Caswell County Genealogy
 

Smith, James McConnell

Smith, James McConnell

Male 1787 - 1856  (68 years)

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  • Name Smith, James McConnell  [1
    Born 14 Jun 1787  Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Gender Male 
    Reference Number 1049 
    Died 18 May 1856  Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Newton Academy Cemetery, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I1037  Caswell County
    Last Modified 28 Jul 2022 

    Father Smith, Captain Daniel,   b. Abt 1757, New Jersey Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 17 May 1824, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 67 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Mother Davidson, Mary,   b. 14 Oct 1760, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 29 May 1842, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 81 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Married 17 Oct 1781  Burke County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Reference Number 10100 
    Family ID F625  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Patton, Mary,   b. 7 Jan 1794, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 11 Dec 1853, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 59 years) 
    Married 28 Jun 1814  Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Reference Number 2237 
    Notes 
    • Note that Dorothy Pickett shows the marriage date as 8 June 1814 as does The Smith-McDowell House: A History, Richard W. Iobst (1977) (Western North Carolina Historical Association Republication) at 6.

      U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900
      Name: James McConnell Smith
      Gender: Male
      Birth Year: 1787
      Spouse Name: Mary Patton
      Spouse Birth Year: 1793 (apparently incorrect)
      Number Pages: 1
    Children 
     1. Smith, Harriet Eliza,   b. 24 Jul 1815, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 28 Oct 1867, Brownsville, Cameron County, Texas Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 52 years)  [natural]
     2. Smith, Ann Catherine,   b. 17 Jun 1817, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 9 Feb 1896, Greenville County, South Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 78 years)  [natural]
    +3. Smith, Mary Emeline,   b. 17 Jun 1817, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 27 Mar 1844, Limestone, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 26 years)  [natural]
    +4. Smith, Ruth Williams,   b. 2 Dec 1819, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 11 Jun 1858, Hendersonville, Henderson County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 38 years)  [natural]
    +5. Smith, Jesse Siler,   b. 24 Oct 1821, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 17 Dec 1870, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 49 years)  [natural]
     6. Smith, John Patton,   b. 24 Jun 1823, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 20 Dec 1857, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 34 years)  [natural]
    +7. Smith, Sarah Lucinda,   b. 22 May 1826, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1 Nov 1905, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 79 years)  [natural]
    +8. Smith, Elizabeth Adaline,   b. 22 Aug 1829, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1 Nov 1912, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 83 years)  [natural]
     9. Smith, Serena Hannah,   b. 21 Apr 1831, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 5 Oct 1832, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 1 years)  [natural]
     10. Smith, James McConnell Jr.,   b. 29 Aug 1833, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 22 Aug 1834  (Age 0 years)  [natural]
    +11. Smith, Jane Cordelia,   b. 27 Apr 1837, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 19 Oct 1924, Buncombe County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 87 years)  [natural]
    Last Modified 28 Jul 2022 
    Family ID F272  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 14 Jun 1787 - Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 28 Jun 1814 - Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 18 May 1856 - Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - Newton Academy Cemetery, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Photos
    Pack Memorial Library (Asheville, NC)
    James McConnell Smith Portrait
    Buck Hotel 1890s
    James McConnell Smith Signature
    Smith-McDowell House (Asheville, NC)

    Headstones
    James McConnell Smith Grave Marker (Vertical) at Newton Academy Cemetery
    James McConnell Smith Grave Marker (Vertical) at Newton Academy Cemetery
    James McConnell Smith Grave Marker (Original) at Newton Academy Cemetery
    James McConnell Smith Grave Marker (Original) at Newton Academy Cemetery
    James McConnell Smith Grave Marker at Newton Academy Cemetery
    James McConnell Smith Grave Marker at Newton Academy Cemetery

    Newspapers
    James McConnell Smith Obituary
    James McConnell Smith Grave Marker (New) at Newton Academy Cemetery
    James M. Smith Seeking Miller, Asheville Messenger (Asheville, NC), 10 Dec 1841
    James McConnell Smith Seneka Snake Root Advertisement, Asheville Messenger (Asheville, NC), 4 June 1841

  • Notes 
    • James McConnell Smith (1787-1856)

      James McConnell Smith (1787-1856)

      James M. Smith  Gravestone

      James McConnell Smith Obituary

      James M. Smith Signature

      James M. Smith Miller Advertisement Asheville Messenger (Asheville, North Carolina), 10 December 1841

      Seneka Snake Root Asheville Messenger, 4 June 1841 Friday Page 3

      (for larger image, click on photograph)
      _______________

      James McConnell Smith was born on June 14, 1787, in a log cabin near the confluence of the Swannanoa and French Broad Rivers, very near what was to become the City of Asheville. He was the son of Daniel Smith (1757-1824) and Mary McConnell Davidson (1760-1842). James McConnell Smith purportedly was the first white child (or at least among the first white children) born west of the Blue Ridge mountains. In 1825, he built the Buck Hotel, which he operated for many years (also called the Smith Hotel). Located at the northeast corner of what is today Broadway Street and College Street, this was a working-man's hotel that catered to drovers and provided for livestock to be corralled in the back. Before engaging in businesses of his own, Smith apparently clerked for James Patton, owner of the Eagle Hotel in Asheville (the city's first three-story building).

      The Buck Hotel operated as the Confederate Asheville post office during the Civil War. It eventually was demolished and replaced by the Langren Hotel. Today, a parking structure (BB&T) occupies the site (with respect which there was extensive litigation). Smith operated a store across the street from the Buck Hotel, maintained a tannery and several farms, built and for several years managed Smith's Bridge, the first bridge in what is now Buncombe County across the French Broad River, afterwards selling the bridge to Buncombe County. Smith's Bridge, initially a toll ferry, was a toll bridge and may have been the beginning of his fortune. See: A History of Buncombe County North Carolina, F. A. Sondley, LL.D. (1930) at 735.

      Daniel Smith (father of James McConnell Smith) fought in the Revolutionary War and hunted this country with his close friend Samuel Davidson prior to the Bee Tree Creek settlement. Tradition holds that James M. Smith was born in his parents' log cabin just south of present-day Aston Park in 1787. The young Smith attended the log school house operated by Rev. George Newton just east of his homeplace around 1800. Among his classmates was David Lowry Swain, who would become governor of North Carolina and President of the University of North Carolina. With the rest of the townspeople Smith probably marveled when James Patton raised his three-story Eagle Hotel with framed lumber in 1814. That same year he married James's niece, Polly Patton. By 1827 Smith had known two log courthouses at the top of South Main Street (now Biltmore Avenue) and no doubt was closely following progress on the brick one begun in 1825.

      Brick was still very much a novelty in Buncombe in those days and, with rare exception, men only dreamed of building brick houses. If Smith owned such a dream himself, as a holder of good farm land close to town along the route of the new Turnpike he was certainly in a position to fulfill that dream, for the new road presented local farmers with both immediate and distant markets for their products. But Smith realized better than most how dependent his community was on its byways: around 1834 he built the first bridge across the French Broad. The tolls he collected from those who used "Smith's Bridge" made him wealthy. Source: Cabins & Castles: The History & Architecture of Buncombe County, North Carolina, Douglas Swaim (1981) at 63.

