Tuesday History: The sulphur springs of West Asheville

WEST ASHEVILLE: The illustration was drawn around 1883. Photo courtesy of Dr. David E. Whisnant
WEST ASHEVILLE: The illustration was drawn around 1883. Photo courtesy of Dr. David E. Whisnant

This week’s Tuesday History comes courtesy of Dr. David E. Whisnant. On his blog, Asheville Junction, the historian and Asheville native revisits West Asheville prior to the Civil War. He tells the little known story of Revolutionary War veteran Robert Henry, who in 1827 discovered a sulphur spring within the present-day boundary of Malvern Hills. By 1830, Henry and his son-in-law, Reuben Deaver, began construction on a hotel at the location, Deaver’s Sulphur Spring. Whisnant writes that the business would be “a key early part of what later became Asheville’s drive to situate itself as western North Carolina’s major tourist ‘draw.’”

Whisnant describes Henry as a “dynamo of energy and enterprise: veteran of the battle of King’s Mountain, surveyor, land speculator, lawyer, planter and public official in western North Carolina.” By the 1840s, Deaver’s Sulphur Spring is equipped with bowling alleys, billiard tables and shuffleboard, along with a ballroom, live music and French pastries.

Conflicts, however, arose between the elder Henry and his son-in-law, resulting in lawsuits and counter suits. In 1861, the Civil War began. That same year, the hotel burned to the ground.

For a more detailed account of the hotel, as well as Dr. Whisnant’s subsequent posts on West Asheville’s history, click here.

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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.

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