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Western North Carolina; a history (1730-1913) online

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North Carolina


(FROM 1730 TO 1913)




The Edward Buncombe Chapter of the Daughters of the

American Revolution, of Ashevllle, N. C.

Edwards <fe Broughton Printing Company! » « » ". *



Copyright, 1924
By E. H. D. Morrison

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The references are to the names of authors or works as follows:

Allen: means "A History of Haywood County," by W. C. Allen, Waynes-
ville, 1908.

Asheville's Centenary: means an article by that name which was pub-
lished in the Asheville Citizen in February, 1898, by Foster A.
Sondley, Esq., of the Asheville Bar.

Balsam Groves: means "The Balsam Groves of the Grandfather Moun-
tain," by Shep. M. Dugger of Banner Elk, Watauga county.

Byrd: means the "Writings of Col. Wm. Byrd of Westover," 1901.

Carolina Mountains, by Margaret W. Morley, 1913

Col. Rec: means Colonial and State Records of North Carolina.

Draper: means "Kings Mountain and Its Heroes," by Dr. L. C. Draper.

Dropped Stitches: means "Dropped Stitches in Tennessee History," by
Hon. John Allison, Nashville, 1896.

Dugger: means "The Balsam Groves" named above.

Fifth Eth. Rep.: means the Fifth Annual Report of the Bureau of
Ethnology, 1883-'84.

Foote's Sketches: means "Foote's Sketches of North Carolina."

Hart: means "Formation of the Union," by A. B. Hart, 1901.

Heart of the Alleghanies: means a work of that name by Zeigler & Gross-
cup, 1879.

Herndon: means "Abraham Lincoln," by W. H. Herndon and J. W.
Weik, 1892. Vol. I.

Kerr: means W. C. Kerr's Report of the Geological Survey of North
Carolina, 1875.

McClure: means "The Early Life of Abraham Lincoln," by Ida M.
Tarbell, 1896.

McGee: means "A History of Tennessee," by R. G. McGee, American
Book Company, 1900.

Nineteenth Eth. Rep.: means the Nineteenth Annual Report of the
Bureau of Ethnology, 1897.

Polk: means "North Carolina Hand-Book," by L. L. Polk, 1879,

Ramsey: means "Annals of Tennessee," by Dr. J. G. Ramsey.

Roosevelt: means "The Winning of the West," by Theodore Roose-
velt, 1905, Current Literature Publishing Company.

Tarbell: means "Life of Abraham Lincoln," by Ida M. Tarbell, Vol. I,

Thwaites: means "Daniel Boone," by Reuben Gold Thwaites.

Waddell: means the "Annals of Augusta County, Va., " by Joseph A.
Waddell, 1886, or the second volume, 1902.

Wheeler: means "Historical Sketches of North Carolina," by John H.
Wheeler, 1851.

Woman's Edition: means the "Woman's Edition of the Asheville Citi-
zen," published by the women of Asheville, November 1895.

Zeigler & Grosscup: means "The Heart of the Alleghanies," by them, 1879.




