Horses and cattle graze in the green pastures. Vegetables and trees grow in the fields and nurseries. The scenic and fertile Etowah valley is nestled between mountains separating the community from Crab Creek, Big Willow and Mills River.
This community was not known as Etowah until 1895 when the new train depot was named Etowah. At the time, the post office for the community was named Money. The railroad officials refused to name the train station Money. Joseph Leander Gash was the station agent. His wife, Margaret Stewart Gash, was from Adairsville, Ga. She suggested naming the train station Etowah after the Etowah River that flowed near her hometown in the state of Georgia. Etowah is a Muskogean (Creek) word derived from italwa, meaning town. The Creek lived in this section of Georgia prior to the Cherokee moving into the area.
The Etowah community is bordered to the north by Mills River. The community of Horse Shoe borders the community to the north and east and the Big Willow community borders Etowah to the east and south. Etowah is also bordered to the south by Crab Creek and to the west by Transylvania County.
Etowah is within the inter-mountain plateau of Henderson County. It is located along a large flood plain of the French Broad River, with surrounding tributaries such as Folly Creek, Gash Creek and Ledford Creek. The French Broad River, with its headwaters in Transylvania County, flows through Etowah. The Davidson River and Little River empty their waters into the French Broad River within Transylvania County, before the river enters Etowah.
The community is entirely west of the Eastern Continental Divide.
The highest mountain partly within Etowah is Jeter Mountain (formerly Underwood Mountain) at 3,274 feet. Jeter Mountain separates Etowah from the Crab Creek community.
Smaller mountains separate the community from Big Willow and Mills River.
The old Boyleston (Boylston) community is partly within today’s Etowah community and partly within Mills River.
One of the most beautiful small valleys in Henderson County, known as the Follies by local folk, is within the Etowah community. The valley lies between Martha Bell Mountain (now known as Brushy Mountain) and Jeter Mountain.
A well-known local legend concerns the Follies and Matilda’s Folly. It can take years to find the facts within any legend. Historical research has not yet been conducted to find any facts within this old legend. The legend can be read in its entirety within the book “From the Banks of the Oklawaha,” Volume II, by Frank FitzSimons.
The story is told that Matilda fell in love with a Cherokee Indian. The couple would meet in secret. Matilda gave birth to a baby girl, whom she named Matilda’s Folly. Matilda’s Folly, a midwife and herbal healer, never married. She was 97 when she died and was buried in her yard under a large white oak tree.
“Before she died, she had a marker made for the head of her grave,” FitzSimons wrote. “It was a slab of gray granite that was chiseled from the side of Jeter Mountain. The top of the marker was cut with four slanting teeth which gave the tombstone the appearance of being topped with saw teeth.”
FitzSimons states that he saw this gravestone and a sketch was drawn that is depicted in his book.
The Follies area is also known to local residents as an area where illegal whiskey was made during Prohibition.
There are seven waterfalls, from small to large, within the Follies, along with a couple of caves. Rodney Orr, a descendant of Farley John Orr, said residents living in the Follies used to visit the waterfalls where picnics were held.
Etowah is also home to significant bogs, endangered and rare plants, and endangered amphibians.
The Franklin Bog is a Southern Appalachian Bog and home to the largest known population of a Federal and State Threatened animal species in North Carolina.
McClure’s Bog is also one of the few unaltered Southern Appalachian Bogs. In 1992, two rare plant populations and one population of an endangered amphibian occurred here. This site is owned by the Nature Conservancy, and a portion is also a Dedicated State Nature Preserve.
The Etowah Swamp is Swamp Forest-Bog Complex.
The Costa Swamp is a small privately owned Swamp Forest-Bog Complex. An endangered plant species and a significantly rare plant species have been found on this site.
For more information on the bogs within Etowah visit http://www.blueridgenow.com/article/20060531/NEWS/605310303 and http://wncmagazine.com/feature/the_vanishing_point
Recent archeological studies have documented American Indian sites in the Follies area (today known as the Seven Falls development area). These would be Cherokee sites or the ancestors of the Cherokee.
In November 2007, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers notified the N.C. State Historic Preservation Office and Tribal Historic Preservation Office of archeological sites within the area of the Seven Falls development.
In February 2007, an archaeological survey was conducted. Six sites were recommended eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
One of those sites is an Indian village dated from about 500 to 1,000 AD. A complete data recovery has not yet been completed at this site. In December 2007, the Tribal Historic Preservation Office indicated that cultural resources important to the Cherokee people may be threatened at this site if there was ground development.
