Haywood County, North Carolina
         
   

   

Year Established

County Seat

Population (2010)

1808

Waynesville

59,036
 

First Settled

First Settled By

Significance of County Name

1784

Scots-Irish from Virginia

John Haywood, NC Treasurer
 

Other Significant Towns:

Lake Junaluska

Waterville

Canton

Woodrow

Maggie Valley

Hazelwood

Clyde

Cove Creek

Click Here - To see how Haywood County evolved each decade - includes all the known towns and villages.

A History of Haywood County

 

Maggie Valley, North Carolina

Haywood County was created from Buncombe County in 1808. It was named in honor of John Haywood, Treasurer of North Carolina. The first court was ordered to be held at Mount Prospect, at which time the justices could decide on some other place for holding court until a courthouse could be erected. In 1809, the justices of the peace were authorized to appoint commissioners to erect the courthouse - "In the erection of the public buildings at Mount Prospect there was laid the foundation of the little city of Waynesville. In the record of the court of pleas and quarter sessions, the name Waynesville occurs first in 1811." Waynesville was confirmed as a town by legislative act in 1810, and it has been the county seat ever since.


The Smoky Mountains have been around for quite some time. They have been in formation longer than the Rockies, the Andes, the Alps, longer than people, even longer than plants. In fact, the rolling peaks of the Smokies had their beginnings some 500 million years ago, making them one of the oldest upland regions on the earth. They used to look more like the naked, jutting peaks of the Himalayas but eons of ice and rain whittled them into the verdant rounded giants we enjoy today.

More than mountaintops have washed away in the history of the southern Appalachians.

Most of the herb doctors and "granny women" are gone now, along with the chestnut trees, stagecoaches, circuit riders, hard cider, and the barter system. Frog Level, once the busiest place in Haywood County, now bustles only during the annual antique sidewalk sale.

Much remains of the richly textured history of Haywood County. There are still a few moonshine stills left, if you know where to find them. Maggie’s house is still standing in the valley, as is the Shelton house in Waynesville, and Moody’s farm at Little Cataloochee.

If you get high enough up on the ridges or far enough back in isolated "hollers," you might hear a linguistic remnant of the county’s Scots-Irish and English settlers. Sometimes words or phrases are spoken more like one of the pilgrims in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales than anything in modern English.

Local pronunciation of words like square dance ("skwar-daints") or biscuits and gravy (‘bee-skits n graahee-vee") sound as if they are stuck in the great vowel shift that marked the transition from the Middle English of Chaucer’s time (1390) to Modern English (which emerged around 1500). Similarities between the mountain dialect and some Cockney pronunciations also can be heard; for example, Eliza Doolittle’s "raah-een in Spaah-een" or a Cockney rendition of "lady" are reminiscent of the local "gravy."

Mountain people still love to tell stories on each other as their forebears did and more than vestiges of the Irish jig and Highland fling can be seen in clogging, the local folk dance. Dulcimers, the three-stringed instrument hand made in the southern Appalachians by Scottish settlers, reportedly attempted to replace the music of missing bagpipes.

CHEROKEE CULTURE (1000-1775)

The first settlers, of course, weren’t Scots-Irish or European at all. They were aboriginal bands of hunter-gathers who had migrated up from Mexico to the Great Lakes region around 10,000 BC. These nomads were the Iroquois tribe, of which the Cherokees were originally part. Eventually the Cherokees separated from the Iroquois and came south.

By 1000 AD, these nomadic tribes settled down and established agricultural communities from the Ohio Valley to South Carolina. In 1540, when Hernando DeSoto passed through the southern Appalachians, they had reached a population of about 25,000.

Many of these groups lived in the Smokies, which they called "Sha-cona-ge," land of the blue mist or blue smoke. It became their sacred ancestral home.

For at least 500 years the Cherokee culture unfolded relatively unmolested by outside forces. Tribal decisions were made by consensus, with one of the European-style political hierarchy. Although some members held such roles as medicine man or elder, harmony was so valued, that nothing was done unless a consensus could be reached by all.

