The community of East Flat Rock is east of the Flat Rock community; therefore, it was named East Flat Rock in the early 1900s.
It is and was an area of bogs and wetlands, with numerous small creeks flowing into Bat Fork Creek. Bat Fork Creek then flows into Mud Creek.
The community was sparsely settled prior to the late 1800s and early 1900s. Until machinery was invented and purchased that could drain the bogs, making much of the area suitable for farming, early settlers found farming in the area difficult.
In the first 100 or so years of county settlement, the community was considered a part of Flat Rock and the Upward community.
The vast majority of today’s East Flat Rock is west of the Continental Divide. But due to the building of roads, there are sections east of the Continental Divide with access only from the east and south of the U.S. 25 connector to Interstate 26.
The community is bordered on the west by Flat Rock. To the south is Zirconia and to the south and east is the Macedonia community. The community of Upward borders East Flat Rock on the east. The communities of Tracy Grove and Barker Heights border East Flat Rock on the north. A small section of Hendersonville is to the northeast, and the city of Hendersonville spot annexed areas within the traditional community of East Flat Rock.
East Flat Rock was one of the earliest towns in the county, the site of the only Rosenwald School for blacks in the county, and the site of one of the earliest black churches in the county.
Bogs and wetlands
The Southern Appalachian bogs are among the rarest natural habitat communities in the Appalachian Mountains. Mountain bogs form in poorly drained depressions or on gentle slopes in relatively flat valley bottoms. These bogs and wetlands are some of the most significant areas in the state for rare plants, reptiles, amphibians and birds. Most of today’s East Flat Rock community was a bog, with some hills rising above the bog.
Most of the rare Southern Appalachian Mountain bogs disappeared due to draining and impounding. In 2002 it was estimated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that fewer than 500 acres remained in the state of North Carolina.
Beginning in the late 1800s, this rare ecosystem was drained for farms, homes, a mill town, industries, schools, recreational fields, a railroad track, roads, etc. And the rare flora and fauna became extinct, endangered or threatened. These include the bog turtle, mountain sweet pitcher plant, swamp pink, Gray’s lily, green pitcher plant and bunched arrowhead.
The endangered bunched arrowhead, Sagittaria fasciculata, is found in only about a dozen sites in North Carolina and South Carolina, all in the area of East Flat Rock and Greenville County, S.C., and is considered North Carolina’s most critically imperiled plant. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service placed bunched arrowhead on the federal endangered species list in 1976, and it was one of the very first plants in North Carolina to be listed under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1979. It was first identified in the 1880s in the Southern Appalachian Bog that is today East Flat Rock.
Many of these unique and rare species of wildlife and plants, only found in these rare bogs, were used by the Cherokee and Catawba Indians. The mountain bog was close to an ancient Indian path, the Saluda Path that came through Flat Rock close to today’s U.S. 225 and then continued along the ridge line (Continental Divide), passing through a section of East Flat Rock and on to the ridge of Upward and Dana. The mountain bog ran alongside this early Indian path that today separates the communities of Macedonia and Upward with East Flat Rock. Therefore, many Indian artifacts were and are found along the creek banks of the bog area within the community.
At one time, the bog that today is the community of East Flat Rock was one of the most famous bogs in the Southeast. Found within the bog were plants common to the coastal plains.
Only a few remnants of this famous bog remain. One of these, the East Flat Rock Bog Remnant, can be found in the East Flat Rock community. The King Creek Bog remnant is close to the community and Flat Rock, and the Bat Fork Bog is within the area of Barker Heights and Tracy Grove.
These bogs have been identified as priority areas of national significance. The East Flat Rock Bog is a natural heritage area of the N.C. Natural Heritage Program, as also is the Laurel Branch Creek Gorge/Buckeye Ford that is near East Flat Rock and east of the Continental Divide, and the Bat Fork Bog north of the community.
The Nature Conservancy and General Electric signed a management plan for the East Flat Rock Bog Remnant.
