The community of Bat Cave is a land of tall mountain peaks that tower above the gorge created by the Broad River.
“But a few miles beyond Rutherfordton, the grand prospect bursts upon vision,” wrote early travel guide Henry E. Colton in 1859 in his book “Mountain Scenery.” “The Pinnacle, Sugar-Loaf, Chimney Rock, Tryon Mountain, with innumerable other peaks, loom up over the horizon, and stretch from the north to the west and south, as far as the eye can reach.”
Bat Cave, including the Middle Fork area, is bordered by the community of Edneyville to the west and south, and by the community of Gerton to the west and north. Rutherford County borders the community to the east and Buncombe County borders the community to the north. And, it is only a short ride through a small section of Buncombe County into McDowell County.
The community is entirely east of the Continental Divide.
The headwaters of the Main Broad River is in southeast Buncombe County. This river is often called the Rocky Broad as it flows through Henderson County and becomes the Main Broad River in Rutherford County. The river continues to Cleveland County and into South Carolina. The Broad River with all its tributaries joins the Saluda River near Columbia, S.C., and empties into the Atlantic Ocean.
Four of the tallest peaks in Henderson County border the community.
The ninth tallest peak in the county, Sugarloaf Mountain, is partly in Bat Cave and Edneyville on the border with Rutherford and Polk counties.
The 10th highest peak, Little Bearwallow Mountain, borders Bat Cave and Gerton.
Stony Mountain, the 25th peak, borders Henderson and Rutherford counties in Bat Cave, and Grant Mountain, No. 37, rises on the border of Edneyville and Bat Cave.
North America’s largest granite fissure cave, Bat Cave, is located at the border of Henderson and Rutherford counties. The trail leading to the cave is within Henderson County. The cave itself is “over the line” in Rutherford County. Of course, the community takes its name from this cave.
The Bat Cave system is more than a mile long. Fissure caves are formed by movements of the earth – earthquakes and other shifts. The rock in Bat Cave is angen gneiss, granite formed about 535 million years ago during the Cambrian period. For more information, visit:
In the spring of 1874, a series of earthquakes occurred in Hickory Nut Gap. The earthquake appeared to be centered on Bald Mountain, locally known as Rumbling Bald.
An ancient American Indian trail passed through the gorge area. The trail, used primarily by the Catawba and also the Cherokee, followed the approximate location of today’s U.S. 74/64.
In 1673, the British sent John Needham and Gabriel Arthur up this Indian trail through Hickory Nut Gap to the Swannanoa River to set up trade with the Cherokee.
Prior to the Revolutionary War, the area of today’s Rutherford County and most of what later became McDowell County were settled by early pioneers. It is unrealistic to believe that at least a few of these early Appalachian Mountain pioneers did not live in sections of the Bat Cave community.
In 1763, near the end of the French and Indian War (Seven Years War in Europe) King George III of Great Britain issued a proclamation that defined the western edge of settlement. This “proclamation line” was meant to separate the Cherokee and colonists.
This proclamation line states “where the easterly and westerly waters divide.” “Its contour was defined by the headwaters that formed the watershed along the Appalachia.”
“All land with rivers that flowed into the Atlantic was designated for the colonial entities while all the land with rivers that flowed into the Mississippi was reserved for the native Indian population” (Continental Divide).
In the same year, the Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years’ War in Europe and the French and Indian War in North America. The British victory ended the need for the British to use the Cherokee as a buffer between the British and the French.
Colonists immediately began moving into Cherokee land, ignoring the “proclamation line.”
As early as 1763, based on this treaty, pioneers could move onto land in today’s Bat Cave community.
During the Revolutionary War, there were several forts in today’s Rutherford, Polk and McDowell counties to protect settlers against Indian attacks. The Cherokee had sided with the British during the war. One of these early forts was near today’s town of Old Fort in McDowell County. It was not far for these early pioneers to travel to this fort near Point Lookout near the border of today’s Buncombe and McDowell counties.
