Asheville History: Pre 1800s
With the exclusion of Native American History, Recorded history began with the visit of Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto to Western North Carolina in 1540. Early explorers first established trade with the Cherokee Indians in 1643. Many of these early trading routes, shared by settler and native alike, traversed the present location of Asheville. In the following years colonial expansion, which had swelled to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, infringed upon Cherokee lands and initiated raids on the Colonial settlements. Retaliation brought a force of colonists led by General Griffith Rutherford into Western North Carolina in 1776. His group laid waste to and destroyed many Cherokee villages crippling the power of a long standing nation, and leading to the sad story of the Trail of Tears.
As the Cherokee nation waned, a rush of mostly Irish/Scottish pioneers rushed into this nature haven. After the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780, considered by many to be a turning point in the southern campaign of the revolutionary war, many pioneers applied their wilderness and shooting skills to almost effectively wiping out what they deemed inexhaustible resources. Numerous predators such as the grey wolf and the panther, as well as the buffalo were brought to near extinction.
Early Settlers to Asheville and Western NC
The first settlers were chiefly Scotch-Irish Immigrants from Ulster in Northern Ireland. Their migration was stimulated by harsh British tariffs, which had shattered the wool/textile industries.
Among these early settlers was young pioneer William Davidson, who in 1784 relocated with his family to settle in the valley paradise we now know as Buncombe County. William Davidson and kin are credited to being the first settler family, and lived on Christian Creek in the Swannanoa Valley region know as “Eden Land.”
A rise of WNC homesteads led to a legislative act initiated by Colonel David Vance and Davidson, establishing Buncombe County on Dec. 5, 1791. A small log courthouse was erected on what is now Pack Square. Approximately a year later John Burton, with state land grants, established the area settlement with the name of Morristown. Forty Two half acre lots were parceled and sold for about $2.50 apiece. In 1797, in honor of Governor Samuel Ashe, the area finally incorporated and received its current name, Asheville.