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.

SHARE
About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.