It was in August 1783 that James Davidson, William Davidson, Benjamin Davidson and Charles McDowell begin claiming large areas of land in today’s Buncombe, Henderson and Transylvania counties along the French Broad River. Some of this land was within today’s Etowah. They began selling much of this land to other settlers.
It was also in 1783 that Joseph Henry will file his first land deed for land that is today within Henderson County. During the next two decades Henry, a land speculator, will buy and sell land in much of Henderson County. The land on which he actually lived is in Etowah where he owned hundreds of acres of land.
On Nov. 15, 1791, Lambert Clayton enters his first land deed for land in the area of today’s Henderson and Transylvania counties. This particular entry is for land on “both sides of a small creek that runs into the French Broad River on the east side, being the first creek above Benjamin Davidson’s creek on the east side.” Land deeds prove that the Clayton family owned hundreds of acres within present-day Etowah.
Andrew Lyda (Lyday) will enter a land deed on June 14, 1794, for land bordering Col. James Miller and Col. Joseph McDowell and includes the “swamp on same side of French Broad River said Lyda lives on.” This indicates that Lyda (Lyday) was living on this land prior to 1791. Some of the Lyda (Lyday) land is within today’s Etowah.
By Nov. 18, 1794, Martin Gash will file a land deed for land on the French Broad River. This is the first of several deeds that will include hundreds of acres of land, with much of this land in today’s Etowah.
Robert Orr will file a land deed on Dec. 15, 1794, for land on the side of Little River on the “upper corner of the land he lives on and runs down said line.” This again indicates that Orr was living on the land prior to filing this deed, the first of several deeds filed by Orr. This particular deed is for land in today’s Transylvania County, but many of the Orr family deeds include land in today’s Etowah.
William Erwin will file his first deed for land in today’s Henderson County on Aug. 18, 1796. Erwin’s first deeds are for land along the Green River and Hungry River. He sells this land. On Jan. 1, 1803, he buys 100 acres of land from Lambert Clayton. Based on later census reports, some of this land was within present-day Henderson County within Etowah.
Between 1802-03 conflicts over the Georgia-North Carolina line leads to the Walton County War. Settlers in today’s Henderson and Transylvania counties were caught up in the conflict. An old map of the old Walton County, Ga., was located and it depicts all the land in present-day Etowah was claimed by Georgia. This indicates that some of the early land deeds for this community possibly were filed in the old Walton County, Ga.
Four Revolutionary War veterans owned land in today’s Etowah community – Lambert Clayton, William Erwin, Joseph Henry and Robert Orr. The grave sites of Clayton and Orr are within Transylvania County. Erwin’s grave site has not been located. Henry’s grave site is in Etowah at the Old Beulah Baptist Church Cemetery.
For more information on these Revolutionary War veterans, visit http://hendersonheritage.com/some-revolutionary-war-patriots/
Other early settlers into today’s Etowah community, in addition to those listed above, include the families of Allison, Crawford, Fletcher, Gray, Greer, Hefner, Kilpatrick, Ledbetter, McKinna (McKinney), Morgan, Rees (Reese), Shuford, Thomas, Wease (Weese), Wetzel, Wilson, Woodfin, Young and others.
The Bryson, Cairnes, Patton and Simpson families were also early settlers into the area that included the old Boyleston (Boylston) community.
Some of these early Appalachian Mountain settlers had slaves such as the Clayton, Gash, Henry, Lyda (Lyday), Orr, Shuford, Wease (Weese) and Wilson families. Many descendants of these slaves still live within Henderson County. See http://hendersonheritage.com/slave-owners-1800-1820-1850-1860/
It was on Aug. 30, 1826, that the first post office in present-day Henderson County opened. It was the Claytonville Post Office with John Clayton as postmaster. Based on early records and later information related to the star route in 1866, this post office was in Etowah, possibly near the area of the old brickyard (today’s Etowah Valley Golf Club). Research through deeds and census reports confirms that all the postmasters lived in what is today Henderson County.
John Clayton was the postmaster from 1826 to 1836. For more information on John Clayton, visit http://hendersonheritage.com/political-history-county-formation-to-1860/
Martin Alley Gash served as postmaster from 1836 to 1842 and his brother, Leander Sams Gash, was postmaster from 1842 until Radical Reconstruction. For more information on Leander Sams Gash, visit http://hendersonheritage.com/political-leaders-1860-to-1900/
James H. Wood was postmaster from 1866 to 1872, when the post office closed.
