hominy: n. hulled Indian corn, coarsely ground or broken, used as a cereal and as a vegetable.
Hominy: two townships in Buncombe County–Upper Hominy and Lower Hominy–are collectively referred to as Hominy Valley. Hominy Creek runs from the Haywood County line and meanders through the valley until it joins the French Broad River at Hominy Creek River Park.
Who named Hominy Valley and Creek is unclear. New settlers must have adopted a form of a native word for dried corn. The Cherokee had farmed the area for hundreds of years before any white settlers arrived in great numbers. Fifteen years before Buncombe County was founded General Griffith Rutherford crossed the Swannanoa Gap and into the Blue Ridge. In early September of 1776 Rutherford and his 2400 men entered what was referred to as Cherokee country. The Cherokees fled further west; death and destruction followed as Rutherford and Captain William Moore besieged them.
Acton, Beaverdam, Bear Creek, Bent Creek, Candler Town, Candler Springs, Coburn, Dunsmore, Enka, Glady, Harkins, Inanda, Jugtown, Luther, Owltown, Pole Creek, Sand Hill, Scratch Ankle, Starnes Cove, Stony Fork, Turnpike, and Vernon are just some of Hominy Valley’s communities past and present. Candler Town is not the strip of present-day businesses that line Smoky Park highway. But more on that later. If we counted the multitude of coves in Hominy Valley as communities there’d be a passel of names to add to that list. Sulphur Springs (close behind the Goodwill) and The Asheville School are in Hominy Valley and mark the start of Hominy Township.
According to an 1884 Gazetteer of Buncombe County Hominy Creek “is a place of great resort for summer tourists, who find here the very spot in which to recuperated from the turmoil of the city and business life.” In 1884 you could visit Solomon Luther’s hotel or Wilson Boyd’s steam saw mill and 7 other water-powered grist and saw mills in the area. Dr. G.H. Thrash was the sole physician; J.M. Thrash sold general merchandise, in addition to running a flour mill and tanyard. Two members of the Warren clan were chairmakers and two other Warrens conveniently operated sawmills. Hominy, Montmorency (sic), Snow Hill, Pleasant Hill, and Stony Fork churches served the community both then and now. Hominy Creek offered “a large selection of fine farming county; the trading crops cultivated being wheat, corn, potatoes, and fruits; stock raising to a considerable extent is also industriously pursued.” Hominy Creek was a station on the Ducktown Branch of the W.N.C.R.R.(Western North Carolina Railroad).
In the late 1920’s a Dutch company built the American Enka Corporation close by Hominy Creek. A dam was built to create Enka Lake providing water for the factory, scenic views for the large homes that housed corporate executives, and swimming for the residents of neighboring Enka Village. Some folks refer to the lake by its rebranded name, but I refuse to do so. Through the 1930’s to mid-1970’s the factory provided livelihoods for hundreds of Hominy Valley residents, as well as residents from neighboring counties who came by train and buses to work at Enka. A post office and company stores were built facing Sand Hill Road. Today, that original row of brick buildings is the Enka-Candler Branch Library.
Roads are closely associated with communities. Smoky Park Highway (US 19/23) is the main east/west thoroughfare for Hominy Valley. The Enka plant was built close to what was then a two-lane highway. The Southern Railway tracks still parallel the highway. You can see the track running next to the highway in the photo of Valkyrie Dairies from the Enka side of the highway. The long-gone dairy is a now a shopping center.
In the 1950’s motels were a common sight along US 19/23. Beginning at the site of the old Sulphur Springs Hotel you would have seen the Malvern Springs/Malvern Hills Court and Rockola Motel. The Whispering Pines Motel is still in business just past The Asheville School, but the Singing Hills Motor Lodge across the highway has a brand new Ingles on it. Further out, The Nakon Motel is still in business on a rise above the highway in the Candler business district. A popular local breakfast spot–The Miami Restaurant–sits in what is left of the Miami Court Motel.
Newer roads have and will continue to change the landscape of Hominy Valley. If you drop in to have breakfast or lunch at the Miami Restaurant (highly recommended by the author) you’re close to “old” Candler Town. A short driving tour will take you right through what’s left of the old town.
Turn left at the stoplight onto NC 151. At the next stoplight, turn right onto what was once NC 151. Behind some trees on your right you can catch a glimpse on the right of Dr. A. P. Willis’ house built around 1918 . On your left are a few other older homes. Businesses in Candler Town were on the right-hand side of the road nearest to Hominy Creek. Bear right when you come to a fork in the road, and cross one of the two bridges in Candler Town. Turn left. On your left is a small stone building that was once Candler’s post office.
Cross the second bridge and you’ll pass Montmorenci Church sitting up on a hill. There’s a cenotaph in the cemetery erected in the early 1900’s to honor Candler residents who fought in the Civil War. Continue on old NC 151 which intersects with the newer road. Turn left and proceed back to Smoky Park Highway. If you’ve got time to kill, turn right to drive up to the Blue Ridge Parkway on the old Vanderbilt toll road!
The proposed Liberty Road I-40 Interchange will change the face of Candler once again. Four (4!) lanes of traffic from I-40 feed into the junction of US 19/23 and Highway 151 into Candler.
Want to know more about the history of Hominy Valley? Check out J.L. Mashburn’s books on the subject from the Buncombe County Library System. They’re chock full of fascinating photographs and stories.
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 Upper or Lower Hominy or some other Buncombe County community 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.
Posted by Terry Taylor, Friends of the NC Room board member. (And resident of Lower Hominy Township).