Valley Rewind: Stagecoaches, wagons and inns; how settlers arrived in Swannanoa

Special to Black Mountain News
This photo shows the Alexander Inn in 1914, an early establishment of the Swannanoa Valley.

This month, the Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center is exploring early travel and transportation through its weekly Valley Rewinds. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, travelers who wanted to pass through the Swannanoa Valley were often transported by wagon. From the east, several early wagon roads led into the valley. These roads often followed portions of the Catawba River, including Chestnut Branch and the south fork of the Catawba, and entered the valley through several gaps, including Old Field and Hungry Gap. By the early 1800s, the main route had changed to Swannanoa Creek, near the Mill Creek drainage west of Old Fort. In the valley, a central east-to-west wagon road prevailed, with many roads branching off toward settlements such as Lakey Gap, Bee Tree, the North Fork Valley and Riceville. Today, there are old wagon road remnants near Fortune Fields and Old Route 70. Stops for travelers eventually developed along these routes, including the Alexander Inn of Swannanoa, pictured in this 1914 photo from the Swannanoa Valley Museum’s photograph collections. George Couples Alexander (1790-1880), along with his family, began construction on the inn in 1818 and opened it to visitors in 1820. The inn became a popular stopping point as commercial stagecoach lines began to frequent the valley and eventually a general store and post office were added on the property. On Monday evening, May 23, the Swannanoa Valley Museum will be hosting a lecture on Early Drovers’ Roads and Stagecoach Roads in Western North Carolina at the Black Mountain Public Library. Find out more at swannanoavalleymuseum.org.