Valley Rewind: The Stepp family and its legacy of enslaved people

Special to Black Mountain News
This photograph from the Swannanoa Valley Museum captures a winter view of the east side of Black Mountain Avenue looking south from behind the train depot.

This photograph from the Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center captures a winter view of the east side of Black Mountain Avenue (originally called Stepp Street) taken looking south from behind the train depot. Visible in the background is what was historically known as the George Washington Stepp House, built ca. 1904, which locals now know as Louise's Kitchen. George Stepp (1858 - 1926) served several terms as mayor of Black Mountain.

The Stepps were one of the early families to settle in Black Mountain, owned land across the valley, and according to "A History of Black Mountain & Its People" by Joyce Justice Parris, were also the first to bring enslaved people to the area. Prior to the construction of the George Stepp house, Joseph Montraville "Mont" Stepp - George's uncle - built a home nearby. He also built four cabins to house the people he enslaved. In 1850, according to the Buncombe County Slave Schedules, Joseph enslaved seven people - a 32-year-old male, three females ranging in age from 19-21, an 8-year-old female, a 2-year-old female and a one-year-old male. According to family tradition, one of the female slaves was named Hanah. Hanah was brought to the Stepp plantation from Alabama when she was a teenager. In 1858, she had a daughter, Mary, who would eventually become a prominent midwife and herbalist in Black Mountain.