Most of the early settlers arriving in the 1780s into the mid- to late 1800s settled around the bog, not within the bog itself.
Abraham Kuykendall, in 1791, purchased 900 acres along Mud Creek. Some of this land included areas along today’s Bat Fork Creek, “Batwoods Creek.”
In 1794, David Miller, Andrew Miller, James Greenlee and Abraham Kuykendall purchased land near today’s Butt Mountain and east to the Green River. This would have included land in the mountain bog.
Early settler William Capps purchased land in the area of today’s Zirconia that most likely included land in or near the mountain bog. His descendants married into the Fortune and Kuykendall families, and these families moved into the eastern and southern sections of today’s East Flat Rock. This was the area near Fortune Creek and Oak Grove Road. Early members of the Anders family and their descendants also moved to this same area.
Prior to the Civil War, John Justus Jr. and his descendants settled land east of the bog and into sections of the bog within East Flat Rock near its border with Upward.
By the 1830s and 1840s, much of the area north of today’s railroad track was purchased by Judge Mitchell King of Flat Rock and former owners of the Brookland Estate.
In 1882 Theodore G. Barker moved to Henderson County and bought the Brookland estate. He drained the swamps in the area (Barker swamps) in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Much of the land in the northern section of today’s community was used as farmland, as Barker had the largest farm in the county at this time and was the largest land owner. He also began building one of the first “subdivisions” in the county, later known as Brooklyn Manor and Barker Heights.
Railroad, Roads, Post Office, Fire Department
The summer residents of Flat Rock wanted a train depot closer to their summer homes than the depot in Hendersonville. In 1889 the Flat Rock depot was built in today’s community of East Flat Rock. The railroad tracks passed through East Flat Rock from Zirconia to Hendersonville. John Brookshire was the first depot agent. The depot was torn down in 1958.
The East Flat Rock Post Office opened in 1908 across from the train depot and alongside the railroad tracks. The first postmaster was Richard J. Pace, who at the time was a teacher at a small school in East Flat Rock. Other postmasters included Perry Walker, James Weed Edney, John E. Creech, Evans Lamar Hamilton, and James Dale Scroggs.
The majority of East Flat Rock is still served by the East Flat Rock Post Office. There are a few sections of East Flat Rock served by a rural route out of the Flat Rock Post Office.
In the 1920s and 1930s a new road was built to connect Hendersonville to Tryon, along with a “High Bridge” across the Green River. This was the Old Spartanburg Road. The new road and bridge were completed by the early 1930s. The Howard Gap Road, the main road to Spartanburg, S.C., prior to the building of this road was seldom used from this point and the bridge that crossed the Green River from the Howard Gap Road (old Peter Guice Bridge) was later torn down.
In the early 1940s the route from Hendersonville to East Flat Rock changed when an overpass was built across the railroad tracks near Hendersonville. This is where U.S. 176 (Spartanburg Highway) is now located from Hendersonville to East Flat Rock.
The Blue Ridge Fire Department was formed in 1958 to serve the residents of East Flat Rock. This was the third fire department organized in Henderson County. The main fire station is located on Old Spartanburg Road.
There was an early mill in the area known as Hart Manufacturing. Deeds indicate that it was located near the railroad, opposite the depot.
Perry H. Walker began buying land throughout what is today East Flat Rock in the late 1890s. Land was purchased from the Valentine family, Hart Manufacturing, Highland Lake Co., and many individuals (King, Hart, Patterson, Bennison, Arledge, Hall, Beddingfield, Corn, Mills, Fortune and more).
In 1905, Walker talked Frank and Herbert Wilcox of Lynn into investing money to build a textile mill in the community. They purchased between 30 and 40 acres of land on the east side of the railroad.
The Skyland Hosiery Company opened in 1907 with a mill and 25 houses for workers, creating a mill town. This was the first textile mill in Henderson County. Later, in the same year, the Green River textile mill opened in the Tuxedo community.
The area where the textile mill in East Flat Rock was located, with the surrounding houses, became known as the “Mill Hill.” More and more people began moving into the community to work in the new textile mill.