      James McConnell Smith was heavily invested in the stock of the Buncombe Turnpike Company, and he owned a gold mine. He was a large landowner in Asheville and other parts of Buncombe County and in nearby Georgia (owning at one time some 30,000 acres in Buncombe County). He was a judge, served as Mayor of Asheville in 1849 (Chairman of the Asheville Board of Commissioners, which position eventually became mayor), and his picture for some time was displayed in the hallway outside the Asheville City Council Chambers. By the time of his death on May 18, 1856, Smith was one of the city's wealthiest and most prominent citizens. While possibly apocryphal it is said that he needed armed guards to accompany him to Charleston so he could do his banking. James McConnell Smith is remembered as a man of untiring industry, economy, and perseverance. In 1814, he married Mary "Polly" Patton of Swannanoa, and they had eleven children. Seven daughters and two sons lived to maturity.

      On 24 July 1849 James M. Smith, James W. Patton, N. W. Woodfin, William D. Rankin, and Montraville Patton were elected Asheville Commissioners. James M. Smith was elected Chairman of the Board. At this meeting by-laws and regulations governing the City of Asheville were adopted.

      James McConnell Smith is buried with his parents and along side his wife, Mary (Polly) Patton (1794-1853), in the Newton Academy Cemetery, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina in Asheville, North Carolina with the following inscription on his gravestone:

      Smith, James M.
      6/14/1787
      5/18/1856
      Husband of Polly Smith
      "In memory of"
      "He was the first child of white parentage born west of the Alleghany in the present state of North Carolina and his course of life exhibited many qualities worthey of imitation by all who come after him. He was a pattern of industry frugality energy and enterprise a useful citizen, a warm friend, and an honest man"

      Source: Newton Academy Cemetery, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina, Unadilla Avenue (just off Biltmore Avenue), Asheville, North Carolina. This is an old cemetery (established 1818) with much wear on the gravestones. James McConnell Smith (along with many of his family) originally was buried where Fernihurst mansion now stands on the campus of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. His body was removed to the Newton Academy Cemetery, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina around 1875.
      _______________

      "James M. Smith, who was raised opposite the junction of the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers, was then [1811] a sprightly young man, and had made money surveying [Andrew] Erwin's lands in Tennessee (this was in the year 1815) bought some lots from a butcher named Corn, and ceiled his hewed log cabin, with plank, and to this kept building for thirty years, and the building grew to be Buck Hotel, and Smith, before he died, to become one of the most successful merchants in Asheville."

      Source: "Who Were the Builders Up of Asheville," The Asheville Weekly Citizen (Asheville, North Carolina), 7 January 1875, Thursday, Page 2.
      _______________

      First White Child Born West of the Blue Ridge

      Except for his grave marker in the Newton Academy Cemetery, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina, no record has been found showing that James McConnell Smith or his family ever claimed that he was the first white child born west of the Blue Ridge Moutains (then called the Alleghany Mountains). However, this claim has been made for him by many over the years and has, as it probably should be, been hotly disputed. It does appear, however, that James McConnel Smith could have been among the first of the children born west of the Blue Ridge.

      "James M. Smith, Esq., now of Asheville, was the first white child born west of the Blue Ridge in the State of North Carolina." Source: Historical Sketches of North Carolina from 1584 to 1851, John H. Wheeler, Compiler (1851) at 52.

      Death Notice: Smith, James M., the first white child born west of the Blue Ridge in N.C. and one of the leading business men of Western Carolina, May 18, 1856, at his residence in Asheville (Asheville News, May 22, 1856). Source: Marriage and Death Notices from Extant Asheville, N.C. Newspapers 1840-1870, An Index, Robert M. Topkins, Compiler and Editor (1977) (1983 Reprint Edition) at 123.
      _______________

      "The First White Child" To: Editor of The Citizen-Times: My attention has been called to an article in a recent issue of The Citizen-Times in which the statement was made that James Smith, who is buried in the old Newton cemetery, was the first child born to white parents west of the Alleghany mountains, giving as the date of his birth June 14, 1787. My great-great grandfather, David Shook, was born September 19, 1786, near where the town of Clyde now stands. His father, Jacob Shook, a Revolutionary soldier, settled here shortly after the close of the war. David Shook died July 21, 1882. According to the dates, David Shook was almost a year old when James Smith was born. W. E. Shook, Clyde, N. C. (January 11, 1940).

      Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, North Carolina), 14 January 1940.
      _______________

      "A Point of Local History" To: Editor of The Citizen-Times: I note in your issue of February 7 the article by Mr. G. M. Garren of Raleigh, with reference to the date of the birth of James M. Smith, the first child born of white parentage west of the Blue Ridge in North Carolina. The date of the birth of James M. Smith, June 14, 1787, as given by Mr. Douglas Brookshire in his article recently published in your paper on the old Newton Academy Cemetery, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina, and taken from the picture of Smith's grave marker, is the correct date. This is borne out by the records in an old family Bible now in the possession of Miss Mary McDowell of 413 Biltmore avenue, Asheville. Miss McDowell is a granddaughter of James M. Smith, her mother having been Miss Sarah L. Smith, previous to her marriage to Major W. W. McDowell.

      Certainly the date of the birth of James M. Smith has a historical rating, as for more than three-quarters of a century his record has stood as having been the first white child born west of the Alleghanies in North Carolina, and has, heretofore, been unchallenged. Having known Dr. F. A. Sondley personally, and being aware of his extreme carefulness as to the accuracy of is statements, the writer feels certain that the wrong date of Smith's birth as found in Volume II, page 748, of Sondley's History of Buncombe County, was not Dr. Sondley's fault. The error undoubtedly crept in his manuscripts, or in the proof reading. This history was published several years after the death of Dr. Sondley, and thus he was denied the privilege of correction himself. Deeply interested in our wealth of local history, I wish to add the above data and facts for the benefit of Mr. Garren, and others who may also be interested. Mrs. Ella Reed Matthews, Asheville, N. C.

      Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, North Carolina), 11 February 1940.
      _______________

      "The First White Child" To: Editor of The Citizen-Times: All who are interested in the history of Buncombe county should not let go unsettled the question whether James M. Smith was the first white child born of English-speaking parents west of the Blue Ridge in North Carolina, as we always have been taught. February 11, 1940, Mrs. Ella Reed Matthews in her well written and informing communication to the press, established definitely the date of Smith's birth by reference to Smith's family record yet in the possession of one of is descendants. This birth date, June 14, 1787, corrects the erroneous date given in Dr. Sondley's history. But all this does not disprove W. E. Shook's claim that his great-grandfather, David Shook, born September 19, 1786, was the first. He is correct and we shall have to surrender our claim for James M. Smith if he can establish definitely the birth date of his ancestor, David Shook. W. C. Allen in his book, "The Annals of Haywood County," gives the same date for the birth of David Shook. In a letter to the writer, dated December 30, 1937, Mr. Allen says: "As to family records, the information is largely personal contacts, from family records, family Bible records, and interviews with older members of families." An attempt to disprove family records of this kind would call for an immense amount of research work and in all probability prove a failure. Are there any other facts to be submitted on this historical question? Let us hear from those who have them.

