17, 1927
35.442600 , -82.503600 View in Geobrowse
"Westminster Abbey of South," Spartanburg Herald Journal (Spartanburg, SC) September 24, 1939, Link
Hicklin, J.B. “Elaborate Abbey to Immortalize South’s Leaders,” Forest City Courier (Forest City, NC), September 24, 1931, (accessed May 27, 2016) Link
Jenkins, Mark. “Historical Sketch of Calvary Episcopal Church,” (Calvary Parish, Fletcher, 1959) Link
“Bronze Tablet Unveiled In Memory Of James Whitcomb Riley,” The Indianapolis Star (Indianapolis, Indiana), July 30, 1927
“Calvary Church, Fletcher, N.C. Between Asheville and Hendersonville,” in Durwood Barbour Collection of North Carolina Postcards (PO77), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Link
“Fletcher Markers,” The Historical Marker Database, HMdb.org, (accessed May 25, 2016) Link
“Friendship of Nye and Riley Is Told by Church Tablet,” The Indianapolis Star (Indianapolis, Indiana), July 17, 1927
“James Whitcomb Riley, 1849–1916.” Poetry Foundation, http://www.poetryfoundation.org, (accessed June 10, 2016) Link
“North Carolina Will Unveil Memorial to ‘Hoosier Poet,” The Indianapolis Star (Indianapolis, Indiana), July 13, 1927
“Riley, James Whitcomb,” Memorial To.” E. M. Ball Photographic Collection (1918-1969) D. H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville 28804, Link
“Southern Town Will Dedicate Riley Tablet,” The Indianapolis Star (Indianapolis, Indiana), June 25, 1927
Dr. Joe Shelby Riley
Dr. Joe Shelby Riley, a cousin of the poet and the memorial’s donor was one of the scheduled speakers. The dedication also included the reading of several of Riley’s poems. Douglas Nye, son of Bill Nye, also appeared on the program for the day’s events that were described as a “festival” to James Whitcomb Riley.
James Whitcomb Riley is known as the “Hoosier Poet” because of his birth in Indiana. He is also known as “The Children’s Poet” due to his popularity with young readers. He was a close friend of Bill Nye, a member of Calvary Episcopal Church, and was a regular visitor to Nye’s home. This explains his inclusion in a memorial garden created to immortalize men and women important to southern culture and history.
Calvary Episcopal Church is located at 2840 Hendersonville Road, at
its intersection with Old Airport Road in Fletcher, NC.
Eighteen “Open-Air Westminster Abbey of the South” markers stand in two rows in a lawn area facing Old Airport Road to the right of the church. The Robert E. Lee Dixie Highway is located near the street facing Hendersonville Road. One memorial to Bill Nye is in the church cemetery and the second memorial to Bill Nye is on the front lawn of the church. The Calvary Episcopal Church marker stands near the sanctuary.
This memorial is one of eighteen “Open-Air Westminster Abbey of the South” markers that stand in two rows in a lawn area to the right of the church.
This memorial and the seventeen others now standing along Old Airport Road were originally located in a landscaped plot along Hendersonville Road (Highway 25) directly in front of the cemetery. It is likely they had to be relocated when the road was widened to four lanes.