In the 1500s and 1600s the Cherokees generally welcomed the European explorers and traders they encountered because of the fascination of the pale skin, beards, and strange clothes, as well as the guns and gadgets they carried. But tragedy lay in wait.

In 1715, smallpox, one of European diseases to which the Cherokees had no natural immunity, swept through the tribe. The population was reduced to only 11,000, less than half of what it had been.

By 1785, when a large number of Europeans began to settle in the area, the Cherokee learned to fear and despise them. At issue were two widely diverging, if not opposite, worldviews: the Cherokees had a deep reverence for nature and sought to live in harmony with all living things. The other was that the settlers saw the land and everything on it as a commodity to possess.

Today few traces remain of the Cherokees who lived in Haywood County before they were pushed west of the Blue Ridge. Occasionally arrowheads can still be found and Cherokee baskets and artwork are displayed in the Museum of North Carolina Handcrafts in Waynesville. The most obvious legacies left by the Cherokees are names: Cataloochee is from the Cherokee "gad-a lu-tsi," variously translated as "wave upon wave" or "waves of mountains." Lake Junaluska was named for a Cherokee chief, which means "by the water." Soco Gap, one of four depressions in the Great Balsam Range, is from the Cherokee "Sag-wa," which means "one place."

THE FIRST WHITE SETTLEMENTS (1775-1850)

In 1775, the year the American Revolution started, the first Anglo-American person settled west of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Buncombe County. Haywood was then part of Buncombe County. His name was William Moore, a captain in the American militia from Ulster county, New York. In keeping with the customs of the time he brought his "bound boy" with him, an orphan indentured to him as an apprentice until the child came of age.

In 1776, General Griffith Rutherford brought 2,400 men to stop the Indian raids that the patriots believed were incited by British agents. They burned 36 Indian towns, making the area west of the Blue Ridge safer for the white settlers to come. Many of the men in Rutherford’s party and other soldiers in the American Revolution were so impressed with the beauty of the area that they came back to Haywood County to settle after the war.

After the American Revolution white settlers at first trickled and then flowed into the area that is now Haywood County. Between 1806 and 1842, more than 2,000 claims were made for land in Haywood County.

Most of the settlers had settled elsewhere in the country before moving into western North Carolina. They were predominantly of Scots-Irish, German, or Dutch descent.

In 1809, Haywood County was officially chartered and included all of the territory west of the Balsam Mountains - land that is now in Macon, Jackson, Clay, Cherokee, Graham, and Swain Counties. The county was named for John Haywood, state treasurer at the time.

EARLY NAMES & PLACES

Even though Haywood County initially spanned the territory of seven counties, the population base must have been almost exclusively within Haywood’s current borders, because all seven of the settlements that existed at the time of charter are still within the county. They were originally voting precincts and became townships after the Civil War.

The seven original precincts of Haywood County were:

1) Beaverdam, which was then the most populous, but now is just a small area north of Canton.

2) Cataloochee, the area of Cataloochee Valley in northwestern Haywood County, which is now uninhabited because of its location in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

3) Crabtree in the central northeastern section of the county, which became "Iron Duff" Township (a mistake made and never corrected by the postal department when the name of the earliest settler, Aaron McDuff, was submitted for the postal area).

4) Fine’s Creek in the extreme northeastern part of the county, which was named for a militia man who was killed by Indians and whose body was never recovered from the creek.

5) Jonathan’s Creek in the west central area of the county in the Jonathan/Dellwood/Maggie Valley area, which was named for Jonathan McPeters, one of the earliest settlers (1788).

6) Mt. Prospect, a little southwest of the center of Haywood County, which became Waynesville; and,

7) Pigeon River in the eastern central part of the county, which became Canton, and included "Lower Pigeon," which became Clyde.

Between 1800 and 1895, Canton underwent five name changes: from Pigeon River to Pigeon Ford to Ford of the Pigeon to Buford (after Algernon Sidney Buford, the president of the Richmond and Danville Railroad, which had just come to town and made everybody prosper) to Canton (after Canton, Ohio where the first iron bridge was made that spanned the Pigeon River).