On May 24, 1889, a post office named Money opened with James A. Collins as postmaster. The post office was within his store. In 1892, Ozark K. Greer became postmaster of the Money post office, followed by his brother, Hugh J. Greer. The post office was in the Greer store located near the present-day golf course. When Joshua M. Laughter became postmaster in 1897, the post office was within his store closer to today’s commercial area of Etowah.
In 1898, the name of the post office changed from Money to Etowah.
“The railroads were most particular about the names they put on their depots and Warren McNeely had no intention of naming this station ‘Money.’ The newly appointed station agent was J. Lee Gash. Mr. Gash had owned the property through which the railroad passed and on which the station was built.”
James A. Laughter was postmaster when a fire destroyed the building. Postmaster Charles O. English operated the post office in 1903 in the Jeudwine store.
It was in 1914 that Pearl G. Gash became postmaster and moved the post office into the Gash home. She served as postmaster from 1914 to 1948. For more information, visit http://www.etowahncheritage.org/post-office—from-money-to-etowah.html
There is an Etowah Post Office today, but many residents receive mail through rural routes out of the Hendersonville Post Office.
There is documentation that an early school was located along Burns Creek in 1830. This creek is now known as Blythe Mill Creek. The school was most likely located somewhere near today’s Burns Creek Road.
Based on the history of school formations in Henderson County and information related to the Old Beulah Baptist Church, there was a school near the Old Beulah Baptist Church prior to the church moving in 1848. A deed related to land for the church refers to the school.
There was also a school in the old Boyleston (Boylston) community. Today, this community is divided within the Etowah and Mills River communities.
By the 1870s there was a school near Pleasant Grove Baptist Church at the church’s former location near the site of the church cemetery. This was the Pleasant Grove School.
A school named Hopewell formed some time after the Civil War on the Gash property near where the Etowah train depot once stood.
About 1872 the Oak Forest School formed off today’s Etowah School Road across from the Oak Forest Cemetery.
In 1910 a school was documented near the Etowah United Methodist Church. In 1915, this was noted as the Etowah School on Brickyard Road across from the Etowah United Methodist Church.
There was also a black school noted as the Etowah “colored” school. This school was located along Joshua Ridge Road off Holly Springs Road. Perry Smith, Thomas Gash, and Henry Lynch were the school trustees, when about one acre of land was deeded from A.W. Sitton to School Committee No. 10 of Henderson County for the “colored” race of Henderson County. In 1911, this school was listed under the Mills River Township as School District No. 1 and members of the school committee listed as Perry Smith, T.T. Gash and Henry Lynch. A “colored” school was listed in a 1918 newspaper with heading “Etowah,” but no teachers were listed. For more information on this school, visit http://www.etowahncheritage.org/historic-schools-1800s—1928.html
During the 1920s a school consolidation program was implemented in Henderson County. The small schools closed. The Erle Stillwell-designed Etowah School opened in 1928 at the site of the present-day Etowah Elementary School. Some schools and students from the Big Willow and Horse Shoe communities consolidated with the Etowah School and Pleasant Grove School into the “new” Etowah School. The Boyleston (Boylston) School also closed with some students attending the Etowah School and others attending the Mills River School.
The Etowah School was a union school, serving elementary and high school students until 1960 when West Henderson High School opened. In 1973 the junior high students were moved to Rugby Junior High School. When this school changed to Rugby Middle School, sixth graders began attending Rugby Middle School.
About 2001 the Stillwell-designed school was torn down and a new school was built. Today Etowah Elementary School consists of grades kindergarten through fifth grade.
The railroad line from Hendersonville to Brevard, owned at that time by the Hendersonville and Brevard Railway, Telegraph and Telephone Company, opened in 1895. A train depot was built in Etowah (see information above related to the naming of Etowah). It was in 1903 that Southern Railway gained controlling interest in the railroad.
For more detailed information and photographs, visit http://www.etowahncheritage.org/the-railroad—hendersonville-to-toxaway.html and http://www.etowahncheritage.org/etowah-train-depot–1895.html
The last freight train to use the line was in 2002.