It is still a short drive along N.C. 9 from Bat Cave into Old Fort.
The worst natural disaster in the history of Henderson County, the Flood of 1916, caused extensive damage and loss of life in the Bat Cave community. For more information on this flood, visit http://hendersonheritage.com/flood-of-1916/
The earliest deeds for land in the Bat Cave community may be located in Rowan County or Old Tryon County.
In 1777, Burke County was formed from Rowan County, going to the border of the Cherokee line. Only a very small section of today’s Henderson County was located inside the old Burke County, primarily areas of Bat Cave, Gerton, and possibly small sections of Hooper’s Creek and Fletcher.
In 1779, Old Tryon County was divided into Rutherford and Lincoln counties. Rutherford County included land in all of today’s Polk County and most of Henderson County, including sections of Bat Cave that border Rutherford County.
In 1787, part of Burke County was annexed to Rutherford County, including the area of the Little Broad River (Rocky Broad) in Bat Cave and Gerton.
Therefore, early land deeds for land in the Bat Cave community may possibly be found in Rowan, Old Tryon, Burke and Rutherford counties.
Old Buncombe County was formed from Burke and Rutherford counties in 1791. Land deeds from 1791 until 1837 will most likely be found in Buncombe County.
But, some sections east of the Continental Divide were still in Rutherford County until 1794 when more land in Rutherford County was annexed to Old Buncombe County, placing more of today’s Henderson County in Old Buncombe County.
It is extremely difficult to determine the precise location of any deeds that refer to the Broad River. There are three branches of the Broad River in Rutherford County.
To the knowledge of this researcher, no one has thoroughly researched land deeds for the Bat Cave community in the counties mentioned above prior to 1787.
On April 24, 1787, William Grimes enters land on the waters of the Little Broad River (Rocky Broad) “borders land I purchased from James Bradley.” Therefore, James Bradley apparently owned land in the community prior to 1787. Grimes married Ann Caroline Bradley. Grimes also served in the Revolutionary War as an officer of a militia unit in Lincoln and Rutherford counties. Abraham Kuykendall, an early settler in Henderson County, served in this unit. During the war, Rutherford and Lincoln counties were considered a part of the Salisbury district.
On July 21, 1791, Simon Street enters land on the “crooked fork of the Little Broad River (Rocky Broad), includes the mouth and runs up both sides and includes part of Hickory Nut Cove.”
On July 26, 1791, William Conn enters land at “the head of Hickory Creek of the Little Broad River (Rocky Broad) above Carlock.”
On June 20, 1794, Jesse Briggs, Bird Laughter, Samuel Porter and David Miller enter land on “Chimney Mountain, includes the old hunting path.” Parts of this hunting path and mountain were in today’s Henderson County.
It is known that prior to 1800, and possibly many years earlier, families with the surname of Conner, Fowler, Freeman, Hill, Laughter, Nix, Parris and Williams were living in today’s community of Bat Cave. Other families with the surnames of Collins, Dodson (Dotson), Duvall, Hudgins, Huntley, Pryor and Wilson were living in the community prior to 1860 or shortly after the Civil War.
Transportation and Inns
There was an early toll road through Parris (Hickory Nut) Gap in Bat Cave. This road was also a major Drovers Road for the settlers to drive their livestock to the markets in South Carolina.
There were drovers’ stops and inns along the Drovers Road in the vicinity of Bat Cave.
This Drovers Road became known as Hickory Nut Gap Turnpike, built about 1830. An early stagecoach line passed along the road through the gorge from Rutherfordton to Asheville.
It was not until 1913 that the road connecting Bat Cave to the Edneyville community was built. This road, U.S. 64, from Bat Cave to Edneyville was paved in 1927.
By 1915, the road from Charlotte to Rutherfordton, through Bat Cave, to Asheville was improved This was sometimes called the Charlotte Highway and today is U.S. 74.
