Saturday, December 21, 2019

Ruth Davidson (1765-1826) NSDAR

Ruth Davidson

"Ruth Davidson, a woman handsome in appearance, was remarkably bright and attractive. She and her entire family were ardent Whigs. It is said that after the defeat of the American Army at Camden, S.C., when the Brits were preparing to invade our State [North Carolina], General Green [Greene], who was in the hills of Virginia reorganizing his forces, was anxious to communicate with some detached American troops in South Carolina.

"It was almost impossible to do this on account of the activities of Tarleton and Ferguson. . . . It was necessary to send a message through the sparsely settled region along the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Ruth volunteered to be the messenger and without an escort or guide succeeded in delivering the message.

"Thus another brave woman was honored when a [DAR] chapter in Asheville was called the Ruth Davidson Chapter."

Source: Pendleton, Hazel E. "Patriotic Women of North Carolina for Whom DAR Chapters are Named." DAR Magazine, 1962.

Ruth Davidson Chapter NSDAR

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Walton War

After the Revolutionary War concluded the issue continued with respect to western lands claimed by the original states. These lands eventually were ceded to the United States to be used to pay soldiers and applied toward the national debt. This required, among other things, that the boundary line between North Carolina and South Carolina be completed:

"Commissioners Appointed in 1814. Pursuant to the above provisional articles of agreement North Carolina in 1814 appointed Gen. Thomas Love, Gen. Montfort Stokes and Col. John Patton commissioners to meet other commissioners from South Carolina to run and mark the boundary line between the two States in accordance with the recommendation of the commissioners who had met and agreed, "at McKinney's on Toxaway river on the 4th of Sept. 1813."

Other Early Explorers: In the case of Avery v. Walker, (8 N. C., p. 117) it appears . . . that Col. John Patton, the father of Lorenzo and Montreville Patton of Buncombe, and who owned the meadow land on the Swannanoa river which was sold to George W. Vanderbilt by Preston Patton, and the "haunted house" at the ford of that river, when the stage road left South Main street at what is now Victoria Road and crossed the Swannanoa, there, instead of at Biltmore, was then county surveyor of Buncombe, and refused to survey land on Ocona Lufty for Waightstill Avery because it was "on the frontier and the Indian boundary had not then actually been run out, and it might be dangerous to survey near the line."

Source: Arthur, John Preston. Western North Carolina: A History from 1730 to 1913. Published 1914 by the Edward Buncombe Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution of Asheville. Reprint Edition: Johnson City, Tennessee: The Overmountain Press, 1996 (pages 29-30 and 77-78).

Today it seems unlikely that a tract of land lying within the present bounds of Transylvania County would have been claimed as part of the State of Georgia. But that was the case when in 1803 Georgia laid claim to the territory and named a new county for George Walton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. North Carolina led by Gov. James Turner actively defended their claim leading to confusion for the 800 or so residents of the region. The dispute was submitted to Congress, where a committee initially accepted Georgia's claim, arguing that a twelve-mile-wide strip had legitimately been ceded to that state by the federal government. Commissioners were authorized to survey a line along the 35th parallel, then accepted as the state boundary.

Meanwhile lawlessness prevailed in the area. It was difficult for Buncombe County to collect taxes from individuals viewing themselves as Georgia residents. Events came to a head late in 1804 when three citizens were assaulted by Waltonians. One of them, Constable John Havner, was struck over the left eye with the butt of a rifle and mortally wounded. Upon his death, on December 15, the colonel of the Buncombe County militia ordered out a detachment of seventy-two men and marched them into "Walton County." Ten Walton officials were taken prisoner, but escaped before they were brought to trial.

On June 15, 1807, officials of the two states met at the Buncombe County Courthouse and set out to fix the boundary. Joseph Caldwell of the University of North Carolina and Joseph Meigs of Georgia used scientific equipment to take astronomical readings and fix the 35th parallel. The first place they took a reading, they found, was twenty miles north of that line. All subsequent readings taken were also well north of the 35th parallel. The Georgia commissioners were "astonished and mortified." They relinquished claim to the territory the same year and amnesty was granted to those responsible for the violence, but confusion reigned for some time to come. The 1810 census listed residents of Walton County. In 1818 Georgia created a new county elsewhere and named it for George Walton. As recently as 1971 Georgia considered reopening a separate dispute about the boundary and the North Carolina legislature "in a jocular mood" mobilized the National Guard to protect the state from usurpers.


