The ridge line of the Blue Ridge runs through the heart of one of the first communities in Henderson County.
In its earliest history, the community was called Blue Ridge after this “ridge line,” the Eastern Continental Divide.
It was not until 1892 that the community began to be called Dana. A hotel was built in the community and the owner wanted a post office closer to the hotel. He suggested that this new post office be named after one of his sons, Dana.
To the north, Dana borders Edneyville, where the earliest settlers first arrived as they climbed the mountains from old Rutherford County, today’s Polk and Rutherford counties.
Dana is bounded on the east by Polk County, but there was not a mountain pass directly into Dana from the section of Rutherford County that later became known as Polk County. A rugged mountain range, east of the Continental Divide, separates the community from today’s Polk County. Also, crossing the Green River from Polk County into today’s Dana community was much more difficult than crossing the river farther “down river.” Therefore, the earliest settlers entered via Mills Gap in the eastern section of today’s Edneyville.
The city of Hendersonville borders the community to the west. The section west of the Eastern Continental Divide lies within an inter-mountain plateau, an agriculturally rich area. Dana is bordered on the south by the communities of Upward and Tracy Grove.
The headwaters of what local folk call the Little Hungry River begins near the “World’s Edge” near Sugarloaf Mountain in the eastern section of Edneyville, and flows through the community of Dana. The Little Hungry River is simply the headwaters of the Hungry River, called the Big Hungry River by local residents. Near the area where Dana and Upward meet, the Little Hungry (headwaters of Hungry River) will join with other streams to form the Big Hungry River (Hungry River).
Today’s Ridge Road follows the Eastern Continental Divide, the ridge line of the Blue Ridge. This was an ancient Indian path, called the Saluda Path. The ancient Indian trail connected several American Indian tribes from South Carolina to Virginia. Saluda Gap, between South Carolina and North Carolina, is located below the Green River community in South Carolina, in today’s Greenville, S.C., Watershed. It parallels old U.S. 25 through Green River, Tuxedo, Zirconia and Flat Rock. At Flat Rock the ancient Indian path then follows the crest of the Blue Ridge, the Eastern Continental Divide, into today’s East Flat Rock, Upward, Dana and Edneyville, crossing above Bat Cave and Gerton. Then it closely follows the Eastern Continental Divide into southwest Virginia.
Other ancient Indian paths intersect the main path at various points.
Early deeds and settlers
On Sept. 3, 1789, James Stepp enters land that “includes his own improvement where he lives.”As early as 1778 Stepp claimed land on the north side of the Green River.
In 1780, Tory Militia Lt. Anthony Allaire and his men were heading westward in the colony of North Carolina. On Sept. 28, 1780, they crossed Mountain Creek in Rutherford County, the Broad River and the Green River at McDaniel’s Ford, according to Allaire’s military journal. On the morning of Sept. 29, they walked three miles farther west to the “James Stepp Plantation,” where they halted. (Note that the word plantation at this time simply meant the homestead or the home).
James Stepp’s land was in the Dana community near Oleta Falls.
The first settler into today’s community of Dana, and one of the earliest settlers in all of today’s Henderson County, was most likely James Stepp.
The section of Dana east of the Continental Divide was open to settlement about the time the Revolutionary War started. The actual treaty between the British and the Cherokee was in 1769. All of Rutherford County, which included all of today’s Polk County, was settled prior to the Revolutionary War.
Pioneer frontiersmen settled in the sections of the Edneyville and Dana communities that border today’s Polk and Rutherford counties most likely several years before 1783.
Documenting these early settlers is extremely difficult. Any deeds would be located in Old Tryon County and later Rutherford 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 sections of Henderson County east of the Continental Divide, including sections of Dana that border Polk County.
Old Buncombe County was formed from Burke and Rutherford counties in 1791. Land deeds from 1791 until 1837 for the Dana community will 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.
Early land deeds are described by the rivers, streams and mountains. In these early deeds, it is difficult to ascertain whether the deed applies to today’s Henderson County communities of Edneyville or Dana. The 1790 census report, when today’s Henderson County settlers were living in the old Rutherford County, does not help in clarifying whether the settler was living in today’s Edneyville or Dana.