      This discussion provokes the suggestion that we ought to have some sort of organization to preserve in correct form current events that would probably prove essential material for future compilers of our local history. This is the day of elaborate obituaries of prominent men. The recent obituaries of Mark Erwin, Henry Bartlett, and J. J. Britt are examples. All such obituaries are not only direct sources of historical material but suggest other sources. Then leading men who have for a long life been connected with any of our public institutions should be persuaded to record their reminiscences in permanent form. I have in mind Dr. Campbell of the First Presbyterian church of Asheville. His reminiscences of Asheville in general and of the First Presbyterian church in particular would prove invaluable to our future local historians. All this material should be collected and corrected and filed in suitable archives in our public libraries where it would be easily accessable [sic] to future students of our local history. G. M. Garren, Raleigh, N. C.

      Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, North Carolina), 16 June 1940.
      _______________

      "Today and Yesterday" by James H. Caine

      There are legions of Smiths in Asheville, as in all other American cities; you can find 400 in the city directory, and nearly 100 are listed in the telephone book. But the particular Smith we have in mind never enjoyed the luxury of a phone, or indeed luxuries of any kind that one can recall. In the days when one first knew him--some 38 years ago--the automobile was by no means a familiar sight on Asheville streets. He earned a living of sorts by operating a street hack, or "prowler" at night after the last trolley car had gone to the barn. His Christian name, as far as this writer is concerned, is buried in the Limbo of forgotten things; he was just "Smith" to all and sundry who needed his services.

      He was an unusually religious man, and when he wasn't driving his hack he did a little preaching on the side. He knew the Bible "from kiver to kiver," and he could quote verse and chapter on the slightest provocation. His favorite chapter was the story of Naomi and Ruth.

      Smith practiced what he preached; he gave no aid or comfort to Satan or any of his tribe. In other words, he refused fares that called for excursions into realms of ill repute; though by doing so he could have greatly increased his nightly "takes." Occasionally he would regale his passengers with dissertations on the evils of sin, and on the certain punishment awaiting transgressors. Whether he be in or out of the flesh we know not; but it is more than likely that the Smith we knew has long since joined his pioneer grandfather in the shadows that lurk behind the drapery of the tomb.

      All of which brings to mind the night of the great fire that in 1909 destroyed the first Kenilworth Inn when we drew Smith for a driver, with the fervent hope and prayer that his old horse would reach the scene of the conflagration before it was all over. As we clopped past the old Newton Academy and the cemetery adjoining, Smith sprang a surprise with the nonchalant remark: "My grandpappy was buried up there. HE WAS THE FIRST CHILD OF WHITE PARENTS BORN WEST OF THE BLUE RIDGE." (In North Carolina.) Then one knew that we were in the presence of a direct descendant of a departed celebrity. Of course, it was known of all men in and around this section that there was no disputing this claim. Was there not, and is there not now a little stone marker in the old cemetery bearing the following:

      "In Memory Of
      JAMES M. SMITH
      Born 14th June, 1737,
      Died 18th May, 1856.
      He was the first child
      of white parentage born
      West of the Alleghany in
      the present state of
      North Carolina."

      We were reminded of all this by the receipt of a clipping from a recent issue of The Gastonia Gazette containing an article on this subject by Editor James W. Atkins. During a two weeks' vacation in this city, where Mr. Atkins was born, it-doesn't-matter-how-many-years-ago, he visited the cemetery previously mentioned and saw the dismounted marker in a sad state of decay. He conceived the idea that a marker in a better state of preservation would more fittingly honor the memory of the departed pioneer, and in his own paper Mr. Atkins advocated its restoration. It is quite likely that the Buncombe County Historical Society will do something about it. Why not? Buncombe county is not overburdened with fitting memorials to her historical figures.

      Source: Asheville Citizen, 31 October 1943.
      _______________

      "The Oldest House in Asheville" - The oldest house in Asheville, above, stands at 283 Victoria Road. Built before 1842 by James M. Smith, the first child of white parentage born west of the Blue Ridge in North Carolina, the ancient structure is the property of the Herman Gudger estate and is now the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Wray S. Gudger. Its builder is buried in the Newton Academy Cemetery, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina on Biltmore Avenue, a picture of the headstone on his grave appearing at bottom. Smith was born within the present boundaries of the City of Asheville, June 14, 1787, and died May 18, 1856. The inscription on the headstone reads: "He was the first child of white parentage born west of the Alleghany in the present state of North Carolina and his course of life exhibited many qualities of industry frugality energy and enterprise a useful citizen, a warm friend, and an honest man." (Photo at top by Charles A. Greene, courtesy Mrs. W. S. Nettles. Lower photo from the Russell Davis Collection.)

      Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, North Carolina), 26 February 1950.
      _______________

      James Smith Empire

      Because his family had originally settled on the fertile bottomlands along the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers, James Smith was well positioned to capitalize on the drover-based economy. He gradually purchased more than 30,000 acres along the French Broad River, ranging from the area around Smith-McDowell House and present day Biltmore Estate, across northwest Buncombe County, and into what is today Madison County. His two farms provided corn that he could sell to the drovers. This provided income to purchase the ferry along the French Broad River, as discussed previously, and his strategically placed acreage along the river protected him from competition. By reinvesting his ferry income into the only bridge on the French Broad River, he created a literal "gold mine." Smith used the money generated by his bridge to build the Buck Hotel and tavern that catered to drovers. Their animals could stay at his barn and swine-yard (located at what is today Pritchard Park) where, of course, the feed was supplied from his plantations. If paid in animals, Smith's tannery on South Main Street could cure the hides. Wagons could be repaired by his waggoner or his blacksmith shop. His sawmill could provide planks for the road or lumber for construction in the expanding city of Asheville. Smith also opened a general mercantile store in the center of Asheville. Records indicated that the store was in operation by 1840. He sold, or bartered skins, "seasonable goods," clothing, beeswax, tools, shoes, jewelry, food stuffs, medicines, hardware, glass and crockery, cigars, chewing tobacco, books, hats, umbrellas, glass, and more.

      In 1851, Smith formed a partnership with his son-in-law, William Wallace McDowell, and renamed the store the Smith & McDowell Mercantile. The Mercantile sold fine clothing and other luxurious items, but seemed to do best on staple goods. According to the 1850 census, Smith owned forty-four slaves in town. Other records indicate that he also had slaves working on his two plantations, making him one of the largest slave owners in Western North Carolina at the time. According to records and oral tradition, Smith's slaves were highly skilled and worked at his many businesses. The money accumulated from these numerous ventures made Smith one of the wealthiest men in the area, wealthy enough to buy a gold mine in Georgia and to build a brick mansion south of town as a second residence (now known as Smith-McDowell House). Smith was elected to serve as both judge and mayor of Asheville. He also was a Director of the Greenville & Columbia Railroad Company, supporting the expansion of the railroad system into Western North Carolina (this expansion was stopped by the Civil War). When Smith died in 1859, to say that he had been one of the most influential businessmen in North Carolina-as his obituary claimed-was not an understatement.
      _______________

