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History of Transylvania County

Courthouse Falls - Transylvania County, North Carolina

You'll find us in the western North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains. Transylvania County's 250 waterfalls, thousands of miles of laurel-lined trails and roads, outdoor adventures, first rate entertainment, and distinctive dining and shopping are just some of the things we invite you to explore in our charming mountain community. Known worldwide as the "Land of Waterfalls."

Transylvania was formed in 1861 from Henderson and Jackson counties. Its name is derived from the Latin words, trans meaning "across" and sylva meaning "woods." It is in the western section of the state and is bounded by the state of South Carolina and Jackson, Haywood, and Henderson counties. The present land area is 378.39 square miles and the population in 2000 was 29,334.

The first court was to be held at the home of B. C. Langford. Commissioners were named to select a site for the public buildings within five miles of W. P. Poor's store and to acquire land and lay out Brevard. Brevard is the county seat.

In 1861, Representative Joseph P. Jordan, who was born on a farm near Blantyre in Transylvania County, introduced a bill to the North Carolina House of Commons to establish a new county. Not only did he select a name for the new county, but his bill also provided a name for a new town for the county.

Petitioners in 1860 had declared the need for a new town to be located near "Rock Spring". Jordan choose the name "Transylvania" from Latin words meaning "over the trees" or "across the woods." "Brevard" was chosen as a tribute to a notable man, Ephriam Brevard, who was esteemed for drafting the Mecklenburg Declaration and was an officer in the Revolutionary Army and a citizen of renown. This bill was passed by both houses on February 15, 1861 and became a law.

The first official meeting of the Transylvania County court was held later that year on May 20 in a one room country store called "The Valley Store" at a place called Oak Grove. The petitioners for the county also got their new town. Alex F. England, Leander S. Gash, and Braxton C. Lankford jointly donated fifty acres for a new town site. Brevard grew slowly and started with only two or three stores, a new courthouse, a county jail, two churches, and a dozen residences.

In the early days there were very few roads and transportation was only by horse and ox drawn vehicles. Marketing was by wagon into parts of South Carolina, as far down as Charleston, where people would exchange products of the county for things that were needed in the home. There was no market for timber in the early days and much fine timber was cut and burned in order to clear the land for farming. The first timber carried to market from this county was floated down the French Broad River to Asheville, where it was sold. An attempt was made at one time to make the French Broad River navigable, and jetties were built in order that boats might come up the river. A boat called the Mountain Lily came to Brevard and returned, but no other trips were ever attempted.

The first railroad to come to Transylvania County was the railroad from Hendersonville to Brevard in 1895. The county voted $60,000 in bonds which were the first bonds ever issued by the county. To assist in building the railroad from Brevard to Rosman in 1900, the county voted $25,000 in bonds and the railroad was built onto Rosman.

With the coming of the railroad, lumber mills started operation and furnished the first employment other than farming for the citizens and also furnished markets for the timber. It was about this time that Joseph Silversteen came to the county and established his operations at Rosman.

About the same time, J. F. Hayes organized what was known as the Toxaway Company and they built the Franklin Hotel and what they called a turnpike road from Brevard to Lake Toxaway. They built Lake Toxaway and the Lake Toxaway Hotel in this county and the Sapphire and Fairfield Hotels in Jackson County, making these areas become a great tourist resort. Many excursion trains came from various parts of the country to Lake Toxaway.

During the entire history of the county, it has been a place where people came in the summer. Prior to the Civil War, a hotel was built near what is known as Rockbrook and was burned during the Civil War. Another was built at Buck Forest and many prominent people from South Carolina and other southern states came to these resorts.

From the records in Transylvania County it appears that the county, from its beginning was in the hands of able and competent men. Their first acts were to provide for the common schools in the county. The county was divided into school districts and money apportioned to various districts and teachers were appointed to teach such length of time as the money would pay for. In those days the teachers boarded with the parents of the children and the salaries were very low.

Because of the insufficiency of tax money to carry on the schools many communities had subscription schools where the parents paid a definite amount for the pupil attending. In those days there were various kinds of schools. Someone who was a mathematician would go into the various communities and teach arithmetic school for two to four weeks in which nothing but that subject was studied. In that way in a short time the pupil gained considerable knowledge in arithmetic. Others would teach writing schools in the same manner. Singing schools were also taught in the communities, the teacher traveling from one place to another and teaching for about two weeks at a time.

The public schools were carried on throughout the history of the county, but the length of term was short and the payment of teachers was very low. The first bond issue for schools was voted by districts and started about the year 1906. This was during the time that T. C. Henderson was Superintendent of Schools. He did wonderful work in getting improved schools in all the districts and in consolidating some of the schools and building new school houses.

The first and only high school in the county for a great number of years was the Brevard Institute which was established by Fitch Taylor and was supported by the Methodist Church. There was one other school that taught high school subjects, known as the Broad Valley Institute, located in Enon. A county high school was later established at Brevard, but it was not until 1923 that the county had an accredited high school. 

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

More Information

As of the census[2] of 2000, there were 29,334 people, 12,320 households, and 8,660 families residing in the county. The population density was 78 people per square mile (30/km²). There were 15,553 housing units at an average density of 41 per square mile (16/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 93.67% White, 4.21% Black or African American, 0.28% Native American, 0.38% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.31% from other races, and 1.12% from two or more races. 1.02% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 12,320 households out of which 25.10% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.60% were married couples living together, 8.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.70% were non-families. 26.10% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 2.74.

In the county the population was spread out with 20.40% under the age of 18, 8.20% from 18 to 24, 23.10% from 25 to 44, 26.90% from 45 to 64, and 21.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 44 years. For every 100 females there were 92.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.50 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $38,587, and the median income for a family was $45,579. Males had a median income of $31,743 versus $21,191 for females. The per capita income for the county was $20,767. About 6.60% of families and 9.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.80% of those under age 18 and 7.00% of those age 65 or over.

- Source: Wikipedia