Highlands: A Family History

Downtown Highlands, N.C. (photo courtesy of Highlands Chamber of Commerce)

By Jamie Angle, 2017

The Baty family has been in Highlands, North Carolina for seemingly forever. They are among the two or three historical Scottish families who remained in the area after their migration from Scotland. Erin Baty, a young blonde woman in her twenties or thirties, left this hometown for a bit to go to school in Georgia, but the Highlands called her home. Highlands is a name that actually refers to the Scottish Highlands and, according to Erin, was the reason the town was named as such. Her family was originally Norse people who moved to Scotland, but then many of them wanted to “pursue more scholarship” in Germany and Whales, then finally moved to the United States. While they tried to settle in Virginia and other original United States colonies, the Baty family ended up moving further south because of the landscape. The landscape of the Highlands reminded them of the landscape from Scotland. Therefore, this became the home of the Baty family. The original Scottish families intermarried and became friends with other cultural families in the area, such as the Irish and Native Americans. They brought with them a vast knowledge of agriculture and survival techniques to share with these other ethnicities. The blending of skills and cultures renders the city of Highlands, as we know it today, a truly unique place.

“The Irish didn’t really know what to do with that kind of landscape…The Scots kind of stayed in the area and branched out…They had a huge relationship and connection to the Cherokee Indians, which is why you see a lot of that influence here. This is their land. It was, from my understanding, rather peaceful. My dad is fifty percent Cherokee.”

While Baty’s can be found all over the world at this point, from their trips to Whales, Germany, Virginia, and further migration over the years, many still call the Highlands home. Erin claims she can walk into many local establishments and ask if the local owner “knows a Baty” and the answer is almost always a resounding “yes.” They have watched the area expand over the years. Erin found it sad that she can no longer see the places her grandfather used to talk about. She told me that, “There is no landmark anymore that [she] can come back to and say, ‘oh look at this, or oh look at that.’” She stated, “When [she] was a kid, there were maybe four shops.” These places have long since been torn down to make space for the tourist society that we see in the Highlands today. However, she is not without some remnants of these olden times. A historical photo book was put together showing historical documents of her family throughout the years.

Highlands is a city of rich cultural history and the Baty family is only one example of the city’s heritage. Erin said, the beauty of the land “called” too many different people and their combined cultures creates an unforgettable atmosphere that you have to see to believe.

“This land calls to people…the beauty enraptures people here. There is great wealth and there is great poverty, but they all come up here for the land.”