      Smith's Bridge

      Some have reported that the Smith Bridge over the French Broad River was on the Buncombe Turnpike. Query whether this is correct. The Smith Bridge was near what today is the Craven Street Bridge over the French Broad River. Note that Craven Street becomes Haywood Street east of the river. However, farmers and others west of the French Broad River who wished to use the Buncombe Turnpike would have found Smith's Bridge a convenient route to the Buncombe Turnpike, which ran through the center of Asheville. Did the turnpike swing so far west as to cross the French Broad River using the Smith Bridge? This would have made little sense as the river would have to be crossed again just a few miles south. The turnpike most likely continued through Asheville on what today is Biltmore Avenue and crossed the much shallower and narrower Swannanoa River near today's Biltmore Estate.
      _______________

      One of the most interesting phases of early transportation is the method of crossing large rivers and creeks. For many years after white occupancy commenced not a bridge was built over the French Broad River in North Carolina. For some years the only way of passing that stream was by fording or swimming. Then Captain Edmund Sams established where Smith's Bridge [was located] at Asheville the first ferry on the French Broad in North Carolina. After a while he sold this ferry to John Jarrett and then John Jarrett sold it to James M. Smith who, later, built there Smith's Bridge which, after somewhile, he sold to Buncombe County. Source: A History of Buncombe County North Carolina, F. A. Sondley, LL.D. (1930) at 602.

      On August 28-30, 1852, a freshet had done considerable damage in the valleys of these rivers and washed away on the French Broad the bridge at Captain Wiley Jones's near the mouth of Hominy Creek, Smith's Bridge at Asheville, Garmon's Bridge at what is now Craggy, Alexander's Bridge at French Broad (now Alexander) and Chunn's Bridge and the Warm Springs Bridge in Madison County, and on the Swannanoa Patton's Bridge about half a mile above the mouth of that stream. Source: Asheville and Buncombe County, F. A. Sondley (1922) at 183.

      On August 28-39, 1852, a freshet had done much injury in the valleys of the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers. It washed away on the French Broad, among others, Smith Bridge at Asheville. Source: A History of Buncombe County North Carolina, F. A. Sondley, LL.D. (1930) at 736.

      The bridge, rebuilt of course, was destroyed by the 1916 flood: The old Smith Bridge was the first principle bridge to fold under. The immeasurable strength of the water crushed the middle span of irons,shortly followed by the remaining spans. Ultimately, all were swept down the river and sank to the bottom. Source: Asheville: A Postcard History, Volume I, Sue Greenberg and Jan Kahn (1997) at 119.

      At one time Smith's Bridge was Henderson's Ford. See: A History of Buncombe County North Carolina, F. A. Sondley, LL.D. (1930) at 491.

      Smith's Bridge (ca. 1917), W. Haywood Street at Riverside Drive, Asheville: Reinforced concrete bridge built after the 1916 flood to replace an iron bridge erected at about the same place in 1881. Captain Edmund Sams operated the first commercial ferry across the French Broad at the site during the early years of the 19th century. Later John Jarrett operated the ferry. He sold it with the adjoining land to James M. Smith who built a wooden bridge at the site. Thus the name, Smith's Bridge. The present concrete bridge, which spans the river on four arches supported by three mid-river piers, has been closed to traffic and is scheduled for demolition. Source: Cabins & Castles: The History & Architecture of Buncombe County, North Carolina, Douglas Swaim (1981) at 170.

      When John Jarrett bought the Sams ferry he kept it for many years as a toll ferry, and it became kilown as Jarrett's Ferry. Subsequently he sold it with the adjoining land to the late James M. Smith, who built a bridge at the place, which was known for many years, and up till a very late period, as Smith's Bridge. This he continued to keep up as a toll bridge until the latter part of his life, when he sold the bridge to the county, by which it was made a public or county bridge. The eastern end of the bridge was somewhat higher up the river than the eastern end of the iron bridge which succeeded it, but the western ends of the two were at the same place. In 1881 this bridge was removed to make room for an iron structure, which was destroyed by a flood in 1916, but its old foundations were yet plainly to be seen for many years. Source: Asheville and Buncombe County, F. A. Sondley (1922) at 98.

      The Western North Carolina Railroad was the first to reach Asheville. This was in 1881. Its first depot in the place was a frame building erected for the purpose where West Haywood Street crosses that railroad in the vicinity of the old Smith's Bridge place. Source: Asheville and Buncombe County, F. A. Sondley (1922) at 170.
      _______________

      "A Tale of Two Bridges: How the Smith-McDowell House is Tied to Spans of the French Broad River" by John Turk

      Smith's Bridge

      How did the builder of the Smith-McDowell House make his money? The old-fashioned way: he earned it. At first his fortune was based upon real estate; in 1826, he bought the land on which he would later build the house. But this was just the beginning. While he eventually built an empire based on earnings from his hotel, general store, and other enterprises, his first real moneymaker was a bridge.

      In the 1820s, the Buncombe Turnpike was constructed to replace and organize myriad trails used to herd livestock from Tennessee and North Carolina to railroad connections in South Carolina. In Buncombe County, a good deal of this turnpike ran along the east bank of the French Broad River. Smith immediately identified a problem: How do the thousands of small farmers on the west side of the river get their livestock across the river so they can hook up with the turnpike? His solution: build a bridge.

      Smith's Bridge was constructed in the early 1830s. According to Dr. Richard W. Iobst's The Smith-McDowell House: A History, it was a simple wooden bridge with wooden railings and a plank floor resting on stone pilings. Smith charged tolls ranging from 50 cents for a loaded four-horse wagon to one cent for a hog. (Remember that these are 1830s dollars!)

      Eventually there would be competition from other bridges, but for at least ten years Smith's bridge was the only way across. Smith maintained his bridge until the mid-1850s, when he sold it to Buncombe County. After the Civil War, Smith's bridge experienced periods of gradual deterioration and temporary repairs. In 1881 it was removed and replaced by an iron structure. That bridge was washed away in the flood of 1916 and was replaced with a seven-span concrete arch bridge in 1917. This last bridge was closed to traffic in 1978 and replaced with the present I-240 bridge.

      The West Asheville Bridge

      In February of 1898, Robert Garrett's daughter Mary was wed in the Smith-McDowell House. The groom was Robert Pulliam Johnston, who was bon in 1870 in Burnsville and moved to Asheville in 1881. After graduating from West Point in 1891, he was assigned to the Engineers Corps and served in the Spanish-American War and then Stateside. Eventually, disillusioned by the realities of military life, he resigned from the army and returned to Asheville.

      When it became obvious that Smith's bridge was not sufficient to handling the increasing flow of traffic across the French Broad River, Johnston was commissioned to design and construct a second one: the West Asheville Bridge, completed in 1911. Its soaring concrete arches and extended entry ramps crossed the river in the vicinity of Haywood and Clingman roads--less than half a mile south of Smith's Bridge.

      Johnston's was the only bridge to survive the massive flood of 1916, but in 1972 it was dynamited to make room for the New West Asheville Bridge.

