AHGP Transcription Project

A History of Swain County

The county was created in 1871. The first court house was a frame building, with the upper floor for a court room and the lower for a jail. The "cage" was a pen of logs, under the front outside stairs, and was used for misdemeanants only. The dungeon was a log room within a log room, the space between being filled with stones. A padlocked trapdoor from the floor above was the only entrance, reached by a ladder let down when required. Bryson City was first called Charleston, which name it retained sixteen years when it was called Bryson in honor of Col. Thad. Dillard Bryson who was instrumental in having the new county formed. Col. D. K. Collins built the first house there, Capt. Epp Everett the next, and James Raby and M. Battle followed. H. J. Beck was first clerk of court, Epp Everett sheriff, D. K. Collins postmaster, and Wm. Enloe, B. McHane, and John DeHart, county commissioners.

The first settlers on this creek were Robert Collins, Isaac Bradley, John Beck, John Mingus, Abraham Enloe, after whom came the Hugheses, Connors, Floyds, Sherrills, etc. Col. D. K. Collins' mother had thirteen children, of whom twelve lived to be grown. Seven of her sons took part in the Civil War, one being killed. Their neighbor had eighteen children. The earliest settlers on Deep Creek were the Shulers, Wiggins, and Millsaps. Those on Alarka were the Cochrans, Brendels, Welches, and DeHarts.

Robert Collins
He was the guide and assistant of Professor Arnold Guyot's surveying party in 1858-59, and Col. D. K. Collins was along as a helper, to carry the instruments, chain, stakes, etc. They followed the summit of the Smoky Mountains from Cocke County, Tenn., to Blount County, Tenn., breaking up the party at Montvale Springs, 16 miles from Maryville. Robert Collins was born on Oconalufty River September 4, 1806, married Elizabeth Beck, December 30, 1830, and died April 9, 1863, when he was an officer in charge of 500 troops, mostly Cherokees, in Sevier County, Tennessee.

Eli Arrington
He helped to carry Rhynehart, who was ill of milk-sick in 1855, near Collins gap. Wain Battle was also one of the party who helped carry Rhynehart from the mountains. About two years later he was with Dr. John Mingus, Dr. Davis and a few others going to the Alum cave where Col. Thomas got magnesia and alum during the war, and took sick and died alone in one of the roughest countries in the mountains. He was found by Col. D. K. Collins and taken to his home in Waynesville.

Danger in Crossing the Unakas in Winter
Andrew Sherman and O'Neal, two lumbermen, left camp on the head of Tellico Creek just before Christmas, 1899, intending to cross the Unaka mountains south of the John Stratton Meadows, near Haw Knob, so as to reach Robbinsville in time for Christmas. They got as far as the Whig cabin where they bought some whiskey from Jim Brooksher; after which they started to cross the Hooper bald. A blizzard and heavy snowstorm began and continued all that night. They were never seen again alive. In September following Forest Denton found their skeletons near the Huckleberry Knob, where Sherman's remains were buried; but some physicians took O'Neals remains home with them.

Origin of Names
Hazel creek was named from a patch of hazelnut bushes near its mouth; Noland creek was named for Andrew Noland, its first settler; Chambers creek for John Chambers; Eagle creek from a nest of eagles near its head; Twenty-Mile creek is so called because it is just twenty miles from the junction of Tuckaseegee and Little Tennessee Rivers.

William Monteith
He was the father of Samuel and the grandfather of Ellis, John, Robert and Western Monteith. He married Nancy Crawford.

Col. Thaddeus Dillard Bryson
He was born near the present railroad station called Beta, Jackson County, February 13, 1829, was married to Miss Mary C. Greenlee of Turkey Cove, McDowell County, April 4, 1871. He died at his home at Bryson City, January 2, 1890. He represented Jackson and Swain a number of years in the legislature. He was appointed colonel-commandant of the Jackson County regiment militia, February 20, 1854, and was commissioned captain in the 20th N. C. Infantry of the Confederate army, September 7. 1861.

Bryson City
Bryson City has one bank, three hotels, several boarding houses, a pump factory where columns and liquor logs are made, a roller mill of 35-barrel capacity, an ice plant, bottling works, a telephone system, a planing mill, lumber yards and builder's supplies, livery stables and a fine retail and whole-sale trade with the surrounding country. The town owns its own water system and watershed at Rich gap of 200 acres. The water is from mountain springs and is piped to a fine reservoir on Arlington Heights overlooking the town. There is also a sewerage system. The town owns its own water power plant three miles up Deep Creek which furnishes electricity to operate the ice plant and the roller mill and the electric lights of the town, and has surplus power sell. It has 140-horsepower capacity.

