D. H. Ramsey Library Special Collections and University Archives

A Brief History of Macon County

A Brief History of Macon County, NC, [Cover]
D. H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, UNC at Asheville 28804
Title A Brief History of Macon County
Identifier http://toto.lib.unca.edu/findingaids/books/booklets/
Creator Dr. C.D. Smith : Franklin Press Print
Subject Keyword Macon County; guns;  population census; Territorial boundaries; History of the settlement of Franklin; early settlements; buildings; List of jurors for the Macon County; patriotism; Social customs; Punishment.
Subject LCSH Smith, C.D. 
Macon County (N.C.)
Macon County (N.C.) -- History
Macon County (N.C.) -- Description and travel
Macon County (N.C.) -- Biography
Macon County heritage -- North Carolina
Appalachian Region, Southern -- Antiquities
Date electronic publication: 2003-02-26
date of original: 1891
Publisher Franklin, N.C. : Franklin Press Print, 1891


Type Source type: text
Format [digital] image/jpeg/text ; [booklet] 15 pages ; 22 cm. ;  printed in two columns
Source uncatalogued 
Language English
Macon County includes a brief history and U.S. population Census from 1900 to 2000 and relevant bibliographies.
Coverage temporal 1891
Coverage spatial Macon County, NC
Rights Any display, publication or public use must credit D. H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville.
Copyright retained by the authors of certain items in the collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Donor UNCA Special Collections Purchase 
Description A small pamphlet that details the history of Macon County, North Carolina and the life and times of its peoples. 
Acquisition n.d.
Citation  D. H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville 28804
Processed by Special Collections staff,  2003
Last update 2003-11-21 ; 2003-12-16
Page Image Description Thumbnail
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A Brief History of Macon County, By Dr. C. D. Smith, Franklin North Carolina Press Print 1891

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Original cover bhmc_002 Cover

A Brief History of Macon County, By Dr. C. D. Smith, Franklin North Carolina Press Print 1891


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Macon County Census 1880-1890 bhmc_003  

Census of Macon County.


Census Bulletin No. 122, gives the Population of North Carolina by Minor Civil Divisions. We extract from it the population of Macon as follows:


Townships.                                          1890.    1880.

Cartoogechaye ................................... 819        584

Cowee, ........... ...................................1,263     1,066

Ellijay, ................................. .............. 812        689

Franklin, including town, ......... ............2,249      1,840

Highlands, including town, ....................788        436

Millshoal, ............................................ 699        671

Nantahala, .................................... ......1,124     855

Smith's Bridge, ......... ..........................1,123      890

Sugar Fork, .........................................543        436

Franklin town, ......................................281        207

Highlands town,. . . . .............................233       82

Macon county,..................................... 10,102   8,064


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I propose to write a brief history of Macon County so far as I have been able to gather the facts. There has heretofore been, and still exists an unaccountable indifference in particular communities in regard to their local history—the preservation of all the notable events—the historic facts showing their rise and progress. This is especially true of this great plateau of country lying west of the Blue Ridge in North Carolina. This neglect on the part of the early settlers to keep a true historic record of the early settlement, progress, development arid succeeding changes of population and civilization, is a culpable injustice to the posterity of the strong, resolute men who, on the retirement of the savages, took possession of the country and subjected its lands to the arts of agriculture and civilization. It is both interesting and instructive to know something of the men who first built habitations in the wild forests of Ma-con County and introduced Christian civilization and customs where only savagi1 life and custom!; had prevailed from away back beyond the historic era. These sturdy pioneers

flocked into this valley in 1820 only-seventy years ago, and yet I have found it very difficult to get together the leading facts of history for so short a period. There ought to be in some county department a complete and official report of the commissioners having the matter in hand of the survey of the lands of the county then ordered, the location and survey of the county site (the town of Franklin), and a report of the surveyor-in-chief giving a complete diagram of the lands surveyed. The commissioners reported to the State authorities and there are some files in the Secretary's office. No such record can be found in the Register's office of Macon County. Such record would, however, make an instructive and attractive feature in our-county records and would interest the student of history and the lovers of antiquarian lore. A proud spirited Board of Commissioners ought to take steps to supply this deficiency in our county records.


After what seemed at one time, would prove to be a fruitless search, I found the record of the organization of the county, which took place

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nine years after the survey of the lands and the location of the site for the town of Franklin. All back of that is blank so far as any official record is concerned. And for other valuable information which I now proceed to give I have had to rely mainly upon the statements of the few remaining individuals who were participants in the work of survey and location referred to.

