Nestled in the mountains of southern Henderson County are communities that date back to the county’s first settlers. They built their log cabins and cleared the fields in the valleys between the tall mountains of the region and along Green River and its tributaries, such as Bob’s Creek, Rock Creek, Gap Creek and Cabin Creek.
The early settlers were self-sustaining mountain farmers and the communities were mountain farm communities. The Green River community is still famous for vegetables grown by descendants of these early settlers.
“The Bob’s Creek area is famous for the finest flavored pole beans that are raised,” writes Frank L. Fitzsimons in his book “From the Banks of the Oklawaha.” “Bob’s Creek and Green River pole beans are in demand all through the Southern states during the growing season.”
Driving through the communities today, one can still view the thriving gardens and fields of descendants of these same farmers, along with remnants of old barns and homes.
The community is a land of mountain peaks, fertile valleys, isolated coves, and mountain streams, with wild turkeys and small mountain waterfalls.
The community of Green River once extended from the South Carolina state line to Flat Rock, to the top of Pinnacle Mountain and to the Mountain Page community. In fact, the township of Green River included the Mountain Page and Macedonia communities.
Green River Township includes more acreage than any other census township in Henderson County.
With South Carolina separating the communities, Mountain Page was a distinct community early in its history, as was later the Macedonia area.
It was in 1890 that the Green River Post Office was re-named Zirconia. With the advent of a rural route out of the Zirconia post office, some of the community of today’s Green River became known as Zirconia.
When the textile mill was built in 1907 the section of the community around the mill and in the mill village came to be known as Tuxedo.
Information on schools, churches, post offices, history and people will be separated on this web site primarily as the communities are known today. But there will necessarily be overlapping information.
The Green River community is east of the Continental Divide. This is the ridge line of the Blue Ridge. It’s where the “easterly and westerly waters divide.”
The headwaters of the Green River are within the Green River community, almost to the Transylvania County line. The river flows into today’s man-made Lake Summit, through the lower section of the Zirconia community, into the Macedonia community, continues into Polk County and empties into the Broad River along the Polk and Rutherford County line.
The Green River is noted on early 1700s maps in South Carolina. In fact, in the wording of a treaty with the Cherokee in 1767 the line is stated as “running into Green River.”
All of the area of the communities of Green River, Zirconia and Tuxedo was once Cherokee land. The early Indian path from South Carolina into today’s Henderson County was the Saluda Path (Saluda Gap is below the Green River community in South Carolina). This path was used for hundreds of years by American Indians. Many Cherokee artifacts can still be found in the communities. Much of this path later became known as the Buncombe Turnpike, paralleling today’s old U.S. 25 South.
Today, the Green River community is bordered by the state of South Carolina to the south and east. To the east is also the community of Tuxedo. Transylvania County (this was Henderson County until 1861) borders the community to the west. The communities of Crab Creek and Zirconia border the Green River community to the north. The Greenville, South Carolina, Watershed separates the community from the Mountain Page community on the east.
Mountains, small and large, abound in Green River. Tall mountains separate the community from South Carolina and Transylvania County, and from the Mountain Page community in the Greenville Watershed.
The Pinnacle, the 12th highest peak in Henderson County, separates Green River from the community of Crab Creek. Grassy Mountain, ranked 41, is also between the two communities.
Little Rich Mountain, ranked 30, separates Green River from Transylvania County and Greenville County, S.C. Grassy Top, ranked 39, also separates the community from Greenville County, S.C.
Bald Rock, ranked 40, is completely within the Green River community.
Beautiful, fertile mountain valleys rest between the mountains, with numerous mountain streams. All the streams empty into the Green River.
Early Land Deeds and Settlers
In 1767 and again in 1777, treaties with the Cherokee opened the section of today’s Henderson County east of the Continental Divide open for settlement.
It is possible that early settlers were moving into the Green River community before the end of the Revolutionary War.
Until 1791, the Green River community was within Rutherford County. All early land deeds, even through 1800 and later, will likely be found in Rutherford County. Also, because the community borders South Carolina, it is possible that some land deeds for many years could be located in Greenville County, S.C. The state border changed several times over the years, even as recently as the 1950s, and again in 2012.
The first land deed in the Green River community recorded in Rutherford County was filed in August 1783. John Earle entered land along Green River, includes the mouth of Cabin Creek. Earle was a land speculator and never lived on this land. This is the first of hundreds of acres of land for which he filed claims within today’s Henderson County.
On Aug. 23, 1784, John Earle enters land on the south fork of Green River where “Dellingham’s path crosses to Sauldy” (Saluda path, along old U.S. 25 South).
