A History of Brevard, North Carolina

Transylvania County Court House - Brevard, North Carolina

Brevard, the seat of Transylvania County, is a town like none other. It has all the wholesome, small town charm of times long past, but its diversity never ceases to surprise visitors: extraordinary live music, fantastic restaurants, irresistible antique shops, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and much more.

The Brevard Music Center and Brevard College's Paul Porter Center for the Performing Arts host an incredible variety of entertainment: operas, musicals, jazz and classical concerts. The Brevard Little Theater and the Brevard Chamber Orchestra perform throughout the year. Transylvania County is also home to a thriving community of local musicians, many of whom you will discover playing in the gazebo on the court house lawn or in one of our local restaurants.

Many artisans and crafters have also chosen to make Brevard their home. In addition to several beautiful galleries downtown, there are numerous studios and shops to explore throughout Transylvania County. And visitors, join us for old-fashioned fun on the Fourth of July, enjoy the thrills and chills of Halloweenfest in Transylvania, or savor the magic of Twilight Tour during the winter holidays.

This general area was settled in the early 1800s by Scots-Irish immigrants who were attracted by the rich soil and abundant game and natural resources. These early pioneers were surely awed by the variety of the land from lush green valleys to densely forested mountains to the headwaters of a chameleon, meandering river, the French Broad, that begins near present-day Rosman (a few miles south of Brevard) and flows from south to north.

Many of these original settlers were farmers. Much of what is now forest used to be farmland. Many of the current residents of the area are the successors of these original settlers. To verify this, you need go no further than the local phone book – take a look at the number of names such as “McCall” and “Galloway.”

By 1860, the population had grown sufficiently that residents sought to establish a town near Rock Springs. Transylvania County came into being in 1861 when state Representative Joseph P. Jordan introduced a bill to the North Carolina House of Commons to establish a new county from parts of Henderson and Jackson Counties. Having been born on a farm near Blantyre in Transylvania, it is no surprise that Jordan chose the name “Transylvania” for the new county. The name, “Transylvania,” comes from the Latin, “trans” for “across” and “sylvan” for “woods,” and could not have been more aptly chosen. Jordan’s bill also provided for the requested new town in the county. The bill was approved on February 15, 1861.

The first official meeting of the Transylvania County court was held May 20, 1861 (by coincidence, the same day North Carolina seceded from the Union.) in a one-room country store called “The Valley Store” at a place called Oak Grove. Alex F. England, Leander S. Gash, and Braxton C. Lankford jointly donated fifty acres for a town site. Brevard was chosen as the name for the new town as a tribute to a notable man, Ephriam Brevard, a Surgeon in the North Carolina Continental Line during the American Revolution. Brevard grew slowly and started with only two or three stores, a new court house and county jail, two churches, and a dozen residences.

In 1899, the Transylvania Railroad was built through the county, taking passengers from Brevard to Hendersonville in neighboring Henderson County. It took some of the nation’s wealthiest families to vacation at Lake Toxaway and carried much of the timber logged in the area to sawmills. Due to the amount of logging done in the area, lumber companies sawmills, and tanning companies became profitable businesses.

After World War I, Transylvania County got its first modern industry. Harry Strauss brought industrial jobs with the opening of a paper manufacturing plant located on the edge of the Davidson River. This plant called Ecusta has been a major employer in the county for years.

The town was named after Dr. Ephraim Brevard, a Revolutionary War surgeon who, incidentally, penned the Mecklenberg Resolves of 1775. Born in 1744, Brevard studied medicine at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University). He was known to be socially prominent. He joined the fight for independence when the British invaded the South. He was taken prisoner at the surrender of Charlestown, SC on May 12, 1780.

Brevard was among prisoners who became severely ill from such afflictions as dysentery. Reportedly, Andrew Jackson's mother cared for him at the prison camp. He never recovered from his illness, despite special medicines and treatment. He died in 1781, about the time the hostile force trod his native soil, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Hopewell.

In front of Brevard City Hall, a monument erected to Dr. Ephraim Brevard by his family declares that the doctor "Fought bravely and died a martyr to that liberty which none loved better and few understood so well."

The following is quoted from Western North Carolina: Its Mountains and Its People to 1880 by Ora Blackmun, Appalachian Consortium Press, Boone, NC, 1977:

"Just at the outbreak of the Civil War, western North Carolina gained three additional counties - Transylvania and Clay along its southern boundary, and Mitchell on its western border. Across the territory organized into Transylvania County was the ancient Indian trail leading from the present Henderson County to the Davidson River. From there it ran over the mountains to the French Broad and on to Estatoe, the most easterly of all the Cherokee towns and now the site of Rosman, and then down into South Carolina. This trail was early made into a road, and along it had passed the volunteers on their way to the Mexican War.

"This region had been settled earlier when a grant of 640 acres had been made to Colonel Charles McDowell of Quaker Meadows in 1787. After 1790 a little colony was established along the Davidson River, and other settlers went to the forks of the French Broad. A private fort erected by John Carson was reassuring to these first settlers who were living so close to the Cherokee country. When Henderson County was formed, the settlers in its western area voted solidly for the French Broad or "River" site for a county seat. They were never reconciled to the returns of the election that placed the seat of government on Mud Creek, or the "Road" site, and they began an agitation soon afterwards for the formation of a county out of the western portion of Henderson.

"After years of impatient waiting, the petition for such a county was presented in the General Assembly and granted in 1861. An organizing group met at James Neill's Hattery Shop on the old Boylston road near the site of the present Ecusta plant (now the site of the new Lowes store in Pisgah Forest: editor). Contrary to the custom of naming counties for prominent North Carolinians, this district received the name Transylvania, a name possibly suggested by residents who had in mind the Transylvania colony in Kentucky."

Brevard was granted a U.S. Post Office on August 28, 1868, and its first Postmaster was William W. Moore. It has been in continuous operation ever since inception.

© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved