A GUIDE TO THE SMALL COMMUNITIES OF CHEROKEE COUNTY, NC
- From Celebrate Cherokee County - A special annual magazine by the Cherokee Scout -
Andrews and Murphy are the only incorporated towns in the Cherokee County today, but there are dozens of small communities throughout its vast geography that have rich histories of their own.
Once known as a hub for beavers, people can find the community in the northern mountains of Andrews. Buster Conley said decades ago the beavers would create intricate dams, which would anger the townspeople. Almost all of the beavers died from hunters due to the annoyance the animals caused.
Bellview once was home to Bellview Academy, which started in 1878. It was a school where the children from North California, Georgia and Tennessee went to get educated. Farming, timber and pulpwood harvesting were the main economic drivers for the community.
Bellview is home to Cherokee County's first Confederate Memorial.
The Brasstown community straddles the county line between Cherokee and Clay Counties. It's the home of John C. Campbell Folk School and Tri-County Race Track.
Brasstown was a Cherokee town prior to the removal 1838. Wanda Stalcup, director of the Cherokee County Historical Museum, said the Cherokee people who lived in the town named it for the gold pieces they saw in the Hiwassee River. The community sits between the two counties because that ended up being how the county lines were drawn.
In a previous time, Culberson, which borders the Georgia state line, was a thriving town with several trains a day stopping at its train depot and travelers visiting the numerous business while staying at a hotel that was just a short walk away.
Time and the coming of a five-lane paved highway have vanquished much of that way of life, although Culberson still remains a refuge for homes, many with attached acreage.
Located in eastern Andrews, this community is an easy find because of the giant sign that reads "Granny Squirrel" off of the four-lane. Conley, a 99-year-old local resident, said the community got its name from an old Native American woman named Squirrel, who lived in the area.
The creek had a variety of the trees but the grapes dominated certain sections. "People went out and got them off the creek banks," Harland Graves Jr. said. "Everyone made grape jelly. Along about Labor Day, you could smell them, and that fox jelly was the best."
That was Grape Creek, and that is thought to be how the community of Grape Creek - at a latitude of 35.116 and longitude of 84.087 - got its name. The community about 4 miles from Murphy is a land of forests, gardens and rural homes.
Mentioning to an outsider that you live in Hanging Dog usually brings a chuckle or curious stare.
The area about 6 miles due north of Murphy includes areas off Hanging Dog and Boiling Springs roads, although some people today claim that Boiling Springs is a separate area. However, most old-timers disagree.
There are several versions of how Hanging Dog got its name. The most colorful is about a time before the white man came to the area when a legendary Cherokee hunter named Deer Killer rescued his dog from being hung up on logs in the river and nearly drowned.
The other story involves another Cherokee settler named Hanging Maw, whose name may have been changed over time.
Known for its rich African-American culture. Happy Top lies on a hill in southern Andrews near Payne Street. Although the origins of the name are still unknown, some speculate the name was inspired by all of the happy people living in the area. Happy or not, local residents will tell you at the bottom of the hill lies "Sad Bottoms."
Hiwassee Dam derives its name from a Tennessee Valley Authority dam that was constructed during the Great Depression and resulted in an entire village being raised to support workers. About 1,600 men were employed to build the dam at its peak.
With the nearest town about 25 miles away, workers and their families had to be housed near the construction site. Therefore, 42 semi-permanent and 73 temporary houses were built, plus six dormitories along with a cafeteria, hospital, community and recreation building, elementary school, gas station, and observation building. The village was constructed in the area that is now Bear Paw.
In July 1941, TVA was authorized to build a second dam in Cherokee County - Appalachia Dam, which was located about 10 miles downstream from Hiwassee Dam.
Hot House, on the far - western end of Cherokee County, is as far as you can get from the eastern end of North Carolina and still remain in the state.
Many people in the area believe that Hot House derives its name from Cherokee asi or winter houses, called hothouses. Archaeologist Brett Riggs in his dissertation states that John Welch and another man documented 114 secondary or subsidiary Cherokee domiciles in the area, which they termed hothouses.
Marble was once an incorporated town, It had a mayor, a number of shops, train depot and bus station. It passed ordinances and operated like any other town.
Former N.C House Rep. Roger West, a Republican, was born there and owns a business there. "When I was growing up, you could buy a Coca-Cola in four places. Now you can only buy it in one," West said.
Marble today also is home to the Cherokee County Indian Community Club, Cherokee County Indian Clinic and John Welch Senior Center off Andrews Road.
Martins Creek was named for the family who originally settled in around the time of the Cherokee Indian Removal in 1838.
According to an article by Howard Martin that used U.S Census records, Cherokee County birth and death records, cemetery markers and family stories, William Martin was born in Surry County. He moved to Cherokee County with his children shortly after the death of his wife. he built a home near where the old Martins Creek School was located. A large creek was near his home, and the stream would eventually bear the family name.