Two days later, Aug. 25, 1784, Matthew Maybin, a Revolutionary War veteran, enters the first of hundreds of acres of land that he will purchase. This first land deed is on both sides of the Green River near Earle’s upper line. This means that Maybin owned land to Cabin Creek.
It was in 1787 that Matthew Maybin brought his family into the Green River community from the Pacolet River area (either today’s Polk County or Spartanburg County, S.C.) and built a home. As far as documentation can determine, this makes Matthew Maybin the first settler into today’s Green River community.
Maybin also begins purchasing land in today’s Mountain Page community that borders today’s Zirconia community. On Feb. 6, 1789, Matthew Maybin and Andrew Miller enter land on the “North Pacolet River above Mine Mountain, including the head branches of the Pacolet River near the dividing ridge between the Pacolet River and Green River.”
On July 20, 1791, Matthew Maybin and Andrew Miller enter land on the “north side of Green River, bordering Col. Day and Miller’s land.” Andrew Miller was also a land speculator and never lived on this land.
On April 26, 1794, Matthew Maybin and David Miller enter land on a “branch of Green River under Bluff Mountain.” Another entry is for land on “both sides of North Pacolet River near Ezekiel Pott’s line.”
And, on Nov. 18, David Miller, Andrew Miller, James Greenlee, and Abraham Kuykendall enter land on Little Mud Creek near Matthew Maybin’s land “near Butt Mountain and ‘Short arsed’ Mountain and runs on the waters of Green River, includes the wagon road to Mud Creek.”
This means that Matthew Maybin owned land in today’s Zirconia community to the area of Flat Rock. Maybin sold to others and gave to his descendants much of his tremendous acreage over the years. For more information on Matthew Maybin and his Revolutionary War service, visit the “Maybin Family Cemetery” article under the “Historic Cemeteries” icon.
It was in 1799 that William Capps, another Revolutionary War veteran, enters his first land deed along the Green River. Much of the Capps land is now within the Zirconia community. For more information, visit the Fortune-Kuykendall Cemetery under the “Historical Cemeteries” icon in the Zirconia community and information in the Zirconia community.
Other early settlers prior to 1820 in Green River include the Nathaniel Beddingfield family (1808), the Daniel Pace family (1815) and the John Davis family. The Wiley Jones family owned land in what is today the Zirconia community as early as 1814.
Between 1820 and 1830, Peter Anders (Andrews) and descendants, Meredith (Meridith) Freeman and descendants, and Johnson Bane (Bayne) and descendants began purchasing land in the Green River community. Much of the Freeman land is now within the Tuxedo community.
Ephraim Hart and descendants were purchasing land in the community between 1830 and 1840.
Between 1840 and 1850, Lawson Camp and other members of the Camp family and the Bartlett Ward family purchased land in Green River.
The John Levi family, the Morgan family and Redden family were moving into the region between 1850 and 1860.
The McDowell family arrived in the community from 1860 to 1870. The Heatherly family was also an early family who settled in the community. This family also settled in the Mountain Page community.
Hundreds of descendants of these early families still live in the community.
Many of these early settlers moved from the Greenville County, S.C., region and other areas of South Carolina into today’s Henderson County.
The ancient Indian path (Saluda Path) came through the Green River community and into Flat Rock. This became an early trail for explorers, traders, military scouts and travelers.
Many of the first settlers came into the area on this early trail and later wagon road.
In the early 1820s, John Davis moved from Flat Rock and bought land along this wagon road, at the top of the “winding stairs.” This early inn and tavern was a rest stop for travelers and drovers. He named his inn Oakland.
This was about the same time that the old wagon road was chartered as the Old Buncombe Turnpike. The old road was widened and improved. This route closely parallels today’s old U.S. 25 South through the community. The road was completed in 1828.
It was in 1840 that the stagecoach line opened on the Old Buncombe Turnpike from Greenville, S.C., to Greeneville, Tenn., traveling through Henderson County. Valentine Ripley bought the stagecoach line in 1845.
The opening of the stagecoach along the Old Buncombe Turnpike brought more travelers through the area and increased trade and communication.
John Davis’ Oakland became an important stagecoach stop.
In 1827 the Carson-Vance Duel occurred near the John Davis inn and estate, Oakland, on the Old Buncombe Turnpike near the North Carolina-South Carolina state line (old U.S. 25) in the Green River community. Davy Crockett was one of many who watched the duel. There is a state historical marker at the site. The duel was fought between Robert B. Vance and Samuel P. Carson.
Robert B. Vance was a U.S. Congressman from Buncombe County. Samuel P. Carson was in the N.C. state senate from McDowell County. Carson was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1825 defeating Robert B. Vance who was up for re-election.
