Valley Rewind: Stagecoach travel through the Swannanoa Valley

Special to Black Mountain News
Many stagecoach stops developed in the valley including a station at Squire John Stepp’s on Blue Ridge Road.

This month, the Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center is exploring early travel and transportation through its weekly Valley Rewinds. By the mid-20th century, commercial stagecoach lines became a common way for travelers of means to traverse western North Carolina. To reach the Swannanoa Gap from the east, stagecoaches would take a route starting at Henry’s Station on Mill Creek and travel uphill following the Swannanoa Creek. Several stagecoach lines took travelers to and through the Swannanoa Valley. This included Dowling's Stage (1872-1880) which transported passengers from Old Fort to Asheville, and the Morganton to Asheville Stage Line (founded 1831), operated by J.H. & R.W. Tate. U.S. Mail lines also transported mail by stagecoach through the valley.

Though stagecoach travel was one of the more luxurious forms of transportation in the early 20th century, it could still be an arduous, expensive and crowded undertaking. A list of rules for passengers on the Edwin T. Clemmons Stage Line (which also ran through the valley) included this: “Don’t snore loudly while sleeping or use your fellow passenger’s shoulder for a pillow; he (or she) may not understand and friction may result.” Many stagecoach stops developed in the valley, including a station at Swannanoa Gap, Kerlee’s Station on Flat Creek Road and Squire John Stepp’s on Blue Ridge Road, pictured above.

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.