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Dr. George Jones fills in 'Gaps'

George Jones talks about county roads. George Jones talks about county roads.

The first roads in Henderson County were made by the feet of Indians. Like road builders centuries later, they tried to find the easiest way up the mountain.


GeorgeJonesmapWeb"The early settlers looked for these gaps," said George Jones, a retired Baptist minister, leading local history expert and founder of Henderson County Genealogical and Historical Society, the group he was speaking to on April 14. "So when you hear somebody say Saluda Gap you need to know where it was and still is, or Howard's Gap or other gaps."

As he spoke, he referred to a map that showed early roads, many of which are still the pathways for major roads.

"The two main ones to come through this county — as the old land grants said — were the only Indian paths, roughly Highway 25 from Greenville to Asheville," said Jones, who is 91. "The other one was Howard's Gap from (Spartanburg) South Carolina to North Carolina."

The gap is named for Gen. Thomas Howard, who attacked an encampment of Cherokees in the region.

"General Thomas Howard led a group of militia up the mountain to Tryon Mountain Gap," he said. "He had an Indian helper named Skyuka. He came up and destroyed the Indian settlement that was temporarily in the gap of the mountain. As time went on, this Indian path, just a narrow walkway, was Howard's Gap."

The trail, he said, "was the Interstate of that day. Just below Saluda there was a stop for stage coaches," which was the first post office in Western North Carolina. "There was a tollgate there. They collected tolls to help maintain the road. Incidentally, it was finally razed when they built Interstate 26."

A federal distillery east of Saluda gave the area the name of Stillhouse Hill, which goes by that name today.

"Howard Gap came on up into Upward and from there it terminated in the town of Fletcher," he said.

A traveler wrote of his experience going up the mountain.

On July 21, 1810 "I passed through the Saluda Gap, which of course is very rough, being continually ascending and descending" and at times "so narrow that two wagons cannot pass each other," he wrote. At Murray's Tavern in Fletcher, "I had good fare, good food and good bed."

The next morning he got up, paid 75 cents for the bed and breakfast. "He bought a bearskin while he was there from a fella from Tennessee who was on his way to Augusta, Ga. He paid $2 for the bearskin."

Later the North Carolina Legislature commissioned a road from Saluda Gap to Warm Springs, called Hot Springs today. It passed through Fletcher, which has gone by the names Limestone, Murraysville, Shufordville and finally Fletcher, after Dr. George Washington Fletcher.

Turnpike tolls were $2.50 for a full carriage, $2.50 for a six-horse wagon, $2 for a four-horse wagon. Peddlers paid $1.50, and a horse or mule with rider cost 25 cents.