Ralph Scharringhaus and Blowing Rock, NC

Blog Post #24
by Jane Van Ryan

For several summers in the early Twentieth Century, young Knoxville businessman Ralph Scharringhaus traveled to mountainous Blowing Rock, North Carolina, to escape the heat and humidity of the Tennessee Valley. Ralph viewed these weeks-long vacations as essential. He said they gave him the chance to rest, play golf and tennis, and relax after months of managing his family’s wholesale clothing business in Knoxville.

Evelyn Hazen, the last resident of the Mabry-Hazen House, was engaged to Ralph at the time, and she was bitterly disappointed every time Ralph’s announced he was going to Blowing Rock without her. She felt abandoned and worried about being terribly lonely without him. At the time, young women did not venture out to parties or movies unattended.

To make up for his absence, Ralph wrote love letters to Evelyn nearly every day, emphasizing how much he missed her and justifying his vacation as way to protect his health. He claimed he wasn’t as strong as Evelyn and physically could not tolerate the sultry summer heat.

Although it’s not clear precisely where Ralph stayed in Blowing Rock, it’s quite possible he patronized the Green Park Inn. It has been in operation since 1891, and at the time it housed the area’s only post office. Major George Washington Findlay Harper, a Civil War veteran, was one of the three Lenoir, N.C., businessmen who founded the hotel on land known as Green Park.

The Green Park Inn website attributes Blowing Rock’s name to an Indian legend passed down through the Cherokee and Catawaba Native American Tribes. According to the story, “two Native American lovers - one from each tribe - were walking near the rocks when the man received a notice to report to his village to go into battle. When his lover urged him to stay with her, he became so distraught that he threw himself off the blowing rock into the gorge. The woman prayed to the Great Spirit to return her lover, and the Spirit complied by sending a gust of wind which blew the man back up the cliff and landed him safely on the blowing rock itself. Thus, the Blowing Rock, which to this day is invested with currents that frequently "blow" vertically.”

Several notable Americans stayed at the Green Park Inn in the Twentieth Century, including John D. Rockefeller, Annie Oakley, Eleanor Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, and Margaret Mitchell, who reportedly wrote part of Gone with the Wind at the hotel. The Green Park Inn was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and is said to be the second oldest resort hotel in operation in North Carolina.

Today there are several resorts at Blowing Rock, making it a prime destination for travelers in the summer and during the winter ski season. But the Green Park Inn appears to be the most historic…and possibly haunted.

According to posts submitted by people who have stayed there, a woman named Laura Bell hanged herself from water pipes in a third floor room after she was left at the altar by her lover. Visitors report feeling cold drafts at various places in the hotel and hearing voices and banging sounds at night on the third floor. One claims a window and a door opened by themselves. According to one report, a hotel worker confirmed the hotel is haunted.

Evelyn Hazen also was jilted by her lover Ralph Scharringhaus, but rather than take her own life she dragged him into a court of law where he was found guilty of breach of promise to marry and seduction. The entire story of their engagement and the court case can be found in my book, The Seduction of Miss Evelyn Hazen, which is available at the Mabry-Hazen House and fine bookstores in Knoxville.

Evelyn’s and Ralph’s engagement lasted 15 years, despite his annual summer sojourns to Blowing Rock, where he complained of missing his “sweet Baby” constantly. In a letter written in 1924, Ralph wrote, “Honey I love you better than everything in his world and the longer I am away from you the more I love you…I wish you were here tonight Honey for I am as lonesome as I can be.”

But Ralph was not quite as lonely as he pretended. Starting in 1921, much of Ralph’s time in Blowing Rock was spent with his so-called “summer girls,” as Evelyn learned later. This fact was just one of many reasons why she sued him.