Mt. Prospect was renamed Waynesville in 1811, after " Mad Anthony" Wayne. The new name was suggested by Colonel Robert Love, who gave the land for the courthouse and other public buildings for the new county seat. Love had fought in the American Revolution and was a great admirer of "Mad Anthony" Wayne, known for his quick temper and bravery in the American Revolution.

Mt. Pisgah was named sometime before 1800 for the peak in the Bible from which Moses viewed the promised land. No one knows who named it, but the speculation is that it was some member of the 1776 Rutherford expedition.

Many of the roads, creeks, mountains, and valleys of Haywood County are named for the people who settled the area. And likely as not, some of the descendants of those settlers still live on the land. Visitors riding through the county today can see landmarks bearing the names of the early settlers, including Hyatt, Henry, Leatherwood, Osborne, Plott, Killian, Moody, Love, Davidson, Messer, Medford, Hargrove, Ferguson, Boyd, Queen, Setzer, Campbell, and a long list of others.

ROUGH & READY: LIFE IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE 1800s

In the first half of the 1800s Haywood County was a "rough and ready" place where you could simply claim unoccupied land, own slaves, kill Indians, hunt buffalo (Eastern bison) and take your chances on landing in the public stocks or getting branded on the palm of the hand for crimes such as stealing or murder (of Anglo-Americans).

Settlers acquired land by locating a piece that looked good to them, cutting their initials in a tree, noting the natural landmarks defining the boundaries of the land they wanted, and recording their claim in the state Entry Book. From that point, they had twelve months in which to make improvements, at which time a survey would be conducted. If no one else had previously claimed the land, the deed to the property was his or hers.

Haywood County’s first jail was built in 1812, complete with stocks and whipping post outside. Debtors also went to jail during this period and slave owners were arrested if caught playing cards with their slaves.

The first sale of a slave in Haywood County was recorded in 1813. Some thirty such sales were recorded between 1813 and 1865, which indicated the relatively small number of slave holders in the county compared to plantations nearer the flat coastal regions to the east.

The county’s first courthouse was built in 1814 on the land donated by Colonel Love. The new county courthouse was known as the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions and operated until 1866 using a system based on English Common Law. Each of the ten justices on the court was addressed by the people as "Your Worshipful."

Travel in those days was by foot, horseback ,or ox wagon until 1828 when the stagecoach started coming through Waynesville. It carried mail and packages and as many as nine passengers on its route between Greenville, SC and Greenville, TN. The stagecoach ran for fifty years, ceasing to operate only in 1880 with the advent of train travel.

CHANGES IN CHEROKEE CULTURE

During this same period (1800-1850), great changes also were taking place among the Cherokees. They responded to the white onslaught by fighting back, migrating west ,and trying to gain power in the new order by adopting white ways.

In 1827, the Cherokees drafted a constitution and incorporated as the Cherokee Nation. They had an elected chief, as well as a senate and house of representatives.

The decade between 1828 and 1838 was especially tumultuous for the Cherokees all over the Southeast. Two events lead to this uproar: In 1828 gold was discovered in northwest Georgia, which attracted scores of prospectors eager to claim tribal lands, and in 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which mandated that all Native Americans be removed to Indian lands west of the Mississippi (now the state of Oklahoma).

The Cherokees appealed to the Supreme Court for recognition of sovereignty over their own land. The Court eventually issued a decision in their favor that was written by Justice Marshall. President Jackson ignored the ruling, the only time in US history that an American president has done that. Regarding the 1832 Supreme Court decision, Jackson said, "John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it."

In 1837, General Winfield Scott and his troops drove all the Cherokees they could round up out of western North Carolina. The march became known as the "Trail of Tears." In all, 18,000 to 20,000 Indians were forced to march three hundred miles to Oklahoma. Some 4,000 died on the way of exposure to conditions, malnutrition, and disease.

Several hundred Cherokees hid out in the mountains and remained in the area. They finally received rights to the 56,000-acre Qualla Reservation (present-day Cherokee) in 1889. At that time the population was 1,000; now it is more than 10,000.