      Source: WNCHA News: Newsletter of the Western North Carolina Historical Association, September/October 2009, Pages 2-3.
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      Smith-McDowell House

      Around 1840, James McConnell Smith built what today is known as the Smith-McDowell House located at 283 Victoria Road in Asheville, North Carolina, for his young son John Patton Smith who never married and died in 1857. The house stands on property that was one of the land grants opening Western North Carolina to permanent settlement after the Revolutionary War. The plans for the house were brought from England. The brick walls are 18 inches thick, and some of the bricks were made in England, brought over as ballast on ships coming to Charleston, South Carolina. The bricks were then transported to Asheville by oxen teams. In all probability the house was built by slaves owned by James McConnell Smith. It is an outstanding house and is opened as a museum today. This house and all of the adjoining land was willed to his son John Patton Smith (1823-1857) and his heirs, however, John Patton Smith died without heirs nineteen months after the death of his father. In 1858 the house was purchased at auction by a daughter of James McConnell Smith, Sarah Lucinda Smith (1826-1905), and her husband, William Wallace McDowell. They and their family lived in the house until 1881. Economic difficulties arising after the Civil War forced them to sell the house and many more assets.

      The following is from Cabins & Castles: The History & Architecture of Buncombe County, North Carolina, Douglas Swaim (1981) at 67-68:

      Two important brick structures from the 1840s survive in the city of Asheville. The Smith-McDowell House and Ravenscoft School (Downtown Historic District) are probably the oldest buildings in Asheville and definitely the oldest brick buildings in the county. The Smith-McDowell House is an impressive two-story, double-pile plan, five-bay mansion which features a double-tier porch semi-engaged beneath an extension of its gable roof. Its brick walls are laid in Flemish bond. Paired chimneys are interior to its three-bay gable ends. Much of the dwelling's original Greek Revival interior woodwork was replaced early in this century during a thorough Neo-Classical style remodeling. In the delicacy of the porch, however, supported by twelve slender, fluted columns, the retardataire Federal character that dominated the building's exterior remains strong.

      This fine dwelling was built, appropriately enough, for first native-born western North Carolinian James McConnell Smith. Smith, you will recall, bought prime farmland surrounding the confluence of the Swannanoa and French Broad rivers about the time the Buncombe Turnpike opened through that land. He also operated a ferry and, later, the first bridge across the French Broad, built and operated Asheville's third hotel, the Buck Hotel, and engaged in several mercantile enterprises. In 1850 he owned sixty-six slaves, more than anyone else in the county.

      Smith built the house around 1848 when he was sixty-one, but there is no conclusive evidence that he ever lived in it himself. He had another residence in town and this brick mansion was probably considered his "farm house." A two-story brick structure which survives serval hundred yards to the southwest is thought to have quartered some of his slaves.

      James M. Smith died in 1856, leaving the brick house to his son Joseph P. Smith. William Wallis McDowell, grandson of Revolutionary hero Major Joseph McDowell and son-in-law of James M. Smith, bought the property in 1858 and occupied the house until 1881.
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      "The Oldest House in Asheville" - The oldest house in Asheville, above, stands at 283 Victoria Road. Built before 1842 by James M. Smith, the first child of white parentage born west of the Blue Ridge in North Carolina, the ancient structure is the property of the Herman Gudger estate and is now the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Wray S. Gudger. Its builder is buried in the Newton Academy Cemetery, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina on Biltmore Avenue, a picture of the headstone on his grave appearing at bottom. Smith was born within the present boundaries of the City of Asheville, June 14, 1787, and died May 18, 1856. The inscription on the headstone reads: "He was the first child of white parentage born west of the Alleghany in the present state of North Carolina and his course of life exhibited many qualities of industry frugality energy and enterprise a useful citizen, a warm friend, and an honest man." (Photo at top by Charles A. Greene, courtesy Mrs. W. S. Nettles. Lower photo from the Russell Davis Collection.)

      Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, North Carolina), 26 February 1950.
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      "His [Daniel Smith's] son, James McConnell Smith, built the Smith-McDowell House, ... located on the A-B Tech campus. This tract remained in the Smith family until sold...in 1875. (1989. McDowell, Frances. A History of Fernihurst, p. 1)

      "The Smith-McDowell House was built by James McConnell Smith about 1840 for his younger son John Patton Smith. ...James never lived in this house."

      Smith-McDowell House Chain of Title.
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      Smith-McDowell House was originally called "Buck House," presumably after James McConnell Smith's lucrative downtown venture, the Buck Hotel. The house was built in the 1840s at the height of Smith's success. For its time and place it was a mansion, an architectural statement of power and prestige. The family's main dwelling remained in downtown Asheville, near the hotel and his other businesses. This was considered his country house or summer place, a luxury only the wealthiest could afford. It also may have been intended to be lived in by one of his children.

      Brick homes were costly to build compared to wooden structures and were rarely found on the frontier. Buck House stood out quite prominently on the hilltop in what was at that time a mostly rural landscape. The home consisted of eight major rooms, ten fireplaces and a double level porch on the front of the house, as often seen in the South. It was built in the then-popular Federal style, with an emphasis on symmetry in room layout and decoration combined with classical elements such as Greek columns. Like most homes of its time, it contained no bathrooms or closets. A large summer kitchen was in a separate structure behind the house, while a winter kitchen was in the basement.

      The rural estate was also a working farm, with many outbuildings including slave housing, barns, and workshops. The grand house served both as a showpiece and as a headquarters to supervise Smith's agricultural enterprises.

      Source: Smith-McDowell House Museum.
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      The Buck Hotel

      In 1825 James M. Smith built and managed the Buck Hotel, a log and frame structure located just north of the Public Square [now Pack Square] on what is now the site of the parking garage at Broadway and College Street. . . . By 1842 the hamlet was acquiring the look of a town. . . . On North Main Street [Broadway Street] the visitor would find the Buck Hotel, which was partly logs and frame, a livery stable, a blacksmith shop, a tanyard, and a "few old houses." . . . Other major hotels completed in the teens [1910s] were the Langren, which occupied the Broadway site of James Smith's old Buck Hotel.

      Source: Cabins & Castles: The History & Architecture of Buncombe County, North Carolina, Douglas Swaim (1981) at 35, 36, and 88.

      This ancient hostelry was built by the late James M. Smith and stood where the new Langren hotel now stands. It was the first hotel west of the Blue Ridge, but when it was built is not stated in "Asheville's Centenary" (1898), the best authority we have on local ancient history. He was the son of Col. Daniel Smith of New Jersey, who died May 17, 1824, aged 67. James M. was born January 7, 1794 [thought incorrect], near the present Asheville passenger depot. His mother was Mary, a daughter of William Davidson, a cousin of Gen. William Davidson, who was killed at Cowan's Ford. It was Gen. Davidson's brother Samuel who was killed by the Indians at the head of Swannanoa in 1781-82. James M. Smith married Polly Patton, a daughter of Col. John Patton, who was a merchant, hotel keeper, manufacturer, farmer, tanner, large landowner, and very wealthy. The Buck hotel stood, till about 1907, when it was removed. In the 1890s it became Mrs. Evans's Boarding House.

      The Langren Hotel. This fine structure of reinforced concrete was finished and thrown open July 4, 1912. It is near the Pack Square, Asheville, and stands on the much litigated Smith property on the [northeast] corner of North Main [now Broadway Street] and College sreets, where formerly stood the old Buck hotel. It is a commercial and tourist hotel, and popular. Source: Western North Carolina: A History from 1730-1913, John Preston Arthur (1914) at 491 and 507.

