Tuesday History: Politics and Asheville’s first automobile

THE OLD AND THE NEW: A farmer stands beside a a touring car of teens. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville, North Carolina

Local politics and automobiles are the focus of this week’s excerpt from Edwin Bedford Jeffress’ 1950 Asheville Citizen article, titled “Jeffress, Former Newspaperman Here, Describes Asheville of 1908-1911.” Click here for last week’s look at the local newspaper industry.

Thanks as always to the Pack Memorial Library’s Special Collections, North Carolina Room for its assistance.  Thanks to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial for additional information, as well.

On March 26, 1950, Jeffress wrote:

The Post Office was the political headquarters of the opposition. … One could frequently notice around the Post Office political leaders from the Western counties, as Asheville was much of a political headquarters. Politics was a great topic of interest for reporters who were on the lookout for the latest developments.

In those days politics was always a lively topic in this end of the state, as partisanship was strong. The old Tenth Congressional District varied from Republican to Democratic. If the Democrats won, the Republican candidate always contested the race.

CARS AND POLITICS:  Gov. Locke Craig, addressing a crowd assembled for the Good Roads Association of Asheville, Circa 1913.
CARS AND POLITICS: Gov. Locke Craig, addressing a crowd assembled for the Good Roads Association of Asheville, Circa 1913. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville, North Carolina…

The first automobile to come into Asheville under its own power was a Ford driven from Jacksonville, Fla., by a man who was a Ford dealer in that state. It took several days to make the trip. He came by way of the ridge road from Augusta to Greenville, S.C., thence to Hendersonville and on to Asheville. The car was parked for a while in Pack Square where it attracted great attention. Asheville and Buncombe County had macadam roads, but they had a great tendency to pit up under traffic, as the way of holding the rocks in a firm surface by treating with tar and asphalt was not in general use. The physicians of Asheville began using cars for visiting their patients, as this was much swifter and did not require too much attention of the drivers. Some of the doctors who used to buggy and single horse would carry a large weight in the vehicle, park the buggy at a curb, and by a snap line then attach the weight to the horse bridal. [Research provided by the Thomas Wolfe Memorial informs us that weights were used for tying down horses in lieu of a hitching post. These weights went by many names including tether weight, hitching weight and pesters. The Wolfe Memorial also notes that there was another approach used for keeping a horse or mule stationary. It was called a “hobble,” which involved tying the front/back legs of the animal together.]

In Henderson, Preston Patton was building roads with creek gravel surfacing, but as cars increased the use of pneumatic tires, the surfacing was loosened by suction of the loose binding particles.

Eugene Sawyer, a bicycle dealer, took over the automobile agency for the Cadillac Company and these automobiles soon began to chug over streets and roads. Ralph Carrier owned a “one lung” Cadillac which was quite good on a level road. However, when on a hill he had to rush down one hill in order to gain momentum to go over the next one. It was Carrier’s father who built the Carrier’s bridge for an electric line to Sulphur Springs.

Next week we will conclude Jeffress’ recollections of Asheville, with topics covering golf, hotels and Jeffress’ departure from the mountains.


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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

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One thought on “Tuesday History: Politics and Asheville’s first automobile

  1. Beverly L Johnson

    I think I know the name of the Man who brought the first car to Asheville. My mother always told me that my Grandfather was the first man in Asheville to own a car. She said that he had bought it in Jacksonville and drove it home. His name would have been John Reed.
    He moved to Lake City Florida and changed his name to
    Jack White. I am not sure that her story was true. I have always fantasized that it was true.

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