Also, it must be noted that early deeds describe land in today’s Henderson County as either on the north side or the south side of the Green River.
On Aug. 12, 1783, Joseph Henry enters land on the “north branch of Hungry Creek, north of Bald Ridge and 1.5 miles south of Point Lookout.“ This land was most likely in Edneyville. Henry, who bought and sold land throughout today’s Henderson County, will later sell this land.
On March 2, 1786, Felix Walker and Thomas Hall enter land on Little Hungry Creek, on the waters of Green River at the mouth of a small branch and runs up the creek. This land was transferred to William Hix (Hicks). The area of the Green River was in today’s Polk County, but the land included an area of Little Hungry Creek in today’s Henderson County. (See below)
On Nov. 2, 1787, Thomas Justice enters land on the south side of Green River and a mountain on Green River near the waters of Hungry Creek. This is the first of several land claims entered by Thomas Justice. Based on later deeds and census reports, Justice was most likely in Edneyville, but land possibly extended into today’s Dana community. Descendants of Thomas Justice lived in both communities.
Feb. 10, 1789, Andrew Miller and John McKinney enter land on the “Blue Ridge and includes the waters of Hominy and Bright’s Creek at a marked chestnut and includes the spring of Hungry Creek.” Miller and McKinney were land speculators and will later sell this land.
June 1, 1790,Thomas Hall Sr. and Andrew Miller enter land on the north sides of Green River, “includes some branches of Hungry Creek, near a marked white oak.” Transferred to David Jackson by order. It is known that David Jackson lived in the Bright’s Creek area of today’s Polk County, but some of the land extended into today’s Henderson County, as did land of his brother, Gabriel Jackson. David Jackson Sr. and his brother, Gabriel Jackson Sr., entered today’s Henderson and Polk counties together soon after the Revolutionary War.
March 2, 1794, William Hix (Hicks) enters land on “Little Hungry Creek of the Green River borders his own lower line.” (See above) Hix also enters land at the “head of Beaver Pond Branch of Hungry Creek of Green River.” This is the first of several hundreds of acres for which Hix (Hicks) enters claims. One entry states “near Hick’s old mill place.”
Jan. 13, 1795, William Hicks enters land on the “waters of Hungry Creek of Green River, borders ‘my own land where I live.’“ Thomas Hicks also enters a land entry. Based on genealogical records, William Hicks was the brother-in-law of John Jones Sr. and Thomas Jones, both of whom married sisters of William Hicks. Thomas Hicks was the father of William Hicks and father-in-law of John Jones Sr. and Thomas Jones. William Hicks will later sell his land to his brothers-in-law and move to Tennessee. Thomas Hicks’ land will be given or sold to his sons-in-law. Thomas Jones will later sell his land to his brother, John Jones Sr. This land was located in today’s Edneyville, but some of this land may have been in today’s Dana community.
On May 6, 1794, John Case, who earlier deeds prove was living in today’s Edneyville community in the 1780s, enters land on the north side of Green River. He and other members of the Case family will continue to buy large areas of land in today’s Dana community.
Descendants of James Stepp, John Case, Thomas Justice and John Jones Sr. were among the first settlers into today’s Dana community.
After 1800, the following families also settled in the Dana community: Blackwell, Brock, Brown, Cagle, Duncan (Dunkin), Gibbs, Hill, Hoots, Hyder, Jackson, King, Lively, Marshall, McCraw, McGraw, Pace, Staton, Taylor, Ward, Williams, and others.
There were several early county political leaders, sheriffs and marshals from Dana. Information on these is found under the “History and Heritage” icon.
Early post offices
The first post office in today’s Dana community was the Blue Ridge Post Office, established in 1859. Leander Case was the first postmaster. Later postmasters included Joseph Taylor, Benjamin King and Amanda King Morris. This early post office was in or near today’s cemetery area of Dana United Methodist Church.
The next postmaster, Hiram D. Justice, moved the post office to where Dana Baptist Church sits today.
In 1895 the post office moved to a store owned by Belvin and Charlie Hyder at the junction of Ridge Road and Sugarloaf Road.
The Blue Ridge Post Office closed in 1906.
