Asheville Escapes



What travelers found in the 1st 100 years in the Asheville area:

city map from

City map from

The earliest settlers began coming into the area shortly after the close of the American Revolution. The first settlement west of the Blue Ridge was in the Swannanoa area, just a few miles east of present day Asheville, but soon others followed. By 1791 there were enough settlers to form their own county seat, after selecting the location for the county courthouse; Morrisville began to grow.

In 1794 John Burton, often called the Father of Asheville, marked off 42 building sites, on a small portion of his land around where the log courthouse stood. He laid out North and South Main (now Biltmore Avenue and Broadway), along which other log structures slowly began to appear. James Patton who had arrived with his pack horse laden with goods opened a store. When Zebulon and Bedent Baird arrived in 1793 from South Carolina, they had managed to get a wagon across Saluda Mountain by disassembling it and carrying it part by part together with its contents over the rocky cliffs and reassembling it on the other side. The settlers were astonished to see a wagon loaded with merchandise rumble up to the courthouse, where a general store eventually housed their goods. George Swain set up a hattery. Burton built a grist mill. Colonel Patton’s home became an inn for the occasional traveler. William Foster’s son, Thomas, built the first bridge over the Swannanoa, making it the first west of the Blue Ridge. A forge was set up. Silas McDowell opened a tailor shop. Philip Smith made wagons as well as shoes for man and horse, saddles and hats. By the time the village was incorporated in 1797 the name had been changed to honor Governor Samuel Ashe. In 1801 the growing community acquired a post office.

Until the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century travelers followed paths that had been made by the Indians, roaming buffalo and other animals. As demand grew new and wider roads were required, but these were generally dirt or gravel and travel was slow. During the 1830s one could go between Asheville and Nashville by stage, these uncomfortable coaches made about 4 miles every hour and stopped every twenty miles to change horses. Not long after The Great Western Stage Line was able to travel the 150 miles to and from Salisbury in about 39 hours. The advertisement read, “for speed that could not be surpassed.” In spite of the roads visitors came. Some were attracted to the unusually abundant vegetation; there was more variety of floras in this small area than in all of Europe. Others came “to take the waters at nearby springs” considered medicinal. However, nearly 100 years would pass before the area would be considered as a health and recreational resort.

The early roads provided the first real prosperity that the region experienced. After the crops were harvested and cooler days were frequent the men rounded up whatever excess livestock, usually hogs, they had and started the long trek down Saluda Gap towards Augusta. Inns had been established along the way, which provided food and lodging to both man and beast. The innkeepers were usually paid with a “due bill” which was redeemed a few weeks later on the return home. These drives continued for the next sixty years, until the railroad was brought in.

The road connecting Asheville to Greenville was not completed until 1851. It was only then that the area began to experience a meaningful trade with the outside world. The railroad did not make it across the Eastern Continental Divide into Western North Carolina until 1880. It was at the time that Asheville began to experience a real building boom which brought economic stability and growth. It has been a Mecca for tourist every since.

For a brief history of Asheville, see:

For an excellent, more in depth study take at look at: