Letter: Could we please rename Spooks Branch Road?

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I used to live in your fine city and found it to be a magical place. It made me wonder how a road could still bear that name.

I looked into it and found a 100 years of history article by the Citizen Times [“Visiting Our Past: 100 Years of Spooks Branch Stories”], and it says the name is either about a wagon wheel or some folksy esoteric nonsense.

So I looked up other articles. I found only a blog post from a Black Ashevillean writing about present-day racism. She refers to the fact it contains a slur, but misses the broader point.

This name is a blatant reference to lynching. One hundred percent. No debate about it.

This street was named in 1915. That is the height of the lynching.

This road flies under the radar as a small stretch of mountain road where people could be dragged up in the dead of night and hanged.

Please get someone to rename the road. It’s too much of a blatant reference to anti-Black terrorism at the hands of the Klan for 2022.

Short Coxe is a two-block stretch of road everyone knows about. Everyone’s got a joke about it.

Spooks Branch is slightly longer, but more tucked away. Shrouded from view by trees and cloaked by mountains, the road is a relic of the past that haunts us to this day.

So please do a story about it. Try to do some good and have this street renamed.

— Nick Rehwaldt
Milwaukee, Wis.

Editor’s response: Thank you for the suggestion. In the 2015 Citizen Times article mentioned above, Rob Neufeld wrote: “A trace of African American life in Beaverdam may reside in the name Spooks Branch — which, according to Helen Nelon, either refers to a wagon-maker and his spokes or to the phosphorescent glow that emanated from the cove’s damp area, to which Baird slaves had once taken cows to pasture.”

Current research hasn’t found evidence of a lynching around the Beaverdam road. In Buncombe County, there are three known lynchings, as Thomas Calder noted in a 2020 Xpress article (avl.mx/c63): John Humphreys (in 1888 near the old jail, not far from Pack Square), Hezekiah Rankin (in 1891 somewhere along the French Broad River) and Bob Brachett (in 1897 at Reems Creek).


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4 thoughts on “Letter: Could we please rename Spooks Branch Road?

  1. Jonny D

    Another example of someone spouting off about something they no nothing about.
    I got a better idea, go back to Wisconsin. And take a few with you..
    Jonny D

  2. NFB

    “This name is a blatant reference to lynching. One hundred percent. No debate about it.”

    The letter writer makes this emphatic statement and yet offers absolutely no evidence to back it up.

    But, hey, it is good to know that Milwaukee is so perfect and has not problems for the letter writer to concern himself with.

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