Death in Briar Bottom

The True Story of Hippies, Mountain Lawmen, and the Search for Justice in the Early 1970s

By Timothy Silver

Death in Briar Bottom

Approx. 208 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 15 halftones, notes, index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-8286-0
    Published: November 2024

Hardcover Available November 2024, but pre-order your copy today!

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On July 3, 1972, twenty-four hippies from Clearwater, Florida, set up tents and settled in for the night at Briar Bottom, a public US Forest Service campground in western North Carolina. The impromptu campout was a pit stop for the group on their way to a Rolling Stones concert in Charlotte. Early that evening, they drank beer, smoked marijuana, and listened to rock music as they anticipated the good times that lay ahead. Near midnight, the county sheriff showed up with six deputies, allegedly responding to a noise complaint. They were armed with pistols and five sawed-off 12-gauge shotguns, one of which discharged, killing a young man named Stanley Altland. To this day, no one has been held responsible for the tragic incident, though it happened in front of over a dozen eyewitnesses.

Timothy Silver writes the true story of Altland's death and its aftermath, using archival research, interviews with surviving Clearwater campers, and newly unearthed FBI files. A mix of true crime, southern history, and personal storytelling, this book shows how, in the dark of night at a remote mountain campsite, the killing of an innocent man epitomized the suspicion of young people and violence toward the counterculture that gripped the nation in the early 1970s.

About the Author

Timothy Silver is professor emeritus of history at Appalachian State University, author of Mount Mitchell and the Black Mountains, and coauthor of An Environmental History of the Civil War.
For more information about Timothy Silver, visit the Author Page.


"Tim Silver has provided a strong, gripping addition to conversations surrounding the justice system in the United States and its intersection with the counterculture, as well as American life more broadly, in the 1960s and 1970s."—Jared Phillips, University of Arkansas

"Part true crime, part deep cultural analysis, Death in Briar Bottom offers a detailed and deeply personal retelling of a murder in deep Appalachia in the early 1970s. Timothy Silver combines excellent research, historical elements, and compelling interviews to bring this story to life."—Amanda Lamb, author of No Wake Zone and Love Lies