It has been a mooted question as to whether Macon County ever belonged to the territory of Buncombe County. The facts show that it did not, the Buncombe line never having extended further west, than the Meigs and Freeman line. The territory now embraced in Macon and a portion each of the counties of Jackson and Swain, was acquired by treaty from the Cherokee Indians in 1817—19.


During the summer and fall of 1819 a few whites came amongst the Indians with a view to purchasing when the lands should come into market. During that fall many of the Indians moved west of the Nantahala chain of mountains, but the entire tribe did not leave the Tennessee Valley until the fall of 1820. In the spring of 1820 the State Commissioners, Jesse Franklin and James Meabin in accordance with the provisions of an act of the General Assembly, came to the Tennessee Valley, now the chief part of Macon County and organized, for the survey of lands, a corps of surveyors of whom Capt. Robert Love, a son of Gen. Thomas Love, who settled the place at the bridge where Capt. T. M. Angel recently lived, was chief. Robert Love had been an honored and brave Captain in the war of 1812, was much respected on account of his patriotic devotion to : American liberty, and was consequently a man of large influence. The work of survey went rapidly forward, as there were five or six distinct companies in the field. The commissioners first determined upon the Watauga Plains where the late Mr. Watson lived for the county site for a court house and four hundred acres (the amount appropriated by the State for that purpose) was located and surveyed. There was, however, a good deal of murmuring and protest among the surveyors, especially by Capt. Love, the chief, who favored the present site or the flat ridge where Mrs. H. T. Sloan now resides. To harmonize with their employees and to give more general satisfaction the Commissioners, who had ' no personal interest in the matter, proposed to call together the entire corps of surveyors and leave it to a majority vote of them.


This proposition was agreed to and the respective companies of surveyors were ordered to assemble. On counting the vote the present site of Franklin had a majority. This result was mainly brought about through the influence of Capt. Love, the chief of the corps. In compliance with their proposed

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terms a survey was ordered by the commissioners, the four hundred acres were located and a portion of it laid off into lots including the court house square. I obtained a few years ago the foregoing facts from the late Rev. John McDowell who was a member of Capt. Love's corps and a participant in the election. I have been thus particular in giving them in order to settle any dispute that might hereafter arise as to the location of the town of Franklin. The work of survey as mapped oat by the Commissioners having been finished, a general auction sale of the lands to the highest bidder took place at Waynesville in Sept. 1820.


The settlement of the town of Franklin commenced at once. The first house built in ' Franklin was built by Joshua Roberts on the lot now occupied by Mr. Jackson Johnston. It was a small round log cabin. But the first house proper was one built of hewn logs, by Irad S. High-tower on the lot where Mr. N. G. Allman's hotel stands. It now constitutes a part of that building. That first house passed into the hands of the late Capt. N. S. Jarrett, thence to Gideon F. Morris, and from him to John R. Ajiman and then to the present owner, N. G. Allman. There were several log cabins built about that time, but the order in which it was done and the claims to priority I have been unable to ascertain.


Lindsey Fortune built a cabin on the lot where the Franklin House, or Jarrett Hotel now stands. Samuel Robinson built on the lot now occupied by Mrs. Robinson. Silas McDowell first built on the lot where stands the residence of D. C. Cunningham. Dillard Love built the first house on Mr. Trotter's lot. N. S. Jarrett built on the lot owned and occupied by Sam L. Rogers. John F. Dobson first improved the corner lot now owned by C. C. Smith. James K. Gray built the second house made of hewn logs on the lot owned by Mrs. Dr. A. W. Bell. Jesse R. Siler, one of the first sellers built the house at the foot of the town hill where Mr. Geo. A. Jones now resides. He also built the second house on the Gov. Robinson lot and the brick I store and dwelling owned at present, by Capt. A. P. Munday. James W. Guinn or Mr. Whilaker built the house owned and occupied by Mr. Jackson Johnston. I am indebted for much of this information about the early settlement of Franklin to the late James K. Gray and Silas McDowell. There is one other fact worthy of notice. John R. Allman opened the first hotel in Franklin. Shortly after this Jesse R. Siler opened his house at the "foot of the hill" and these two houses furnished the hotel accommodations here for many years. These are the facts of history about Franklin so far as they go. Though meager and unsatisfactory, they may be interesting to future generations.


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Part II.