In 1827 there was another election. It was a bitter campaign between Vance and Carson. Vance made a disparaging remark about Carson’s father (“turning Tory during the Revolutionary War”) and called Carson a coward. Carson held his temper until after the election, which he won. Carson then challenged Vance to a duel. Carson fatally wounded Vance, who had not fired his weapon. Vance died the following day. Carson moved to Texas within a few years and in 1836 was appointed Secretary of State for the Republic of Texas. He died two years later in Hot Springs, Ark.
The Baxter-Erwin Duel also occurred at the same place. John Baxter was a state legislator representing Henderson County in 1846, 1852, 1854, and 1856. He was a lawyer in Rutherford County and moved to Henderson County in the early 1840s. He had a law practice in Hendersonville from 1849 to 1857. He also set up the town’s first dry goods store on Main Street. Marcus Erwin was a well-known newspaper editor in Asheville. The duel was over politics and secession. Baxter was wounded and lost the duel. Prior to the Civil War, Baxter moved to Knoxville, Tenn., and later served as a U.S. Federal Judge.
The first church in Green River was the Green River Baptist Church on Green River Road.
The church was established Sept. 16, 1837, sponsored by Mud Creek Baptist Church.
The first church was a log building and the first pastor was the Rev. James Blythe.
In 1856 a new sanctuary was built farther down the valley, almost where the present church stands.
In 1890, land for a new church was donated by Joseph Benjamin Franklin (Frank) Pace.
The current building was constructed in 1927. Through the years additions were added. A brick veneer was added to the building in 1970.
Crossroads Baptist Church was organized in 1845. This church is located today in the Zirconia community. Visit “Historic Cemeteries,” select Zirconia, then Crossroads Baptist Church.
Cedar Springs Baptist Church, also located today on Green River Road, was organized in 1847. Visit “Historic Cemeteries,” select Green River, then Cedar Springs Baptist Church.
Double Springs Baptist Church on old U.S. 25 South was organized in 1871. Bob’s Creek Baptist Church on Bob’s Creek Road was established between 1900 and 1920.
Mountain Valley Baptist Church was originally known as Poplar Springs Missionary Baptist Church. It was established in 1915, but there is some documentation suggesting a church in this community existed in the late 1880s.
More information is available on these churches under “Historic Cemeteries,” Green River.
The majority of early schools in Henderson County from 1837 to 1860 were one-room schools, normally made from logs. Most of the schools were located near churches or the churches served as the schools.
Sometimes students attended schools in homes and even, later, in stores.
It is known that prior to the Civil War there was a one-room school house located near Green River Baptist Church. There was also an early school on Rock Creek Road. This school may later have moved closer to Cedar Springs Baptist Church.
From the 1870s to early 1900s, many of the one-room schools were constructed of weather boarding.
There are records of a one-room school in 1870 on Gap Creek Road and in the 1870s near Double Springs Baptist Church. In the early 1900s, there was a one-room school on Bob’s Creek Road.
By the 1920s students in the Green River community began attending the Tuxedo School. Later, high school students attended Flat Rock High School. By 1960, only elementary school students attended the Tuxedo School. Junior high school students attended Flat Rock Junior High and high school students attended East Henderson High School. When Tuxedo Elementary School closed in the 1990s, elementary school students began attending Hillandale and Upward Elementary Schools. Middle school students attend Flat Rock Middle School and high school students still attend East Henderson High School.
The first post office in Green River was the Green River Post Office established in 1853.
Meredith (Meridith) Freeman was the first postmaster. This post office was located in today’s community of Tuxedo. The site was northwest of where old U.S. 25 South crosses Green River and was on the Freeman property.
The post office closed in 1866 due to Reconstruction after the Civil War. Former Confederates were not allowed to serve as postmasters after the Civil War until the early 1870s.
The post office re-opened in 1869 with Martin Hamilton as postmaster. Hamilton had no Confederate ties.
The post office closed again in 1871.
Philip J. Hart opened a store in the community about 1874 or 1875. The Green River Post Office was restored in 1875 at the site of the Hart store. But, this site is in today’s community of Zirconia, near the railroad tracks off old U.S. 25 South.
In 1879 the name of the post office changed from Green River to Coleman. Coleman was connected with the railroad that was being built at this time.
In 1882 the name was changed back to the Green River Post Office.
About the same time the mining of zircons became a profitable enterprise and the zircons were shipped by train.
In 1890 the name of the post office was changed to Zirconia.
In 1887 a post office named Splendor was established near the site of the original Green River post office that was established in 1853. Joseph M. Ward was the first postmaster.
In the meantime, Philip J. Hart moved and later bought land near today’s Tuxedo. He opened a store, tavern, hotel and an approved government distillery. The store was a building on the south side of Green River facing the old U.S. 25 South.
