The following information was obtained from several sources, including the DuPont State Forest web site, articles written in area newspapers, information from the Friends of DuPont State Forest, several books on the history of Henderson County, and primary source documentation related to land deeds and early family histories.
DuPont State Forest was once the home of early settlers and farmers in Henderson County, and later Transylvania County.
The Thomas family deed in the area that is now DuPont State Forest dates back to 1799.
John Thomas Jr. married Louvenia Jane Smith. In 1813 he conveyed land to three sons.
One of his sons was Robert Thomas, the first sheriff of Henderson County, and one of his daughters was Anthroit Thomas who married James Dyer Justice.
Another son was Micajah Thomas, born 1808, who lived and farmed much of the land in today’s DuPont State Forest. He married Ann Caroline Hightower and had 12 children.
Micajah Thomas built the Buck Forest Inn prior to the Civil War. This was an early inn and tavern to serve travelers along an early road. The exact site of this inn is not known today.
There is a family legend that Micajah Thomas was blinded during the Civil War when Union sympathizers or Union recruiters in the area beat him over the head with the butts of their guns. It is also told in the family tale that the inn and homestead were burned by these Union recruiters or Union sympathizers.
Micajah Thomas died in 1883. His grave site is in the Thomas Family Cemetery inside today’s DuPont State Forest. The cemetery is near Buck Forest Road. A sign reads: “No pain no grief no anxious fear can reach our loved ones sleeping here.”
In the early 1800s and prior to the Civil War, the Moore family owned the land surrounding Hooker Falls and operated a grist mill on the property.
In 1882, the Moore family sold the mill property to three Hooker brothers. They built a cabin and one of the brothers started a second mill beside the falls, which now bears the family name.
A trail off the main path to Hooker Falls leads to the Hooker-Moore Cemetery.
Also in the Hooker-Moore Cemetery is the grave site of James Lewis Sentell. Many members of his family lived in the Big Willow and Crab Creek communities. He enlisted in the Union’s 2nd N.C. Mounted Infantry, Co. F, on Oct. 1, 1863. He was reported as a deserter on April 5, 1864. He was later reported “killed by the enemy in a skirmish July 17, 1864, in Haywood Co., N.C., while on recruiting service.” He was a Confederate deserter from the 62nd N.C. Infantry Regiment, Co. E., when he enlisted in the Union.
During the early 1900s a water-powered saw mill was located in the Corn Mill Shoals area. Later that mill was disassembled and moved to just below Bridal Veil Falls.
Portions of the forest at higher elevations, most noticeably Grassy Mountain, were frequently burned by local farmers after timber was harvested to create grazing areas for cattle.
By 1940, the Coxe family leased more than 5,000 acres along the Little River. The Coxes lived in Asheville and managed the property primarily for hunting and fishing. They built the Buck Forest Lodge around 1940 near High Falls. There was also a caretaker house and a barn near the intersection of what is now Joanna Road and Pitch Pine Trail.
The picnic shelter stands on the site of the former Buck Forest Lodge. Members of the Buck Forest hunting and fishing recreation club were mostly young professionals from Asheville and their families.
Buck Forest Lodge was torn down in the 1970s, but the lodge’s double-sided chimney still remains. There is a date and initials carved into the side of the fireplace: April 28 1941 P.F.R. The initials may be those of Paul F. Roberts, who built the lodge.
The lakes were not there at the time. Most of the surrounding land was pasture. Large fields along the river above High Falls and several smaller fields scattered about the remainder of the property were also maintained.
Joe Golden was the caretaker throughout the 1940s. He raised corn and other crops on the property and operated a small sawmill west of the river.
Golden was shot and killed below Triple Falls on Mother’s Day in 1947. The killing was investigated but no one was ever charged with the murder.
He had been missing for a day before his body was found at the bottom of Triple Falls. He died of a bullet wound in his chest, shot from his own pistol.
Ben Cart bought the property around what is now Lake Julia around 1967. He established the Summit Camps, two forest summer camps, one for girls and one for boys. The camps took up to 50 campers for as long as 10 weeks. The camps offered horseback riding, riflery, archery, water skiing, swimming and more.
Cart ran the operation until sometime in the mid-1980s. He financed the construction of Lake Julia, named for his first wife, in the 1960s. A building overlooking Lake Julia was constructed for camp offices and the infirmary. Cart was a pilot and also constructed an airstrip and hanger.
In the late 1980s, Cart sold the property to the DuPont Corp. The corporation renovated the camp offices and used the building as a lodge to provide overnight accommodations for clients and company officials. DuPont State Forest offices are now located in this building. Other Summit Camp buildings that remain in use include the equipment shed, barn, two houses, and the hanger. The airstrip is only used for helicopter training exercises.
It was in 1955 that the DuPont Corporation began buying land. The DuPont plant began manufacturing x-ray film in 1958.
The DuPont Corp. purchased the Coxe property and other smaller farms. In total the company purchased approximately 10,000 acres of land in order to control the supply of clean water for the manufacturing process.
The DuPont Corp. established a forest management program under the leadership of Charles Paxton. One of the first forest practices was the establishment of 330 acres of white pines on abandoned pastureland in the area known as the Flatwoods or Guion Farm. In 1957 the DuPont Corp. entered into an agreement with Champion Paper to harvest timber from other areas of the property. Many harvested areas were re-planted with white pine.
In 1997, DuPont sold its medical imaging business and the plant along with about 2,000 surrounding acres to Sterling Diagnostic Imaging.
In 1996 and 1997, DuPont also sold the state of North Carolina 7,600 acres to establish DuPont State Forest.
DuPont transferred all excess property to the Conservation Fund, a national non-profit organization with a combination of land donation and land sale. The state of North Carolina later purchased most of this land from the Conservation Fund. Funding for the state forest was granted by the N.C. Natural Heritage Trust Fund and about 1,750 acres is registered with the N.C. Natural Heritage Program as having special ecological significance and receives special management protection.
About 500 acres were added to the forest along Reasonover Road in early 2000.
Sterling Diagnostic Imaging then sold the plant to the Agfa Corp., which closed in the fall of 2004, and the surrounding 2,200 acres to a real estate developer.
In October 2000, the 2,200 acres along the Little River corridor was acquired by the state through the process of eminent domain utilizing funds from the state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund. This action was taken against the real estate developer who was building a large residential housing development in the center of the state forest.
Two small tracts were added to the forest in 2006.