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John Preston Arthur was born in 1851 in Columbia, South Carolina. After moving to Asheville, North Carolina in 1887, he was made Secretary of the Street Railway Company, later becoming Manager and Superintendent until 1894. After becoming a lawyer, he was urged to write a history of western North Carolina, with support from the D.A.R. He was a debater and orator, writer, historian, poet and lover of nature. A retiring and timid man, he loved the plain, honest people among whom he lived in later life.