Bryson on the route

Following Wagon Trails - 1890s: Bryson

Swain County
Altitude: 1,750 feet

Bryson City, N.C.
A Beautiful Mountain Town.
The Center of Vast Mineral, Timber and Agricultural Resources

“Bryson City, N.C., February 28. – Having often heard of the surpassing beauty of Bryson City and the many opportunities offered for profitable investment in this embryonic city, your correspondent while in Asheville last week, concluded to visit this mountain town in order to prove the correctness of the rumors concerning it by ocular demonstration. After a five hours ride on the Murphy division of the Western North Carolina railroad we reached the point of destination, and had we not already been prepared for the effect it would have been difficult to analyze our feelings upon beholding the panorama of mountain beauty.

“Bryson City is situated on either side of the beautiful Tuckasugu [sic] river, rustling among the surrounding hills a fit setting to a cornet of loveliness. We were surprised to find so many evidences of material progress on all sides. Handsome churches, business houses and dwellings give a finishing touch to the work of nature. Manufacturing industries (especially the hard wood line) presented a scene of hustling activity. A system of water works (somewhat rude but convenient) proved the progressive spirit of the town. And here may be found the best hotels west of Ashville [sic], where the wants of the traveling public are amply supplied and the ease of permanent boarders insured. We were especially struck with the mineral and timber resources of this section and feel assured that capital can find a field for profitable investment here. . . .”

- Daily Journal and Journal and Tribune, published as Knoxville Journal, March 2, 1891, p. 2.
From America’s Historical Newspapers – Early American Newspapers, an Archive of Americana Collection, published by Readex (, a division of NewsBank.

The 1892 publication by the U.S. Census Office titled Eastern Band of Cherokees of North Carolina included a view of “Bryson City Court House, Swain Co., N.C. Post Office of the Agency.” The original name of the town was Charleston, and it was incorporated under that name in 1887. According to some sources, mail addressed to the North Carolina Charleston often was redirected to Charleston, S.C., an occurrence that became an inconvenience for residents. In 1889 the name was changed to Bryson City in honor of Thaddeus Dillard Bryson (1829 – 1890), a captain in the Civil War and leader in county politics. The comment in the caption to an “Agency” refers to the agency established by the Office of Indian Affairs for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in 1875.


“Charleston, the county-seat of Swain, -- a pleasant little village, whose existence dates only from the formation of the county in 1871, -- is situated by the Tuckasege river, and at the foot of Rich mountain. It is in the midst of a new country. The two most conspicuous buildings, standing directly opposite each other at one end of the village street, are the new and old court-houses. The former is a substantial brick structure, likened by a wag, who draws his comparisons from homely observations, to the giant hopper of a mill, turned upside down. The old, frame court-house has its upper story used as a grand jury room, and its lower floor, as formerly, holds the jail. The dark interior of the ‘cage,’ used for petty misdoers, can be seen under the front outside stairs, through a door with barred window . . . .”

“Along the main thoroughfare, and on the few side streets, are neat white dwellings; well-stocked stores, where a man can buy anything from a needle to an axe; and two good village hotels. Like all communities, they have churches here, and possibly (for the writer does not speak on this point from observation) on some grassy knoll, under the silence and shadows of noble forest monarchs, may be found a few head-marked graves forming the village cemetery.”

“The post-office is a good place, at the arrival of the mail-horse, to survey and count the male population of Charleston; or, after papers and letters are distributed, to meet, in the person of Postmaster Collins, an intelligent man who will vouchsafe all information desired on matters of local and county interest. In the middle of the day, you can sit on the counter in any of the stores and discuss politics or religion with the merchant, who, in his shirtsleeves, and perched on a pile of muslins and calicoes with his feet on a coal-oil* barrel, smokes a pipe of home-cured tobacco, and keeps his eyes alternately on the ceiling and the road, as though expectant along the latter for the white or Indian customer.”

- Wilbur G. Zeigler and Ben S. Grosscup, The Heart of the Alleghanies (1883), pp. 142 - 144
[*The reference to coal oil in the quote is to kerosene]

Home News

"Mr. Linden McKee, operator at Whittier, has been transferred to Sylva, in place of Joel Sawyer resigned, and Mr. W.A. Angel, who has been running the railroad dinner house at this place has accepted the position vacated by Mr. McKee. As the Entelia is now the recognized railroad dinner house, it is not definitely known what function the old establishment will perform as a way side inn."

- Bryson City Times (Bryson City, N.C.), January 4, 1895

This picture from the 1892 report of the U.S. Census Office, Eastern Band of Cherokees of North Carolina, shows “Ocona Lufta Valley.” The spelling of the river and valley is now generally given as Oconaluftee. The Oconaluftee River enters the Tuckasegee River near Ela, N.C.