Martin Reidinger, "The Walton War and the Georgia-North Carolina Boundary Dispute," (unpublished manuscript, copy in the North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1981).

Marvin L. Skaggs, North Carolina Boundary Disputes Involving Her Southern Line (1941).

John Preston Arthur, Western North Carolina: A History (1914).

Daniel R. Goodloe, “The North Carolina and Georgia Boundary,” North Carolina Booklet, III, no. 12 (April 1904): 5-22.

William S. Powell, North Carolina through Four Centuries (1989).

Friday, September 27, 2019

Mary Connally: "Lady Mary and the Cult"

Asheville Citizen-Times, 10 November 1991, Sunday, Page 35

Smith-McDowell House: "Twists and Turns"

Smith-McDowell House
"Twists and Turns"

In 1881, Alexander Garrett and wife Elizabeth purchased the Smith-McDowell House (purportedly then called "Buck House") from William Wallace McDowell and wife Sarah Lucinda Smith McDowell (daughter of James McConnell Smith, who built the house).

The Garretts, along with their son Robert Urey Garrett, his wife Mary Frances Tarr Garrett, and six-year-old granddaughter Alexandra, moved from St. Louis to Asheville. The family had emigrated from Ireland in 1847. Alexander Garrett had amassed a sizeable fortune as a businessman in the midwest. He retired to Asheville to enjoy the climate and to engage in land speculation. The elder Garrett sold the Buck House for $1 to his son Robert Urey Garrett (who owned the property until 1898).

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Shufordville and Fort Shuford

HeardTell: Stories From the North Carolina Room

"Running up and down Cane Creek . . . is a wide belt of lime rock from which, for more than a century, quicklime has been manufactured in large quantities on Cane Creek by burning. . . . From this belt of lime rock Limestone Creek, once known by an objectionable designation, takes its name and Limestone Township of Buncombe County is called."

A History of Buncombe County County North Carolina, F. A. Sondley, LLD

"When certain varieties of quartz and limestone are strongly rubbed, they give off the odor of rotton (sic) eggs. This peculiar smell is occasioned by the evolution of sulphureted (sic) hydrogen ; and substances which possess this property are termed fetid."

"The Odors of Minerals", Scientific American 13, 18, 139 (January 1858)

Today, Limestone Township is split in half.  One side abuts Avery Creek Township and the other, Fairview Township. Asheville's southern city limits run right down the middle of the township along Hendersonville Road (U.S. Route 25). Arden, Avery's Creek, the town of Biltmore Forest, Royal Pines, and Skyland are familiar communities in the township.  Have you heard tell of Limestone or Shuford(s)ville?

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Daniel Smith's "Long Tom"

Visiting Our Past: More WNC artifacts in Mr. Smith's musket and a WWII poster

Click to See Larger Image
Daniel Smith's Musket

"Long Tom" is the name that Buncombe County pioneer Daniel Smith gave his 6-foot-long flintlock musket.

He had it during Rutherford's Campaign against The Cherokee in 1776. He used it at the Battle of Kings Mountain, the decisive defeat of the British by Revolutionary "Overmountain Men" in 1780.

He "was sentimentally proud of his revolutionary services, (and) frequently referred to that in conversation," his friend David Lowry Swain, state governor and then UNC president, testified in 1845 in support of the Smith children's pension application.

Click to See Larger Image
"Long Tom" went with Smith to Western North Carolina, where he settled in 1785, avenging the murder of his wife's uncle, settler Col. Samuel Davidson, by Indians in Swannanoa. After building a home on a hill (probably at the site of present-day Fernihurst) above what is now called Nasty Branch south of Depot Street, Smith took his rifle with him to the public square in newly created Asheville, where he was "almost daily seen," historian Foster Sondley noted in 1912, "mounted on his large white horse," acknowledged as a legendary "Indian killer."