Martins Creek was a community where logging and farming were top industries. Farming is still done in the community today with Stiles Farm, and many still grow vegetables.
Near Whitaker Lane in southeastern Andrews resides a community once muddied by the dirt of the past. The unpaved roads in Mudtown used to become covered in mud because of the rains washing dirt down the hill from Happy Top. The town also was known for the many Andrews tannery and extract workers who used to live there.
Much of Ogreeta disappeared under water when Hiwassee Dam was built, but some residents of the community between Grape Creek and Unaka have toiled to keep the name alive and separate from the larger area.
Ogreeta is more than 11 miles from Murphy down Hanging Dog Road at an elevation of 1,608 feet. No one seems to know how the area got its name but it is agreed that it is a Native American moniker.
The only businesses that can be seen from the main road are a marine storage facility and Shook's Marina. Ogreeta Baptist Church has been a landmark at the intersection with Ogreeta Road since 1895.
A drive through the Peachtree community shows scenic mountain vistas combines with areas of activities, The community has a busy commerce section that includes discount stores, produce stands, farmlands, a veterinary clinic, doctors' offices, and a restaurant.
The community also is home Tri-County Community College, Erlanger Murphy Medical Center (new name now is Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital) and Moog Inc., one of few manufacturers left in the county, has a facility on U.S 64 East Alternate.
The community known as Ranger is a place where people live.
The back roads ramble through rolling landscapes with small mountains, old homes mingled with new ones. It is pasture land and subdivisions. The area in western Cherokee County has few businesses - the flea markets at U.S 64/74 West and U.S 19/129 South showcase the most visible commerce. Other businesses are strung along U.S 64 West. A couple of attempts at small shopping centers closed, but owners are attempting to bring them back to life.
Centers of activities in the community are the Ranger Community Center and Mountain Folk Center. Ranger Baptist Church and its Family Life Center draw people from the community together.
The former Cherokee County Industrial Park on U.S 64 West has gotten its original name back - Mountain Folk Center.
Along a loop of road that stretched from one side of Rhodo to the other lies Red Marble, which people also can locate through finding Red Marble Road. Conley said the area's name was inspired by the red marble that can be found throughout the community.
If you drive further east past Granny Squirrel, the community of Rhodo appears.
The owners of the town's main boarding house cooked half-baked biscuits. Foreign visitors would eat the bread at the boarding house and call it "rhodo," instead of raw dough. The mispronounced words soon became the boarding house owner's nickname, then evolved into the name of the community.
Further up Andrews' northern mountains at the top of Beaver Creek Road, people can find Sweat Heifer. Former Andrews alderman Ray Frazier suspects that the name arose from the amount of effort put into trekking up the mountain to Sweat Heifer. By the end of the hike, people were "sweat like heifers."
Texana was established when slavery was still legal, but the black community grew and functioned almost like its own town in the early 1900s, with numerous thriving business.
Today, the Murphy community on a hill is more multicultural but still primarily composed of black residents. The businesses are gone, but a 2003 tornado reawakened a community spirit with one of the most notable of Texana happenings coming up - the 131st annual homecoming.
Texana "Texas" McClelland and her family established Texana about 1850, according to A Pictorial History of Cherokee County published by the Cherokee County Historical Museum. She was the first black woman to move into the settlement. The first Baptist Church in the community was a little log church with W.M. Herbert the first pastor. Church members built a frame church in 1881 and named it Mount Zion. It is on the same grounds where the present Mount Zion Baptist Church worships today.
While the name Tomotla, according to archaeologist Brett Riggs, came from the Yamassee tribe in South Carolina, the community bears a great significance to the Cherokee Nation and still holds a home for Cherokee people today.
The Yamassee became refugees after the war in 1715, and many of them ended up in the Valley River area. The name of the tribe and its people in the area were absorbed into the Cherokee Nation.
The town was shown on British maps in different locations in the county - one at the head of Andrews, and another where the community sits along the Valley River between Andrews and Murphy.
Unaka gets its name from the surrounding mountains. The word Unaka come from the Cherokee word for the color white. Joe Brown Highway, which leads to the communities roughly a 45-minute drive from Murphy, follows portions of the routes taken to remove Cherokees to Oklahoma. The last Cherokee home site before crossing the Unaka mountains was said to be the home of Wacheesee, who was reported by the troops who encountered him as almost 100 years old, proud and unyielding.
With its rolling pastures, mountains, and lake, a traveler to Violet may be just as likely to see a deer, turkey, wild hog or bear as a person. But the people of the area in the northwestern part of the county are close-knit and proud of their community and way of life.
Violet is north of Lake Hiwassee and Lake Appalachia and is 21 miles from Murphy and 36 miles from Cleveland, Tenn. Violet is in the Beaverdam township. Beaverdam is named for the beavers that built dams across the streams, according to A Pictorial History of Cherokee County.