Long before the arrival of the white man, native people whose names are unknown to us inhabited Transylvania territory. Those primitive tribes traveled on foot, along paths beaten out by the buffalo that inhabited the Carolinas before the dawn of modern history. Later on the buffalo trails were widened and deepened by the footsteps of the Cherokee as they journeyed throughout the region hunting game and trading their commodities. Finally the white man's wagons, creaking and rumbling, laden with goods and children left evidence of their passing in ruts and holes gouged into those prehistoric passageways. The ancient Eastatoe Path was just such a road.
We do not know how the Eastatoe Path came into existence, nor how many years the Indians used it before the colonization of the Carolinas. Early settlers in present Transylvania County called it simply 'The Path' or 'The Indian Path'. In those days the Cherokee held an annual hunting expedition that followed the path through the Davidson River area, through the site of Brevard, the Cherryfields, and crossed the French Broad River near the confluence of its tributary forks at present day Rosman. From the French Broad crossing, the path led to the mountain we know as Indian Camp Mountain; from there it continued south into the Cherokee Lower Towns, including Eastatoe, Toxaway, and Keowee.
Eastatoe (or Estatoe) is believed to be the Indian name for the beautiful little green Carolina parakeet, now extinct, which inhabited the Carolinas during early colonial times. The name has been applied liberally to creeks, rivers, valleys, gaps and entire townships as far away as Mitchell County, which might indicate the influence of the Cherokee was more far reaching than we have believed.(1) Early Transylvania settlers called the local Cherokee people the Eastatoes, identifying them with their trade town of Eastatoe. Thus the Indian Path, or the Trading Path as it was sometimes called, became the Eastatoe Path and the ford across the French Broad River became the Eastatoe Ford.
Some of the earliest white settlers in the vicinity of Rosman were the Gillespies at East Fork, John Carson and his neighbors between Island Ford and Carson's Creek, and John Owen who received a Revolutionary War grant for 640 acres in the Cherryfield section. All these families were here around the year 1800. Many Cherokees lived in what is now Transylvania County at that time. A few adventurous whites mingled with the Indians, but most kept their distance. The presence of the Indians was a deterrent to settlement until the Cherokee removal of 1839. After that the peopling of the upper French Broad valley proceeded at a more rapid pace. By the 1850's the little community on the banks of the Eastatoe Ford needed a church and a school. Land records show the church at Zion Meeting Place was already in operation in 1857 when property for the school was deeded to the church and its officials.(2)
Many of the Scots Irish settlers moving into the Rosman vicinity had lived in the Eastatoe Valley of South Carolina, the location of the old Indian towns of Toxaway and Eastatoe. Along with their household goods, these folks brought their Cherokee place names up the mountain with them and applied them to their new surroundings. The USGS topographical map for the Reid quadrangle in western Transylvania County displays the Toxaway River and Toxaway Creek in addition to the Lake Toxaway landmarks. The adjoining topographical map - the Eastatoe Gap quadrangle - features Eastatoe Gap, Eastatoe Creek and Old Toxaway Church. What is not shown is that all three of these sites are in Eastatoe Township as well. Further use of Indian town names is found in persistent but unproven oral tradition suggesting a small settlement called Toxaway was located near the forks of the French Broad well before the Civil War.
While evidence supporting a pre-Civil War town of Toxaway on the French Broad headwaters is meager, there is ample proof that Jeptha was a true forerunner of Rosman. A post office for Jeptha was opened in 1890. Jeptha was listed along with nearby Brevard in the U.S. Atlas in 1895. According to research by a Brevard historian now deceased, the Jeptha post office was at Calvert, and operated until 1901.(3) Another source narrows down the location to somewhere near the Peter Vitalie plant on Old Highway 64 east of Rosman.(4) This site is less than a mile from the old Calvert rail stop, and is therefore a good possibility for the Jeptha post office's location.
Whatever Jeptha's charms might have been, they were eclipsed at the turn of the century by the arrival of Mr. J.F. Hays' long and shiny black train. The railroad reached the Eastatoe Ford in 1900. There Mr. Hays built a new depot and named it Toxaway. Right away a new post office was established by the same name. The nearby Jeptha post office closed its doors the following August.