Harris Tavern was one of the earliest businesses along the old Drovers Road. This tavern and drovers stop, located near today’s Boy’s Camp Road near Lake Lure, opened in the early 1800s. When the stagecoach began traveling along the Hickory Nut Gap Turnpike it became known as the Harris Inn. After the Civil War, the inn was purchased by George W. Logan and became known as Logan’s Inn. There was another Logan Inn, later known as Chimney Rock Lodge, built later in Chimney Rock. This building burned in 1930.
After the Battle of Swannanoa Gap during the Civil War, Union troops traveled along the turnpike through Hickory Nut Gap on their way to Rutherfordton.
The Edney Inn was built in the 1880s at the end of today’s Edney Inn Road between Bat Cave and Edneyville. On a July 4 in the early 20th century this inn burned.
It was about 1887 that Jerome Benjamin “Rome” Freeman purchased Chimney Rock. He began developing the area for tourists and built a stairway to the rock. In late 1902, Lucius Boardman Morse and his brother bought the land from Freeman. Morse, a doctor who lived in Hendersonville at the time of the purchase, began development of the area in 1915.
Tourists began flocking to the Hickory Nut Gorge area to visit Chimney Rock and the Bat Cave. At this time the cave was a major tourist attraction.
Morse dammed the Broad River to create Lake Lure about 1923. The lake was completed in 1927. The Lake Lure Inn was completed in 1929.
In 1891, Thomas F. Turner built the Esmeralda Inn in the community of Chimney Rock. Turner got the World Film Company to make a movie in Bat Cave in 1915. “Meliss” was the first of several early movies to be filmed in the area. Early actors and actresses who stayed at the inn during filming included Ned Finley, Ethel Clayton, Barry O’Neil, Ada Gifford and Edith Storey. Some of the movies included “The Return of O’Garry,” “The Caveman,” “Mountain Law,” and “The Raiders of Sunset Gap.” Turner’s inn was also famous for the mountain whiskey served. The Esmeralda Inn burned in February 1917. It was rebuilt and re-opened July 1, 1917. Turner owned the hotel until his death in 1937. It was then owned by W. Edgar Flack. There was another fire in 1997 and the inn was re-built again.
Mountain View Inn was built about 1895, also in Chimney Rock. James Mills Flack bought the inn in 1895. He enlarged it over the years. Flack also served as a guide to area caves. In 1957, the inn was sold to Kenneth Kindley. The inn was destroyed in a fire in 1956.
The Rockwood Inn was built in the Bat Cave community in 1902 for Adolphus Ervin Hudgins. It became a hotel in 1912. It was later bought by John H. Barker and became known as Barker’s Rockwood Inn.
The Salola Inn on Sugarloaf Mountain near Edneyville and Bat Cave was built by Jonathan Williams about 1900 and opened around 1910. Williams built an observation tower on top of the mountain that included views of the Hickory Nut Gorge and Chimney Rock. Williams sold the inn to a group of Florida investors prior to 1920. The inn was later owned by J.A. Hooks and became known as Clow’s Dude Ranch. Attractions included tennis courts, croquet, and horseback riding. The inn stood until the 1950s when it was known as the Ranch House.
By 1919 and during the 1920s, the community of Bat Cave, including its famous cave, was a major tourist attraction. Tourists were flocking to the area. Tourism continues to be a major industry in the community.
Post Office and Stores
In 1843 a post office named Chimney Rock opened at the site of the present-day Lake Lure. This post office also served people living in today’s Bat Cave community. John W. Harris was the first postmaster.
The post office closed in 1860. It re-opened in 1861 at the Harris Inn (built about 1837). After the Civil War, the Harris family sold the inn to George W. Logan. The post office closed briefly in 1866 during this transaction, and re-opened before the end of 1866 at the Logan House or Inn (formerly the Harris Inn). The post office again closed in 1872, but re-opened in 1873.
In 1879, Louisa Duvall was appointed postmaster. She moved the location to the Duvall Store in Bat Cave. The name of the post office then changed from the Chimney Rock Post Office to the Bat Cave Post Office. Another Chimney Rock Post Office was established at a later date.