CIVIL WAR & THE RAILROAD (1850-1900)

In 1850, the population of Haywood County was recorded as follows: 5,931 whites, 710 Indians, 418 slaves, and 15 Free Negroes. The population was reduced soon after, however, because all the land in Haywood County west of the Balsams was deeded to the newly-chartered Jackson County in 1852.

Just prior to the Civil War, Waynesville’s population was only 85 or 90 people, living in fifteen family homes. The town consisted of the courthouse, a jail, three general stores, a tan yard, and a leather-and-harness shop.

The two main events that shaped the latter half of the nineteenth century in Haywood County were the Civil War and the arrival of the railroad.

In 1861, North Carolina seceded from the Union, and approximately 925 soldiers left Haywood County to fight in the Civil War. No major battles were fought in the county, but at the tail end of the war (early April 1865), Union Colonel George Kirk and 600 soldiers came over the mountains from eastern Tennessee and marched through Cataloochee to Waynesville, plundering and taking prisoners along the way. They burned the home of Colonel Robert Love and the jail, after freeing the prisoners, and killed three of the eight captives they had taken.

Some thirty days later, another company of 2,000 Union troops marched into Waynesville and stationed themselves at the site of Sulphur Springs. Confederate Colonels James Love (with 250 men) and William Thomas (with a partial regiment of Cherokee Indians) engaged the Union troops near their encampment. After a short while the Union commander, Bartlett, requested a two-day armistice, during which he sent for reinforcements. Prior to the arrival of the reinforcements, the Thomas Regiment managed to make it appear that they had massive troops in the hillsides and then offered to surrender if the terms were equitable. Bartlett agreed to let them surrender on generous terms without further fighting. They were able to keep their weapons and none were detained.

For Haywood County, the Civil War ended after the skirmish in Waynesville on May 9, 1865. This was thirty days after Lee had surrendered at Appomattox, but because the area was so isolated by mountains, no one knew the war was over. About eighty percent of the Confederate soldiers from Haywood County returned home after the war. Of the 175 who died, about half of them died in Union prisons.

After the war the roads and farms had grown up and needed repair, the schools were shut down, and salt was even hard to come by. A few "carpetbaggers" from the North came into the area to take advantage of any economic or political opportunities that awaited in the county, but resources had become so depleted that none stayed longer than two or three years.

In 1868, North Carolina was readmitted to the Union and by then all Haywood County citizens had to take the Amnesty Oath that the Union required of all citizens in returning states. Many locals called it the "Nasty Oath."

In the fifteen years or so after the war, many changes took place that clearly marked the end of the pioneer era and provided a transition into the twentieth century. The seven original precincts became townships and Waynesville became the county’s first incorporated town. The old Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions was replaced with the county circuit court and the practice of putting debtors in prison evolved into the "poor house" or in the case of this county the "poor farm" system.

Poor people were sent to live on W.L. Moody’s farm above Dellwood. The county paid Moody 500 cents per person, per day, and the poor people had to work on his farm. This system stayed in place until the early 1950s, when welfare was introduced.

By 1870, the population of the county (7,921) exceeded the 1850 census by 847. This was a significant increase in light of the loss of the Jackson County portion of Haywood in 1853 and the casualties of the Civil War.

In 1878, Waynesville was first advertised as a tourist destination when Colonel and Mrs. W.W. Stringfield built and opened the Haywood White Sulphur Springs Hotel there.

THE RAILROAD

When the first train of the Western North Carolina (WNC) Railroad pulled into the new depot at Canton (then Ford of Pigeon) in 1882, the mountain isolation of Haywood County was penetrated forever.

The line terminated in Canton for sixteen months, while the WNC Railroad sold the company. It became the Danville and Richmond Railroad. The town of Canton was briefly named "Buford" because that was the name of the president of the railroad at the time. Tracks were laid to Clyde and Waynesville, and service began there in 1883. The depot in Waynesville was built at Frog Level, a section of town down the hill from the courthouse, which became the busiest part of the city.

The impact of the new rail service can hardly be overstated. Before the railroad, the principal products of Haywood County were agricultural (crops and especially livestock) and the primary markets were Augusta and Charleston, a 160-to-200-mile journey that took ten to twelve days. The distance and difficulty of getting goods to market restricted both the volume and the kinds of products that Haywood County could profitably produce. Markets closer to Haywood County, such as Asheville and Greenville, South Carolina, could produce enough agricultural products for their own use and even export some.

