Last night was a fascinating presentation on the history of the Sulphur Springs area of West Asheville. I am sure many are familiar with some of the tale, but for those who are not, here it is briefly.
In 1776, the state of North Carolina sent a few hundred militiamen under General Rutherford to chase/scare/terrorize the Cherokee away from the settlements at the foot of the Blue Ridge. The summer of 1776 had seen a huge increase in raids from the Cherokee warriors, which was supposed by the Raleigh government as being stirred up by the British.
The expedition would become known as Rutherford’s Trace, and anyone who has spent an hour around here has seen the historical markers along their path. It was brutal, hard marching, and foreshadowing 100 by years the US Army’s similar operations against western indian peoples, a series of desecrations, massacres, ambushes, and other war acts against the heartland of the Cherokee.
One place they camped, early in the operation was along the banks of Hominy Creek. They built a blockhouse/fort there to store supplies and such.
According to a source (which incorrectly says it happened during the French and Indian War, 20 years prior) the soldiers had trouble with wolves stealing their food, so they poisoned one of the creeks nearby. A Cherokee warrior drank from the creek and died, and he was buried in a sitting position near an old white oak tree on a hill above the fort.
The tree still stands, and is pictured here from the perspective of the buried warrior. The other warriors (presumably, since that one was dead) pronounced a curse on the settlers in memory of their fallen brother. The tree is protected, and on private property, and appears to be in very good health. Later it was called the Boundry Oak, or the Township Oak, as it was used by surveyors as a mark between townships.
The curse, if you believe in it, has resulted in the mysterious fires of three hotels near by, all built to take advantage of the springs up stream from the buried warrior. The last of the grand hotels in the area was burned by the Asheville FD in a controlled burn around 1970. The plaque pictured here was salvaged from the building and is in safe hands now.
There are people working on getting a historical/environmental easement for the area. This will allow further study of the site and some kind of interpretive trail so that we can keep the memory of our early times alive.