Jackson County is shaped by the unique identities
of its several towns and small communities, each with its own rich history.
Located at 3,486 feet above sea level, Cashiers
is said to be named for a lost horse — an acknowledgement of the
area’s dense forests, replete with laurel and rhododendron thickets.
The town was hailed as a cool respite from the hot, humid shipping towns
further south for mid-nineteenth century aristocrats.
One such aristocratic family was the Hamptons. Wade Hampton III was the
best-known member of the family due to his service as a general in the
Confederate Army and active political career. In 1890, Dr. William S.
Halstead, who married into the Hampton family, bought the Hampton home,
renaming it High Hampton after his ancestral home High Halstead in England.
The High Hampton Country Club later was constructed on the same property.
Now, Cashiers is home to several similar resorts and golf courses but
also boasts great opportunities for outdoor recreation such as hiking
and mountain climbing.
Also of note are some of the smaller communities one passes traveling
south on N.C. 107 from the county seat of Sylva to Cashiers such as East
LaPorte. Located alongside the Tuckasegee River past Cullowhee, East LaPorte
was once the site of an Indian trading post established by the French
Huguenots as the eastern entrance to Indian territory. In French, East
LaPorte means “eastern door.”
Cullowhee, which means “white lily” in Cherokee, is an unincorporated
township comprised mostly of Western Carolina University and the surrounding
businesses and residences designed to service faculty and student needs.
Professor Robert Lee Madison founded Western Carolina University —
originally chartered as Cullowhee High School — in August of 1889. Beginning about 1912, the status of the school was gradually raised. The
university went through several name changes as its course offerings increased
and it wasn’t until 1967, when the school was designated a regional
university by the North Carolina General Assembly, that the name Western
Carolina University was finally settled upon.
Near Cullowhee is the Forest Hills township, named for the 1878-1880 postmaster’s
home, Forest Hill. Today, the township is home to a number of university
Today a village of shops, crafters and family restaurants, Dillsboro has
always been a center of railway activity.
During the 1880s when the Western
North Carolina Railroad was built, the village bore a variety of names
— Depot, New Webster, or Webster Station. In 1882, the Tunnel Post
Office (named for the railroad’s Cowee Tunnel) was established with
William Allen Dills as postmaster. It was the railroad’s developer,
A.B. Andrews — for whom the town of Andrews in Cherokee County is
named — who suggested the town adopt the name of its postmaster,
becoming Dillsboro. Dills was responsible for building the Riverwood Shops,
which overlook the Tuckasegee River, and what later became known as the
C.J. Harris House. Harris is the namesake of Harris Regional Hospital
Dills’ own home stood next to the Mt. Beulah Hotel — constructed
in 1884 and today known as the Jarrett House. By 1888, Dillsboro had become
the most important town along the railroad in terms of industry, with
two sawmills, two clay mines, two livery stables, six general stores,
a shoemaker and several wood yards.
The Glenville community is centered on a large man-made lake with 26 miles
of shoreline at 3,500 feet above sea level. The lake is the highest of
its size east of the Mississippi River and is a favorite place for aquatic
The area originally was known as the Hamburg Township, settled in 1827.
In the late 1880s the area was thriving with industries including forestry,
tanning and mining. It was in 1891 that the area was renamed Glenville.
The lake itself was not created until 1940-41, when Nantahala Power and
Light Company?— owned by ALCOA — constructed a dam on the
Tuckasegee River. The hydroelectric dam provided more electricity to help
make aluminum for the war effort. The creation of the lake flooded Glenville’s
schools, homes, businesses and farmlands. Today, the community is settled
along the shores with several second and vacation homes, boating businesses
and small shops.
Sylva is Jackson County’s retail and professional center where day-to-day
services meet unique history. The town’s development rose with the
construction of the Western North Carolina Railroad in the 1880s. Its
name came about at the suggestion of Mae Hampton, daughter of E.R. Hampton,
who is credited as being the founder of Sylva. E.R. Hampton had married
into the Cannon family, which owned a sawmill where William D. Sylva,
an itinerant Dane, had helped saw the logs that built the Hampton’s
The railroad’s route through Sylva made it a prime location for
the county seat — originally located in Webster — but the
issue of relocation resulted in years of bitter dispute between the two
town’s representatives. The state legislature settled the dispute,
giving Sylva permission to construct a courthouse so long as the town
paid the moving costs to relocate. On Feb. 28, 1914, the new Sylva courthouse,
located on a hill overlooking Main Street, opened. Construction costs
totaled $30,000. Today, the courthouse is reputed to be the most photographed
in the country.
The town of Webster is a quiet residential community situated on top of
a hill overlooking the Tuckasegee River. The town was created in the mid-1800s
with the purchase of an 18-acre tract specifically designated to become
the county seat. Within a few years of its settlement, a courthouse was
erected. The town was incorporated in 1859, but over the next 20 years
the town government became inactive — the first of several rises
and falls in the town’s municipal development, and perhaps an early
indicator of the town’s future. The story goes that during the construction
of the Western North Carolina Railroad, county residents fully expected
the railroad to run through Webster. However, the county’s state
government representative — said to be fond of his drink —
was taken aside at a crucial moment in the voting process and plied with
liquor by an individual desiring a more direct route from Sylva to Dillsboro.
The location of the railroad later was a primary factor in the movement
to relocate the county seat from Webster to Sylva.
Whittier, Jackson County’s closest community to Cherokee, was another
railroad town. Upon calling the area’s residents together, Clark
Whittier proposed the formal establishment of a town: “It is my
wish and I so move that we start operations here upon the principals and
Word of God, including all morality, especially temperance and prohibition
of the strongest form.”
The town was incorporated in 1907 and by
1913 boasted a dry store, hotel, physician and surgeon, plus sawmills,
lumber yards, three churches and a school. However, with the Great Depression
the town lost much of its industry as the demand for lumber declined.
By 1993 Whittier’s charter was repealed and today the community
is mostly residential.
(Historical information collected from The History
of Jackson County, a publication of the Jackson County Historical Association.)