The hoot of the train whistle as it echoed up and down the valley energized the little settlement on the banks of the French Broad. By 1901 the people of Jeptha community had incorporated themselves and laid out the metes and bounds of their new town, which they named Toxaway. Within a year Joseph Silversteen had come to town to establish a tannery. Track was being laid to extend the railroad ten miles west to Hogback Valley where Mr. Hays and the Toxaway Company were constructing a tourist resort. A logging and timber industry was in the offing. It was an exciting and prosperous time.
Who could know that bitter disappointment was looming on the horizon for the citizens of the new town of Toxaway? The seeds of the trouble over the name of the town had sprouted the decade before. During that time Mr. Hays and the stockholders of the Toxaway Company had been buying up land in the uplands at Hogback Valley, including all of the Toxaway River basin, in preparation for the construction of the third in a string of mountain pleasure resorts for the super rich. Lake Fairfield and Lake Sapphire and their attendant lodging facilities were in operation by the end of the century. Then work began to impound the headwaters of the Toxaway River and build a first class tourist hotel on the eastern shore of the new lake. The railroad was part of the overall plan, for dependable transportation from the French Broad Valley up the rugged mountains to Hogback Valley was a necessity, as buggy roads up the mountain were practically impassable. The last section of track from Toxaway up to the lake was completed in 1903. Immediately Lake Toxaway became a popular destination for wealthy aristocrats......And the little town at the foot of the mountain was asked to change its name......
In the end almost everyone agreed it was a necessary step to end the confusion arising from two railroad stops having the same name. But one can almost feel the people's disappointment, frustration, and dissatisfaction by looking at the postal records for the years 1903 and 1904:
January 12, 1903. Name changed from Toxaway to Eastatoe
February 28, 1903. Name changed back to Toxaway
April 7, 1903. Name change rescinded
April 7, 1903. Name changed to French Broad
May 8, 1903. Name change rescinded
May 13, 1903. Name changed to Toxaway.......
Clearly the hearts of the people were not into changing the name of their town. Finally Joseph Silversteen of the newly established Silversteen Industries used his influence to get the people of the town to adopt a new name, once and for all. The name Rosman was derived from the surnames of two of Mr. Silversteen's associates, Joseph Rosenthal and Morris Omansky. On July 18, 1904 the name of the post office was changed to Rosman. The following year the North Carolina General Assembly officially changed the name of the little town from Toxaway to Rosman.
Recovering from its disappointment, Rosman went on to become a lively industrial center. For nearly 50 years Mr. Silversteen's tanning and extract plant and the logging and lumber business flourished, as did many smaller businesses. Today the citizens of Rosman admit to a slower pace. But a few of the oldest can still remember when the town was in her glory, when Brevard was a sleepy little county seat and folks from there came to shop at the Rosman Company Store because selections were better and prices were lower.(5)
Rosman's citizens today are just as passionate about their town as those who in 1901 signed the Toxaway town charter. Like those original ones, they have proven themselves able to weather disappointment and seize opportunities. Drawing on the experience of those who came before, they have gained the kind of perspective that produces patience in adversity and looks to the future with confidence and hope. They know their story isn't finished. Like the ancient Eastatoe Path, along whose borders more than a century ago the metes and bounds of their town were laid down, their story arises far in the distant past and stretches out of sight into tomorrow.
For after all, it is still there. Beneath the concrete, gravel and asphalt of the smooth and modern Pickens Highway, way down deep in the dust of the ages, the ancient Eastatoe Path remains, right where it always was. Who can tell what that might mean, or what good fortune is even now on its way to Rosman, headed up the mountain on that timeless trail?
(1) Shepherd, Cabins in the Laurel
(2) Transylvania County Historical Society, The History of Estatoe Ford, Jeptha, Toxaway, Eastatoe, Rosman, N.C.
(3) Harold Norwood's research on local post offices, Transylvania Archives
(4) Oral tradition, repeated by Rebecca Suddeth
(5) Cal Carpenter, The Walton War and Tales of the Great Smoky Mountains
©Marjorie Rose Owen
Little Panthertail Mountain
Lake Toxaway, N.C.
Take me to The Depot.I want to know more about Toxaway Country
I'm tired. Take me Home.