In their 1883 book, The Heart of the Alleghanies, Wilbur G. Zeigler and Ben S. Grosscup related their impressions of travel from Bryson City, N.C., then known as Charleston, to Cherokee, N.C., then called Yellow Hill. Their route took them down the Tuckasegee River to the Oconaluftee River, and they following the latter river to Yellow Hill.

“The loquacious innkeeper at Charleston started us off with a comfortable breakfast and the information that the distance to Yellow Hill, the residence of Chief Smith and Cherokee seat of government, was about eleven miles, and from there to Waynesville, through Soco gap, was twenty-five. Two hour’s ride through the sandy, but well cultivated valley of the Tuckasege brought us to the Ocona Lufta. From this point the road follows the general course of the stream, but, avoiding its curves, is at places so far away that the roar of the rapids sounds like the distant approach of a storm. At places the road is almost crowded into the river by the stern approach of precipices, and then again they separate while crossing broad, green, undulating bottoms . . . .”

- Wilbur G. Zeigler and Ben S. Grosscup, The Heart of the Alleghanies (1883), pp. 37 – 38.

Bryson City vs Waynesville

“The Bryson City Base Ball Team left for Waynesville on the 10th to play a series of games with Waynesville’s strong team.”

“The boys were met at the depot by Manager Boone and Capt. Ferguson and conducted to their quarters at the `National.’”

“The game was called at four P.M. with Waynesville in the field. Capt. Bryson is to the bat, gets 1st on being hit by the ball but is thrown out in attempting to steal 2nd base. Logan hits safe on Owl's long drive to out field. Sawed-off Blackburn then proceeds to hit the ball when [sic, where] Spalding puts his name* and races around to third where he has the misfortune to badly sprain his ankle and compelled to retire sadly from the field. Though weakened by loss of this strong player, B.C. does not discourage but with Lipscomb on 2nd only allow Waynesville one run. The score is now 2 to 1 in favor of the visitors and both teams are playing ball. Goose eggs are given and taken till in the 5th inning B.C. makes live five more runs and the score is 7 to 2 in the 7th inning. B.C. made 1 run while Waynesville hits the ball for three more runs neither team scored in the 8th but in the 9th B.C. made only one and Waynesville made five making the score W. 10 B.C. 9”

“The game was hotly contested by both teams. Waynesville’s Springfield, Ferguson and Chambers made good plays, while for B.C. Logan, Gee, Bryson D. and Owl put up a strong game. The playing Lipscomb on 2nd was excellent as he stopped everything that came near him with the ease of a professional. The prettiest catch of the whole game was Owl’s catch of the high ball and thrown to third. Umpire gave entire satisfaction.”

“2nd game – No wise discouraged by their defeat of the previous day, the B.C. boys went in to win the second game, while practicing before game was called two of Waynesville’s best players Capt. Ferguson and Reeves were hurt and compelled to keep their seats on the bench. . . .”

- Bryson City Times (Bryson City, N.C.), July 19, 1895
[*The remark that “where Spalding puts his name” is to Spalding company, founded by Albert Spalding, which was a noted manufacturer of baseballs in the late 19th century.]

To the West: Forney


To the East: Whittier

Bryson in the 1910s  |  Bryson in the 1930s

Return to the Southern Railway Map for the 1890s

Sources & Readings

  • Finger, John R. The Eastern Band of Cherokees, 1819 - 1900. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984.
  • Huddleston, Dale, ed. Swain County, N.C., Centennial, 1871 – 1971: Official Souvenir Centennial History. Waynesville, N.C.: The Mountaineer, [1971].
  • Montgomery, Michael B. and Joseph S. Hall. Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2004.
  • Powell, William S. The North Carolina Gazetteer. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968.
  • Swain County Genealogical and Historical Society. The Heritage of Swain County, North Carolina, 1988. Bryson City, N.C.: Swain County Historical and Genealogical Society, 1988.
  • U.S. Census Office. Extra Census Bulletin. Indians. Eastern Band of Cherokees of North Carolina. Eleventh Census of the United States. Washington, D.C.: United States Census Printing Office, 1892.
  • Zeigler, Wilbur G. and Ben S. Grosscup. The Heart of the Alleghanies; Or, Western North Carolina; Comprising Its Topography, History, Resources, People, Narratives, Incidents, and Pictures of Travel, adventures in Hunting and Fishing and Legends of Its Wilderness. Raleigh, N.C.: A. Williams & Co.; Cleveland, O.: W.W. Williams, 1883.