A History of Cherokee County
As early as 1836 the legislature provided that the Indian lands west of Macon should remain under the jurisdiction of that county till a new county should be formed for them, whose county seat should be named Murphy. (Rev. St. 1837, Vol. ii, p. 213 and p. 214). In 1842 the State granted to A. Smith, chairman of the County court, 433 acres for a court house, etc. (Deed Book A, p. 429, dated March 23, 1842.)
Old County Buildings
The old jail was back of the J. W. Cooper residence and the whipping post stood near where a street now runs, and the first court house, a very plain and unpretentious affair, stood at the intersection of the two main roads from the country. The new court house was built where the present one now stands, in 1891, at a cost of about $20,000, but it was burned in 1892. In 1893 and 1894 it was rebuilt, as the marble foundations and brick walls stood intact after the fire, at a cost of $12,000. There was no insurance on the burned building.
Murphy's location between two clear mountain rivers, its broad and almost level streets, its fine court house, schools and hotels form the nucleus around which a large city should grow. It has two competing railroads, and a climate almost ideal. Its citizens, too, are enterprising and progressive, good streets and roads being appreciated highly.
Murphy's First Citizens
Daniel F. Ramseur kept the old "Long Hotel," with offices, that used to stand near the public square.
Felix Axley was the father of the Murphy bar and of F. P. and J. C. Axley.
J. C. Abbott lived at the old A. T. Davidson place, and was a leading merchant after the Civil War.
Samuel Henry, deceased, was an antebellum resident, was U. S. Commissioner for years, and a friend of the late U. S. District Judge R. P. Dick.
A. M. Dyche (pronounced Dike) was sheriff, justice of the peace and a good citizen.
S. G. R. Mount was postmaster and lived in the southern part of town.
Dr. John W. Patton was a leading physician and lived near Hiwassee Bridge.
Mercer Fain lived where the Regal hotel stands now, and was a merchant, farmer and land speculator.
Benjamin S. Brittain lived in East Murphy from the organization of the county till his death, and was register of deeds.
Drewry Weeks lived on the northeast corner of the Square and was from the organization of the county till his death clerk of the old county court.
Seth Hyatt, sheriff, lived where Capt. J. W. Cooper afterwards resided.
Johnson King lived where S. Hyatt had lived, and married his widow. He was a partner of the late Col. W. H. Thomas, and the father of Hon. Mark C. King, several terms in the legislature.
Dr. C. T. Rogers was another leading physician.
Jesse Brooks was a merchant and lived on what is now Church Street.
G. L. D. McClelland lived first on Church and afterwards on the east side of Main Street and lived to be over ninety years of age, being highly esteemed.
William Berry was a merchant and farmer.
Xenas Hubbard was a tinner.
James Grant was a merchant and kept store where the Dickey hotel now stands.
John Rolen was a lawyer.
J. J. Turnbill was a blacksmith, and a man of unusual sense.
William Beale; This scholarly man came to Murphy from Canada just prior to the Civil War and taught school; was several times sheriff, and lived on the south side of Hiwassee bridge.
David and John Henesea; Just after the Civil War they moved from a fine farm at the head of Valley River. John kept a hotel, now the residence of C. E. Wood.
James W. Cooper; He moved to Murphy from Graham soon after the Civil War, and was a most successful lawyer and land speculator.
Residents of Cherokee County
Among the more prominent may be mentioned Abraham Harshaw, the largest slave owner, four miles south of Murphy; John Harshaw, his brother; Abraham Sudderth, who owned the Mission farm six miles south of Murphy, where Rev. Humphrey Posey had established a mission school for the Cherokees; William Strange owned a fine farm at the mouth of Brasstown creek; Gideon Morris, a Baptist preacher, who married Yonaguska's daughter; Andrew Moore; David Taylor; David Henesea; James W. C. Piercy, who, from the organization of the county till his death, located most of the land in Cherokee; James Tatham, the father of Purd and Bent, who lived a mile west of Andrews; James Whitaker and his son Stephen, who lived near Andrews; Hugh Collett and his father, who lived just above Old Valley Town and were men of industry and integrity; Buck and Neil Colvard, who lived at Tomotla; Wm. Welch, who lived in the same neighborhood; and Henry Moss, who lived at Marble, Ute Hyatt living on the adjoining farm. Elisha P. Kincaid lived four miles east of Murphy, and above him lived Betty Welch, or Betty Bly or Blythe, the heroine of Judge Strange's romance, "Yonaguska." John Welch was her husband, a half-breed Cherokee, and an "Avenger of Blood." In the western part of the county were Burton K. and George Dickey, Wm. C. Walker, who was killed at the close of the Civil War, having been colonel of the 29th N. C. regiment; Abel S. Hill, sheriff; Calvin C. Vest; and others, who lived on Notla. In the northern part lived Harvey Davidson, sheriff and farmer; and the Hunsuckers, Blackwells, Longwoods, Gentrys and others. Goldman Bryson lived on Beaver Dam, and was said to have been at the head of a band of banditti during the Civil War, and was followed into the mountains and killed by a party of Confederates. Andrew and Jeff Colvard were founders of large and influential families. They were bold and daring frontiersmen and citizens of character and ability. "Old Rock Voyles," as he was affectionately called, lived on Persimmon creek, ten miles from Murphy, and was a man of originality and humor. He lived to a great age.
A Cemetery in the Cliffs
All along the crest of the ridges which terminate in rock cliffs on the bank of the Hiwassee River about one mile below Murphy are large deposits of human bones, supposed to be the bones of Cherokees. The number of shallow graves on the crests of these ridges, covered over by cairns of loose stones, indicate that this must have been the burial place of Indians for many years.
Source: Western North Carolina A History From 1730 to 1913, By John Preston Arthur, Published by Edward Cherokee Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, of Cherokeeville, N. C., 1914