Shortly after 1910, Carroll Pickens Rogers headed the textile mill.
In 1925 the mill was known as the Chipman-Burroughs Co. and was owned by F.L. Chipman and V.C. Burrowes. Later the name of the mill was changed to Chipman-Lacrosse Hosiery Mill. The mill closed in December 1968.
Albert Moreno purchased the property and Minuteman Anchors was built at the site.
Today, in addition to Minuteman Anchors, Cason Oil Co. and Builders Supply, and Louis Williams & Son are located at the site of the first textile mill in Henderson County.
In 1912, industrial baseball leagues formed at the East Flat Rock and Tuxedo mills. They played games throughout the region and later other industries joined the league. Industrial league baseball was extremely popular in the county through the 1950s.
In 1954 General Electric announced plans to open a plant in East Flat Rock. Groundbreaking for the plant was in 1955. This plant was the county’s largest employer throughout most of the latter half of the 20th century.
In 1989, Federal Paper Board Co. moved to East Flat Rock on Tabor Road across from General Electric.
There are early references to a one-room school in the community as early as 1887 and 1888. According to the late educator Ernest Justus, a school was located between today’s Flat Rock and East Flat Rock on West Blue Ridge Road. Justus described the school as a “weatherboarded,” or clapboard, building. About 1901 this school was moved to the Flat Rock site.
In 1908 there was a one-room school near the textile mill for the first grade. The second grade was at a church. Third graders and up attended the school in Flat Rock. In 1914, a two-room building, with later additions, served grades one through three, with fourth grade and up attending Flat Rock. It was in 1915 that a four-room building was built and students from the first grade through high school attended school in this building, with some classes held in store buildings and churches. In 1919, the principal was Sarah Caldwell, and teachers were Misses Deborah Stepp, Nellie Hart and Edith Hart. Nellie and Edith Hart, sisters, were teachers in East Flat Rock through the 1940s, with Miss Edith Hart teaching into the 1950s. The two sisters lived in an apartment above the Stepp & Walker Store in East Flat Rock.
In 1923, a new school was built in East Flat Rock on East Blue Ridge Road and the Old Spartanburg Road (today’s U.S. 176). This school served grades one through high school. Early principals included Bessie Steedman, Margaret Rozier, Frank FitzSimons and Ralph Jones.
In fall 1934 the high school students began attending Flat Rock High School. The school was then an elementary school serving grades one through eight until 1960. In 1960, East Henderson High School opened in the East Flat Rock community. Students in the seventh and eighth grades then attended Flat Rock Junior High School at the site of the former Flat Rock High School. Today, middle school students attend Flat Rock Middle School at the border of the communities of Flat Rock and East Flat Rock.
In the mid- to late-1960s another elementary school was built in the community, Hillandale Elementary School.
The East Flat Rock Elementary School and Hillandale Elementary School both served elementary school students.
In 1993, the East Flat Rock School closed and was declared surplus by the school system. The building fell into disrepair.
The first successful effort to preserve the school came when Henderson County Parks and Recreation used the former ball fields to form East Flat Rock Park. Four additional acres of the grounds of the school are owned by the Henderson County Parks and Recreation.
In 1996, the building was placed on the list of Preservation North Carolina. Historic schools are often at the heart of a community, said officials with Preservation North Carolina. Schools house memories for hundreds if not thousands of former students.
In 2000, Preservation of North Carolina joined residents in persuading two Raleigh companies, Integra Development and WAJ Management to form a partnership, Parkside Commons Limited Partnership, to put senior apartments in the building. The partnership bought and historically renovated the building and turned it into 25 apartments.
Lucy King of East Flat Rock received a Gertrude S. Carraway Award of Merit from Preservation North Carolina for her efforts to preserve the historic school.
The school is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“I don’t think it is ever productive or progressive to tear down, throw away and waste,” King said. “It may take a lot of thought and hard work to preserve something, but it’s worth it.”