Logging as an export industry had started in Haywood County in the mid 1800s, but large-scale logging operations were impossible until the railroad provided the needed transportation to get the wood to market. Overnight the market was expanded to anywhere in the country that had train service and even to the rest of the world by connecting with major ports.

A farming crisis began in Haywood County in 1892 and continued through much of that decade, making the rail connection even more important. The land had not been given a rest since the first settler came, which caused a debilitating decline in production and profits from crops. About the same time, the cotton mills in South Carolina launched a massive drive to recruit workers and tenant farmers in Haywood County left in droves for the promise of a paycheck. Finally, the bottom fell out of the world market for bright tobacco, the light-colored, low-grade tobacco that was Haywood County’s only cash crop at the time. The 1893 panic on Wall Street was one of the causes.

The railroad allowed Haywood County to develop other industries to survive. The three biggest industries in Haywood County in the 1880s were lumber, leather products from the Hazelwood Tannery, and "sang" (ginseng roots that were dug up in the woods and shipped as far away as Hong Kong).

Tourism was another important industry that began with rail service. Almost immediately at least three more hotels sprang up in Waynesville to accommodate guests flocking to the mountains to escape summer heat.

In the last sixteen years of the century Haywood County had its first newspaper (the Waynesville Courier in 1884), first bank (1887), first laws prohibiting the free range of livestock (1890s), first local telephones (1894), first iron bridge (1895), first high school (1899), and first crude system for operating electric lights (1899).

The sale and consumption of alcohol in the county was voted legal and then illegal several times before the turn of the century, a debate that continues to this day with parts of the county "wet" and parts "dry." Prohibition was enacted in the entire state in 1889, but it was not long before the people elected to go back to local option on the issue.

With all of the progress of the late 1800s, the county still had dirt roads that had to be kept up by the local citizenry to keep them passable. A kind of conscription system was used, whereby every male in the county between the ages of 21 and 50 had to put in two days a year working the roads.

Days when court was in session also provide a glimpse into life just before the turn of the century. The county courthouse had sawdust on the floor to absorb noise and tobacco spittle. Circuit-riding judges and frequently lawyers too would come from out of town on court days. Court would go on and afterwards any politicians who wanted to address the citizenry would hold forth. In between the two activities, plenty of story telling and horse-trading took place among the crowds gathered and "Granny" Mull’s hard cider and gingerbread stand across from the courthouse did a land office business. She charged a nickel for a generous portion of both.

THE TWENTIETH CENTURY (1900-1999)

At the turn of the century, Haywood County still had an agrarian economy. Cash was scarce and trade was still mostly by barter.

In 1904, Maggie Valley had enough people to warrant its own post office. The local postmaster, Jack Setzer, was tired of sending someone all the way to Crabtree to get mail for the area, so he applied for a corner of his parlor to be designated as the valley’s post office. He submitted the names of his three daughters (Cora, Maggie and Mettie) for consideration and U.S. Postmaster General Frank Hickock chose Maggie. Maggie Mae was 14 at the time and is reported to have been mortified by the designation, in part, because she was embarrassed by the attention and in part, because she hated her first name. Accounts of Setzer family life show what life was like for the majority of people in Haywood County in the first quarter of the twentieth century:

The family had five children, all of whom helped out on the farm. Chores ranged from milking cows and churning butter to working in the cornfield and gathering blackberries for pies. The children all went to the same one-room schoolhouse, where the girls sat on one side and the boys on the other. The students worked at their own pace using hand-me-down books, wrote on slates (paper was too expensive), and did school chores such as chopping wood for the heat stove and sweeping the floor.

Circuit riding ministers from the Methodist and Baptist churches would come through about every three or four months to hold worship services and conduct marriages, funerals and baptisms. Everyone in the valley would gather for these "camp meetings," which lasted all day and included lavish picnics. The preachers would stay with a local family, sometimes for a week or longer.