Hart became postmaster of Splendor, operating the post office out of his store. The Splendor Post Office closed in 1905.
In 1889 the Capps Post Office was established near the state line, west of old U.S. 25 South. James C. Capps was the postmaster. The post office was operated out of a two-room log cabin. The Capps Post Office closed in 1895.
In 1890 the Lead Post Office was established. Berry Davis Summey was the first postmaster. Summey, born in Transylvania County, had married Sarah Elizabeth Bayne (Bane). The second postmaster was James B. Bane (Bayne). The location of this post office is not certain. In his book “Postmarks,” author Lenoir Ray stated the post office was located facing Prettyman Mountain. A mountain named Prettyman cannot be located. In the 1900 census records, the Summey family and the Bane (Bayne) families lived near each other. These families lived in the area of Green River Road, between Cabin Creek Road and Rock Creek Road. Local stories tell about lead mines in this section of the Green River community near Pinnacle Mountain and the border of Henderson County, Transylvania County and South Carolina.
The mail traveled a route from Zirconia (railroad) to Lead to Capps (state line) to Splendor (Tuxedo).
The Lead Post Office closed in 1907.
Today, the Green River community is served by a rural route from the Zirconia Post Office.
Near the end of the Civil War, January to April 1865, the Confederates built a road to the top of Posey Mountain. This was also called Ward Mountain or Cleveland Mountain. The mountain is located in today’s Greenville Watershed.
The fortification was built at the state line to defend the gap from South to North Carolina against Union troops marching north from Georgia. This road, the Old Buncombe Turnpike, was a possible route that troops might enter North Carolina.
The top of the mountain was fortified with artillery. Still seen today are breast works, trenches, and pits for gun emplacements. This site is within the Greenville Watershed and not open to the public.
Kingdom of Happy Land
A group of newly freed slaves arrived in the county between 1867 and 1868. The families began moving North from Mississippi after the Civil War. It appears that others joined the group along the route. They entered the county from South Carolina on the old U.S. 25 North.
At the top of the “winding stairs” they stopped at the Oakland estate in the Green River community. They were offered work by the Davis family and settled on land owned by the Davis family between Green River and Mountain Page.
They called their community the “Kingdom of the Happy Land.” They practiced some traditional African beliefs and had a queen and king.
They later bought 180 acres from the John Davis family. One of the leaders of this group was Robert Montgomery. During the height of zircon mining, Robert Montgomery and other men from this community dug some of the zircon tunnels into the zircon mines on the land of Levi Jones.
Some members of this group were the Williams family and John Markley, a famous blacksmith in the county. Most of this group later moved to Hendersonville and East Flat Rock.
Camp Arrowhead for Boys was founded in 1937 by the Bell family who also opened the camps near Lake Summit in Tuxedo. The camp is located on Camp Creek Road.
The Bell family owned and operated the camp from 1937 until 1996.
In 1990, the camp moved farther up the mountain from its original location.
In 1996, Steve Reynolds bought the camp. In 2004, a new group bought the property and sought non-profit status for the camp. Donations provide funds for camp improvements and “scholarships” for underprivileged boys.
The Elks Camp for Boys opened in the community in 1945 at the state line. The Elks Clubs provided a camp experience for boys throughout the Southeast to attend a summer camp through “scholarship” programs. For about 50 years the camp also provided summer job opportunities for many county high school and college students.
This site is now the Talisman Camp operated by the Talisman Programs. Talisman Programs offer summer camps for young people (ages 8 to 21) who have learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Asperger’s Syndrome and high-functioning autism.
Camp Glen Arden, a girls camp, is now located on Camp Creek Road. When the camp opened in 1951 by the Bell family (Mary Bell) as a private residential summer camp for girls it was located at the Christ School in Arden in Buncombe County. The camp operated in Arden for many years. The family operated the camp as a sister camp for Camp Arrowhead.
The camp later moved to its present location in the Green River community. In 1996 the camp was purchased by Carol “Casey” Thurman.
Falling Creek Camp for boys on Bob’s Creek Road was founded in 1969 by Jim Miller as an independent Christian camp for boys and the “brother camp” of Camp Greystone in Tuxedo.
In 1989, Falling Creek was purchased by Chuck and Jean McGrady. In 2005, Yates Pharr and his wife, Marisa, purchased the camp.
The Green River Preserve Camp, a coed summer camp, began about 1987 in the community off Green River Road near the Transylvania County line. The Schenck Family purchased the 3,400 acres, now called Green River Preserve, in the early 1950s.
In 2007, owner Sandy Schenck and his wife, Missy, put 2,600 acres of the Green River Preserve in a conservation easement with the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. This land includes the headwaters of the Green River.