Monday, July 1, 2019

Zeb Vance found his value in Reems Creek

Zebulon Baird Vance
"Zeb Vance found his value in Reems Creek" by Rob Neufeld (Asheville Citizen-Times, 1 July 2019)

When David Vance, grandfather of future governor Zebulon Vance, moved to Reems Creek in the late 1780s, he was one of several settlers with Revolutionary War pasts who were looking to be part of what he considered an ideal community. That involved a large family, a working farm, a nearby church, a water powered mill, and some kind of school and slaves.

The condition of slaves lives and of the lives of freedmen, before and after Emancipation, varied greatly. The Vances perpetrated a big family model, which involved kindness and love as well as paternalism and bondage.

When David Vance was dying in 1813 he expressed in his will the desire that his two families of slaves, headed by Richard and Aggy and Jo and Leah, be given "full liberty." "Full liberty" meant, in that time and place, freedom to choose their households, to travel, and to not worry about losing their children. The State slave code required approval by a county court for emancipating the slaves. It also required that freedmen carry and present documents when they were away from their homes. The Vance's "liberated" slaves had to have tickets from their owners as permission to travel. All slaves and freedmen had to fear white men who were given license to shoot runaways.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Danlel Smith Cabin Location: Asheville, North Carolina

Where Was the Daniel Smith House?

What Do the Records Show?

Forster A. Sondley provided the following in 1912: "His residence stood on the hillside immediately east of the railroad and directly north of the first small branch which runs into the French Broad River above the Passenger Station of the Southern Railway at Asheville, North Carolina. The site of his home is now within the corporate limits of the City of Asheville. . . ." Sondley added: "In later life Colonel Smith was almost daily seen on the streets of Asheville mounted on his large white horse."

 Similarly, in 1922 Theodore Davidson wrote: Daniel Smith "settled immediately east of the railroad at the first branch above the passenger station at Asheville, on the hill just north of the branch where his cabin stood for many years, and where he died May 17, 1824. He was buried with military honors on the hill where Fernihurst now stands; but about 1875 his body was removed to the Newton Academy graveyard where it now rests."

An April 1796 Buncombe County court record documents the purchase by Daniel Smith of 300 acres of land. Around 1795 Daniel Smith paid £4, 14 shillings, four pence, to Benjamin Yardley "in part pay for the building a house for" Daniel Smith. In April 1792 the Buncombe County court ordered that [among others] Daniel Smith be on a jury to view and lay off a road from Colonel William Davidson's on the Swannanoa River to Benjamin Davidson's Creek "the nearest and best way according to law." This was the first order in regard to roads ever made in Buncombe County. The road became known as Boilston Road.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Portrait of the Past: Aston Park Hospital operating room, circa 1940

Click to See Larger Image
Aston Park Health Care Center grew out of Aston Park Hospital, located in Asheville on the northwest corner of what had been Aston Street and South French Broad Avenue. The hospital had opened in 1927 as the French Broad Hospital. The name change to Aston occurred in the 1940s when the street the hospital was on, Willow Street., was renamed in honor of Edward Aston, historic Asheville booster and mayor. The 1940s was also when the Asheville Colored Hospital was opened, leading Dr. John Walker to leave Aston Park, where he’d served as the only African-American physician in a local hospital. One of his specialties was administering anesthesia, which he did for operations in the room pictured in this 1927 photo by Ewart M. Ball.

Aston Park had 45 beds in the 1940s, whereas Mission Hospital had 134; St Joseph’s, 95; Biltmore Hospital, 50; Norburn Hospital, 120; and the Asheville Colored Hospital, 35 beds. The French Broad Hospital had itself gone through an expansion because the newspaper reported cases related to it before ground breaking took place in August. For instance, in March, a young woman was trying to recover at the hospital from peritonitis after Ralph Riddle had seduced her and then poisoned her to abort the fetus. In 1967, Aston Park Hospital began making the shift to nursing home care as Memorial Mission Hospital assumed acute care responsibility. Photo courtesy Ramsey Library Special Collections, UNC Asheville. --Rob Neufeld,, @WNC_chronicler

Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, North Carolina), 11 June 2019.