Chapter I — Introductory 7

Chapter II — Boundaries 18

Chapter III — Colonial Days 60

Chapter IV — Daniel Boone 79

Chapter V — Revolutionary Days 96

Chapter VI— The State of Franklin 113

Chapter VII — Grants and Litigation 131

Chapter VIII — County History 143

Chapter IX — Pioneer Preachers 215

Chapter X — Roads, Stage Coaches and Taverns 229

Chapter XI — Manners and Customs 248

Chapter XII — Extraordinary Events 292

Chapter XIII — Humorous and Romantic 327

Chapter XIV— Duels 356

Chapter XV — Bench and Bar 373

Chapter XVI — Notable Cases and Decisions 407

Chapter XVII — Schools and Colleges 420

Chapter XVIII — Newspapers 449

Chapter XIX — Swepson and Littlefield 457

Chapter XX — Railroads 469

Chapter XXI — Notable Resorts and Improvements 491

Chapter XXII — Flora and Fauna 512

Chapter XXIII — Physical Peculiarities 528

Chapter XXIV — Mineralogy and Geology 542

Chapter XXV — Mines and Mining 552

Chapter XXVI— The Cherokees 566

Chapter XXVII— The Civil War Period 600

Chapter XXVIII— Political 628

Appendix 652

Index 659




Our Lordly Domain. Lying between the Blue Ridge on
the East and the Iron, Great Smoky and Unaka mountains
on the West, is, in North Carolina, a lordly domain. It
varies in width from about forty miles at the Virginia line to
about seventy-five when it reaches Georgia on the Southerly
side. Running Northeast and Southwest it borders the State
of Tennessee on the West for about two hundred and thirty
miles, following the meanderings of the mountain tops, and
embraces approximately eight thousand square miles. No-
where within that entire area is there a tract of level land
one thousand acres in extent; for the mountains are every-
where, except in places where a limpid stream has, after ages
of erosion, eaten out of the hills a narrow valley. Between
the Grandfather on the east and the Roan on the west, the
distance in a straight line is less than twenty miles, while
from Melrose mountain, just west of Try on, to the corner of
North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, is over one hundred
and fifty miles.

The Appalachians. According to the Smithsonian Insti-
tution, the name Alleghany is from the language of the Dela-
ware Indians, and signifies a fine or navigable river. l It is
sometimes applied to the mountain ranges in the eastern part
of the United States, but the Appalachians, first applied by
De Soto to the whole system, is preferred by geographers. 2

The Grandfather Mountain. The Blue Ridge reaches
its culmination in this hoary pile, with its five-peaked crown
of archsean rocks, and nearly six thousand feet of elevation.



Of this mountain the following lines were written in 1898:


Oldest of all terrestrial things — still holding

Thy wrinkled forehead high;
Whose every seam, earth's history enfolding,

Grim Science doth defy —
Teach me the lesson of the world-old story,

Deep in thy bosom hid;
Read me thy riddles that were old and hoary

Ere Sphinx and Pyramid!
Thou saw'st the birth of that abstraction

Which men have christened Time;
Thou saw'st the dead world wake to life and action

Far in thy early prime;
Thou caught'st the far faint ray from Sirius rising,

When through space first was hurled,
The primal gloom of ancient voids surprising,

This atom, called the World!
Gray was thy head ere Steam or Sail or Traffic

Had waked the soul of Gain,
Or reed or string had made the air seraphic

With Music's magic strain!
Thy cheek had kindled with the crimsoned blushes

Of myriad sunset dyes
Ere Adam's race began, or, from the rushes,

Came Moses, great and wise!
Thou saw'st the Flood, Mount Arrarat o'er-riding,

That bore of old the Ark;
Thou saw'st the Star, the Eastern Magi guiding

To manger, drear and dark.
Seething with heat, or glacial ices rending

Thy gaunt and crumbling form;
Riven by frosts and lightning-bolts — contending

In tempest and in storm —
Thou still protesteth 'gainst the day impending,

When, striving not in vain,
Science, at last, from thee thy riddles rending,

Shall make all secrets plain!

The Peculiarities of the Mountains. Until 1835 the
mountains of New Hampshire had been regarded as the
loftiest of the Alleghanies; but at that time the attention of
John C. Calhoun had been drawn to the numerous rivers
which come from all sides of the North Carolina mountains
and he shrewdly reasoned that between the parallels of 35° and
36° and 30', north latitude, would be found the highest pla-


teau and mountains of the Atlantic coast. The Blue Ridge
is a true divide, all streams flowing east and all flowing west
having their sources east or west of that divide. The Linville
river seems to be an exception to this rule, but its source is
in Linville gap, which is the true divide, the Boone fork of
the Watauga rising only a few hundred feet away flowing west
to the Mississippi. There are two springs at Blowing Rock
only a few feet apart, one of which flows into the Yadkin, and
thence into the Atlantic, while the other goes into the New,
and thence into the Gulf of Mexico; Avhile the Saddle Moun-
tain Baptist church in Alleghany county is built so exactly on
the line that a drop of rain falling on one side of the roof goes
into the Atlantic, while another drop, falling on the opposite
side ultimately gets into the Gulf.

When the Alleghanies Were Higher Than the Alps.
What is by some called The Portal is the depression between
the Grandfather on the East and the Roan mountain on the
West. When it is remembered that the Gulf of Mexico once
extended further north than Cairo, Illinois, and that both the
Ohio and the Mississippi once emptied into that inland sea
without having joined their waters, it will be easy to under-
stand why these mountains must have been much higher than
at present, as most of their surface soil has for untold ages
been slowly carried westward to form the eastern half of the
valley of the Mississippi from Cairo to New Orleans. Thus,
the Watauga first finds its way westward, followed in the or-
der named by the Doe, the Toe, the Cane, the French Broad,
the Pigeon, the Little Tennessee and last by the Hiwassee.
The most northerly section of this western rampart is called
the Stone mountains, and then follow the Iron, the Bald, the
Great Smoky, the Unaka, and last, the Frog mountains of
Georgia. The Blue Ridge, the transverse ranges and the
western mountains contain over a score of peaks higher than
Mount Washington, while the general level of the plateau
between the Blue Ridge and the mountains which divide
North Carolina from Tennessee is over two thousand feet
above sea level. Where most of these streams break through
the western barrier are veritable canons, sometimes so nar-
row as to dispute the passage of wagon road, railroad and
river. For a quarter of a mile along the Toe, at Lost Cove,
the railroad is built on a concrete viaduct in the very bed of