      From 1803 to 1844 the number of buildings in Asheville nearly doubled. But that is saying very little when we consider that in the latter year there were less than a score; and all of these were either on or near Main Street. In the year 1844, there was no building on the east side of Main Street [now Broadway Street], between the old Buck Hotel and Woodfin Street. There was a small building on the Woodfin Place which is now used as a kitchen. Mr. Peter Stradley had a blacksmith shop on the ground where the Carolina House now stands; he lived in a house back of the shop. Source: The Standard Guide to Asheville and Western North Carolina, Published by Fred L. Jacobs, Asheville, N.C. (1887) at 14.

      In 1871, the name was changed to Trout House.

      "Asheville Hotels," Weekly Pioneer, Thursday, 7 September 1871

      (for larger image, click on photograph)
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      Source: "Asheville Hotels," Weekly Pioneer, Thursday, 7 September 1871.

      By 1883, the name of the hotel had been changed to the Central Hotel. Source: The Asheville City Directory and Gazetteer of Buncombe County for 1883-'84, J. P. Davison, Compiler (1883) at 121.

      Buck Hotel Letter to Editor 1906 (Asheville Gazette-News).
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      From his office, [Glenn] Wilcox has been watching demolition of the parking garage across College Street where he and new partner John McKibbon have plans for an AC Marriot Hotel. McKibbon previously developed the Aloft Hotel on Biltmore Avenue only two blocks away.

      After the AC opens in July 2016, Wilcox and McKibbon will turn their attention to a rehab of the 50-year-old BB&T Building into a boutique hotel and luxury condos on the top floors.

      Wilcox dismisses worries that Asheville is building a glut of downtown hotels. "If you build it, they will come. It's all 'location, location, location.' John McKibbon told me I had the two most promising properties in the Southeast."

      And he finds irony in the fact that the AC Hotel will fit the same footprint as the former Langren Hotel demolished a half century ago. "We tore down a eight-story hotel to build a parking garage, and then we tore down a parking garage to build a nine-story hotel."

      Source: "With View From the Top, Wilcox Keeps Faith in Future" by Dale Neal, Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, North Carolina), 16 February 2015.
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      The Buncombe Turnpike

      In 1824, the legislature of North Carolina incorporated The Buncombe Turnpike Company under the control of James Patton, Samuel Chunn, and George Swain. The Company had an authorized capital stock of $50,000 at $50 a share. The initial work on the Turnpike Company included surveys of the land. By 1827, the Buncombe Turnpike was completed and was considered the finest road in North Carolina. The Turnpike led from the Poinsett Road on the state line, through the Saluda Gap, by way of Flat Rock and Hendersonville, across the Asheville plateau to the Buncombe County Courthouse in Asheville, down the gorge of the French Broad River to Warm Springs, and just north at Paint Rock where it joined the Tennessee Road. The entire road was seventy-five miles in length.

      James McConnell Smith purportedly was heavily invested in the Buncombe Turnpike, and he certainly profited handsomely from its traffic.

      In 1824 Asheville received her greatest impetus. In that year the Legislature of North Carolina incorporated the now famous but abandoned Buncombe Turnpike road, directing James Patton, Samuel Chunn and George Swain to receive Subscriptions "for the purpose of laying out and making a turnpike road from the Saluda Gap, in the County of Buncombe, by way of Smith's, Murrayville, Asheville and the Warm Springs, to the Tennessee line." (2 Rev. Stat. of N. C., page 418.) This great thoroughfare [of some 75 miles] was completed in 1828, and brought a stream of travel through Western North Carolina. All the attacks upon the legality of the act establishing it were overruled by the Supreme Court of the State, and Western North Carolina entered through it upon a career of marvellous prosperity, which continued for many years. Source: Asheville and Buncombe County, F. A. Sondley; Genesis of Buncombe County, Theodore F. Davidson (1922) at 112.

      The Buncombe Turnpike, described as the best road in North Carolina in its day, was opened between Greenville, Tennessee, and Greenville, South Carolina, in 1827. The opening of the Turnpike ended Buncombe's frontier isolation and ushered in the region's first era of relative prosperity. James McConnell Smith, son of settler Daniel Smith and reportedly the first white child born west of the Blue Ridge in North Carolina, turned forty in 1827. His two score years coincided with the heyday of log building in Buncombe and can serve to recapitulate some history on the far side of the divide. Source: Cabins & Castles: The History & Architecture of Buncombe County, North Carolina, Douglas Swaim (1981) at 63.

      The General Assembly in 1819 created a Board of Internal Improvement. Under this board steps were taken for a few long over-due roads in the mountain section. Appropriations were made for a highway from Old Fort to Asheville and for a turnpike along the French Broad River that would connect Greenville, South Carolina, with Greenville, Tennessee, passing through Asheville and Warm Springs. This road, known as the Buncombe Turnpike, was begun in 1824 and completed three years later. It was to be a major factor in the life and progress of Western North Carolina for many years and was, for some time, the finest road in North Carolina. Source; Western North Carolina: Its Mountains and Its People to 1880, Ora Blackmun (1977) at 202-203.

      Whether the Buncombe Turnpike crossed Smith's Bridge is not known, but is doubtful because the turnpike is believed to generally follow the route of what today is US Highway 25, which would have run through the center of Asheville. There would have been no need to cross Smith's Bridge, which was located further to the west than the drovers needed to go. Smith's Buck Hotel was, however, situated almost directly on the Buncombe Turnpike, and he undoubtedly benefited from the traffic.
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      The following is from Cabins & Castles: The History & Architecture of Buncombe County, North Carolina, Douglas Swaim (1981) at 188:

      "It is unclear whether the Buncombe Turnpike, established in 1827, followed the path of present-day Broadway along the Reed Creek and north out of Asheville; however, the roadway was definitely in use, and known as N. Main Street, long before the Civil War. Early structures on present-day Broadway included James Smith's log and frame Buck Hotel, built around 1830 close to the square, and Israel Baird's brick and frame residence, later a hotel, built in 1842 on the southwest corner of Broadway and Cherry Street."

      See: Buncombe Turnpike.
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      Roster of City Commissioners From 1849

      1849 - July 24. James M. Smith, James W. Patton, N. W. Woodfin, William D. Rankin and Montraville Patton were elected Commissioners of the City of Asheville. James M. Smith was elected Chairman of the Board. At this meeting by-laws and regulations for governing the City of Asheville were adopted. Source: Pack Memorial Library

      Note that Montraville Patton was the brother-in-law of James McConnell Smith, and it is possible that James W. Patton was a first cousin of Mary (Polly) Patton, wife of James McConnell Smith.
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      Georgia Land and Gold Mine

      A number of historians have referred to real estate and a gold mine owned by James McConnell Smith in Georgia. The following is from his will (Asheville, North Carolina, 9 February 1850):

      My lands and gold min[e] in Rabun County in the State of Georgia I devise to my executors in trust for the use and benefit of all my children equally, the four children of my deceased daughter, Mary Emeline Shuford, taking one share, or ninth part, the property to be held for twenty-five years without sale or division.