The Dana Post Office opened in 1892. William S. Case was the first postmaster. The post office was located in his store, on the opposite side of the road and closer to today’s Dana Baptist Church. Later, Jonathan Case built a store south of his father’s store and moved the Dana Post Office to a site on the opposite side of the road from where it is located today. Later Joseph Hamilton Stepp and his brother, Dulus Stepp, were postmasters and operated the post office out of their store. In 1949, Alma Hyder became postmaster and moved the post office across Ridge Road, where it is located today.
The Oleeta (spelling is correct) Post Office was at the foot of Tumble Bug Road, on Tumble Bug Creek. Alice E. Stepp Merrell was the first and only postmaster. This post office was only in existence from 1908 to 1913.
In 1913, Benjamin Merrell, husband of Alice Stepp Merrell, moved to today’s Stepp Mill Road area. The Oleeta Post Office closed. Alice Stepp Merrell received permission from the U.S. Post Office to move the post office. A new name was required. This new post office with Alice Stepp Merrell as postmaster was now named Saconon. This post office was open from 1913 to 1923.
The Stepp Post Office existed from 1908 to 1914. This post office was located in the area of Oleta Road and near the Polk County line. Walker, a short-lived post office in the Bright’s Creek section of Polk County, moved into the Stepp Post Office in Henderson County in 1914 and operated until 1922. The Stepp Post Office then was the Walker Post Office and served residents in both Polk and Henderson counties.
By 1922, rural routes out of Hendersonville were delivering mail to the Dana community, and the Dana Post Office is still open.
Grist mills, a saw mill, stores and a hotel
It is documented that James Stepp and/or descendants operated a grist mill on Little Hungry Creek (river) near its confluence with the Big Hungry River. This places this early grist mill in the Oleta Falls area of the community. This was most likely the first grist mill in today’s Dana community.
In the late 1800s and definitely prior to 1908, Benjamin Merrell set up a grist meal and a saw mill behind Refuge Baptist Church on Tumble Bug Creek.
Tumble Bug Creek “rushes down the ridge from Dana and picks up tributaries until at the foot the water is powerful enough to turn a mill wheel,” wrote Lenoir Ray in his book “Postmarks.”
In 1913, Benjamin Merrell bought a mill site on today’s Stepp Mill Road, where his wife established the post office named Saconon. He closed the grist mill and saw mill on Tumble Bug Creek and re-established the grist mill at the new site.
Dulus Stepp will buy this grist mill in 1933. This is the only grist mill in today’s Henderson County still standing.
William S. Case, who owned much of the land on Ridge Road opposite Refuge Baptist Church and on to today’s Dana Baptist Church area, opened a store in the Dana community. The store was about 300 yards north of Dana Road, along Ridge Road.
Later a son, Jonathan Case, opened a store south of his father’s store, and closed his father’s store. This store was later owned by Emmett Freeman.
In 1916, Joseph Hamilton Stepp bought the store from Freeman. Dulus Stepp, brother of J.H. Stepp, later operated the store. By 1926, J.H. Stepp was back at the Dana store and the store was known as J.H. Stepp & Sons Store.
In 1890, D.G. Hadley and his family moved from New Hampshire to Henderson County. He bought land from a member of the Cagle family and built a hotel on a hill where the Advent Christian Church was located.
This was the Summit Hotel that opened in 1892. The hotel had 20 guest rooms and steam heat. An observation tower was built on a hill behind the hotel. It was at this time that hotel guests wanted a closer post office than the Blue Ridge Post Office at Hyder’s store at the corner of Ridge Road and Sugarloaf Road. The new post office was named Dana, after Dana Hadley, son of D.G. Hadley. The hotel will burn in the early 1900s, possibly prior to 1900. The observation tower stood for many years until destroyed during a storm.
Leander Case opened the first school in the community about 1830 near the site of today’s Dana United Methodist Church. This school was first called the Ridge School. Later the school was named the Blue Ridge Academy. During the Civil War all schools in the county closed. Blue Ridge Academy was the first school in the county to re-open after the Civil War. William Gunaway Brownlow Morris was one of the most well-known of the instructors at the school after the Civil War. In 1907 a new building was constructed near the same location. This school closed when Dana School was built in 1928. Local residents called this school the “Blue House,” as it was located on the Blue Ridge (Ridge Road).