the river itself. The mountains are wooded to their crests,
except where those crests are covered by grass, frequently
forming velvety mountain meadows. The scenery is often
grand and inspiring. It is always beautiful; and Cowper
sings :

"Scenes must be beautiful that, daily seen,
Please daily, and whose novelty survives
Long knowledge and the scrutiny of years."

The Aborigines. This region was, of course, inhabited
from time immemorial by the Indians. The Catawbas held
the country to the crest of the Blue Ridge. To the west of
that line, the Cherokees, a numerous and warlike tribe, held
sway to the Mississippi, though a renegade portion of that
tribe, known as the Chicamaugas, occupied the country around
what is now Chattanooga. 4 Old pottery, pipes, arrow- and
spear-heads are found at numerous places throughout these
mountains; and only a few years ago Mr. T. A. Low, a
lawyer of Banner Elk, Avery county, "picked up quite a num-
ber of arrow-heads in his garden, some of which were splen-
did specimens of Mocha stone, or moss agate, evidently brought
from Lake Superior regions, as no stones of the kind are found
in this part of the country." 5 None of the towns of these
Indians appear " to have been in the valleys of the Swan-
nanoa and the North Carolina part of the French Broad." 6
Parties roamed over the country. Since many of the arrow-
heads are defective or unfinished, it would seem that they
were made where found, as it is unlikely that such unfinished
stones would be carried about the country. The inference is
that many and large parties roamed through these unsettled
regions. 7 Numbers of Indian mounds, stone hatchets, etc.,
are found in several localities, but nothing has been found in
these mounds except Indian relics of the common type. 8

Asheville on an Old Indian Battle-Ground? "There
is an old tradition that Asheville stands upon the site where,
years before the white man came, was fought a great battle,
between two tribes of aborigines, probably the Cherokees and
the Catawbas, who were inveterate enemies and always at
war. There is also a tradition that these lands were for a
long while neutral hunting grounds of these two tribes." 9

Indian Names for French Broad. According to Dr. Ram-
sey this stream was called Agiqua throughout its entire length;


but Zeigler & Grosscup tell us that it was known as the Agiqua
to the Over Mountain Cherokees [erati] only as far as the
lower valley; and to the Ottari or Valley Towns Indians, as
Tahkeeosteh from Asheville down; while above Asheville "it
took the name of Zillicoah." But they give no authority for
these statements.

Origin of the Name " French Broad." Mr. Sondley 10
states that "as the settlement from the east advanced towards
the mountains, the Broad river was found and named; and
when the river, whose sources were on the opposite or western
side of the same mountains — which gave rise to the Broad
river [on the east] — became known, that ... its course tra-
versed the lands then claimed by the French, and this new-
found western stream was called the French Broad."

Origin of the Name "Swannanoa." The same writer
(Mr. Sondley), after considering the claims of those who think
Swannanoa means "beautiful", and of those who think it is
intended to imitate the wings of ravens when flying rapidly, is
of opinion that the name is but a corruption of Shawno, or
Shawnees, most of whom lived in Ohio territory, and he seems
to think that Savannah may also be a corruption of Shawno,
which tribe may have dwelt for a time on the Savannah river
in remote times. He then quotes Mr. James Mooney, "that
the correct name of the Swannanoa gap through the Blue
Ridge, east of Asheville, is Suwali Nunnahi, or Suwali trail,"
that being the pass through which ran the trail from the Cher-
okee to the Suwali, or Ani-Suwali, living east of the moun-
tains. He next quotes Lederer (p. 57) to the effect that the
Suwali were also called Sara, Sualty or Sasa, the interchange
of the I and r being common in Indian dialects.