      Rabun County is the most northeasterly county in Georgia and borders North Carolina. It was created in 1819 from the cession of Cherokee Indian territory. Georgia's 47th county was named for Governor William Rabun, the state's 11th governor.
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      Slave Ownership

      "In Western North Carolina some farms along the rivers east of the Blue Ridge were large enough to warrant slave labor. but the census of 1790 showed that even in that area slaves made up a small percentage of the population. . . . In the newer and more westerly counties a few owners of extensive lands worked their fields with slave labor. . . . Robert Love of Haywood County owned at least a hundred slaves, and James McConnel Smith of Buncombe County worked seventy-five slaves on each of two of his farms. Other men living in the fertile mountain valleys found it profitable to own slaves, but they were the exception. Most of the settlers neigher owned nor could afford to own slaves, although some, especially those living in the towns and villages, might have an occasional house servant. The Negro population in the mountains was, therefore, almost negligible." Source: Western North Carolina: Its Mountains and Its People to 1880, Ora Blackmun (1977) at 195 (citing lists of slaves among the McDowell family papers in the possession of Miss Margaret Ligon of Asheville).

      The 1850 will of James McConnell Smith listed many slaves. See below.
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      Slaves at the Smith-McDowell House

      How were slaves at the Smith-McDowell House treated? We don’t really know. The only evidence we have comes from census records, wills, and oral family traditions. At the height of his power, James Smith owned between 40 and 70 slaves. In the census of 1850 he claimed 44 slaves - 30 male, 14 female - ranging in age from one to 66. Three were listed as “Mulatto,” the rest as “Black.” While many would have worked the fields during planting and harvest, primarily they worked in Smith’s store, hotel, and tannery; manned his bridge; or worked in his houses. The female slaves were cooks, weavers, child carers, and house servants. Many were skilled craftsmen, whom Smith frequently “rented out” to his neighbors.

      James Smith died in 1856. In his will he mentions many slaves by name:

      "Also I give and bequeath to my said wife Polly during her natural life the following Negro slaves. Bob (the tanner) and his wife, Linda and their children, Alexander Sy (the blacksmith), Bob Hardin, Catherine and Betsy, also Moses. . . . I also give and bequeath to [eldest] son John P. Smith the following Negros, Joe (the wagoner) and his wife Tilda and her children, Alfred, Joe, Mary, Jane, and Vina."

      According to the census of 1850, son John owned 15 slaves ranging in age from one to 55. But after inheriting some of his father's slaves and the house that is now our museum, John Smith died just one year later. He left no will, so further information on his slaves is lacking. Without any legal heir, the house went for sale on the open market. It was bought by Smith's business partner and son-in-law, William Wallace McDowell. According to the 1850 census, McDowell owned 11 slaves, about half male and half female. But by the 1860 census-just before the Civil War-he owned 40.

      Among McDowell's slaves was a talented blacksmith named George Avery. According to family tradition, in the early spring of 1865, sensing that the Civil War would soon be lost, McDowell freed Avery and encouraged him to travel north and join the Union Army. In April of 1865 Avery enlisted in the 40th U.S. Colored Troop. After the war he returned to Asheville and became superintendent of the Asheville Colored Cemetery, which was first used as a cemetery for McDowell slaves. The McDowells also provided Avery with land and the lumber to construct a home. Avery died in 1944 at the age of 97.

      Three of McDowell's former slaves continued to work as paid servants after the war: Louisa Bradley as a housemaid, Demoriah McGimesy as a cook, and John Miller as a handyman.

      The question as to the treatment of slaves by the Smiths and McDowells remains. But there is this: one of the most horrific aspects of slavery was the forced splitting of families. It does appear that James Smith made every effort to keep his slaves’ families intact - even after his death.

      Source: WNCHA News: Newsletter of the Western North Carolina Historical Association, May/June 2010, Page 5.
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      Tannery

      According to historian F. A. Sondley, James McConnell Smith operated a tanyard (tannery) "where is now the junction of Southside and Coxe Avenue . . ." Some maps show a stream at this location that runs south/southwesterly and empties into the French Broad River. This should help place the enterprise because tanneries required water. Because of the foul odor generated, tanneries usually were consigned to the outskirts of town. This stream probably is that today called Town Branch. See: A History of Buncombe County North Carolina, F. A. Sondley, LL.D. (1930) at 748.

      That stream is described by Sondley as follows:

      On the other side of French Broad River going from Swannanoa River in the direction of Asheville the first stream of considerable size is that now crossed three times by Southside Avenue and called sometimes "Cripple Creek." It was known as the Big Branch at the time when Asheville's site was chosen for that of the county town of Buncombe in 1792. Later a man named Gash owned land on that branch, living on that land near the entrance of McDowell Street into South Main Street, where was for many years later the Gash burying-ground. For a long while the branch was called Gash's Creek. Later it acquired the name of "Town Branch" and finally the senseless appellation of "Cripple Creek. Source: Asheville and Buncombe County, F. A. Sondley (1922) at 40-41.

      The Big Branch mentioned in this report [to determine the county seat of Buncombe County] is that which a short while after became known as Gash's Creek, and in later years was called Town Branch. and is now commonly known by the meaningless name of Cripple Creek. It is the stream which runs by the passenger station at Asheville.

      Source: Asheville and Buncombe County, F. A. Sondley (1922) at 74.
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      Will of James McConnell Smith

      To see the complete will, including the codicils go to: James McConnell Smith Will.

      Set forth below is an abstract of the will:

      James McConnell Smith of Buncombe County, North Carolina (Will Book A, Pages 171-180)
      Wife: Polly
      Children: daughters Ann Catharine Crook; Ruth W. Ripley; Harriet Eliza Brown; Mary Emeline Shuford (deceased); Sarah L. McDowell; Elizabeth Adaline Smith; Lucinda Smith; Jane Cordelia Smith; sons John P. Smith; Jesse J. [S.] Smith.
      Grandchildren: children of my son Jesse S. Smith; four children of deceased Mary Shuford (Marcus L. H.; Mary Eliz.; James Martin; Harriet L.)
      Slaves: Bob (the tanner); Hardin? and his wife Lidia and her children; Alexander, Sy (the blacksmith) [here is written Bob Hardin, cattleman and Betsy], also Moses; man George (the show snakes) his wife Louiza and her child William; girl Carolina, Daughter of Lillia; Miles and Charles (sons of George); Alford; Susan; Lucy Ann and Tom (the miller); Joe (the waggoner) and his wife Tilda and her children; Alford; Joe; Mary Jane; Vina; Peter; Charles (son of Clara?) and Rabb; Caroline (child of ?ansela); Jeff and his wife; Mary and her child Samuel; Martha; Henry; Julia Ann; Carna; George her children; "my old man Philip."
      Other: "my lands & gold mine in Rabun Co., Georgia"
      Executors: Honorable David L. Swain of Chapel Hill and my sons-in-law Valentine Ripley and William McDowell and my son John J. [P.] Smith.
      Witnesses: John E. Patton; J---- Burgin; M. Patton
      Signed: James M. Smith (seal)
      Dated: 9 February 1850
      Codicil: Dated 29 October 1851 - states that he and W. W. McDowell are partners in merchandising; "my son Jesse S. Smith has since the making of my said will and codicil thereto, intermarried with his present wife Margaret Issabella and has by her one female child not yet names [named];' mentions a slave Rebecca and her child Charlotte which I purchased of Wm. W. McDowell; mentions that daughter Elizabeth Adoline Smith has married Joseph Gudger.
      Second Codicil: Dated 7 January 1854.
      Final Codicil: 8 February 1856, making land changes among the children.
      Probated: July Term 1856
      Source: Ingmire, Frances Terry, Compiler. Abstracted Wills of Buncombe County, North Carolina 1831-1872. Signal Mountain, Tennessee: Mountain Press, 1984 (Page 29-30).

