A community named Mountain Home is a 20th-century term. From the time of the railroads arrival in the 1880s until about 1913 the community that stretched from Naples to the “new” community of Balfour was called Hillgirt.
Prior to the arrival of the train, the communities of today’s Mountain Home and Balfour were most likely simply a part of their surrounding communities – Naples (Mud Creek) to the north and Clear Creek.
Today’s community of Mountain Home is bounded on the north by Naples, to the east by Clear Creek, to the west by Rugby, and on the south by Rugby and Balfour.
Stoney Mountain separates Rugby and Mountain Home. Mud Creek and its tributaries flow through the community on the east.
In 1885 the railroad was built through the community and a post office opened in 1885 near today’s Brookside Camp Road. It is unclear who named the post office Hillgirt.
The term Hillgirt basically means a plateau or plain surrounded by hills. “Girt” means girth and to surround or enclose or to measure in girth, and is also a variation of gird. Writings from the 1800s use the term “hill-girt,” as in hill-girt plateaus in India, and Oliver Wendell Holmes used the term “hill-girt plain.” These terms mean a plain or plateau surrounded by hills. This does describe the community.
A group of investors from St. Petersburg, Fla., bought land in Hillgirt in 1913. They were selecting a site for a summer colony of 100 families. They named their summer colony Mountain Home.
Today, in the 21st century, most people refer to the area from Naples to Balfour as Mountain Home, but long-time local residents often still refer to Hillgirt.
The land surrounding Mud Creek consists of flood plains and agricultural land. It is likely early settlers, such as the Featherstone, Gourley and Smith families, used this as agricultural land.
Some of the earliest settlers in the community were the Richardson and Reese families.
Frank FitzSimons writes in “From the Banks of the Oklawaha” that the Reese family owned an inn and stagecoach stop on the Old Buncombe Turnpike in the early 1800s near today’s Mountain Home.
The Reese family moved to the area near Benjamin Richardson. Richardson was a son of Mrs. Reese’s from her first marriage. He lived near Mud Creek in the vicinity of Naples and Mountain Home in the early 1800s and was among the first postmasters at the Naples Post Office when it was named Shady Grove and later Mud Creek.
FitzSimons also states that when the county was attempting to decide where to build a town to serve as the county seat that the Road Party originally wanted to build the town on the Old Buncombe Turnpike at the foot of Stoney Mountain.
It was in 1885 that the Hillgirt Post Office was established near the railroad. Dr. Thomas R. Egerton was the first postmaster. When he died in 1895 his wife, Sarah, took over the job for five years.
In 1900, Sherman A. Edwards became postmaster. He had a store that bordered the Egerton property.
In a publication in 1912 by the Southern Railway it states: “Throughout the country surrounding this little village (Hillgirt) quantities of fine fruit are grown… A mile beyond Hillgirt, the railroad crosses Mud Creek.”
In 1927, Edwards sold the store to Louia Drake. His wife, Gladys M. Drake, became the postmaster.
It was in 1946 that the store was sold to Jim Payne. His wife, Bessie D. Payne, became the postmaster. When the store closed in 1953 the post office also closed.
In 1911, architect Richard Sharp Smith drew an architectural design for a church and school in the community of Hillgirt. It is not known if this church and school were built according to Smith’s design.
Based on the dates though this was the same time that W.W. Lyda gave land to the Episcopal Diocese for a church in the Hillgirt community off today’s Brookside Camp Road. This mission church, St. Matthew’s Episcopal, was built about 1912. For more information on St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church and Cemetery visit the “Historic Cemeteries” section on this web site.
Today, the only church in the Hillgirt and Mountain Home area is Stoney Mountain Baptist Church established later in the 20th century.
In the early 1900s, entrepreneurs attempted to make Stoney Mountain a tourist attraction. Sidney Vance Pickens and S.G. Ewart were the first to attempt to build a road to the top of the mountain. They never finished the road. In 1902, T.B. Israel completed the road to the top of Stoney Mountain and built a 50-foot observation tower and charged a fee for visitors. R.M. Oates purchased the road and top of the mountain in the 1920s and ran electricity to the top of the mountain. Visitors could then hold night picnics at the tower. During the Great Depression there was no maintenance, the tower collapsed and the road became impassable.
A group of investors from St. Petersburg, Fla., known as the “Summer Homes Committee” and the Mountain Home Company, bought land in the Hillgirt community to establish a summer colony for 100 families.
They bought 700 acres from Florence Roland and 22 acres from Adolph Ficker. Some of this land is referred to as the “old Cortland Place” (estate, plantation). Some members of the Dunlap family were caretakers of the Cortland Estate. (At present this researcher has not found information on the Cortland family who owned this home and estate).
The investors, led by a Mr. Potter, planned to build 100 cottages by June 1, 1914. The land was described as one-half mountainous and the other half rolling land, with 200 acres of tillable land with a farm house.
They planned to use gravity pipe lines from the streams on Stoney Mountain to supply water to the cottages.
The Mountain Home Post Office was established in the 1920s to serve these summer residents. The post office was less than one-half mile from the Hillgirt Post Office. The first postmaster, Anna S Jacobson, was a member of the “summer colony.”
In 1940, Jacobson retired and her niece Beatrice Hearsey was named postmaster. Later Louise Dunlap Renfro was postmaster for one year. She was the daughter of Francis and Bessie Dunlap who were the caretakers of the Cortland place when the “summer colony” first bought the land.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, some members of the “summer colony” sold their cottages to local county residents and some began to live in the county permanently. There were a few members of the original “summer colony” who continued to keep their cottages as summer homes.
Mountain Home Inn
In 1913, when the investors for the summer colony began purchasing land for the “summer colony,” they planned to build a hotel on the site.
The newspaper, French Broad Hustler, published an article on the architectural firm of H.C. Meyer and Earle Stillwell that had recently opened in Hendersonville. The firm had obtained the contract for a hotel to be built in the “St. Petersburg colony company” near Hillgirt. A three-story structure was planned of the Mount Vernon colonial style containing about 40 rooms for guests and a “mammoth” dining hall. The newspaper also states that the hotel will “occupy the site of the handsome home which formerly stood on the premises.”
The “handsome home” must refer to what is described as the Courtland or Cortland Manor found in other references and described as a big, granite rock home.
In 1917 C.W. Weicking bought the inn from the Mountain Home Company. In his book “Postmarks,” Lenoir Ray states that the inn burned in the 1920s.
Prior to the building of this hotel, Robert Odom was erecting a 12-room hotel and expected to add four more rooms in the Hillgirt community. The precise location and materials used in the construction are not currently known.
The precise date is not known but another inn named the Mountain Home Inn was located in Mountain Home and built of stone, with a swimming pool in the back, according to local residents. The inn was remodeled in the 1980s, but the swimming pool no longer exists.
In the 1920s airplanes arrived in the county. A “flying field” was established in a large field between U.S. 25 and the railroad in the area of Mountain Home. This field is now an agricultural area.
In the 1960s an industrial park opened in Mountain Home.
The Mountain Home Volunteer Fire Department was also organized in the 1960s.
Elementary students in the area now primarily attend Clear Creek Elementary School, Rugby Middle School and West Henderson High School.