First Visit To Cooper's Station
by G. A. Burgin
The first time I was ever at Cooper's station I was about 11 years old. Old man George Smith lived near us. His oldest boy Vance was about my age. We were good buddies. He said that he and his father were going to Cooper's station Saturday and wanted me to go with them. We had some ducks that were giving us some trouble, so I got my mother to let me take them to Cooper's station and sell them. So old man George Vance, and I on Saturday lit out for Cooper's station. I with five ducks and Vance and his father with as many medical herbs as they could carry up across Big Hill on Broad River.
We went up Lakey's Creek crossing Lakey Gap, down the road. At the Black Mountain Inn the Rev. T. K. Brown lived, and George Fletcher and Bert, his sons were out in the road. Bert who was very small, talked about buying my ducks, but he did not. That was the first time I ever saw Bert. Later in life I learned to like him as a brother. We came onto Asheville road at Squire John Stepp's home, now Y.M.C.A. intersection to Asheville, on highway 70, and went on to Cooper's station, now Swannanoa. There were two stores in Cooper's station, George Hyams' and William Wilson's. George Hyams bought all kinds of herbs. Old man Smith sold their load of herbs to him, they had to pay in goods. You could sell things only for trade.
I sold my ducks to William Wilson for 25 cents apiece in trade. We started back to Crooked Creek with a load of groceries. We got to Squire John Stepps. He had a corn mill on Y.M.C.A. road, right below the bridge on Flat Creek. Old man Smith got a half-bushel of corn and had it ground. An elderly lady ground it for him and it added some more to our burden.
We went up hill and down dale until we reached home on Crooked Creek, we were worn out and starved as we had had no dinner that day; when I got home I ate a good supper and went to bed. I didn't know I was in the world until next morning. That was my first duck peddling and my last.
Going back to Asheville highway where now the intersection of Y.M.C.A. road to No. 70 was the old Stepp Tavern where Squire John Stepp lived. He had four children, three girls and a boy. Johnny Dick as he was called. Everyone that knew Mr. Stepp liked him. Before trains came through, the stage stopped at the Stepp Tavern and passengers would eat there.
The picture that Miss Salley Kate Davidson gave the Black Mountain News was a good one of the old house. It is a great pity that old houses like that have to be torn down. On the Asheville highway to North Fork there was no bridge. They went down on the east side of the creek a little way and crossed at a ford. Between that bridge at Grove Stone and the ford is where Cunningum killed Sternburg. At that time the trains came only as far as Old Fort. All goods had to be hauled by team from Old Fort to Asheville. Old Dr. Fletcher had a team on the haul.
Cunningum, who was driving his team, ate at Stepp's Tavern and they came to know him well. Sternburg, a traveling man, was on the stage and when it stopped there he would eat too and also they knew him well. He had been on a trip and came back to Old Fort on a train. The stage had already gone and he was in a rush to get to Asheville. He met Cunningum who offered to to take him to Asheville on his wagon. They started up the mountain to Swannanoa gap, then down to Stepp's Tavern and stopped to eat their supper.
After supper they left for Asheville. Went down to where Grove Stone is now, stopped to rest awhile. Cunningum killed Sternburg, robbed him of everything he had, then split him open and stuffed him full of rocks an threw him into a hole of water. Some time after then it came a fresh and washed him out on a sand bar. A man working in a field nearby heard an awful dog fight out at the creek. He went to see what the trouble was and found that they were eating on the dead man and got to fighting over him. The man raised an alarm and people gathered about. Some one from Stepp's Tavern identified him and told of how he and Cunningum had left there before and he had been missing. So they arrested Cunningum and held him for murder.
A friend came in and employed Nick Woodfin to defend Cunningum. Nick Woodfin said there never would be another man hung in Buncombe County as long as he lived. He moved the trial to Madison County. When it came up Nick Woodfin made an awful fight for Cunningum. He got through with the evidence and got up to plead the case to court and jury. He was getting old and feeble and exerted himself so he just fell over and they carried him out; so that ended the career of a fine lawyer and a highly honorable and respected man. They went through with the trial and Cunningum paid for his awful crime by swinging by the neck to a rope. This was told to me by older people than I. When I think of Swannanoa, I think of Pattons, Alexanders, Porters, Wilsons, Burgins and Davidsons.
The first permanent settlement that was made in the valley was at the mouth of Bee Tree Creek. Samuel Davidson was the first settler to come across the Blue Ridge and settle in Swannanoa Valley. He came from Old Fort and settled south of Gudger's bridge near Azalea. He brought with him his wife and child and a Negro slave girl. He would work his horse and at night he would put a bell on him and let him pick all night. One morning when he went to get him a crowd of Indians had come in and taken the bell off of the horse. They hid and were rattling it. Not knowing it he went to them and they killed him and raised their war whoop. His wife, knowing what it meant, took the child and slave girl and started for Old Fort. They went up the north side to the top of that mountain, followed the top of that mountain until they came to Blue Ridge on to Swannanoa gap, down a long ridge to Old Fort. Coming through the brambles, bushes and briars they claimed their clothing was about all torn off and their flesh badly torn.
My great-grandfather, pioneer Benjamin Burgin, got up a crowd of men and ran the Indians out and buried Samuel Davidson.
There was no Gudger bridge there or Azalea, it was only a wild country.
So ends my story . . .