East Flat Rock was the home of the only Rosenwald School in Henderson County. A Rosenwald School was the name informally applied to more than 5,000 schools, shops, and teachers’ homes in the United States which were built primarily for the education of African-Americans in the early 20th century. Julius Rosenwald, an American clothier who became part-owner and president of Sears, Roebuck and Company, founded the Rosenwald Fund. He contributed seed money for many of the schools. He required communities to commit public funds to the schools, as well as to contribute additional cash donations
The school in East Flat Rock was built between 1922 and 1923 on Mine Gap Road to serve the black students in the East Flat Rock community. The school is listed in the book “School Segregation in Western North Carolina: A History, 1860s-1970s” by Betty Jamerson Reed.
Hortense Potts, who lives in the community, remembered the school’s pot-bellied stove and how just a couple of teachers oversaw a roomful of students from several grades. Often teachers would use older students to tutor younger ones.The school had a room for instruction, a lunchroom and an auditorium.
Potts, who later got a bachelor’s degree from Bennett College in Greensboro and a master’s degree from Western Carolina University, is proud of the success many of the school’s students.
“I tell you East Flat Rock is small, but we’ve had a lot of people to do well,” she said.
Several students and teachers achieved status and recognition, including Dr. John Potts and Dr. John J. Simmons. Simmons, a leader of the early Civil Rights movement, was one of the first African-Americans to attend dental school at the Indiana University School of Dentistry in 1947.
For more information on Dr. John Potts, see http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1665&dat=19800424&id=AzsaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=aCYEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5651,6417075
The East Flat Rock Rosenwald School stopped operating in 1952 when all black students in the county were sent to the Ninth Avenue School in Hendersonville. Today, one can still see the old well students used for water, remnants of the chimney and the outline of the building defined by the remaining steps.
Perry H. Walker began development of a town around the mill and the train depot in the early 1900s. Eventually, he purchased about 300 acres and sold the land to local residents who moved from outlying areas into the new community.
In 1914, the community had the textile mill, a school, a lumber plant, six stores, a post office, a restaurant, barber shop, meat market, cannery, churches, three boarding houses and a bicycle shop, with a population of about 600 residents. By the 1920s, there was a bank, a drug store, and three restaurants.
The community was one of the first areas in the county to have electricity with the building of the textile mill in 1907.
In 1926, East Flat Rock incorporated as a town. At the time it was the second incorporated town in Henderson County, after Hendersonville. Historically it was the third, after Saluda. But Saluda was annexed to Polk County in 1903. Carroll Pickens Rogers was the first mayor.
The new city paved the streets and brought in water lines.
Then the Depression hit, and it took more than 20 years of taxation for residents to pay off the indebtedness for the water lines and paved roads.
In 1950, most of the residents worked in the textile mill or had farms. The indebtedness was paid and they no longer wanted to pay the municipal taxes. Residents voted to dissolve the incorporation.
Remnants of the town still stand. The Stepp & Walker Store was built in 1898 and later housed the Mother Earth News. It currently stands abandoned. The stone building that housed the First Bank and Trust, built in 1923, still stands. The Hill’s General Store building, operated by Charles F. Hill for more than 50 years, was built in 1925 and still stands. Many of these buildings, including the school, were built by the Jones and Justus Builders Co., whose families lived in the community.
The home built in 1906 by Perry H. Walker next to the Stepp & Walker Store still stands, as does the Silas Jones house built in 1905, the Hix Jones house built in 1907, and several others.
Fairgrounds and POW Camp
Where East Henderson High School now stands was once the site for the WNC Fairgrounds and where German prisoners of war were housed during World War II.
The site at one time was part of the large Brookland Estate. Later the land was purchased by P.F. Patton. In 1940 and 1945 deeds indicate the land was to be used for a fairground and horse shows. The Pattons, Sadie Smathers Patton and husband P.F. Patton, over the years conveyed acreage to the Agricultural Development Co. in Henderson County. Some residents state that the fair began at the site sometime in the 1930s.
