Barker Heights is a community that struggles to maintain its identity as Hendersonville has annexed much of the traditional community.
The community at one time was part of the extensive Brookland Estate owned by Theodore G. Barker. Therefore, the community took the name Barker Heights.
Barker Heights is primarily an area of bogs and wetlands. Bat Fork Creek, King Creek and Mud Creek are either within the community or border the community, and they merge near or within the community. These creeks are all west of the Continental Divide.
The community is bordered to the north, west and northeast by Hendersonville; and to the south by East Flat Rock. Bat Fork Creek and King Creek separate Barker Heights on the east from the Tracy Grove community. Shepherd Street and Airport Road separate the community from East Flat Rock, and parts of Tracy Grove.
The Bat Fork Bog and parts of the Oklawaha Greenway, including the Jackson Park Nature Trail, are located within the community. Several areas within the community or bordering the community are listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the National Wetlands Inventory and the N.C. Natural Heritage Program.
The Bat Fork Bog is a Plant Conservation Preserve, established and managed to protect imperiled plant species. It consists of 15.85 acres and several rare plant species are located within the bog, including the rare bunched arrowhead. For more information on the rare Southern Appalachian Mountain bogs visit http://hendersonheritage.com/east-flat-rock/
The Jackson Park Wetlands contain a remnant swamp forest community. The Mud Creek Bridge and Eubank Swamp Remnant is a wetland complex with diverse plant life. The plants include species usually found in the Coastal Plain, such as the laurel-leaf greenbrier.
In 1828, Frederick Rutledge purchased 340 acres from early settler Samuel McCarson along “Little Mud Creek.” It appears that Samuel McCarson had inherited the land from David McCarson. Rutledge built a small frame house on the property for use as a summer residence to escape the heat and disease in the South Carolina low country.
In 1835, Rutledge sold 277 acres to Charles Edmonston, adjoining the lands of Charles Baring and Mitchell King. Rutledge had previously sold land to John Davis (who later sold to Mitchell King) and five acres to Charles Baring.
Edmonston built a home, today called Brookland, in 1836 as his summer retreat.
Edmund Molyneaux purchased the home and land in 1841. Molyneaux returned to Europe at the start of the Civil War and the home and land were abandoned.
In 1882, Theodore G. Barker (1832-1917) purchased the home and 400 acres from the Molyneaux family.
Barker had married Louisa Preston King, daughter of Mitchell and Margaret Campbell King. Barker was a lawyer in Charleston, S.C. He also was a rice planter. He began planting at Mulberry on the Cooper River with overseer Peter Nelson. He owned lands managed by his nephew, Samuel G. Fitzsimmons, on the Edisto River beginning in 1880. Over the years, his plantation lands included Bonny Hall, Block Island, Springfield and The Cut. He served with Hampton’s Legion during the Civil War, attaining the rank of major and serving as adjutant.
Barker named his summer estate Brookland.
When Mitchell King died in 1862, his daughter, Louisa Preston King Barker, had inherited large tracts of land. When Barker also purchased the abandoned Brookland estate, the couple owned most of the land from Mud Creek on the south edge of Hendersonville, east of today’s Greenville Highway, to what is now the north edge of Flat Rock.
From 1882 to 1892, Barker purchased more land and by the 1890s may have been the largest landowner in Henderson County.
Barker began draining the bogs, known as the Barker swamps, to establish one of the largest farms in the county and one of the first dairies. There were tenants and laborers who lived on the land year round.
Early local writers state that Barker sold some of the land that is today the Barker Heights community prior to his death in 1917, and began the first “subdivision” within Henderson County.
In 1912 in the listing under “Calendar of Progress” in the Western Carolina Democrat newspaper is mentioned the drainage of the Barker swamps and improvements in the appearance of the land skirting the town of Hendersonville in that vicinity. This included the area of today’s community of Barker Heights through today’s Brookland Manor and Brooklyn Avenue area along the Greenville Road (old U.S. 25, U.S. 225). Today’s U.S. 176 did not exist at this time nor did the Old Spartanburg Road.
