Communicator


A HISTORY OF ASHEVILLE & BUNCOMBE COUNTY
Asheville is located at the confluence of the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers.

Buncombe County rests in a central area of a high plateau bordered by the Blue Ridge, Great Craggies and Black Mountains on the east and the Great Smokies chain of the Appalachians on the west.

Recorded history began with the visit of Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto to Western North Carolina In 1540.

Trade was first established with the Cherokee Indians In 1643. Early trading paths followed established Indian routes which crossed at Asheville's present location.

At the time of the revolution, the English had established the limits of colonial expansion westward to the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This assurance of territorial Integrity aligned the Cherokee with the British.

Cherokee raids on colonial settlements brought a force of colonists headed by General Griffith Rutherford Into Western North Carolina In 1776, He destroyed Cherokee villages and broke the power of the nation.

Early settlers were largely Scotch-Irish Immigrants from Ulster in Northern Ireland, where restrictive British tariffs had ruined the wool and weaving industries.

Samuel W. Davidson and his family were the first to settle in Buncombe County on Christian Creek In the Swannanoa Valley in 1784. He was later killed by Indians. He is buried on Jones Mountain.

A permanent settlement was established there in 1785 in what was then known as 'Eden Land.' In later years Davy Crockett courted and wed Elizabeth Patton, a member of a leading Swannanoa family.

The County of Buncombe was established on December 5. 1791 by an act of the legislature, initiated by William Davidson and Colonel David Vance. A log courthouse was constructed in 1793 at a point which is now Pack Square.

A year later John Burton obtained state grants of land for the establishment of a settlement he called Morristown. He laid out 42 half-acre lots which sold for roughly $2.50. Three years later, In 1797, it was incorporated and renamed Asheville In honor of Governor Samuel Ashe.

Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian circuit riders brought religion to the settlers of the Southern Appalachians In the early 1800s. Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury was the most noted of these.

In 1840 Asheville's population was 500; to 1860 - 1,100; 1880 - 2,610; 1890 - 10,237; 1900 - 14,694; 1930 - 50,193; 1970 - 57,681. The 1980 U.S. Census showed Asheville's population to be 60,500. and the population of Buncombe County to be 162,000.

In 1828 a road following the French Broad River was completed to East Tennessee. With It wagons of settlers moving west began coming through Asheville, while droves from Tennessee and Kentucky moved herds of cattle, sheep, hogs and turkeys through to the population centers of South Carolina.

The town's growth was further stimulated by the completion of the "Asheville and Greenville Plank Road' in 1851. The wealthy and favored began to come ~o Asheville aboard four and six horse stages. The city's reputation as a health resort began to grow.

When the War Between the States broke out. Asheville became a major Confederate military center. The Buncombe Rifles, first company organized west of the Blue Ridge, marched forth on April 18, 1861, with a flag made of silk dresses of the belles of the town. Captain Zebulon Vance organized shortly thereafter the Rough and Ready Guards. Of the ten companies of the 6Oth North Carolina Regiment, seven of them were Buncombe County men. An early and flourishing industry was the making of Enfield Rifles, prized by Confederate soldiers for their accuracy.

In 1878, Asheville and Western North Carolina acquired the descriptive phrase "The Land Of The Sky" which derived from a well known book by M rs. Frances Tiernan of Salisbury, writing under the name of Christian Reid. The nickname quickly caught the attention of thousands and spread Buncombe's fame more widely than ever.

When the railroad broke through the Eastern continental divide in 1880, a new era was launched for Asheville and Western North Carolina.

Elaborate hotels were built, including the Battery Park In 1889. From its vantage point on "Stoney Hill," George W. Vanderbilt discovered what he described as the most beautiful spot in the world. He purchased 145,000 acres and began building one of the great country houses of the world, Biltmore House.

Great religious assemblies were established In the area. A grand opera house was built, and a convention auditorium followed. In 1900, a newly organized chamber of commerce, the "Asheville Board of Trade," launched national advertising, and proclaimed the city to be one of the "leading convention cities In the country."

A new wave of luxury hotel construction began: the Langren in 1912, the unbelievable Grove Park Inn In 1913, the new Kenilworth Inn in 1918 ... and with Battery Park. The break of the land boom, followed by the great depression of the early 1930s brought financial ruin to Asheville, from which It was slow to recover. However, during this period two great natural attractions were in the making: the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, which were to make the Asheville area the most visited recreational area in the country.

At the present time Asheville enjoys a broadly based economy supported by a thriving travel industry, conventions, widely diversified Industry, forestry and agriculture.

In 1980, Buncombe County's industries Include BASF, Square D., Gerber, Ball Corporation, Beacon end Sybron/Taylor.

Asheville is the junction point of two Interstate highways, 26 and 40. It is the hub of five federal highways, two Appalachian development highways, five state highways and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Southern Railway serves Asheville. The modern Asheville Airport is served by Piedmont Airlines, plus commuter airlines.

The Asheville-Buncombe Consolidated Water District reservoir holds 6 billion gallons, and Is centered In a remote timbered watershed covering 24 square miles.

Buncombe County Is served by a new $10,400.00 sewage disposal system.

In 1970, Asheville earned the designation "All American City." A new Civic Center was completed In early 1974.

Asheville's most famous native son is author Thomas Wolfe, whose boyhood home Is open to the public as a memorial. Evangelist Billy Graham is Asheville's most world renown citizen.

- The Historic News, Feb. 1999