Mud Creek, a majority tributary of the French Broad River, flows through the valley of Naples. The creek enters the French Broad River approximately where the communities of Naples and Mills River meet. Much of the community is a floodplain of Mud Creek and its tributaries.
Between 1901 and 1905, a post office was re-established in the community and the railroad opened a small depot. When seeking a name, a local resident said the frequent flooding of Mud Creek reminded him or her of the Bay of Naples, according to the “N.C. Gazetteer” by William S. Powell.
Prior to the Civil War, the community’s post office was named Mud Creek and the community extended to the Buncombe County line and most likely south into today’s Mountain Home. It was not until 1851 that much of today’s Fletcher and Hooper’s Creek were ceded to Henderson County from Buncombe County.
Couch Mountain, the 28th highest peak in the county, borders the communities of Clear Creek, Naples and Hooper’s Creek.
Naples is bordered to the east by Hooper’s Creek and Clear Creek, to the north by Fletcher, to the west by Mills River, and to the south by Rugby and Mountain Home. The town of Fletcher has spot annexed some of the Naples community near the intersection with Interstate 26.
Prior to the 20th century the community was prime agricultural land with its broad valley and floodplains. Much of the land is still used for agriculture.
In the early 20th century, a section of the community became one of the first large health centers in the county with the arrival of members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. And an area to the south, Mountain Home, saw an influx of summer residents.
The community was also near some areas of industrial growth. The construction of an exit off Interstate 26 in the community added to business growth.
Early land deeds and settlers
Determining the early land deeds in the community is difficult and confusing because the land deeds simply refer to streams, creeks and rivers. Mud Creek extends from near the community of Flat Rock through Hendersonville and continues into Naples. Based on known early settlers, it appears that the first deeds for this area were in 1788.
On Jan. 10, Harmon Reed enters land on the south side of Mud Creek including the “improvements whereon he lives.”
On March 3, Elijah Williamson enters land on both sides of Mud Creek that empties into the French Broad River, includes “improvements where he lives.”
The next day Williamson enters more land on the west side of the French Broad River “above Boilston’s entry.”
On Aug. 1, William Medilin (Medlin) enters land on the north side of Mud Creek, bordering Elijah Williamson.
William Fletcher enters land on the north side of “’Mudy’ Creek on the Seloudy (Saluda) Path (Old Buncombe Turnpike, later near U.S. 25 North), borders Elijah Williamson and ‘my own line’” on Jan. 16, 1791.
On July 20, 1791, Elijah Williamson enters more land on the “western waters of Mud Creek above Hermon Rides (Reed’s).”
Harmon Reed is one of many names listed on the petition to form Buncombe County (included much of today’s Henderson County) in 1790. He is also listed on the census near Elijah Williamson. It appears from some records that he married one of the Boyleston daughters and may have later moved to Kentucky.
Elijah Williamson, a Revolutionary War veteran, lived in the community of today’s Naples until his death. For more information on Williamson, click on the “Historic Cemeteries” icon on this web site.
By 1800, another Revolutionary War Patriot, Hugh Gourley was living in the community, along with Joseph Smith. Click on the “Historic Cemeteries” icon on this web site for more information on these individuals and families.
Post Offices, Drovers’ Inns, Stagecoach Stops, Store
In 1827 a post office was established to serve the northeast section of Henderson County. The post office was named Shady Grove by the first postmaster, Benjamin Richardson, who lived on the banks of Mud Creek near the Old Buncombe Turnpike where he operated a drovers’ inn.
In 1838 the name of the post office was changed to the Mud Creek Post Office. In his book, “Postmarks,” author Lenoir Ray discusses the confusion of the name Mud Creek with the early Baptist church in the Flat Rock community.
Isaac Sawyer was the postmaster for four months in 1839. Then Humphrey Posey, a Baptist minister, was appointed postmaster. In 1840, Posey’s son-in-law, Henry Ellis Lance, took over the position.
Lance and his wife, Rebecca Posey Lance, had a stagecoach stop at the location along the Old Buncombe Turnpike. Their 30-room home served as a hotel. There was also a grist mill at the location.
The post office was discontinued for a short time in 1860. In December, Minerva Patton, daughter of Elijah Williamson, opened the post office at the old Williamson house. In 1866 the post office closed.
For 35 years there was not a post office in the community.
Sometime between 1901 and 1905, the railroad placed a railroad station in the community. A post office opened near the railroad station. The depot and the post office were named Naples. The postmaster was George Y. MacMurphy who was also a doctor. His medical practice and the post office were both in his home.
Thomas D. Brittain was postmaster from 1902 to 1911, when it closed again.
In 1915, William Thomas Smith opened the post office at the site of a general store that he operated near the railroad depot. Benjamin H. Evans served as postmaster from 1917 to 1918. In 1918 Thomas C. Justice was appointed postmaster. His wife, Belle, was the daughter of William Thomas Smith.
In 1910 members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church arrived in Henderson County. Arthur Spalding, Sydney Brownsberger and Martha Rumbough bought land on Howard Gap Road in Naples. The Fletcher Seventh-day Adventist Church was the first church of this denomination to organize in the county.
They opened a school (today’s Fletcher Academy and Captain Gilmer Elementary School) and began a farm.
Members also began giving health care to local residents, mostly free of charge.
By 1915, the doctors formally opened a building (“cottage for sanitarium purposes”) to treat tuberculosis patients. It must be remembered that doctors and nurses were giving health care to local residents before they opened the tuberculosis cottage. After opening this cottage, they continued to give health care to residents.
The cottage that opened in 1915 grew quickly and by 1927 there were several buildings on the campus housing doctors’ offices and sanitarium and hospital facilities. The name was formally changed to Mountain Sanitarium and Hospital. People came from all over the nation to be treated for TB at the sanitarium.
Fields of crops were grown on the property and local people were hired to work in the fields. The crops were used to supply food for the academy, the hospital and the sanitarium. They also established the first cafeteria in Asheville with the excess crops.
The hospital and sanitarium employed the first registered nurses in North Carolina in 1916.
By the early 1920s, a school of nursing for area women was built on the campus. This school was attended by hundreds of area women until 1984 when it closed. Many of the registered nurses employed by Patton and later Pardee Hospital and area doctors were graduates of the Fletcher Hospital School of Nursing.
In 1976 the name was changed to Fletcher Hospital. Today it is known as Park Ridge Hospital.
The old hospital building is now being used as a nursing home and a new assisted living center was built on the campus.
Diamond Brand Canvas Co.
In 1923, there was a small plant at Naples operated by the Christian Life Calendar Co. It closed in 1930 due to the Depression.
In 1943, Dave Kemp purchased this plant for the Diamond Brand Canvas Co. The plant focused the sewing operation on supporting the war effort in World War II, according to the company’s web site. After the war, Diamond Brand focused on making tents and backpacks for the Boy Scouts and other companies. The company’s corporate offices were in New York until the death of Dave Kemp in 1966.
Arnold Kemp relocated the corporate offices to the site of the mill in Naples. This was two years after opening a retail store near the plant. In the 1980s, the company developed a four-man tent for the U.S. Army. The company also manufactured backpacks, tents and soft luggage.
In 2000, Will Gay purchased Diamond Brand from Arnold Kemp, and became the company’s CEO. In February 2004, the manufacturing facility and corporate offices were moved to Fletcher.
Churches and other
In 1942, the Naples Baptist Church was organized in the community.
The community’s youth may attend either Mills River Elementary or Fletcher Elementary schools; and Rugby Middle School and West Henderson High School.
The Fletcher Fire Department serves most of the community.