The Buncombe Turnpike

The Buncombe TurnpikeTHE BUNCOMBE TURNPIKE

The Asheville area has always been a crossroads due to its central location in the French Broad River valley. Just asmajor interstate highways cross here today, throughout time the area has been a hub for travel and transport through the mountains.

By the early 1800s many farmers in the region had moved beyond subsistence agriculture and were raising crops and animals to sell for cash. The challenge of getting livestock to the major markets of Atlanta, Charleston, and further south was met by driving animals on foot via a loose network of trails known as drovers’ roads. In 1828, the Buncombe Turnpike toll road was opened to provide an improved route which greatly increased traffic to andthrough Western North Carolina.

Buncombe Turnpike mapEach year, tens of thousands of hogs and other livestock were driven south “on the hoof” from the farms of east Tennessee and western North Carolina to Greenville and many other cities in South Carolina. Farmers along the route enjoyed brisk sales of their corn to feed the hungry animals. The turnpike also fostered a network of hotels known as stands, which provided over night food and lodging for both livestock and drovers. One writer described this massive annual migration as a “great river of hogs.”

This map shows the route of the Buncombe Turnpike from the Tennessee border, along the French Broad River to Asheville, and then south to the South Carolina border above Greenville, SC. Also shown are some of the inns, or “stands,” where the drovers and their animals would stay overnight.

From Ora Blackmun, Western North Carolina: Its Mountains and Its People to 1880, Appalachian Consortium Press, 1977.