Persons moving into the drained bog that was now a “subdivision” were primarily working people who wanted to live closer to the town of Hendersonville as they had jobs in the town. Many worked in the textile mills in Hendersonville and in other businesses in town.
Some of the homes within today’s community of Barker Heights possibly date prior to 1920.
After the death of Barker in 1917, Henry Ficken purchased 161.9 acres of the Barker property. Other individuals bought the remaining acreage, including sections that comprise today’s Barker Heights community.
Henry Ficken subdivided his section of the former Brookland estate into the Brookland Manor neighborhood in the 1950s. Hendersonville has annexed the Brookland Manor section of the estate.
More persons bought homes and land in the Barker Heights section during the post-World War II housing boom.
The oldest church in the community is the Barker Heights Baptist Church established in the 1940s.
A charter school, the Mountain Community School, opened in 1999 and is located in the Barker Heights community. The building that formerly housed the Barker Heights Community Club is now used by the school.
Public school students in the community attend Hillandale Elementary School, Flat Rock Middle School and East Henderson High School.
About 1929 Oscar Meyer started Meyer’s Flying Service. Meyer founded the Hendersonville Airport in 1932 the same year he acquired his private pilot’s license. His father Oscar Meyer Sr. helped him purchase the land where he could take off and land his home-made airplane. The plane was a parasol-wing type plane with an open cockpit, powered with a Chevrolet engine and taking off on wheels from a motorcycle.
The small airport was located in the Barker Heights community.
It became a hub for barnstorming pilots during the 1930s. Prior to and during World War II, Meyer and his staff trained many student pilots.
Meyer retired in 1969 and sold the airport to Robert “Bob” Winkler.
In 1969 the airport was known as the Hendersonville-Meyer Airport and served as headquarters for Winkler Aviation that offered rental of planes, flying lessons, plane storage and plane repairs.
The Hendersonville Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol was based at the airport for many years.
For more information on Oscar Meyer, visit http://books.google.com/books?id=tvTQQHKM4UUC&pg=PA117&lpg=PA117&dq=1978+October+Bat+Fork+%22Flying+Magazine%22&source=bl&ots=13pkyZhFZS&sig=RvgfEVk6hsTyelZqar2ahRYQWDI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=hx9RVJS4CMuiNojUgsAG&ved=0CCAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Meyer&f=false
(Double click on the “snippet” to see the entire article and note that the pages are in reverse order. This is the Bax Seat column entitled “Mountain Man” by Gordon Baxter.)
After 1969, the airport was called the Hendersonville-Winkler Airport. A runway was paved in 1974.
Today, Aerolina is based at the airport and has a 3,075-foot paved and lighted runway capable of handling a variety of aircraft.
The Western North Carolina Air Museum is located near the airport. The museum was founded in 1989. A temporary facility was opened in a hangar at the Hendersonville Airport in 1992.
Land was later purchased on the Johnson Airfield adjacent to the Hendersonville Airport and a hanger constructed in 1993 to house the museum. An addition to the museum hangar was later constructed and opened in 2008.
The Johnson Field Airport is a turf runway and home to the WNC Air Museum.
Jackson Park was the first park established by Henderson County. Much of the park is located in the traditional Barker Heights community.
About 85 acres of the park was located on land owned by Ernest W. Ewbank (1875-1945). The two-story brick Ewbank home built in 1925 housed until recently the offices for the Henderson County Parks and Recreation.
The Ewbank heirs sold 85 acres and the home to the county in 1973 for park purposes. The park was named for Clyde S. Jackson, who was chairman of the Henderson County Board of Commissioners.
Jackson Park was officially established in 1974 and opened in 1975.
Today the park covers 212 acres and contains picnic shelters, baseball fields, multi-purpose fields for soccer and other events, tennis courts, playgrounds and many walking trails, including nature trails through the bogs.
The Henderson County Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service is located at Jackson Park.