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History of Henderson County

Old Henderson County Courthouse

Henderson was formed in l838 from Buncombe County. It was name in honor of Leonard Henderson, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina. It is in the western section of the state and is bounded by the state of South Carolina and Transylvania, Haywood, Buncombe, McDowell, Rutherford, and Polk counties. The present land area is 374.00 square miles and the population was 89,173.

The first court was to be held at the home of Hugh Johnston, at which time the justices were to decide on a place for future courts until a courthouse was erected. Commissioners were named to acquire land, lay out a town, and erect a courthouse. This town was to be named Hendersonville. The commissioners selected a site which is now called Horse Shoe, but much dissatisfaction developed over the selection and two factions arose, one called the River party and the other the Road party. The River party favored the Horse Shoe site.

In 1839, the Road party enjoined the sale of lots of the site selected at Horse Shoe and the controversy soon became so heated that the Legislature ordered an election to be held to determine the location by popular vote. The Road party was successful. In 1840, Hendersonville was laid out on land deeded by Michael King of Charleston, South Carolina, for that purpose. Hendersonville is the county seat.

Henderson County was named for Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court, Judge Leonard Henderson who died in 1833, five years before the county was created. Hendersonville received its original charter in the 1840s with a population of several hundred people.

The county of Henderson is called a typical mountain county, because it consists of these elements: mountain ranges, isolated peaks, a rolling plateau, and level valley areas. Elevations range from 1,400 feet near Bat Cave at the foot of the Blue Ridge, to 5,000 feet on Little Pisgah Mountain.

Henderson County is located on a intermountain plateau and is almost circled by mountains. To the west, the county touches the Pisgah Ledge, and to the east and south borders the Blue Ridge and Saluda Mountains. The county is bordered on the north side by Buncombe County, to the east by Rutherford and Polk counties, to the west by Transylvania county and to the south by South Carolina.

The first source of revenue was agriculture for the people of Henderson County. The settlers grew corn, wheat, rye, potatoes, and cabbage. Williams Mills also planted hundreds of fruit trees each year, so his fellow neighbors did the same. Henderson County now leads the state in production of apples.

Hendersonville had easy access from the lowlands and quickly became a vacation destination for tourists to spend the summer months to escape the sweltering heat, for a milder, cooler climate. Historic Hendersonville has been welcoming guests for more than a century, thus creating a strong tourism based industry. This basic economy held up after World War II. Today’s economy is based on tourism, manufacturing, agriculture and retirement.

Henderson County Town Names:

Bat Cave was named for the Bat Cave Mountain, which was named for the a huge fissure cave under the mountain that was inhabited by thousands of bats.

Balfour was named for Captain William Balfour Troy, who opened a rock quarry there in 1880.

Edneyville was named for Reverend Samuel Edney, a Methodist minister, who served as postmaster and magistrate.

Etowah came from the Cherokee word itawa, possibly meaning city.

Flat Rock is built around a tremendous outcrop of granite which is said to have been the site of Cherokee gatherings. A great deal of rock has been blasted away and used for highway material.

Fletcher was named for the Fletcher family of which Dr. George Washington Fletcher was a prominent member.

Hendersonville was named after Judge Leonard Henderson.

Horse Shoe was named for a bend in the French Broad River on which the village is located.

Mills River was first called Mills Creek, named for William Mills, the first white settler in Henderson County.

Tuxedo was called Lakewood until it was renamed to avoid confusion with another Lakewood. Tuxedo was chosen because it was considered euphonious.

Zirconia was named for the zircon mines once operated there.

- Source: J.D. Lewis - Little River, SC


More Information

As of the census[2] of 2008, there were 102,367 people, 42,205 households, and 28,613 families residing in the county. The population density was 275.83 people per square mile (92/km²). There were 42,996 housing units at an average density of 115 per square mile (44/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 94.5% White, 3.3% Black or African American, 0.4% Native American, 0.8% Asian, and .9% from two or more races. 8.7% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. The county contains a large but undefined illegal immigrant population, predominantly Mexican in origin, but also coming from other Latin American countries and also countries of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Undocumented immigrants living in Henderson County may number over 7000, but any estimates of this population are at best approximate. Interestingly, today Russian is the second-largest foreign language in use in Western North Carolina (primarily Asheville and vicinity), after Spanish.

There were 42,205 households out of which 25.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.1% were married couples living together, 9.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.2% were non-families. 28.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 22% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.33 and the average family size was 2.78.

In the county the population was spread out with 20.80% under the age of 18, 6.30% from 18 to 24, 25.9% from 25 to 44, 26.7% from 45 to 64, and 22.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46 years. For every 100 females there were 93.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.50 males. Henderson County is characterized by its exceptionally large retiree population. Its demographics are comparable to some of the top retiree destinations in Florida, producing a pronounced deviation in favor of the 65 and older population in public policy and accommodation.

The median income for a household in the county was $43,013 and the median income for a family was $44,974. Males had a median income of $31,845 versus $23,978 for females. The per capita income for the county was $33,500. About 6.80% of families and 9.70% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.50% of those under age 18 and 8.30% of those age 65 or over.

- Source: Wikipedia