Jennifer “Jennie” Jones Giles is a descendant of at least 30 of the earliest pioneer settlers in Henderson and Polk counties and has spent more than 30 years studying area history and genealogy.
She grew up in Henderson County and was a 1969 graduate of East Henderson High School. She attended Wake Forest University and UNC-Chapel Hill, and holds a BA in sociology from UNC-Asheville, with minors in history, anthropology and education. She was awarded the Senior Scholar Award from UNC-Asheville.
She also received her teacher certification and was a public school teacher, teaching history, social sciences and English in Henderson and Polk counties’ middle and high schools.
Giles worked at the Hendersonville Times-News for 27 years as a reporter and editor, serving at various times as a copy editor, the community news editor and the farm and garden editor.
She received the New York Times Chairman’s Award and a N.C. Press Association first place award for “Small Town/Big Crime,” an eight-day serial on a 40-year-old unsolved triple murder in Henderson County.
For the series “Vanishing History” on the plight of historical cemeteries in Henderson County, she received a N.C. Press Association award and Woman of the Year awards from the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution Abraham Kuykendall and James McDowell chapters. This series was also the impetus for the formation of the Henderson County Historic Cemetery Advisory Board, of which she is a member, and strengthening laws within the county and state to preserve historic cemeteries.
She was the recipient of a N.C. Press Association award for stories on black history in Henderson County and received several first-place awards from the N.C. Society of Historians for other historical stories.
She received the Outstanding Newspaper Award from the American Legion Auxiliary Department of North Carolina for her stories on local veterans. Giles wrote several stories on World War II veterans and local men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. She also wrote stories on HonorAir, the local initiative to send the county’s World War II veterans to visit their memorial in Washington, D.C., and was a member of several HonorAir flights.
She is a member of the Abraham Kuykendall Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and a charter member of the First Families of Old Buncombe.
Giles was the first director of the Henderson County Heritage Museum and conceived, researched and directed the opening exhibit “Let Freedom Ring.”
She has conducted extensive genealogy research on her pioneer families in Henderson and Polk counties – Jones, Hill, Arledge, Clark, Cagle, Rhodes, Jackson, Edney, Justus, Pace, Justice and more.
She currently teaches a continuing education class at Blue Ridge Community College on the history and heritage of Henderson County.
John Paul Jones collects and restores historic photos of the southern Appalachian region, primarily focusing on Henderson County and surrounding counties, including the Upstate of South Carolina.
His collection of historic photographs numbers more than 5,000, dating from the 1860s through the 1960s.
He travels the southern Blue Ridge Mountain region meeting his mountain kinfolk and scanning family photos from within their homes if necessary.
He is a native of Henderson County. His ancestors on both his mother’s and father’s side of his family tree date back to the earliest settlers who entered the region in the late 1700s and early 1800s. He has a special rapport with our local people.
To contact John Paul Jones for free estimates and more information, e-mail [email protected]
Rand Cheadle previously worked with Jennie Jones Giles as a contributing researcher and writer for the “Small Town/Big Crime” series of articles in the Times-News. Cheadle is a consultant in Washington, D.C., specializing in marketing and creative development for nonprofits. He is a native of Western North Carolina and grew up in Henderson County.