Vance Birthplace

Written By North Carolina History Project

David Vance was the first of the Vance family to occupy the homestead. He moved to Reems Creek Valley between 1785 and 1790, after serving in the Continental Army and at Kings Mountain during the American Revolution and as a representative in the N.C. General Assembly. A teacher, lawyer, and surveyor, Vance acquired the family farm property in 1795. It is not clear whether the buildings were included in the purchase or whether he built the home. Later on, he was appointed clerk of court for Buncombe County and was elected colonel of the militia. His son, Robert Brank Vance, was an early physician and U.S. congressman. Another son, also named David, was a captain in the War of 1812 who made his living as a merchant and farmer. Captain Vance’s first son, named Robert B. Vance after his uncle, was a brigadier general in the Confederate army and served in the U.S. Congress and the N.C. House of Representatives. His second son was Zebulon Baird Vance.

One of the dominant personalities of the South for nearly half a century, Zeb Vance served in public office for thirty years. Though he was a lawyer whose keen humor, intellect, and eloquent manner of speaking won him success, his real interest was always politics. Possessed of a quality that tied him to the common people of the mountain coves, Zeb Vance was elected to his first public office at the age of 24. He served in the N.C. House of Commons and the U.S. House of Representatives and was elected governor three times.

Under the old Union, in the Confederacy, and in Congress after Reconstruction, Vance was an outstanding champion of local self-government and individual liberty. Though he had been a staunch unionist, when he finally adopted the Confederate cause, Vance became an ardent supporter, serving as colonel in command of the Twenty-sixth North Carolina Regiment.

Resolute and highly principled, Vance shielded the citizens of his state in the possession of their basic rights. He was the only governor in any state, North or South, to uphold vigorously the writ of habeas corpus. He enlisted only the voluntary cooperation of North Carolinians in implementing his plans, and he motivated North Carolina to make the greatest contribution in men and spirit to the Southern cause. For that leadership he was known as the “War Governor of the South.” The untiring efforts Governor Vance made on behalf of the soldiers and their families to provide every possible comfort to them during the famine and sadness of war ensured his place in the minds and hearts of the people he served.

In 1879 Vance began the first of three full terms as United States senator; his death in 1894 interrupted a fourth term. Rugged, dynamic, and controversial, the senator was a powerful debater, packing the Senate galleries during every speech he delivered. In his long quest for accomplishment, Zebulon Vance had worked his way to the top by reading and studying until he mastered the pressing issues before the country.

The homestead, a large two-story structure of hewn yellow pine logs, has been reconstructed around the original chimney with its two enormous fireplaces. The furnishings and household items on display are representative of the period from 1790 to 1840 and include a few pieces original to the home. Clustered about the grounds are six log outbuildings: the corn crib, springhouse, smokehouse, loom house, slave house, and toolhouse. Nearby, the visitor center houses exhibits portraying the life of Vance.

Special events throughout the year highlight seasonal activities of the Vance family’s life. The old place comes alive with history as costumed interpreters demonstrate the skills and cherished occupations settlers practiced in the western mountain region during the time when Zebulon Vance was living.