The community of Gerton is almost entirely isolated from the rest of Henderson County.
To get to Gerton one must drive along U.S. 74 through Bat Cave or cross Bearwallow Mountain from Edneyville.
Gerton is bordered by the community of Bat Cave and Middle Fork to the east and by the community of Hooper’s Creek to the west, Edneyville borders the community to the south and Buncombe County is at the community’s northern border.
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 the Henderson County communities of Gerton and Bat Cave 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.
Some of the tallest mountain peaks in the county surround the community.
Gerton is separated from Buncombe County by the fifth tallest peak in Henderson County, Little Pisgah Mountain. Gerton and Buncombe County are also separated by Ferguson Peak, No. 19, and Tater Knob, No. 31.
The sixth tallest peak, Bearwallow Mountain, separates Gerton from Edneyville and Fruitland.
Little Bearwallow Mountain, the 10th highest peak, separates the communities of Gerton and Bat Cave.
Burntshirt Mountain, ranked No. 22 in the county, is located entirely within the community of Gerton.
An ancient American Indian trail passed through Gerton. The trail, used primarily by the Catawba and also the Cherokee, followed the approximate location of today’s U.S. 74.
In 1673, the British sent John Needham and Gabriel Arthur up this Indian trail to the Swannanoa River, passing through the area of Gerton, to set up trade with the Cherokee.
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.
As early as 1763, based on this treaty, pioneers could move onto land in today’s Gerton community.
The worst natural disaster in the history of Henderson County, the Flood of 1916, caused extensive damage and loss of life in the Gerton community. For more information on this flood, visit http://hendersonheritage.com/flood-of-1916/
The earliest deeds for land in Gerton 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. Land in the Gerton community was most likely located inside the old Burke County.
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, possibly including sections of Gerton.
In 1787, part of Burke County was annexed to Rutherford County, including the area of the Little Broad River (Rocky Broad) in Gerton.
Therefore, early land deeds for land in Gerton 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.
Also, much of the Gerton community is surrounded by mountains that are today located in Henderson and Buncombe counties. To determine the precise location of land based on the mountains is a challenge.
To the knowledge of this researcher, no one has thoroughly researched land deeds for the Gerton community from the early 1770s to 1800. Many deeds from the early Burke County were destroyed in a fire.
It is known that prior to 1800, Revolutionary War veteran John Merrell owned land in both today’s counties of Henderson and Buncombe. For more information on Merrell, see information on Revolutionary War veterans on this web site and under the “Historical Cemeteries” icon under Bearwallow Baptist Church.
Other early settlers in the community included families with the surname of Barnwell, Bradley, Conner (Connor), Dalton, Freeman, Grant, Huntley, McAbee, Merrell, Morrison, Nanney, Nix, Oates, Owenby, Owensby, Pryor, Rhodes, Searcy, Sinclair, Sumner, Suttles and Wall.
Transportation and Inns
There was an early toll road by the early 1800s from Rutherford County to Buncombe County that passed through Parris (Hickory Nut) Gap in Henderson County. 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.
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.
Sherrill’s Inn, on the slope of Ferguson Peak, was built as a stagecoach stop for early travelers along the historic Drovers Road and Hickory Nut Gap Turnpike. The historic inn is in Buncombe County not far from the Gerton community.
The inn was built sometime between 1839 and 1850 for Bedford Sherrill. The inn hosted several well-known guests, including U.S. Rep. Zebulon Baird Vance in 1859 (later North Carolina Governor and U.S. Senator), former U.S. President Millard Fillmore in 1858 and Gov. Andrew Johnson of Tennessee in 1859. Sherrill’s Inn was operated by the Sherrill family until 1908.
The present frame building incorporates two early log structures and additions. The inn is an example of a saddle-bag log house with an exterior stair. The building has been raised to two stories and clad in weatherboard. A number of buildings of various ages surround the inn, including a still-functioning stone spring house, a log meat-house, two rows of cottages and a large barn with a high pitched roof.
