Deanna K. Klingel, Author
Raggedy Ann, Carolina Girl
Johnny Gruelle created the first Raggedy Ann in 1912. He and his family crafted many models before settling on the rag doll that became the model for his illustrations and shortly after, a patented rag doll for consumer in 1915.
The Gruelles had friends who lived in Balsam, North Carolina, whom they visited in the summers. Many of Raggedy Ann’s adventures, such as The Deep Deep Woods, were inspired by the Carolina mountains.
When John Gruelle died in 1938, his wife became the matriarch of Raggedy Ann and her younger brother, Andy. She moved to North Carolina with her two sons, Worth and Richard. She created the Johnny Gruelle Company to create and protect the Raggedy industries in the 1940s.
Worth purchased 34 acres of property on the Highlands Cashiers Plateau and built a cabin in 1956. His family lived in Florida and Connecticut, but they summered in North Carolina. Worth’s son Kim added to the property in 1971, built a home and moved his art studio into the cabin. Kim became the fifth generation of Gruelle storytellers and illustrators.
In the charming cabin on the Cashiers property Worth’s family founded The Last Great Company in 1981. Here they sold Raggedy books and dolls and one-of-a-kind illustrations drawn by Worth and colored by Kim. While Worth and Kim drew, autographed, colored and told stories, his mother served lunch to the patrons on the porch.
In 1997, the U. S. Postal Service printed the Raggedy Ann Doll 32-cent stamp. The first day issue was stamped in Cashiers at the Village Green. School children and hundreds of residents were delighted to see the life-size Raggedy Ann come to visit and share refreshments while they purchased stamps.
Kim’s parents died in 1996 and 1997. In 1999, Kim struggled with Lyme Disease. He closed the doors of The Last Great Company in 2005. He’s now the purveyor of one-of-a-kind Raggedy memorabilia operating a mail order wholesale and retail business on the internet. There are only two Raggedy Ann and Andy books currently in publication.
For seventy five years Raggedy Ann and Andy have lived here in the North Carolina mountains. Like many other folks their stay began with summer visits and ended with retirement on the Cashiers-Highlands plateau.