Named in honor of John Haywood, treasurer of North Carolina who served from 1787 to 1827, Haywood County is a western, mountain county in North Carolina. The first group known to inhabit the area was the eastern Native American tribe of the Cherokee. In the 1700s, the Cherokee had allied with the British and this connection created problems when American colonists separated from Great Britain. In September 1776, for instance, nearly 2,500 troops were led by General Griffith Rutherford to deal with rebelling Cherokee. Many died during the conflict, and more than a few moved westward. In the 1780s, familiar with the landscape, soldiers returned to the region to inhabit present-day Haywood County.
In 1808, Thomas Love, a North Carolina Senator, petitioned the General Assembly to create a new county. A new courthouse and seat of government was more feasible for citizens who lived in the westernmost region of North Carolina because it took days to travel to Buncombe County’s courthouse. Therefore, in December 23, 1808, Haywood County was formed from Buncombe County. Robert Love, a notable businessman and brother of Thomas Love, served under General Rutherford in 1776, and he helped found Waynesville. In 1809, Robert Love donated seventeen acres for the new town, and in 1871 Waynesville was finally incorporated.
The four towns within the county include Canton, Clyde, Maggie Valley, and Waynesville, the seat of government in Haywood. Along the Pigeon River, Canton has a small population, and several historic places such as the Colonial Theater and a historic paper mill are within the town. Fred Chappell, a renowned poet and novelist, was raised in Canton and graduated from the local high school there in 1954. Maggie Valley, an attractive city to tourists, was named after the postmaster’s daughter of the area, Maggie Setzer, who was born in 1904. During her lifetime, Maggie was an image of the region; her red skirt and green blouse along with a yellow apron and poke bonnet was the habitual dress that made Maggie an icon. Although she died in 1979, the town became incorporated in 1974, and a young lady will undertake the persona of Maggie Setzer. Clyde, another small town that contains Haywood Community College, is home to the oldest house in Haywood County. Built in 1795 by Jacob Shook, the house has a historical connection with the Methodist church because some historians believe that Bishop Francis Asbury preached at the Shook House in 1810.
William Holland Thomas, a native son of Haywood County, was leader of the Cherokee during the early 1800s. Raised with the Cherokee tribe, Thomas or Wil-Usdi (“Little Will”) grew to love the Cherokee people because of their community and loyalty. Thomas dedicated himself to study law with the ulterior motive to protect the Cherokee from the encroaching white civilization. In 1835, the Treaty of New Echota called for the U.S. military to remove the tribe from North Carolina, but Thomas worked passionately to keep the Cherokee at their home in the western mountains. Thomas, the only white man to be chief of the Cherokee, was finally able to secure thousands of acres for the tribe. The land was bought with Thomas’s own money, and the Cherokee became citizens of the state due to “Little Will’s” fervent loyalty to the Native Americans.
Haywood County contains notable mountaintops and lakes. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located in the area, and the Blue Ridge Parkway meanders through Haywood as well. There are fourteen mountain peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains that elevate to over 6,000 feet, and one of these peaks includes Cold Mountain, the inspiration for Charles Frazier’s novel and subsequent motion picture. Mt. Guyot and Richland Balsam reach to over 6,500 feet. In addition to mountains, Lake Junaluska, a camp and headquarters for the World Methodist Council, and Lake Logan, the site of a 300-acres Episcopal retreat, are both bodies of water within Haywood. All the rivers and lakes within Haywood are not connected to any other water sources outside of the area’s borders.
Haywood County: A Brief History. Janet T. Webb. (The History Press: Charleston, SC 2006).
The Tar Heel State: A History of North Carolina. Milton Ready. (University of South Carolina Press: Columbia, SC 2005).
“About Haywood County.” Haywood County Government Website, About Haywood County. http://www.haywoodnc.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=83&Itemid=106, (accessed on August 17, 2011).
By Jonathan Martin, North Carolina History Project
See Also:Related Categories: Civil War, Early America, Counties