J.W. Duvall was a merchant in the community after the Civil War and Louisa Duvall was his daughter. Louisa Duvall married Marcus “Mark” Edney, a descendant of early Henderson County pioneer Asa Edney, in 1882. This family also established the Edney Inn in the 1880s near the end of Edney Inn Road. She, her husband, parents, and other family members are buried at the Edney Cemetery at the corner of Edney Inn Road and U.S. 64 East.
The Bat Cave Post Office was destroyed in the Flood of 1916, but was later re-built.
The Bearwallow Post Office opened in 1858 between Bat Cave and Gerton. The first postmaster was Joseph W. Freeman. The post office closed in 1873. It later re-opened with William Stanhope Adam Oates as postmaster. This post office closed in 1950 and was combined with the Gerton Post Office.
In the 1920s and 1930s, and earlier, there were several souvenir shops for tourists in the community. Local residents made furniture, baskets, pottery, jugs, woven products and quilts to sell to the tourists. The Mountain Rugcraft Shop was built in 1929 in a log building. The Woodpecker’s Shop was owned by Carl G. Freeman, who was known as “the Woodpecker.” He opened his own workshop where he and others made furniture and items, from letter openers to telescopes, from native rhododendron and mountain laurel.
Bill’s Creek Baptist, located about 6 miles from Chimney Rock and not far from Lake Lure, was the earliest church to serve residents of the Bat Cave community. The church was established in 1785.
Bat Cave Baptist Church was organized in 1892.
Middle Fork Baptist Church was organized in 1896.
The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration traces its history to about 1897.
For more information on these churches and their cemeteries, please click on the “Historical Cemeteries” icon on this web site.
Bald Mountain Baptist Church in Buncombe County is located near the county line with Rutherford and Henderson counties.
Schools, Fire Department and Health Clinic
Prior to the Civil War, during the 1850s, a school was located near Reedy Patch Creek and today’s Edney Inn Road.
In the early 1900s a one-room schoolhouse was also located in the Bat Cave community near the Rocky Broad River.
The sisters of the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration opened a school for area children. This school closed when a one-room school was opened by the Henderson County school system.
In the 1920s a branch library also opened in Bat Cave to serve residents in the area. This library later closed when the main Henderson County Public Library began offering a traveling “bookmobile” service.
In 1948, Dr. George Bond opened the Valley Clinic and Hospital in the Bat Cave community. For more information, see the link below.
The Bat Cave Volunteer Fire Department was organized in the 1970s. For more information, see the link below.
Camp Minnehaha was established in the Bat Cave community in 1912. This is one of the earliest camps established in Henderson County.
The camp was also the site of a waterfall named Minnehaha Falls, described as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Western North Carolina. Today, the waterfall is located on private property.
Belle Abbott Roxby of Daytona Beach, Fla., began the camp for girls. Roxby was the mother of Evelyn Haynes, who started the Huckleberry Art Colony in Henderson County in 1922.
The camp was also a senior rest camp for adult women. The girls were divided into two groups: Blue Birds, ages 8 to 12, and Camp Fire Girls, ages 12 to 20.
In articles describing the Flood of 1916, the camp is mentioned as suffering great damage. From the “Pictorial Atlas of North Carolina” published in 1920 concerning Henderson County:
“Educational and recreational facilities are offered by a number of camps during the summer season. A few of the better established camps include one at Highland Lake, two at Laurel Park, Camp Minnehaha, and a Camp Fire Girls camp at Bat Cave.”
Haynes wrote a book entitled “True Early Adventures in Florida Days and Mountain County” that describes the early camp and the Flood of 1916.
For excerpts from this book and more information, including the Huckleberry Artists Colony, see: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1665&dat=19921206&id=l4BPAAAAIBAJ&sjid=lCQEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5855,1329329
Another early camp in the area was Camp Mishemokwa at the end of Middle Fork Road. The camp began operation in 1923. It no longer operates as a summer camp, and is now rented out to individuals and large groups.