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Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Waldensian Geocaching Experience

Arrowhead Monument in Old Fort, NC
We had a great trip into the North Carolina Mountains. On our way home we made several stops to see sites of interest and to find some geocaches near the Interstate. One place we liked was featured on Roadside America. I was surprised that there was no cache associated with this site. Thanks to Roadside America for bringing me to Old Fort, NC to see the monument to the Indian population that used to live here. The giant arrowhead monument sits beside the railroad that gives life to this small town.

Further east along Interstate 40 we came to the town of Valdese, NC. This is a beautifully developed and maintained small town. The
Downtown mural depicting Waldensian origins
shops along Main Street are inviting and the people were warm and friendly during our visit. The story is as follows. In 1893 several scouts for a group of Waldensians from northern Italy came to Burke County, NC. This area is located in the foothills just east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. These scouts came in order to secure land for a large group of their people who, for economic reasons, wished to settle in a place that would allow them more land and opportunity as well as in a place that would allow them religious liberty.

The Waldensians trace their beginnings as a religious group to the 1170's in Lyon, France. There Peter Waldo, a wealthy merchant, began to practice the radical teachings of Jesus. He sold his
Left side depicts the Italian Alps; the right side: Burke Co.
possessions, gave them to the poor and began to preach the gospel of salvation. One of the tenants of the Waldensians was an allegiance to Scripture over the traditions of men. In fact, the followers of Peter Waldo became some of the first reformers.

The Waldensian insistence on the above result in them being perceived as a threat to the Roman Catholic Church. As a result they suffered persecution, often resulting in the loss of property and martyrdom at the hands of the church. Periods of peace alternated with periods of persecution. When the reformation began in the 1500's the Waldensians joined the movement, eventually becoming an Italian branch of the
sumajhuarmi makes the find: Peter Waldo's Legacy
Calvinistic evangelical church community. In the next century Roman Catholic persecution had the goal of eradicating the Waldensians but this failed.

By the time these Waldensians left the Cottian region of the Italian Alps to settle in rural Burke County they had lived in peace and virtually religious freedom for some time. Nonetheless, their move to a rural section of Burke County brought many things to the county. In addition to many French names, these French speaking Italian Waldensians brought their agrarian customs and traditions. Most Wadensians became participants in the Presbyterian Church. Today the town of Valdese, NC is a testament to their resolve.

We recently stopped into the town of Valdese to see the Waldensian Heritage Museum. I highly recommend it. For only $2 per person you can tour a nice exhibit of Waldensian artifacts and history. You can visit the Trail of Faith -- a section of land where Waldensian buildings have been moved for preservation or where replicas have been assembled. If you come during the summer months you might want to see the outdoor drama, From This Day Forward, depicting the heritage of the North Carolina Waldensian community.

While in the town we made sure to find several geocaches. While most caches were not of a Waldensian theme, one was. In fact, it was my favorite. We stopped at a small urban park which included a small garden with fountain, monuments and a giant wall mural depicting the Waldensian Italian Alps homeland on the left side and the Waldensian Burke County, NC foothill landscape on the right. Each part of the replica depicted key buildings and communities from Waldensian history. We stopped to get photos and then tracked to the GZ. After a few moments we had the cache in hand, signed the log and replaced the cache as we had found it. Peter Waldo's Legacy (GC15H72) and the opportunity to see the mural is worth the time.

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