Asheville and the Coxe Family

Asheville's connection to the Coxe family began with Tench Coxe, the great-grandson of British physician Dr. Daniel Coxe (1640-1730). Like his great grandfather, Tench had an enthusiasm for 'Carolana', the name Daniel Coxe gave to the region. Col. Daniel Coxe, the grandson of the British Daniel Coxe came to America and was a Colonial legislator and judge. Col. Daniel Coxe's uncle by marriage was Tench Francis, the attorney-general of Pennsylvania; Col. Coxe's brother was William CoxeTench Coxe (1755-1824), the son of William, purchased the lands known as the "Speculation Lands". Tench Coxe, his predecessors and his successors,  had an appetite for land. Through his grandfather and uncle Tench Coxe  had substantial land inheritance but that, apparently, only whetted his appetite for more.  Tench Coxe's son, Francis Sydney Coxe came to North Carolina to monitor the Speculation Lands. He remained in the region and married the daughter of surveyor Francis Alexander. He established a home in the Green River area. Green River Plantation eventually became a base for the Coxe family. Tench Francis' son, Col. Frank Coxe was born at Green River and later purchased substantial land holdings in Buncombe County where he established the Battery Park Hotel. Col. Coxe had a son Tench and that son had a son Frank. This last Frank Coxe (1899-1987), banker and past Executive Director of the Asheville Industrial Council and the great-great grandson of Tench Coxe donated his papers to UNCA and these may be found in the Tench Coxe Papers  and in the Frank Coxe Papers in Special Collections. Like his great-great grandfather, Frank Coxe had strong interests in manufacturing and industrial development. In an oral history gathered by the Southern Highlands Research Center at UNCA, ( a precursor of the D. H. Ramsey Special Collections), Frank Coxe described Tench Coxe's land speculation:

"Tench Coxe became very interested in real estate.  He was that type.  He bought a lot of land in Pennsylvania, and then bought a great deal of land in Western North Carolina, which at one time amounted to something like five hundred thousand acres.  I’ve just been reading a book on the subject of Tench Coxe.  It averaged about ten cents an acre when he bought it.  He never did come down to this area, but he would buy and sell.  Actually, he bought so much and there were so many questions of title and descriptions that he had to get rid of it in order to avoid going into bankruptcy, or something like that.”

"Something like that," is the the beginning of the story of the Speculation Lands and the Coxe family's long connection to western North Carolina. In order to maintain his large purchase of lands in western North Carolina, Tench Coxe sent his son, Francis Sydney Coxe (1789-1852) to oversee the holdings in the area. Francis Sydney came to settle in Rutherford County where he married and established a home land that later became known as the Green River Plantation. Franklin Coxe, later known as Col. Frank Coxe (1840-1903) was the son of Francis Sydney Coxe and it is Col. Coxe who moved to Asheville. The coming of the railroad in the western part of North Carolina following the Civil War was seen by Col. Coxe  as an economic opportunity. Soon after 1881 he purchased large tracts of land in Buncombe County and began the construction of the Battery Park Hotel (Old Battery Park Hotel) in1885/86.  It is Col. Coxe who might be said to have been the single individual responsible for the early development of tourism in the western part of the state. Col. Coxe served as vice-president of the North Carolina railroad and he used his knowledge and influence to expand the railroad into Asheville. The Vanderbilts are reported to have "discovered" Asheville after their stay in Col. Coxe's Battery Park Hotel.

Tench Charles Coxe (1874-1925) was the son of Col. Franklin Coxe. He was born in Asheville and lived in the Montford area of Asheville where he constructed a magnificent 40 room mansion known as "The Klondyke." He also inherited Col. Coxe's Asheville real-estate holdings, including the Battery Park Hotel. Tench sold the Hotel to E.W. Grove in 1924 and Grove, much to many people's regret, proceeded to raze the old wooden building and the hill on which it stood.  The present brick Battery Park Hotel stands where the old wooden Battery Park Hotel once dominated the Asheville skyline. If one looks to the seventh floor of the present Battery Park that will mark the height of the hill on which the Coxe hotel stood. The fill from the removal of the hill now provides the somewhat level terrain known as the Wall Street area of Asheville and Coxe Avenue sits at the base of what remains of the Battery Park hill and marks one area of  the Coxe land holdings in Asheville. 

Frank Coxe (1899-1887) the son of Tench Charles Cox,  was a banker who operated an insurance and real estate business in Asheville, was active in many civic affairs and served for many years on the Asheville Industrial Council. For some of those years he served as the Council's Vice President. The Frank Coxe Papers, 6 cubic feet of materials, were given to UNCA in 1983/84 and may be found in Special Collections in D.H. Ramsey Library.

See also: Frank Coxe Papers