Many of our 52 Weeks 52 Communities posts have been about rediscovering the origins of the names of our communities in Buncombe County. This week is no different.
Deaverview, a community in West Asheville seemed straightforward in this regard: figure out who Deaver is, and call it a day. But, sometimes it’s not that easy. As most readers are aware, when doing any kind of research on families, often sorting out who’s who in the 19th century can be a difficult task. Folks weren’t terribly creative with names and were often partial to naming children after brothers, fathers, grandfathers, and so forth. Often, it can be a challenge to sort out exactly which generation you’re dealing with.
This week, since it took us a while to sort things out, and we utilized (basically) all of our resources, I figured this would be a great opportunity to give a peek into the process we’ve used to discover more information about Buncombe County Communities using Deaverview as our case study.
First thing’s first: Check out the Gazetteer
The Gazetteer is a dictionary of places, and boy is it handy. By consulting this resource, you’ll discover there are at least 11 places in the Old North State named for possums. Some entries have a lot of information, sometimes coordinates are supplied so you can find out exactly where to locate the headwaters of a specific creek. Other entries aren’t as helpful, and don’t tell you anything you didn’t already know:
Deaver View: A community in central Buncombe County (Not so helpful)
But, sometimes combined with other entries you can start to put some pieces together:
Deaver’s View Mountain: Central Buncombe County elev. 3,130. (More helpful, as I didn’t realize there was such a peak.)
Take a Look at the Newspaper
Older newspapers are absolutely full of information. Today, we don’t publish nearly as much personal material in the news as we used to. The kind of “did ya’ hear?” type news that found its way into fluffy editorial columns and society pages now has an outlet on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In the 19th and early 20th century, however, the newspaper was the place to find out who was in town for a visit, who had a baby, or even every day updates “from the farm” like the surprising beauty and size of recently harvested oats in Leicester.
Here in the NC Room we have access to Newspapers.com as well as loads of microfilmed newspapers and clipping files that we maintain and index regularly. When you don’t have a specific date to search for your subject, newspapers.com is an amazing resource! Using OCR (optical character recognition) you can search for specific words and phrases in a particular time range.
For this kind of research, looking for the origin of a name, I always sort my search “oldest first.” The site will default to “best match” which can be useful, but for this question isn’t as helpful.
In this case, I got some help from my colleague, Zoe, who found this gem in the society pages of the Asheville Daily Gazette:
At this point, we start putting our clues together. Between the Gazetteer entry and the hint in the Asheville Daily Gazette article, we can determine the neighborhood Deaverview earned its name because of the views from Deaver’s View Mountain.
But we still have questions:
Which peak is Deaver’s View and who is Deaver?
Time for geography.
Consult a Good Map
For this series, I’ve really enjoyed using one particular map in our collection, MAP501. This map dates to 1903 and was created by H. Taylor Rogers and B.M Lee for the Buncombe County Commission. The map shows all of the major paved and unpaved roads in the county, as well as post offices, churches, schools, and major or otherwise well-known property owners.
Unfortunately, this time around it wasn’t super helpful, but in most cases, this map is pretty eye opening.
When trusty old MAP501 doesn’t do the trick, I head to Google Maps. This search was fruitful.
A quick hunt for “Deaver’s View Mountain” lead me straight to the peak. Check out this view:
So now that we’ve settled on where Deaver’s View Mountain is, and made sense of the neighborhood name Deaverview, we have to figure out exactly which Deaver we’re dealing with. Answering that question will, hopefully open up a whole new set of questions and possible answers about this West Asheville community.
Check out the Database
Here in the NC Room we use software called InMagic/DBTextworks to organize our catalog of Special Collections. Since we have such a large amount of material, hunting it down can be a challenge sometimes. You, our patrons have access to the front end of this software called Presto at ncroom.buncombecounty.org.
By using the search functions in this database we can limit what types of materials we’d like to see by keyword.
In this case, I looked for everything with “Deaver” and came up with these results:
This was finally the “Ah ha!” moment.
When we synthesize all of our information, Deaver’s View Mountain, the hiking ladies, and the Deaver-Henry connection to the Sulphur Springs hotel (The ruins are in the Deaverview Community and you can read more about them at David Whisnant’s blog Asheville Junction) the story begins to fall together.
The Deaver we were searching for is most likely Reuben Deaver, the son-in-law of Robert Henry, and the original proprietor of the Sulphur Springs Hotel. Henry and an enslaved man Sam discovered the sulphur springs in about 1827 and three years later Deaver orchestrated the construction of a hotel. For some time the health resort was known as Deaver’s Sulphur Springs.
It seems from our Asheville Gazette News report that hiking up the nearby mountain was a popular attraction for visitors at the hotel, and it’s interesting to note that the ladies from out of town were accompanied by a Miss Henry, perhaps a daughter of Cornelia Catherine Henry and William Henry, who owned the hotel for a time as well.
Now that through this process, we’ve uncovered a name, there is plenty more research that can be done to uncover the history of the Deaverview neighborhood. Maybe one of our curious readers will pop into the NC Room and tease out more interesting stories about the history of this neighborhood, not only in the far past, but as it grew and developed over time.
Throughout the 20th century, long after the Sulphur Springs were out of use, Deaverview became home to hundreds of families and businesses. The Asheville Hosiery Mills, M.B. Haynes Electric Corp., Milkco and more. Deaverview and West Asheville in general is also one of Buncombe County’s most diverse neighborhoods, according to the 2010 census.
We’ll keep digging up facts about Deaverview, and we’d love to hear about what you find!
We love sharing our collections with you! We especially like when they get a good workout from researchers, the curious, and even the stray interior designer or stylist! These images and collections are as much yours as they are the library’s. That’s what public libraries are all about!
Come on in and take a look. You never know what you might find!
As a reminder, this post is a part of our 52 Weeks, 52 Communities Series. In this series, we are covering a different Buncombe County community each week. Do you have materials related to Deaverview or Sulphur Springs you’d like to let us know about? Do you, your parents or grandparents have a good story to tell? Please let us know!!! We want to hear from you! The North Carolina Room is Buncombe County’s Public Archive, we want to help preserve and make accessible the history and culture of Asheville and Buncombe County for all its residents.
This post was authored by Katherine Calhoun Cutshall, a librarian working in the North Carolina Room at Pack Memorial Library.