A History of Murphy, North Carolina

Cherokee County Court House - Murphy, North Carolina

The court house serving Cherokee County is a beautiful building that is on the National Register of Historic Places and is the only court house we know of that is built of locally quarried marble.

Cherokee County Court Houses:

On January 4, 1839 Cherokee County was cut off from Macon County. The General Assembly said in the law that the court house would be built in Murphy, and they even went further, saying the court would be held on a certain day and directed the judge of the Judicial Circuit to go there and have court. Up until Cherokee County was formed this part of the country was owned and occupied by the Cherokee Indians. The Cherokee Indians on May 23, 1836 turned over all of their possessions east of the Mississippi to the government under the command of General Winfield Scott. The government established a fort known as Fort Butler, overlooking the Hiwassee River. Government laws in 1839 stated: "That until a court house and jail shall be built in said county, any of the buildings on which the Town of Murphy is situated, shall be for the use of the courts of the County, until a court house and jail shall be built."

Sometime after January 11, 1841, the very first Cherokee County Court House was built. The town had been organized and laid out in a manner that all streets met at the center of town, commonly called the Public Square or Bull Pit. Space was provided in this area for the wood and locally handmade brick court house. This building stood and was used for over twenty-four years. At this time, the court house was burnt down by Federal Troops under the command of General Kirk. There is another version of this story that historians say could have happened. Under the leadership of a Yankee deserter, Timothy Lyons, some fifty in number bushwhackers and robbers, set fire to the building to destroy records against them. Lyons and seventeen others were charged but never arrested. One historian's ending to this story suggested that the Confederate forces in Murphy caught up with the Union deserters at Hanging Dog on May 6, 1865, and fought one of the last battles of the Civil War east of the Mississippi River.

A new court house was built in the same place using the old bricks. This building had four rooms on the bottom floor for offices and one grand room upstairs for court. This building was in use about three years later.

Sometime around 1891 & '92, the county bought land on Peachtree Street, one block away from the center of town. This became the site of a much grander, roomy, and serviceable court house. The building was brick and trimmed in native marble. Believe it or not, this court house also burned down. The County Commissioners, one of them being my great-grandfather's cousin, took steps to build a fire-proof building on the same site. The present court house in Cherokee County was formally dedicated in November of 1927. The building is made of unpolished blue marble from its own county. From the top of its flag staff to the ground is 132 feet. There is a bell on top of the dome and four clocks facing each direction. This is the only court house in North Carolina made from its own county's native marble.

After over one hundred fifty years of Cherokee County's existence, three fires and five court houses, the far western county of North Carolina seems to be functioning just fine. The fire proof court house is still one block from the center of town, with court being held on a regular basis.

Winner: Civic Oration Contest, 1995
Nikol Watson, age 11 [with minor edits]

Murphy, the county seat, has the distinction of being known as both the first and last town in North Carolina, depending on which way you're going, of course. Murphy combines a rich, interesting past with a strong promising future.

Murphy began as an Indian trading post called Huntersville, then Huntington, and finally was named after Archibald D. Murphey, who was a state senator and an advocate of education in Western North Carolina.

As the railroads approached Asheville the hacks and stages were taken off. The late Pinckney Rollins ran a weekly hack line, which carried the mail, from Asheville to Murphy from about 1870, and shortly afterward changed it to a daily line. But he failed at it, and lost much money. The stopping places in 1871 were Turnpike for dinner, Waynesville for supper, where a stop was made till next day. Then to Webster for dinner and Josh Frank's, two miles east of Franklin, for supper and night. The third day took the mail through Franklin to Aquone for dinner at Stepp's, at the bridge; and to Mrs. Walker's, at Old Valley Town, for supper. The next day the trip was made to Murphy for dinner, and back that night to Old Valley Town.
Huntington was granted a U.S. Post Office on February 23, 1835 in Macon County, and Archibald R.S. Hunter was the first Postmaster. On June 13, 1839, this Post Office was renamed to Murphey in the new Cherokee County, and Archibald R. S. Hunter was still the Postmaster. Around 1880, the town's name was shortened to Murphy. The post office has been in continuous operation ever since.

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