Events such as barn-raisings, corn-shucking socials, and quilting bees combined work with play. Barn dances or "frolics" were held after the barn was up, and "hoedowns" took place after the fields had been cut. Banjo pickers joined fiddles, guitarists, and mandolin players for square dances and clogging, the dance for which Maggie Valley has become famous.

No one had running water or electric heat and the rough dirt roads ensured that few people ever left their immediate area. For instance, Maggie, in her lifetime, never made it the twenty miles or so past Soco Gap to Cherokee. But the Cherokee did come through Maggie each spring, traveling by foot to Waynesville on the old Cataloochee Trail to peddle their wares. The Indians used to sleep on the Setzer porch and at the homes of other friendly families in the area.

Life in Waynesville, the only town in the county, was a different story. By 1905, Waynesville had paved streets, sidewalks, running water, and a real power plant.

Elsewhere in the county, Champion Fibre & Paper Company, still the county’s largest employer located a plant in Canton (1909). The Methodists established the Lake Junaluska Southern Methodist Assembly (1911) on 1,200 acres a few miles outside of Waynesville. The Lake Junaluska Assembly has since become the World Methodist Center and draws thousands of people to Haywood County each year.

In 1914, farmers in Haywood County began cultivating "burley" tobacco, which was a much better quality and more lucrative than the old "bright" variety.

In addition, during the first quarter of the twentieth century, many farmers went to work for the logging companies for the promise of security and the stability of a paycheck. The 1930s had logged out almost all-accessible areas.

In 1918, more than 800 men from Haywood County went off to fight in World War I; 23 of them died. White Sulphur Springs Hotel was turned into a hospital for disabled veterans for a time.

In the years after the war, women got to vote for the first time and Native Americans were granted U.S. citizenship.

People were also now traveling around in Ford’s Model T cars and the county was discovered by more and more tourists. In 1925, a real estate boom in western North Carolina caused wild speculation. Land was acquired and plans made for summer home developments and even resorts with golf courses. Developers brought in trainloads of prospective buyers; exposing people from all over the country to the allure of the mountains. Within two years the boom collapsed that caused widespread economic depression.

The Waynesville Country Club Inn was opened in 1926 during the real estate boom. Unlike the failed projects of the boom, however, it thrived and has been one of Haywood County’s most popular golf resorts for seventy years.

CONSERVATION & TOURISM

By the mid-1920s, people began to realize that the old-growth forests could not renew themselves and timber conservation started. This was greatly helped along by the creation of the Pisgah National Forest; a 500,000-acre tract bought by the federal government and heavily replanted. Part of the land was acquired from George Vanderbilt, the owner of Biltmore Estate in Asheville, who started the first school of forestry in the country on Mt. Pisgah. Today, many Haywood County visitors enjoy the exhibits at the "Cradle of Forestry" that commemorate the achievements of this era.

In keeping with the emerging awareness of the need for environmental protection, the federal government had been looking for some land east of the Mississippi on which to establish a national park. They had previously established several parks out west on large tracts of uninhabited land, but had none in the east where the majority of the population was concentrated. So in the early ‘30s, they paid $10 million for 520,000 acres ($5 million of which was donated by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.) and established the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, half of which is in North Carolina and half in Tennessee.

A large section of the park is contained in the northern part of Haywood County, principally the Cataloochee Valley. For a long time, Cataloochee Valley had been the largest settlement in the Smokies. At the time the National Park Service bought the land, 139 families lived there and there were about 200 buildings in the community. Now only a few buildings remain.

The story of the park is a happy one for the millions of people who enjoy its beauty and solitude each year, but it was a very sad story for the people who lived in Cataloochee Valley at the time.

The Park Service gave the people living their lifetime occupancy rights and most of the inhabitants expected to stay there and continue to live off the land as they had for generations. However, once the park opened, the Park Service instituted a series of restrictions on hunting, fishing, grazing livestock, planting on slopes, and cutting timber, which forced the people to abandon their farms and move to more populous areas to make a living. The Park Service then burned most of the buildings left.

A few houses, barns, and churches still remain in Cataloochee Valley, such as the old Moody Homestead and Palmer Chapel. The Park Service belatedly realized the value of these historic buildings and has preserved them, as well as creating an interpretive center that explains what life was like in the valley before the park opened in 1934.

The first tourist facility of any kind on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was Cataloochee Ranch. Tom Alexander, a forester, and his wife Judy leased some land in the Cataloochee Valley from the National Park Service and converted an old farm into a mountain resort, complete with fishing, horseback riding, and fine cuisine. Their first guests turned out to be Mr. and Mrs. James Barker of Chicago. Mr. Barker was vice president of Sears, Roebuck & Co. The Alexander’s ran Cataloochee Ranch in that location for five years (1933-1938).

In the years of 1933 to 1938 (the Great Depression), the tourism offerings of Haywood County benefited from Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. The Civilian Conservation Corps greatly improved the trails and camping facilities in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and they worked on Blue Ridge Parkway, which was started in 1935. Some 46 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway now runs along the highest peaks of Haywood County.

In 1938, Tom and Judy Alexander bought the old Verlin Campbell potato farm on the top of Fie Top Mountain and turned it into the new Cataloochee Ranch. It opened in 1939 and has become one of Haywood County’s premier resorts.

A number of other Haywood County institutions that are still operating opened in this same era, including Whitman’s Bakery on Main Street in Waynesville (1945). Whitman’s expanded into a bakery and sandwich shop and now serves some of the best-baked goods, sandwiches, and cappuccino in the South.

In 1955, "Aunt Sallie" McNabb died. She was the last "granny woman" in Haywood County.

Although most people in Haywood County had long since gone to the hospital to have their babies, her death marked the end of the settler and pioneer eras for Haywood County history in which residents went to an herb doctor when they were sick and called on a granny woman to deliver their babies.

The remainder of Haywood County history is one of expanding tourist facilities and slow, but steady growth. Motels, inns, and campgrounds multiplied (to more than 160 in 1999), restaurants opened (currently numbering more than 90), and man-made attractions sprang up in the midst of the county’s spectacular natural ones. The completion of Interstate 40 in the late 1960s made Haywood County much more easily accessible to people from all over the country.

In 1960, R. B. Coburn was vacationing at Smoky Shadows Lodge in Maggie Valley with his family and learned about some impressive caves and a cliff on Buck Mountain. He never found the caves, but he found the cliff and thought the site would make a fine terminus for a chair lift for tourists.

In a serendipitous journey, Coburn left Smoky Shadows to fly his family out to see Disneyland, which had opened in 1955. Along the way they happened to stay at a motel that was next to a tourist attraction with an Old Wild West theme.

Coburn returned to South Carolina from his trip, purchased Buck Mountain, evened out a place on its mile-high peak, and built Ghost Town in the Sky -c omplete with chair lift. It is Maggie Valley’s largest man-made tourist attraction. It opened in June 1961 and has been entertaining families ever since.

In addition, in 1961, the Alexander’s opened North Carolina’s first snow skiing operation at Cataloochee Ranch. The ski resort was on the slopes behind the lodge. By 1968, the sport had proved so popular that they expanded the operation and moved it across the ridge to Moody Top (elevation 5,400 feet). The nine trails and slopes of the Cataloochee Ski Area draw thousands of visitors to Haywood County each winter and have contributed greatly to making the county a year-round destination.

Many of the old timers think the county is positively overrun with people, but in the scheme of things, it is still remarkably wild. At least forty percent of the land in the county is protected in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Pisgah National Forest. Maggie Valley’s population is still less than 400 and most of Haywood County’s 50,000 residents live in sparsely populated coves and valleys. Between 1970 and 1993, the county grew only 15 percent and has only four incorporated towns: Canton, Clyde, Maggie Valley, and Waynesville.


Entire text from the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority with minor edits. Click Here for the original. Link is current as of August 2005.
To celebrate Haywood County's first one hundred years, Mr. W.C. Allen wrote a book entitled, "Centenniel of Haywood County and its County Seat, Waynesville, N.C." in 1908. Someone took the time to scan this document into Adobe Acrobat (.pdf files) and since it was so large they broke it into four sections. To download each section, click on the following links.

Section 1

Section 2

Section 3

Section 4



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