The WNC Fairgrounds was located at the site until 1958, when the land was deeded to the Henderson County School System. In addition to the typical features of an agricultural fair, with amusement rides, horse shows and animal exhibits, there were also drag racing and stock car racing on a dirt oval track.
By 1959, the fair moved to Mills Street off U.S. 176 behind today’s National Guard Armory in East Flat Rock, where it remained until the early 1990s.
East Henderson High School opened in 1960.
Two German prisoner of war camps were located in Henderson County during World War II.
One camp was in the Rugby community at the Bowen Farm on N.C. 191. The other POW camp was located at the WNC Fairgrounds, the site of today’s East Henderson High School.
The German prisoners helped in harvesting of crops. In the spring of 1944 the federal government created a nationwide POW program to assist the civilian war-related industries of farming, lumbering, and pulpwood cutting. North Carolina’s first German POW work contingents were mostly prisoners from Field Marshal Rommel’s Afrika Korps, captured in Tunisia in May 1943. They arrived in the spring of 1944. The POW program expanded after the Allied invasion of Normandy.
So many POWs were brought to the state that men were sent from larger military bases to smaller branch camps. These smaller camps housed up to 500 men each. One of the POW camps in Henderson County was a branch camp of the Camp Forrest POW Camp in Forrest, Tenn. The other POW camp was a branch camp of Camp Butner in North Carolina.
Farmers and apple growers throughout the county used the prisoners to help harvest crops. With the majority of able-bodied men serving in the military, there was a shortage of farm workers. Many local residents related stories of picking up the prisoners at the camps and bringing them to the family farms to harvest vegetables. They ate lunch with the families, and in many instances became friends, continuing to write and visit long after the war had ended.
Oak Grove Baptist Church was the first church established in East Flat Rock. The church was organized in 1875. For more information on the church and cemetery, click on the “Historic Cemeteries” icon at this web site.
East Flat Rock United Methodist Church was established in 1898. In 1910, a wooden church was built at the intersection of West Blue Ridge Road and U.S. 176. The wooden church was brick veneered in 1950. Additions and renovations have been added over the years. Recently the diocese closed the church and it re-opened under the name Hope United Methodist Church.
In the summer of 1909 approximately 30 Baptists from the East Flat Rock community began holding worship services in an unfurnished house belonging to the Skyland Hosiery Co. On Jan. 31, 1910, land was purchased and the first sanctuary of East Flat Rock First Baptist Church was built. From 1910 to 1925 several different men served as pastor. On Aug. 2, 1925, the Rev. N.B. Phillips became pastor and served until his retirement in 1963. The church was renovated or extensions built in 1918, 1949, 1971 and the early 1990s.
Newly freed slaves in Flat Rock immediately after the Civil War first worshiped at Mud Creek Baptist Church in Flat Rock. On May 13, 1866, the congregation of the white Mud Creek Baptist Church agreed to let their “colored friends” use the meeting house as a place to worship on particular Sundays.
In May 1867, members formed Mud Creek Missionary Baptist Church on land near today’s Bonclarken in Flat Rock. Early leaders were William Jenkins, Israel Simmons and George Potts. By the late 1800s or early 1900s, the church moved to the East Flat Rock community at the corner of Roper Road and Mine Gap Road. The current building of Mud Creek Missionary Baptist Church dates from the 1930s.
The church’s original stained glass windows are now on the wall behind the pulpit in the form of a cross. The new windows have Bibles and doves etched on them with the name of a church family written underneath.
The Mud Creek Missionary Baptist Church in East Flat Rock (a black congregation) is a sister church of Mud Creek Baptist Church at Flat Rock (primarily white congregation), according to church historical records.
“The first organized congregation of Baptists by the Negroes in this section was in 1867,” states the records. “God put it on the heart and minds of a few of his blessed followers to set up a church of their own. So as they gathered all on one accord in the month of May 1867, they asked for dismissal from the Mud Creek Church and it was granted and was clearly understood that they were not withdrawing their Christian fellowship from the church in which they had been members.”