After the land sale in September, 1820, at which a large part of the surveyed land was disposed of to the highest bidders, the Tennessee Valley was settled quite rapidly, but it was not until the spring of 1829 that a county government was organized. During this interim all the legal business of the entire territory west from the Tuckaseige river to the Tusquittee and Valley River chain of mountains was transacted by the county authorities of Haywood county and in the Superior court for said county. I remember distinctly the case of a man living within the territory of the present Smith's Bridge township who was tried and convicted in the Superior court for Haywood county for hog stealing, and for this crime received twenty-nine lashes at the public whipping-post in the town of Waynesville. This is the only case of the kind that ever happened in the territory of Macon county. During this interim the late Col. Joab L. Moore, who resided near Franklin, held for four years the position of Deputy Sheriff under Col. James McKee, who was at that time Sheriff of Haywood county. Col. Moore did all the business pertaining to that office in the new territory, and was regarded as a very efficient and faithful officer. This transition covering the formative period of out first population finally crystallized into the elements for self county government. Hence, at the session of the General Assembly for 1828-29 an act was passed to create a new county and the name of Macon was given it in honor of Nathaniel Macon, who was a pure statesman and a perfect specimen of an old time American patriot and gentleman. The law creating the county appointed thirty-three leading citizens to be qualified and to serve as the first Board of Magistrates. I here quote the minutes showing the organization of the county:


"Minutes of a Court for Macon County, Held for Said County on the 4th Monday in March, 1829, Agreeable to an Act of the General Assembly Made and Provided for Said County."


Present and organizing said county, from the county of Haywood, Wm. Deaver, Esqr., who appointed Joshua Roberts to administer the oath to the following Justices of the Peace for said county, to-wit: Aaron Pinson, Saul Smith, Jesse R. Siler, John Howard, Jacob Siler, John Moore, John Cook, Enos Shields. Jonathan Phillips, Bynum W. Bell, Benjamin S. Brittain, Joseph Welch, Michael Wikle, Thomas Rogers, Wm. F. McKee, Andrew Cathey, George

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Tathem, Wm. H. Bryson, Matthew Patterson, Barak Norton, Wm. Wilson, Thos. Love, Jr., Mark Coleraan, Hugh Gihbs, Asaph Enloe, Robert Hoggins, John Wild, Henry Dry-man and Jefferson Bryson, who, after taking said oath agreeable to law, proceeded to appoint a clerk for said county. After balloting for said appointment, it appeared to the satisfaction of the court that Nathan B. Hyatt was duly elected clerk.


The court having thus been duly organized, consisting of thirty-three magistrates, they proceeded, by ballot, to elect all the county officers— the election continuing from day to day. John Dobson, father of our countyman, Capi. J. W. Dobson, was elected first County Register,. Bynum W. Bell first Sheriff, Mont-raville Patton first County Solicitor, Jacob Siler first County Surveyor, Michael Wikle first County Trustee, Nathan Smith first Coroner, Robert Huggins first County Ranger and James K. Gray, first Standard Keeper. James Poteet was the first Constable appointed by the new court. Of that first Board of Magistrates I knew nearly all personally. Something over sixty-two years have passed away since that first Board of Magistrates was organized into a court. Of the whole number there is but one now living, the venerable William H. Bryson, who resides in Jackson county. Taken as a body, for general intelligence, integrity of character and fortitude and fidelity in the administration of law coming within their jurisdiction, they suffer nothing in comparison with the very best County Boards of Magistrates within the State at the present writing. For public spirit and patriotic labor in the direction of county development and in building and keeping in repair public roads for public comfort and convenience, they have not had their equal in the county for the last half century. If we take the Scriptural axiom as true that the "tree is known by its fruit", then the deterioration of our public roads does not place the present population in an enviable light when compared with the population of Macon County fifty years ago. This comparison stands out with special prominence when we consider the present unaccountable disinclination of our population to render even a day's labor on repairs to say nothing of the more needed improvements on our public roads. To tell a plain historic truth in plain language, our fathers, from patriotic motives and with a sense of public and personal comfort and convenience, and prompted by county pride, built our county roads, and the present generation is too trifling to keep them up. As an illustration of the spirit of the men who first settled Macon County, it was agreed that the county should build a road leading from Franklin down the Tennessee River to the mouth of the Tuckaseige River to connect with a turn-pike for which Joseph Welch

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had a charter to the Tennessee State line. Accordingly the court appointed a Jury to lay off and- mark the way for said road commencing at the junction of the Tennessee and Tuck-lots as near equal as their limited means would enable them to do. 

