From the end of the Civil War until the mid-1880s, the people of Henderson County, as those throughout the South, were struggling to recover from the devastation of the Civil War.
Some of our Appalachian Mountain people were still using log cabins into the early 1900s. But many people began building what are known as “weather-boarded” houses – unpainted wooden planks (grey in color) instead of logs, most two-story with wide porches. More of the typical farmhouses were also being built during this period.
By the turn of the 20th century, most people were using wood stoves in place of fireplaces for heat. But there were some folks still using fireplaces. Wood cook stoves became common in most kitchens. Kerosene and oil lamps were used for lighting instead of candles.
Water was obtained from creeks and rivers. The spring house was still used for refrigeration. Most all furniture and clothing were made at home.
The people’s lives began to change dramatically in 1879 with the arrival of the railroad.
The huge celebration was held July 4, 1879, when the first train arrived in town. A depot was soon built. Within 20 years of the train’s arrival, there were 17 stores in Hendersonville and five hotels.
And with the train came the telegraph. The telegraph opened up a new world of fast communication. Despite many histories and stories to the contrary, this was not an isolated area and the people did know what was happening elsewhere.
Prior to the Civil War the railroad from Charleston had reached Spartanburg, S.C., in 1859. Baylus Edney, who was serving as a state senator at the time, spoke at the celebration. Work on the railroad leading to North Carolina stopped in 1861 when the Civil War began and many of the rails were damaged and destroyed by Union troops during the war. Repairs began not long after the war ended.
By 1877 the railroad had reached what is today the town of Tryon in Polk County. Prior to the construction of the railroad there was no town of Tryon. The original post office named Tryon was near today’s community of Lynn prior to the Civil War, near the foot of Tryon Mountain.
It took two years to build the railroad line from today’s Tryon to Hendersonville. Railroad workers resided in what is today Tryon, Melrose and Saluda. Buildings were constructed to house the railroad workers. All these areas began seeing growth from the influx of railroad workers.
The railroad built the towns of Tryon and Saluda. The upper section of Melrose and what is today the town of Saluda were located within Henderson County at this time.
Trains had to stop in Saluda and at Melrose to prepare for the Saluda Grade, the steepest mainline railroad grade east of the Mississippi River. Depots were built at Saluda and Melrose, in addition to Tryon. The area around Tryon grew so fast that the town incorporated in 1885.
The area around Saluda grew so fast that the town incorporated in 1888. Saluda became the second incorporated town in Henderson County.
Stores and inns were built. Summer residents from South Carolina began flocking to Saluda, Tryon, Lynn and Melrose.
By the mid-1880s they also began arriving in Hendersonville and many sections of Henderson County.
By 1889 a train depot was built in what is today the East Flat Rock community to serve Flat Rock summer residents. In 1894 a spur of the railroad was completed to Brevard.
For local transportation people were still using wagons, drawn either by oxen or horses.
In 1880, the French Broad Steamship Co. was formed, with Sydney Vance Pickens as main financier. Pickens was born near Weaverville in Buncombe County and moved to Hendersonville about 1867. He was a Confederate Civil War veteran, attaining the rank of first lieutenant. Local folks gave him the honorary title of colonel, but he did not attain the rank of colonel. Some books state that he was a prisoner of the Union during the war, but primary source documentation proves that he was never a prisoner during the war. He founded the first group of Henderson County Confederate Veterans and led the fundraising effort for the Confederate memorial, once located in the middle of Main Street and now at the Historic Courthouse. Pickens was an attorney and businessman. Two of the other financiers were Terrell Taylor (sheriff and state senator) and Jonathan Williams (sheriff, mayor, legislator).
On Aug. 2, 1881, the steamship Mountain Lily was launched. It soon broke loose of its moorings and wrecked near the King Bridge. The bell was salvaged and was used at Horse Shoe Baptist Church in Henderson County.
Steamship travel on the French Broad River was of extremely short duration and not successful
By 1890 Hendersonville had its first street railway car. The Hendersonville Street Railway Co. was formed by Sydney Vance Pickens, Thomas J. Rickman (mayor), Thomas Clingman Israel (sheriff) and others.
In 1895 the first streets in Hendersonville were paved with bricks such as one can see today near the train depot off Seventh Avenue East.
By the 1890s newspapers were regularly published. One of the earliest and most popular was the French Broad Hustler. The French Broad Hustler began in Brevard and later moved to Hendersonville.
The phonograph arrived in town Aug. 22, 1892. People gathered in the courthouse to hear Thomas Edison’s “mysterious phonograph.”
In 1898 the Asheville Telephone Co. began to set up line communication for telephone service. By 1899 there was telephone service in the town of Hendersonville.
In addition to bringing the telegraph with its rapid communication, the train also brought mail. With the train, came numerous small post offices. Between 1879 and 1900, small post offices opened and closed throughout the county. Many were in people’s homes, some in stores. There were already several post offices in the county. Some had different names than today, but they were located prior to the Civil War in today’s Fletcher, Etowah, Naples, Edneyville, Mills River, Flat Rock, Hendersonville, Green River (Tuxedo-Zirconia), Bearwallow (Gerton, also called Pump), and Blue Ridge (Dana).
Some of the new, small offices that formed after the Civil War and the arrival of the train were: Crab Creek, Pink Beds, Horse Shoe, Pinnacle, Bat Cave, Uno, Angeline, Baxter, Capps, Decatur, Delmont, DeWitt, Gypsy, Knight, Lead, Love, Lyda, Maxwell, Mill, Mott, Opelika, Osteen, Rugby, Sitton, Splendor, Tin, Walker, Yale, Hillgirt, Upward, and Saluda. Some only lasted a couple of years, others 10 years or more. Almost all closed by 1907 with the introduction of rural routes. The only post offices of those that opened after the Civil War and that are still open today are Horse Shoe, Bat Cave and Saluda.