The First White Men. It is difficult to say who were
the first white men who passed across the Blue Ridge. There
is no doubt, however, that there are excavations at several
places in these mountains which indicate that white men car-
ried on mining operations in years long since passed. This
is suggested by excavations and immense trees now growing
from them, which when cut down show rings to the number
of several hundred. It is true that these excavations may
have been made by the Indians themselves, but it is also
possible that they may have been made by white men who
were wandering through the mountains in search of gold, sil-


ver or precious stones. Roosevelt (Vol. i, 173-4) says that
unnamed and unknown hunters and Indian traders had from
time to time pushed their way into the wilderness and had
been followed by others of whom we know little more than
their names. Dr. Thomas Walker of Virginia had found and
named Cumberland river, mountains and gap after the Duke
of Cumberland in 1750, though he had been to the Cumber-
land in 1748 (p. 175). John Sailing had been taken as a
captive by the Indians through Tennessee in 1730, and in
that year Adair traded with the Indians in what is now Ten-
nessee. In 1756 and 1758 Forts Loudon and Chissel were
built on the headwaters of the Tennessee river, and in 1761
Wallen, a hunter, hunted near by . . . In 1766 James Smith
and others explored Tennessee, and a party from South Caro-
lina were near the present site of Nashville in 1767.

De Soto. It is considered by some as most probable that
De Soto, on the great expedition in which he discovered the
Mississippi river, passed through Western North Carolina in
1540. x x In the course of their journey they are said to have
arrived at the head of the Broad or Pacolet river and from
there to have passed "through a country covered with fields
of maize of luxuriant growth," and during the next five days
to have "traversed a chain of easy mountains, covered with
oak or mulberry trees, with intervening valleys, rich in pas-
turage and irrigated by clear and rapid streams. These
mountains were twenty leagues across." They came at last
to "a grand and powerful river" and "a village at the end
of a long island, where pearl oysters were found." "Now, it
would be impossible for an army on the Broad or Pacolet
river, within one day's march of the mountains, to march
westward for six days, five of which were through mountains,
and reach the sources of the Tennessee or any other river,
without passing through Western North Carolina." 12 But
the Librarian of Congress says: "There appears to be no au-
thority for the statement that this expedition [Hernando De
Soto's] entered the present limits of North Carolina." 13 In
the same letter he says that Don Luis de Velasco, "as vice-
roy of New Spain, sent out an expedition in 1559 under com-
mand of Luna y Arellano to establish a colony in Florida.
One of the latter's lieutenant's appears to have led an expe-
dition into northeastern Alabama in 1560." Also, that the


statement of Charles C. Jones, in his "Hernando De Soto"
(1880), that Luna's expedition penetrated into the Valley river
in Georgia and there mined for gold is questioned by Wood-
bury Lowery in his "Spanish Settlements within the pres-
ent limits of the United States" (New York, 1901, p. 367). 14
There are unmistakable evidences of gold-mining in Macon
and Cherokee counties which, apparently, was done 300 years
ago ; but by whom cannot now be definitely determined. How-
ever, there is no Valley river in Georgia, and the probability
is that the Valley river of Cherokee county, N. C, which is
very near the Georgia line, was at that time supposed to be
in the latter State.

The Roundheads of the South. Towards this primeval
wilderness three streams of white people began to converge as
early as 1730. 1 5 They were Irish Presbyterians, Scotch Sax-
ons, Scotch Celts, French Huguenots, Milesian Irish, Ger-
mans, Hollanders and even Swedes. "The western border of
our country was then formed by the great barrier-chains of
the Alleghanies, which ran north and south from Pennsyl-
vania through Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas." Geor-
gia was then too weak and small to contribute much to the
backwoods stock; the frontier was still in the low country.
It was difficult to cross the mountains from east to west, but
easy to follow the valleys between the ranges. By 1730 emi-
grants were fairly swarming across the Atlantic, most of them
landing at Philadelphia, while a less number went to Charles-
ton. Those who went to Philadelphia passed west to Fort
Pitt or started southwestward, towards the mountains of
North Carolina and Virginia. Their brethren pushed into the
interior from Charleston. These streams met in the foothills
on the east of the Blue Ridge and settled around Pittsburg
and the headwaters of the Great Kanawha, the Holston and
the Cumberland. Predominent among them were the Presby-
terian Irish, whose preachers taught the creed of Knox and
Calvin. They were in the West what the Puritans were in
the Northeast, and more than the Cavaliers were in the South.
They formed the kernel of the American stock who were the
pioneers in the march westward. They were the Protestants
of the Protestants; they detested and despised the Catholics,
and regarded the Episcopalians with a more sullen, but scarce-
ly less intense, hatred. They had as little kinship with the