The jury, laid and marked off seven lots, No. 1 commencing at the Tuckaseige Ford and No. 7 terminating not far from the Shallow Ford on Tennessee river. There was some sort of lottery in assigning this work to the respective captains' militia companies. I suppose there was draw-slips of paper. The record reads on the appointment of the respective overseers: "This lot falls to Capt Love's company" etc etc to the end of the chapter. It seems there were six militia companies at that time in the county. It may be well

to mention here the overseers of the respective lots, and the Captain's company assigned to each lot, as the building of this road furnishes an interesting and instructive chapter in the history of Macon County. Henry Addington No. 1, Capt. Love's company; Lot No. 2, Robert Johnson, Capt. Johnson's company ; Lot No. 3, Benjamin S. Brittain, Capt MoKee 's company; Lot No. 4, Jacob Palmer, Capt. Smith's company - now Smith's Bridge Township; Lot No. 5, Joshua Ammous, Capt. George's company. Lot No. 6 being regarded as a very hard lot was divided into three sections with Jesse R. Silver, Joseph Welch and James Whitaker as the overseers of the respective sections with special hands assigned to them. Lot No. 7 had Wm. Bryson as overseer. This lot fell to Capt. Wilson's company. This lot terminated some where about the Shallow Ford, the road from Franklin having been somewhat worked out to that point. The forgoing lots were worked out by respective companies - the hands forming themselves into messes, taking wagons to haul their provisions, tools, camp-fixtures etc. The Smith's Bridge company had the lot which lay between the 18 and 19 mile-posts. The mess consisting of my brothers and some neighbors took me along as cook and camp-boy. There I saw the men taking rock from the river with the water breast deep to aid in building wharves. They remained until the work was finished. This work was done without compensation and for the public good. It illustrates the sort of stuff of which our fathers are made - the spirit of patriotism that prompted a noble race of men to sacrifice and work for their country's good. This work done they returned home, feeling that they had rendered a service that was to benefit their country and their posterity.


The overseers of the roads generally, of that time, were of the best men in the county. That first Board of Magistrates did not believe

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in any class distinction in their demands for public service. I find in the records of that first court an order appointing Joshua Roberts the most prominent member of our local bar the overseer of one. of our roads. This record set me to thinking. There is a whole lot of lawyers in Western Carolina, who are not the peers of Joshua Roberts respectability and legal attainments who might be utilized by our county authorities by making road overseers of them and thereby causing them to render s6me good, honest service to their country. It. would at least be it healthy exercise and may be it would bring the rebellious spirit of our young American patriots against road duty to proper terms. At all events it might prevent the boatful young men of the present time from fighting their overseers when they demand reasonable and legal service of them. Try it, Esquires, arid let us see if there is any blood of our noble sires in the present generation —any pride of character—any love of the general brotherhood which binds together the people of a county and without which its good name and prosperity cannot long continue.



Part III.


The Courts, of Pleas and Quarter Sessions of that day as they were called, were regular jury courts, and I give the names of the first venire summoned to serve as jurors, for the June term following:


1 Wymer Siler,

2 Jonathan Whiteside,

3 Jacob Mice,

4 Wm. Cochram,

5 Benjamin Johnston,

6 Wm. McLure,

7 Peter Lerlfon),

8 Martin Norton,

9 John Lamm,

10 John Aldington,

11 Matthew Davis,

12 James Whitaker,

13 Henry Addington,

14 Michen Wikle,

15 Wm. Welch, Sr.,

16 Samuel Smith,

17 Geo. T. Ledford,

18 Ebenezer Newton,

19 Joseph Welch,

20 Luke Barnard,

21 George Dickey,

22 Zachariah Cabe,

23 Mark Coleman,

24 Lewis Vandyke,

25 Thomas Love, Sr.,

26 March Addington,

27 Jacob Trammel,

28 John Dobson,

29 Andrew Patton,

30 George Black,

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8   Depicts jurors as being particularly able and noble citizens due to their Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 experiences.   
9   Description of early settlers of Macon County as patriotic and public spirited.  
10   The author describes that in the last quarter of the century public spirit and patriotism has decreased in Macon County.   
11   Discussion of the "mercenary spirit" which ensued in the last quarter of the 1800's which drove public spirit down. Author sees this as having a degrading effect in society and reflects upon its historical impact on civilizations.  
12   Author again describes the objective in writing book as being for the purpose of reawakening the public mind and spirit. 

Part IV. Social customs of Macon County communities. Their simple lives and moral values led to a happy and self sufficient society. 

13   The custom of mutual aid and generosity in the community in farming and economic sustainability made Macon County communities stable and supportive environments.  
14   Punishment for crime or abuse was settled in communities through physical fights without weapons and was monitored by the community members.  
15   Talks about the ungentlemanly nature and cowardice found in the character of men who carried weapons. Pistols and men that carry them are seen as the end of humanity.