- Kyra Letsinger
A Town Called Murphy
Drive as far west as you can in southern North Carolina and the last town you’ll find before crossing the Tennessee border is Murphy. Despite being the county seat for Cherokee County, Murphy is an incredibly small town with a population of only about 1,500. Even though they’re small, Mayor Rick Ramsey explained that Murphy is full of personality and, “treasures in both people and places.” Executive Director of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, Sherry Raines, says that Murphy has truly come into its own the past 15 years, holding a variety of festivals, welcoming in tourists from all over the country and many people who want a second home in the mountains, and greatly expanding their downtown area.
It’s hard to stay away from Murphy and Mayor Ramsey can attest to that. Ramsey was born and raised in Murphy before moving to places like Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Fort Worth before finally retiring and settling back home. Mayor Ramsey explains that many tourists feel much the same as him when it comes to the reason they love Murphy so much; something just feels right about it. The relaxation of living in a quiet mountain town is unlike anything else in the world. This is a key reason Murphy has done so well in the pandemic. So many people have sought out Murphy as an escape from the stressors of the pandemic. Because of its isolation in the mountains, many people have felt safer visiting Murphy rather than other travel destinations. According to Sherry Raines, some businesses reported this year as their strongest year ever, despite fears of major business closings earlier in the year. RV parks have seen a massive increase in visitors, some restaurants have thrived with new curbside options, and many businesses have taken this opportunity to switch to more effective business models. Mayor Ramsey says that the town has taken the COVID-19 pandemic very seriously, implementing mask mandates and necessary business and school shutdowns earlier in the year. The mayor says this has led to the rates of cases in the area being far lower than that in the rest of the country.
When it’s not a pandemic, people visit Murphy to see the stunning waterfalls, streams, rivers, and mountains and take part in the unique attractions the town provides. This includes the Murphy Art Walk which highlights local artists, the Christmas Festival which includes a parade and long-awaited tree lighting, and the annual Spring Festival which includes craft beer and food vendors, music, a car show, and more. Murphy is also home to the John C. Campbell Folk School which provides visitors with the opportunity to learn unique skills such as blacksmithing, quilting, calligraphy, canning, and more. The school also provides a chance for visitors to take part in activities such as folk dancing, live music, and storytelling. According to Mayor Ramsey, this combination of Danish and Appalachian culture is so special that visitors from all over the world flock to the school.
Murphy is so much more than just a small mountain town. It is a bustling, growing community that provides visitors with the charm so many seek out when visiting Appalachia. Visitors immediately feel like part of the community when they visit, it’s why so many choose to settle down there after retirement. With people as kind as Mayor Ramsey and Executive Director Raines, it’s no wonder so many people want to call Murphy home.