Union troops stopped at the inn during their retreat after the Battle of Swannanoa Gap as they headed toward Rutherfordton. According to tradition, Mrs. Sherrill, the innkeeper’s wife, emptied the dirt from her shoes on the eggs she was forced to fry for the soldiers’ breakfast, while the rest of the family covered their hams with sheets and hid them in the thick walls of the Sherrill’s bedroom.
Sherrill’s Inn was later acquired by Jamie McClure Clarke, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives, and remains privately owned. It has been restored and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. For more information on the inn, visit http://toto.lib.unca.edu/findingaids/mss/sherrills_inn/sherrills_clarke_history.htm
The historic Drovers Road is now designated a N.C. Scenic Byway.
By 1915, the road from Charlotte to Rutherfordton, through Gerton to Asheville was improved. This was sometimes called the Charlotte Highway and today is U.S. 74.
According to articles in an early 1900s newspaper, The French Broad Hustler, about 1911 George Washington Connor (Conner) had opened an inn on Bearwallow Mountain named the Bonnie Bell Inn. The exact location and dates of operation of the inn have not yet been located. He later moved to South Carolina, where he died about 1950.
Post Offices, Name and Stores
The earliest post office to serve residents in the area was the Bearwallow Post Office. The post office opened in 1858 with Joseph W. Freeman as the first postmaster.
It was discontinued in 1873, but soon re-opened with William Stanhope Adam Oates as the postmaster.
The post office was located between the communities of Bat Cave and Gerton, near the site of today’s Manual Woodworkers’ gift shop.
By the late 1800s and early 1900s, skilled Appalachian Mountain artisans in the communities were making items to sell to the tourists flocking to the area. Thomas L. Oates began the manufacture of these Appalachian Mountain arts and crafts. The family later opened Manual Woodworkers and gift shop.
The Bearwallow Post Office closed in the 1950s and combined with the Gerton Post Office.
In 1883, a post office named Pump opened in the Gerton community. There was a pump that supplied water off Bearwallow Mountain to the community in the valley. This water pump was the focal point of the community. So, the post office was named Pump. Joseph H. Freeman was the first postmaster.
In 1902, the U.S. Post Office issued a new cancelling stamp for the post office. Instead of spelling the word Pump, an error was made and the stamp spelled “Rump.” As one can imagine, the residents were upset and embarrassed. A community meeting was held and residents decided to change the name of the post office. They voted to name the community after a long-time and beloved school teacher in the community, Gertrude Freeman. The story is told that Miss Freeman was very shy and “modest.” Her brother suggested using a contraction of her name instead – Gerton. Thus, the name of the post office and the community became Gerton.
Today, the community is served by the Gerton Post Office and a rural route from Hendersonville.
Throughout much of the 20th century there was a general store in the Gerton community located adjacent to the site of today’s Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Community Club operated by the Owenby family. In the late 20th century and early 2000s, the store was simply called Nita’s. The store has since closed and currently there is not store within the community. Residents must travel into the Fairview community of Buncombe County, to Edneyville or to the Chimney Rock/Lake Lure area to reach the nearest stores.
In the 1970s, residents formed the Gerton Volunteer Fire Department.
Church, School, Fire Department
The one and only church in the community, Bearwallow Baptist Church, was organized May 9, 1868. The first building was a log structure.
In the mid-1890s a structure was built about 4/10 of a mile east of the present location in Gerton.
The Flood of 1916 cut off access to the building and caused some minor damage.
The church at its present location off U.S. 74 in Gerton was built in 1922.
For more information on the church and its cemetery, click on the “Historical Cemeteries” icon on this web site and Gerton.
In the 1850s, a one-room schoolhouse opened in the community near the location of the church. This school remained open through the early 1900s.
Today, students in Gerton must travel to Edneyville Elementary School, Apple Valley Middle School and North Henderson High School.
Little Pisgah Mountain and Florence Nature Preserve
The area of Little Pisgah Mountain in the Gerton community is one of the few places in Henderson County where there was natural grazing land for cattle. Early settlers began raising cattle in this area in the early 1800s.
Land on Little Pisgah Mountain was donated to the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy in two phases in 1996 and 2001 by Tom and Glenna Florence.
For more information on Little Pisgah and the Florence Nature Preserve, visit