In the late 1800s, other small schools opened in the community.
Along the Old Dana Road, in the area west of Ridge Road, one early school was the Ace School. This school later moved closer to the Old Dana Road and was known as Hood School. Later, it was called the Mount Vernon School. This school closed in 1928 when the Dana School was built.
The Pace School, later called North Blue Ridge School, was located in the area of Pace Road and Sugarloaf Road.
Union Hill School was located in the Lamb Mountain Road area somewhere near Union Hill Road. This school may also be the school referred to in Frank FitzSimons’ books as the Golden Hill school.
The Adams Run School was located in the Deep Gap Road area of the community, near the area where Dana and Upward meet.
In 1928, most of these schools closed and students began attending Dana School. From 1928 until 1960, Dana School was a consolidated school, serving students from the first grade through high school. East Henderson High School opened in 1960. After 1960, the Dana School served students in grades one through eight.
In 1972 the same arsonist who burnt the Flat Rock School burnt Dana School. The school was re-built in 1974. Only a section of the old gym still stands today.
There are now two elementary schools in the Dana community: Dana Elementary and Sugarloaf Elementary. Middle school students attend either Apple Valley Middle School or Flat Rock Middle School. High school students mostly attend East Henderson High School, and some attend North Henderson High School.
The first church established in the Dana community was Refuge Baptist Church. The church was officially founded in 1846 from Ebenezer Baptist Church. But Baptists began meeting first in the home of William W. Case and the Ridge School about 1837.
The first church was built near the “waters of Tumble Bug Creek and Ridge Road.” Early members included families with the surnames of Blackwell, Brock, Case, Duncan, Gilbert, Hill, Hoots, Jones, Justice, King, Pace, Tabor, Taylor, Staton, Stepp and Williams. Slaves of Robert Jones were members. In 1889 William Nicholas Clark and his wife, Malinda Justice Clark, gave land for a new building to be erected. The church has expanded and undergone more building and renovations in the 20th century.
The Methodists began holding campground meetings at the Blue Ridge Campground prior to the Civil War in the Dana community. This campground site was near the Blue Ridge Academy, near or at the site of today’s Dana United Methodist Church. After the Civil War a church was built at the site of these campground meetings. This church is today’s Dana United Methodist Church. Early members included families with the surname of Blackwell, Case, Taylor, Stepp and others.
Dana Baptist Church was founded in 1936.
Union Hill Holiness Baptist Church was founded in the early 20th century.
Under the “Historical Cemeteries” icon on this web site there is additional information on the cemeteries in these churches.
Agriculture and Cannery
As in all communities in the county in its early history, most of the people were self-sustaining farmers. The rich agricultural land in the community was ideal for farming.
Prior to the introduction of apple orchards in the 1920s, the main crops produced were vegetables. So many vegetables were produced in the community that Jonathan Case opened a cannery about 1900.
In 1912, he expanded the cannery with newer equipment. The Ottoray Canning Co. canned and sold beans, tomatoes, potatoes, apples, peaches, pears, blackberries and other fruits and vegetables. At its peak it was producing 38,000 cans a day. Partners in the business were Marion Columbus Toms and Emmett Freeman. Later R.P. Gregory purchased the cannery and Jonathan Case was manager. He began producing apple vinegar at the cannery. In the early 1920s, J.H. Stepp and Dulus Stepp re-opened the cannery. It was then known as Stepp Brothers Cannery and General Store. From records, it appears that the cannery may have closed during the Depression. Two stone buildings of this cannery still stand off Dana Road near the junction with Ridge Road.
By World War II, apples became the primary crop grown in the Dana community.
The first apple packing house in Henderson County was opened by Melvin Lane in the Dana community.
Fire Department, Park
The Dana Fire Department was organized in 1971.
There was also a community club in Dana. The Henderson County Parks and Recreation now uses the community club building as a community center at the Dana Park.
The park also has a picnic shelter, playground equipment and a playing field. The park is located at the corner of Ridge Road (Upward Road) and Orchard Road.
A Man for All Seasons – Melvin Lane
Apple Ridge Farms – Wayne Pace