The Ecusta Trail, a hiking and biking trail, is a proposed rail trail between Hendersonville and Brevard. For more information on this proposal, visit http://www.ecustatrail.org/
The first church established in the Etowah community was the Beulah Baptist Church in 1815. The old, original church was located where the Old Beulah Baptist Church Cemetery is today off Pleasant Grove Road. The church moved to the Big Willow community in 1843. For more information, visit http://hendersonheritage.com/old-beulah-baptist-church-cemetery/
The Pleasant Grove Baptist Church was established in 1859 near the site of today’s church cemetery. For more information, visit http://hendersonheritage.com/pleasant-grove-baptist-church-cemetery/
A former Presbyterian church was formed in 1894 named Midway between Mills River Presbyterian Church and Davidson River Presbyterian Church. The first building was erected on the Turnpike Road near where the communities of Horse Shoe, Etowah and Mills River meet. The church moved to the corner of U.S. 64 West and Brickyard Road about 1904.
An Episcopal mission church was established in Etowah in 1899. The Etowah Mission of the Episcopal Church held services in the Oak Forest School. The church closed in 1906.
In 1907 Etowah United Methodist Church was organized. For additional information on the history of the church, visit http://www.etowahumc.org/history/
Etowah Baptist Church was organized in 1917. At first the church met in the Oak Forest School. A building was erected at the present location on U.S. 64 West in 1926.
For additional information on churches in the community, visit http://www.etowahncheritage.org/historic-churches.html
Throughout much of its history Etowah was a farming community. Today horses graze in the pastures, with riding stables, horse clubs and horse boarding facilities scattered throughout the community.
With its flat and extensive pastures, residents still raise beef cattle in the community. There remain family farms in Etowah raising vegetables and nurseries growing trees and shrubs.
Etowah was once home to some of Henderson County’s many dairies. One of the most well-known dairy farms in Etowah was the Fullam Dairy, and later the Fullam Creamery was located at the dairy. As stated in the summer 2007 Mills River Newsletter: “Published reports in March 2007 indicate that the Fullam Dairy has been sold to developers and that only 4 dairy farms remain in operation in the county. The once numerous dairy cows are following the pigs and barnyard chickens into the pages of local history.”
For more information on the Fullam Dairy and the disappearance of the county’s dairies, visit http://www.blueridgenow.com/article/20070305/NEWS/703050309 and https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1665&dat=20051121&id=XR4aAAAAIBAJ&sjid=UCUEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5921,5035511&hl=en and http://www.blueridgenow.com/article/20040531/NEWS/405310318 and http://www.hispanictrending.net/2006/01/cheese_brings_n.html
The first industry located in Etowah was the Moland-Drysdale Brickyard, now the site of the Etowah Valley Golf Club.
Moland-Drysdale Brick Co. was organized in 1917. Philadelphia businessman Bruce Drysdale, with the financial backing of George Moland who was also from Philadelphia, purchased 350 acres of clay lands in the Etowah community. They constructed wood-burning brick kilns. The first bricks were produced in 1920. Later the kilns were replaced with coal-burning round kilns called bee-hive kilns. In 1943, they purchased the Fletcher Brick Co. in the Brickton community near Fletcher. In 1943, the company moved to the Brickton area outside of Fletcher and in 1951 constructed a modern tunnel kiln. In 1955, the entire operation moved to Brickton. The company sold brick produced by Fletcher Brick. Bricks from the company were used in constructing the American Enka plant, hotels and other structures throughout the area, including the Skyland Hotel in Hendersonville. For more information on the Moland-Drysdale Brick Co. and the Etowah Valley Golf Club, visit http://www.etowahvalley.com/about/our-history/ and http://www.etowahncheritage.org/etowah-brick-moland-drysdale-corp.html
Library, parks and fire department
The Etowah branch of the Henderson County Public Library opened in 1982.
Etowah Park is located on Etowah School Road. The land was purchased by the Etowah Lions Club in 1994. On Sept. 7, 1995, 18 acres were turned over to Henderson County Parks and Recreation. The Etowah Lions Club has worked with the Henderson County Parks and Recreation in the development of the park. Facilities include picnic tables, a playground, a walking trail, tennis courts, baseball and softball fields, basketball courts, a soccer field and shuffleboard court.
Blantyre Park is a river access park for canoes and kayaks and a public fishing area on Grove Bridge Road along the French Broad River. This area is managed by the Henderson County Parks and Recreation and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. It is located at the border of Henderson and Transylvania counties.
The Etowah community is served by the Etowah-Horse Shoe Fire Department.