      This will (bequest to daughter Elizabeth Adaline Smith Gudger) generated extensive litigation. See: Smith Real Estate Litigation.
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      Litigation and Legislation

      James McConnell Smith was the first white child born west of the Blue Ridge, in Buncombe county, but he will be remembered longer than many because of his will. He died December 11, 1853 [18 May 1856], leaving a will by which he devised to his daughter, Elizabeth A., wife of J. H. Gudger certain real estate in Asheville, "to her sole and separate use and benefit for and during her natural life, with remainder to such children as she may leave surviving her, and those representing the interest of any that may die leaving children."[1] A petition was filed in the Superior court asking for an order to sell this property, and such an order was made and several lots were sold with partial payments made of the purchase money, when a question was raised as to the power of the court to order the sale of the property so devised. In Miller, ex parte (90 N. C. Reports, p.625), the Supreme court held that land so devised could "not be sold for partition during the continuance of the estate of the life tenant; for, until the death of the life tenant, those in remainder cannot be ascertained." The sales so made, were, therefore, void.

      But years passed and some of the property became quite valuable, while another part of it, being unimproved, was nonproductive, and a charge upon the productive portion. But there seemed to be no remedy till the city of Asheville condemned a portion of the productive part for the widening of College Street. The question then arose as to how the money paid by the city for the land so appropriated to public use should be applied. On this question the Supreme court decided in Miller V. Asheville (112 N. C. Reports, 759), that the money so paid by way of damages should be substituted for the realty, and upon the happening of the contingency (death of the life tenant) be divided among the parties entitled in the same manner as the realty would have been if left intact.

      Upon this hint, on the petition of the life tenant and the remaindermen, a special act was passed by the legislature (Private Laws of N. C., 1897, Ch. 152, p.286) appointing C. H. Miller a commissioner of the General Assembly to sell the land, the proceeds to become a trust fund to be applied as the will directs.

      This was done; but the Supreme court (Miller V. Alexander, 122 N. C., 718) held this was in effect an attempted judicial act and therefore unconstitutional. The legislature afterwards passed a general act, which is embodied in section 1590 of the Revisal, for the sale of estates similarly situated, and under this authority some of the land was sold and the proceeds were applied to the construction of a hotel on another part. The proceeds, however, proved insufficient to complete the hotel, and in an action brought to sell still more of this land for the purpose of completing the hotel, the Supreme court held in Smith V. Miller (151 N. C., p.620), that, while the purchasers of the land already sold had received valid title to the same, still as the hotel, when completed, would not be a desirable investment, the decree for the sale of the other land, in order to provide funds for its completion, was void because it did not meet the statutory requirements that the interests involved be properly safeguarded.
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      Notes:

      1. Mrs. Elizabeth Smith Gudger died in October, 1912 [1 November 1912].
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      Decisions and Cases Cited

      Miller, ex parte, 90 N.C. 625
      Miller v. Asheville, 112 N.C. 759
      Private Laws of N.C. 1897, Ch. 152, p. 286
      Miller v. Alexander, 122 N.C. 718
      Section 1590 N.C. Revised Statutes
      Smith v. Miller, 151 N.C. 620
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      Source: Western North Carolina: A History from 1730-1913, John Preston Arthur (1914) at 407-408.
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      "Johnston Estate is Given to Smith Heirs: Superior Court Verdict for Mrs. Miller and Others -- Construction of Ante-Bellum Will Recalls Interesting Facts of Asheville's Early History"

      By virtue of the fact that the jury answered all issues in favor of the plaintiffs in Superior court yesterday morning in the case of Lula R. Miller and others against Robert P. Johnston and others, property located on Broadway, Spruce and Walnut streets valued at $100,000 is awarded to Lulu R. Miller, Jacob F. Weaver and the heirs of Henry Gudger. The plaintiffs in the foregoing suit are the heirs of Mrs. Elizabeth A. Smith, daughter of James M. Smith, the construction of whose will made in 1856, was one of the chief points at issue in the case. In the course of the trial of the case, which was hotly contested by counsel on both sides and took up more than two days of the court's time, much interesting data relating to distinguished citizens of Asheville before and after the Civil war was unearthed.

      The property which is now the site of many of the most valuable and important businesses in the city, in 1856, the date of Mr. Smith's will, was entirely given over to the use of the Buck hotel, one of the most noted of the ante-bellum taverns and frequented as a resort by the famous and distinguished men of the Civil war period.

      As the will was made before the war and the testator willed slaves to his children, the reading thereof awakened many interesting memories in the minds of the older men in the court room.

      It was the contention of the plaintiffs that this famous property was __________ Elizabeth A. Smith, the daughter of James M. Smith, the jury so held.

      The Johnstons came into possession of the property under the provisions of a deed made by E Sluder, who had come into the possession of it in 1860.

      It is an interesting fact that one of the corners called for in the Smith will was the old law office of Senator Zebulon Vance. One of the deeds in the chain proving title in the property was executed by Henry Grady, grandfather of Henry W. Grady, the famous orator. One of the executors named in the will was David L. Swaim, at one time governor of the state and for thirty years president of the university, while a witness to the instrument was Nicholas W. Woodfin, one of the most prominent lawyers of his day in Western Carolina.

      The property now has located on it the residence of Mark W. Brown, which faces Spruce street; the Annandale creamery, the large boarding house formerly used by the Elks as a temporary home and the building occupied by the Shaw Motor company.

      The plaintiffs in the foregoing case were represented by Jones and Williams, while Mark W. Brown, W. R. Whitson and J. Sneed Adams appeared for the defendants.

      Another case disposed of was that of W. J. Sullivan against the Carolina Feed company for the possession of an automobile. The case was compromised and a consent judgment was entered.

      When the afternoon session of court adjourned, the case of Arthur Fowler against the Asheville Power and Light company was being tried. In this case the plaintiff seeks to recover from the defendant company the sum of $2,000, alleged to have been sustained when the plaintiff's buggy was struck by a car operated by the defendant company. The plaintiff is represented by R. S. McCall and O. K. Bennett, while the firm of Martin, Rollins and Wright appears for the defendant.
      . . . .

      Source: The Asheville Citizen (Asheville, North Carolina), Friday, 29 October 1915.
      _______________

      Asheville's Daniel Boone

      At the foot of Forest Hill, Asheville, in the centre of the little cemetery called "Newton Academy Cemetery, Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina" is a grave with a headstone bearing the following inscription:

      "In memory of
      JAS. M. SMITH,
      Born 4th of June, 1787.
      Died 18th of May, 1856.

      He was the first child of white parentage born West of the Alleghanies in the present State of North Ca

  • Sources 
    1. Details: Family and Descendants of William Wallace McDowell & Sarah Lucinda Smith McDowell, Frances Arthur McDowell (Compiler and Editor).

    2. Details: The Smith-McDowell House: A History, Dr. Richard W. Iobst (1998) at 6.