Cavalier as with the Quaker; they were separated by a wide
gulf from the aristocratic planter communities that flourished
in the tidewater regions of Virginia and the Carolinas. They
deemed it a religious duty to interpret their own Bible, and
held for a divine right the election of their own clergy. For
generations their whole ecclesiastic and scholastic systems had
been fundamentally democratic. The creed of the back-
woodsman who had a creed at all was Presbyterianism ; for
the Episcopacy of the tidewater lands obtained no foothold
in the mountains, and the Methodists and Baptists had but
just begun to appear in the West when the Revolution broke
out. Thus they became the outposts of civilization; the van-
guard of the army of fighting settlers, who with axe and rifle
won their way from the Alleghanies to the Rio Grande and the
Pacific. "They have been righthy called the Roundheads of
the South, the same men who, before any others, declared for
American independence, as witness the Mecklenburg Declara-
tion." 16 "They felt that they were thus dispossessing the
Canaanites, and were thus working the Lord's will in prepar-
ing the land for a people which they believed was more truly
His chosen people than was that nation which Joshua led
across the Jordan. " ' 7

A New England er's Estimate. In her -" Carolina Moun-
tains," (Houghton, Mifflin Co., 1913) Miss Margaret W.
Morley, of New England, but who has resided about a dozen
years in these mountains (Ch. 14) says that although North
Carolina was originally settled "from almost all the nations
of Europe," our mountain population, in "the course of time,
became homogenious" ; that many had come to "found a fam-
ily," and "formed the 'quality' of the mountains"; while
others, "at different times drifted in from the eastern lowlands
as well as down from the North." Indeed, the early records
of Ashe county, show many a name which has since become
famous in New York, Ohio and New England — such as Day,
Choate, Dana, Cornell, Storie and Vanderpool. Continuing,
Miss Morley says (p. 140) : "Most of the writers tell us
rather loosely that the Southern mountains were originally
peopled with refuges of one sort and another, among whom
were criminals exported to the New World from England,
which, they might as well add, was the case with the whole
of the newly discovered continent, America being then the


open door of refuge for the world's oppressed . . . but
we can find no evidence that these malefactors, many of
them 'indentured servants', sent over for the use of the colo-
nists, made a practice of coming to the mountains when their
term of servitude expired. . . . The truth is, the same
people who occupied Virginia and the eastern part of the
Carolinas, peopled the western mountains, English predomi-
nating, and in course of time there drifted down from Vir-
ginia large numbers of Scotch-Irish, who, after the events of
1730, fled in such numbers to the New World, and good
Scotch Highlanders, who came after 1745. In fact, so many
of these staunch Northerners came to the North Carolina
mountains that they have given the dominant note to the
character of the mountaineers, remembering which may help
the puzzled stranger to understand the peculiarities of the
people he finds here today. . . . The rapid growth of
slavery, no doubt, discouraged many, who, unable to suc-
ceed in the Slave-States, were crowded to the mountains, or
else became the "Poor White" of the South, who must not
be for a moment confounded with the "Mountain White,"
the latter having brought some of the best blood of his na-
tion to these blue heights. He brought into the mountains
and there nourished, the stern virtues of his race, including
the strictest honesty, an old-fashioned self-respect, and an
old-fashioned speech, all of which he yet retains, as well as
a certain pride, which causes him to flare up instantly at any
suspicion of being treated with condescension. . . . " She
gives the names of Hampton, Rogers, McClure, Morgan,
Rhodes, Foster and Bradley as indicative of the English,
Scotch and Irish descent of our people — names that "are
crowned with honor out in the big world." It is also a well-
known fact that Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Admiral
Farragut and Cyrus T. McCormick came from the same
stock of people. She adds, very justly : "Bad blood there
was among them, as well as good, and brave men as well as
weak ones. The brave as well as the bad blood sometimes
worked out its destiny in Vendetta and "moonshining, " al-
though there never existed in the North Carolina mountains
the extensive and bloody feuds that distinguish the annals of
Virginia and Kentucky." (P. 144).


The Moonshiner, she declares, (p. 201) is "a product of
conditions resulting from the Civil War, before which time
the moutnaineer converted his grain into whiskey, just as
the New Englander converted his apples into cider. The act

Online LibraryJohn Preston ArthurWestern North Carolina; a history (1730-1913) → online text (page 1 of 68)