Murphy on the route

Following Wagon Trails - 1890s: Murphy

Cherokee County
Altitude: 1,634 feet

The handwritten caption on the reverse of this photograph reads “Dr. B.B. Meroney – late 1800s – Hiwassee River, Murphy, N.C.” A separate notation indicates that the photograph was “Taken May 1st 1895.” Murphy, the county seat of Cherokee County, N.C., is located at the confluence of the Hiwassee and Valley rivers. Six people – three women and three men – can be seen in this idyllic riverside setting. Three of the individuals appear to be fishing, as seen by the long, crooked poles they are holding reaching out over the river bank. A mill and dam may be seen in the background.

Brook Trout in Georgia

“Having often heard of brook trout in the mountains of Georgia and North Carolina, I lately made a trip over the North Georgia R.R. to Murphy, in North Carolina, to look for them. But as under certain conditions Salmo fontinalis assumes the brilliant variety of the colors of the rainbow, so it also resembles the rainbow in the quality of escaping from its pursuers.

“Murphy is a sleepy-looking mountain village, about as old as Chicago, but containing only a few hundred people. It lies in the fork of two tributaries of the Tennessee, the Hiawassee and the Valley rivers; clear, swift streams tumbling over ledges of rock and whirling in deep pools in very trout-bearing manner, but their only fish are black bass (here called trout), perch, catfish, and some of the sucker family, as I am informed, the rivers being at the time of my visit too high for fishing with any prospect of success. I employed my two days in riding about the country, and climbing an accessible mountain.

“From a delightful boarding house near the village, kept by Professor Beal*, one has a view of ranges of mountains from 500 to 5,000 ft. high. The Blue Ridge in Georgia, and the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina shut in the horizon. These are covered with a heavy forest, and are filled with minerals; gold, copper, iron, manganese, mica, talc and marble are some of the most important – no coal, these mountains being too old for that, or any traces of organic life, as I learn from Professor Beal, who is a skilled geologist and has a fine cabinet of minerals. Indeed, he claims that these mountains are the oldest in America, probably in the world.

“In the forest are to be found a few bears, panthers and deer; plenty of turkeys, ruffed grouse, quail, rabbits and squirrels. The river bottoms afford rich natural pastures for cattle and sheep, and bring good crops of corn, oats and wheat. . . . Marietta, Georgia. S.C.C.”

- Excerpted from Forest and Stream (July 21, 1887, p. 555)
From ProQuest American Periodical Series Online.

*The Heritage of Cherokee County, North Carolina (Volume I, Winston-Salem, N.C.: Cherokee County Historical Museum, 1987, p. 70) lists a William Beal who was born in England on October 27, 1820, but who moved to Murphy, N.C., in 1855. The article indicates that Beal “taught at Mt. Pleasant Academy, Murphy, and . . . was a mineralogist, surveyor, and merchant.”


To the East: Regal

Murphy in the 1910s  |  Murphy in the 1930s

Return to the Southern Railway Map for the 1890s

Sources & Readings

  • Cherokee County Historical Museum. A Pictorial History of Cherokee County. Murphy, N.C.: Cherokee County Historical Museum, 1995.
  • Freel, Margaret Walker. Our Heritage, The People of Cherokee County, North Carolina, 1540 – 1955. Asheville, N.C.: Miller Print. Co., 1956 [c1957].
  • White, Alice, D., ed., and White, Nell A., associate ed. The Heritage of Cherokee County, North Carolina. Winston-Salem, N.C.: Cherokee County Historical Museum in cooperation with the History Division of Hunter Pub. Co., 1987.
  • Williams, Michael Ann, essay, inventory, and photography; Dockery, Carl, ed. Marble & Log: The History & Architecture of Cherokee County, North Carolina. Murphy, N.C.: Cherokee County Historical Museum Council, Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1984.