Davidson, Samuel

The Swannanoa Valley throws her boundary lines from peak to peak, around coves from which escapes the headwaters of the upper Swannanoa. And these secluded coves, with the beautiful valley, into which their perennial streams converge were, until the close of the American Revolution, a cherished possession of the Cherokee Indians. From the moment one enters the Swannanoa Valley, one realizes why Samuel Davidson, in 1784, dared to be the first white settler to strike out from the state’s westernmost outpost at Old Fort to challenge the Blue Ridge Range to discover what lies just beyond them.

Viewed as a trespasser by the Cherokee Indians, Davidson was lured into the woods and killed. His wife, child and slave woman escaped and traveled a tortuous route back to Old Fort and told their story.

Immediately, volunteers took down their rife-guns; under the cover of night, force-marched into the Valley. They found Sam Davidson dead near a trail where he had frequently hunted. He had been scalped. They buried him at this spot. His body lies beneath a granite slab on the side of Jones Mountain, by Christian Creek, two miles beyond the town of Swannanoa near Warren Wilson College. But in death, Samuel Davidson accomplished what he had been unable to do in life. He opened up the way to settlement in Western North Carolina.

From this time on, the white man began to claim the Valley. They came as individuals and not in a concerted movement, as was characteristic of much frontier development. Finding in the Swannanoa and North Fork Valleys so complete fulfillment of their dreams of fertile fields, plentiful game and fish, and beautiful scenery, many of the explorers returned to bring their families into the new land. The Swannanoa settlement is considered by historians as the first permanent settlement east of the Blue Ridge in Western North Carolina.

The Swannanoa Valley became the “Gateway to Western North Carolina” and people have been coming ever since.

Editor’s Note: It wasn’t until the very late 1700s that it was legal for settlers to come up the mountain and settle in the Indian territories, as the Cherokees, by treaty with the British Crown before the Revolution, had been guaranteed that settlement would not take place on their lands. As soon as the colonists won the war with England, all treaties with the Crown were nullified, and Western North Carolina was opened up to settlement. There were a large number of white people who had been anxious to settle in the Indian lands and with the end of the war, they came in droves. The Cherokees, however, failed to understand how the war could break the treaty, so they naturally resented the white man’s encroachment on their lands. There are always two sides to every argument.

source: Guide to the Smokies, Outlet News, Vol. 3, No. 28,
Monday 19 May 1966, p. 7
ALOB, June 1986, Vol. VII, #6, p. 86-51

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