Graham and Robbinsville
Graham was formed in 1872, but it was represented in the legislature by the member from Cherokee till 1883, when George B. Walker, Esq., was elected to the house. The county commissioners elect met at King & Cooper's store on Cheoah River, October 21, 1872, and were sworn in by J. W. King, J. P.; J. J. Colvard, John Gholey, G. W. Hooper, N. F. Cooper, and John Sawyer, commissioners, all being present. J. J. Colvard was elected chairman, and the official bond of William Carpenter, register deeds, was approved. So were also the bonds of John G. Tatham, as clerk, J. S. Hyde, as sheriff, Reuben Carver, surveyor, all of whom were sworn in. It was then ordered that the first term of the Superior court be held at the Baptist church in Cheoah township, about one mile from Robbinsville. Judge Riley Cannon held this court at that place in March, 1873; and the first court held in the court house in Robbinsville was the fall term of 1874. On the 7th of December, 1872, the commissioners considered three sites for the county seat: Rhea Hill, Fort Hill, and land of C. A. Colvards. They chose the first named. Junaluska, the Cherokee chief, lived at Robbinsville and is buried there. A tablet on an immense boulder marks his grave. Snowbird Mountains, the Joanna Bald, the Hooper Bald, Huckleberry Knob, Laurel Top, the two Stratton Balds, the Hang Over, the Hay O, the Fodder Stack and the Swim Bald are the principal mountain peaks. They are the least known of any of our mountains. In them head the Santeetla, Buffalo, Snowbird, Sweet Water, the Yellow and Tallulah creeks, all of which flow into the Cheoah River. One hundred and fifty Cherokee Indians live on the head of Snowbird and Buffalo creeks. There is more virgin forest land in this county than in any other now. It has immense resources in water power, and the gorge at Rocky Point where the Little Tennessee goes through has great value as a power site.

The Union Development Company has bought up many sites on these streams. In 1910-11 the Whiting Manufacturing Company bought up many of the lots and houses in Robbinsville and many thousands of acres of timber lands. Lafayette Ghormley is the grandson of the man of that name who lived near the mouth of Mountain creek, and the son of DeWitt Ghormley. Dave Orr went to his present home between Bear and Slick Rock creeks in 1866, and his fame as a hunter and trapper is now secure.

Rev. Joseph A. Wiggins
Rev. Joseph A. Wiggins, a distinguished Methodist minister of this county, was born on Alarka creek in 1832, but moved with his father to Graham in 1840, when there was but one wagon road, that from Old Valley Town to Fort Montgomery, just constructed for the soldiers who removed the Indians in 1838. Dr. Dan F. Summey of Asheville was in charge of its construction. There were no mills except a few grist mills, and wheat was "packed" on horses by a trail to a mill five mile from what is now Bryson City, a distance of about thirty miles. Indian relics were then plentiful at the head of Tallulah creek at what is called The Meadows. Mr. Wiggins married a daughter of George W. Hayes, after whom Hayesville was named. There was not a church in the county and but a few log school houses. He began to preach in 1859, and served four years as chaplain in the Confederate army, after which he rode circuits in Tennessee, Southwestern Virginia and Western North Carolina till stationed in Graham County.

His great-grandfather Garland Wiggins served in the Revolutionary War, as did his wife's great-grandfather, Edward Hayes.

Andrew Colvard lived on Long Hungry branch, which got its name from the fact that a party of hunters was once detained there by high water till their rations gave out and they were for a long time hungry. The Stewarts of Santeetla came from Georgia and the Lovens from Ducktown, Tennessee. John and Robert Stratton came from Monroe County, Tennessee, in the thirties and settled on the Unaka mountains between the head of Sassafras ridge and Santeetla creek. John lived on the John Stratton Bald ten years and caught 19 panthers on Laurel Top, making "bacon" of their hams and shoulders. He came with nothing but his rifle, blanket, skillet and ammunition, but made enough herding cattle and selling deer and bear hams and hides, etc., to buy a fine farm in Monroe County, Tennessee. On a rude stone on the John Stratton meadow is carved:
A. S. Was born 1787 Died 1839.

A State Line stone stands about a quarter of a mile away. John Ropetwister, Organizer, Big Fat Commisseen and others moved from East Buffalo creek to Slick Rock during the Removal of 1838, where they remained in concealment till Col. Thomas arranged to have the remnant remain. They sent their women into Tennessee to swap bear and deer hides for meal. Thomas Cooper, the father of James W. Cooper of Murphy, lived on Tallulah three miles east of Robbinsville. There was a large and influential family of Crisps who settled on Stekoah, of whom Hon. Joel L. Crisp is a distinguished representative.

Rev. Isaac Carringer came from the eastern part of this State and lived on Santeetla. He was a Baptist minister and died about 1897, highly respected. John Denton the most picturesque mountaineer in this section, moved from Polk County, Tennessee, to Little Santeetla in 1879. In 1900 he was crippled while logging. He stands six feet three in his stockings. Soon after his arrival some of the bullies of Robbinsville tested John's pluck; but he worsted five of them in a fist fight, and since then he has lived in peace. His, wife's mother was Jane Meroney, and a first cousin of Jefferson Davis. She married a Turner, Mrs. Denton's given name being Albertine.

Source: Western North Carolina A History From 1730 to 1913, By John Preston Arthur, Published by Edward Swain Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, of Swainville, N. C., 1914

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