Sylva on the route

Following Wagon Trails - 1890s: Sylva

Jackson County
Altitude: 2,000 feet

Robert Lee Madison (1867 - 1954), a native of Virginia, came to western North Carolina in 1886 to teach at a school in Quallatown. He later moved to nearby Sylva, N.C., and from January through December of 1889 he was editor of the Tuckaseige Democrat newspaper. During that year, the newspaper listed Madison as editor, F. A. Luck, Jr., as publisher, and F.A. Luck, Sr., as the business manager. In August 1889 Madison took a position as principal of the Cullowhee High School, even though he continued as the newspaper's editor for several months. In January 1890 the Tuckaseige Democrat listed the editors as F.A. Luck & Son. This portrait shot of Madison was taken shortly after his arrival in western North Carolina at the studios of Lindsey & Brown in Asheville, N.C. The picture of F.A. Luck, Jr., was dated 1900. Mr. and Mrs. F.A. Luck, Sr., are seen in a carriage, dated 1903.

The letterhead for the Sylva business of Hall, Smith & Company noted that it dealt in general merchandise and also that country produce was bought and sold. In the letter, Oscar Boman Coward (1859 - 1937) indicates his interest in purchasing cattle in Charleston, N.C., which would soon be renamed Bryson City. Coward would serve as the first mayor of Sylva, which incorporated in 1889. The text of the letter reads:

Hall, Smith & Co.
General Merchandise
Country Produce Bought and Sold.
Sylva, N.C., Jan. 22, 1889
Mr. Wm Estes
Dear Sir I will be down to Charleston last of this week or first of next & will buy steers and any other fat cattle that can be had
Yours Respectfully
O. B. Coward

The importance of cattle to the region's economy was also reflected in a Waynesville Courier (Waynesville, N.C.) newspaper article, as reprinted in the Charlotte Daily Observer (Charlotte, N.C.) in September 27, 1898. Headlined "Large Shipment of Cattle," the article noted that:

"The largest single shipment of cattle we have heard of lately was the one made Wednesday by our townsman, R.Q. McCracken, and his brother, W.D. McCracken, from Sylva. They shipped 12 car loads, containing 415 head, and costing about $6,000, to the Valley of Virginia, where they are purchased and fattened for market by the farmers in that section..."

To the West: Dillsboro


To the East: Beta

Sylva in the 1910s  |  Sylva in the 1930s

Return to the Southern Railway Map for the 1890s

Sources & Readings

  • Bird, William E. The History of Western Carolina College: The Progress of an Idea. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1963.
  • Jackson County Genealogical Society. Jackson County Heritage, North Carolina, 1992. Cullowhee, NC: JCGS, 1992 (Volume 1).
  • McRorie, J.D. Knowing Jackson County: People, Places, and Earlier Days. Sylva, N.C.: Jackson County Historical Association, 2000.
  • Williams, Max R., ed. The History of Jackson County. Sesquicentennial ed. Sylva, NC: Jackson County Historical Association, 2001.