Balfour is a small community in Henderson County that today is losing its identity. The community is becoming an extension of the city of Hendersonville.
A community named Balfour did not exist until the late 1800s. The majority of the pre-Civil War community was mainly within Clear Creek.
Balfour is bordered on the north by Mountain Home (Hillgirt), the east and northeast by Clear Creek, the west by Rugby, and on the south, southeast and southwest by the city of Hendersonville.
The Balfour community owes its existence to the railroad. The community was named for William Balfour Troy who opened a granite quarry in the community in 1892.
Granite quarry and William Balfour Troy
William Balfour Troy was born in 1859 in Fayetteville. He came to Western North Carolina during construction of the railroad from Hendersonville to Asheville in the late 1870s and 1880s. He was living in Asheville in 1880 and was the supervisor in charge of the convicts who were helping to build the roadbed for the railroad. He married Ida Roberts in 1882.
In 1892 he purchased property in today’s Balfour community and opened a granite quarry. Some records state that this was the largest granite quarry at the time in Western North Carolina. The quarry furnished granite for the Biltmore Estate. In 1897 an area newspaper reported that three to five car loads (train cars) of granite left the quarry each day for destinations throughout North Carolina and South Carolina.
Troy also opened a store and a summer hotel.
There was a train stop at Balfour, primarily to load the granite.
The Balfour Post Office opened almost at the same time as the stop for the railroad opened, in 1893. Troy was the first postmaster.
In 1901 Troy sold the land (70 to 100 acres) and the quarry to the W.H. Spence family and moved. In 1910, he and his wife were living in Memphis with a daughter. In 1930 he was living with another child in Dekalb, Ga. Troy died in Asheville in 1939 and his grave site is at Riverside Cemetery in Asheville.
The granite rock quarry property is owned by the city of Hendersonville today and is located on the property of the waste water treatment plant.
Post office, quarry, church 1901 to 1923
The W.H. Spence family, who bought the land from William Balfour Troy, gave one acre of land for a Baptist church in the community. This is Balfour Baptist Church, established in 1908. The early church history traces back to a church at the foot of Stoney Mountain named Stoney Mountain Baptist. Then, in 1908, the name changes and the congregation moved to the church in the Balfour community, in the area of what later becomes the mill village.
The post office was located in a stone building beside the railroad. The building also served as the store and the railway station.
Willis P. Collins and Benjamin M. Collins were postmasters from 1901 until 1906. Elbert J. “Josh” Rhodes became postmaster in 1906. He managed the rock quarry, and ran the store and the depot.
In 1915, Colman N. Allison bought the rock quarry and became the postmaster. Hugh C. Hall was postmaster in 1918, followed by William H. Powell.
The Spence family also gave land, 10 acres, for a Presbyterian orphanage.
For more information on the orphanage, click on the following link:
Balfour Orphanage and Missing Grave
Smyth and Balfour Mills
Ellison Adger Smyth (born Joseph Allison Adger Smyth) purchased the property in 1923 or 1924.
Smyth was born in Charleston, S.C., and built some of the first cotton mills in South Carolina. He began developing mills in Pelzer, South Carolina, near the Saluda River. This first mill was built in 1881 and 1882. Other mills were added later. Mill villages were built with each of the mills. Smyth installed incandescent lighting in his first mill.
By 1896, he was experimenting with using water-powered electricity. He organized the Chicora Savings Bank in Pelzer.
In 1899, the people of Belton, S.C., asked him to organize the Belton Mills. He also organized the Bank of Belton and, later, the Belton Savings and Trust.
He worked with other mills as board member: Grendel Mills, Greenwood, S.C.; Ninety-Six Cotton Mills, Ninety-Six, S.C.; Riverside Mfg. Co., Anderson; Toxaway Mills, Anderson; Anderson Phosphate and Oil Co.; Dunean Mills, Greenville, Belton Power Co.; Brandon Mills, Monaghan Mills; Woodruff Mills; Williamston Mills; Watts Mill; Saxon Mill; Victor Mill; Union Bleachery; Alice Mfg.; Moneynick Oil Mills; and Conestee (formerly known as Reedy River Mills).
He also became one of the owners of the Greenville, S.C., News.
In 1900, Smyth lived in Williamston, Anderson County, S.C. From 1910 through 1920 he lived in Greenville, S.C.
His brothers, James Adger Smyth and Augustine T. Smyth, bought the Rock Hill Estate in Flat Rock from the widow of William Gregg. They deeded the property to Ellison Adger Smyth in 1900. Ellison Adger Smyth re-named the estate Connemara and visited the home in the summer months.
In 1923 Smyth began buying property in the Balfour community and building Balfour Mills. In 1923 the mill had 10,000 spindles and a village of 76 five- and seven-room cottages. Five older structures originally on the property were remodeled.
Smyth sold his real estate in South Carolina in 1925 and moved to his summer home in Flat Rock – Connemara.
By this time there were 18,072 spindles at Balfour Mill and 25 new cottages in the village.
Through the years, the village kept expanding. Folks living in the village had a community pasture to keep livestock, including a pig pen; and a community barn. They had gardens and fields in which to grow crops.
There was a community center in the village where dances and other events were held. There was a drug store, a community store, a barbershop and beauty salon. There was even a swimming pool.
The baseball park was the site of many industrial league baseball games for decades and attended by hundreds of residents in the county.
And the post office and train depot were still located at the same place.
The Baptist church was still located in the village. And, in 1924, Balfour Methodist Church was established in the mill village.
When all the banks collapsed throughout the nation Nov. 20, 1930, Smyth was one of the men in Hendersonville who opened the State Trust Bank on Dec. 4, 1930. Smyth died in 1942. His grave site is in Charleston, S.C.
During the Great Depression, a writer with the Federal Writers Project wrote an article on one family who lived in the Balfour mill village in 1938.
Description of a mill village, Federal Writers Project, 1938
During World War II, workers in the mill were primarily women and production switched to products for the military. The majority of able-bodied men were in the military.
Berkeley Mills to present
In 1946 Balfour Mills was sold to the International Cellucotton Products Co., a company of the Kimberly-Clark Corp.
The name of the mill and village changed to Berkeley Mills. The company produced non-woven fabric.
Berkeley Mills officially merged with the Kimberly-Clark Corp. in 1963. Today the company produces disposable diapers.
In 1954, Balfour Baptist Church moved to land along U.S. 25. A new church was built at its current location on U.S. 25 in 1960.
The Balfour United Methodist Church began an educational building at its current location on U.S. 25 in 1964.
The Balfour Post Office closed in 1991.
The baseball field, most likely the oldest still in existence in Henderson County, and other surrounding property of the mill village is now owned by the city of Hendersonville and a park is being developed.
The architect Erle Stillwell designed the Balfour School in the 1920s to serve the children who lived in the mill village and in surrounding areas.
When the school was built in the early 1920s it served students from the first grade through high school who lived in Balfour, Mountain Home (Hillgirt) and sections of Clear Creek.
In the late 1930s, after 1935 and prior to 1940, Balfour began serving grades 1 through 8 and high school students in the community primarily went to Hendersonville High School.
The elementary school closed about 2002.
Today students primarily attend schools in Hendersonville and, in some areas of the traditional Balfour community, elementary school students attend Clear Creek Elementary School.
The historic school now houses the Balfour Education Center, an alternative school of the public school system and classes through Blue Ridge Community College.