Today, Grenville rode in the engine cab of The Great Smokey Mountains Railroad (GSMRR) and to say he was excited would be an understatement. You can be sure that he’ll post about his adventures in a separate blog. These images were taken early today after arrival at the depot. We were there very early – did I mention that Grenville was so VERY excited?We rode together yesterday, so I took today to explore downtown Bryson City, NC. This is a small town that depends heavily on tourism during the spring and summer months. The GSMRR is a major factor (perhaps only?) in attracting visitors here. Bryson City is centered around the junction of Everett and Main Streets. Main Street is part of U.S. Route 19, which connects Bryson City to Cherokee to the northeast and Murphy to the southwest. Bryson City is the county seat for Swain County. In 2009, the population was 1,353.
The town is surrounded on all sides by mountains: the Great Smoky Mountains to the north, the Cowee Mountains to the south, and the Plott Balsams to the east. The boundary of the Nantahala National Forest passes just south of the city, and the boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park passes to the north. Native Americans have been living and hunting in this area for over 14,000 years. The village of Kituhwa, believed to be the oldest Cherokee village, was located along the Tuckasegee River upstream from Bryson City. It was burned by American soldiers in 1776. In 1818, Big Bear, a Cherokee chief, received a 640-acre reservation of land immediately west of the confluence of Deep Creek and the Tuckasegee River, including most of what is now Bryson City. Big Bear sold part of his reservation to Darling Belk in 1819; another part to John Love in 1824. Throughout the 1830s, Belk’s heirs and Love fought an extended legal battle over control of the Big Bear reservation, with Love prevailing in 1840. The following year, Love sold part of the land to James and Diana Shular, who sold off parts of their land to Colonel Thaddeus Bryson and merchant Alfred Cline. A small hamlet called Bear Springs developed in what was once Big Bear's reservation. Today, bear statues are popular throughout downtown Bryson City.Along with other artwork seen downtown.In 1871, Swain County was formed from parts of Jackson County and Macon County. The new commissioners met at Lucy Cline’s store in Bear Springs. Mrs.Cline (Alfred’s widow) agreed to sell some lots of her land to form a county seat, initially called Charleston. It was laid out in a T-shape formed by what’s now Main Street and Everett Street (named for the county's first sheriff, Epp Everett).
For years, Bryson City had only dirt streets, which were often muddy, and no sidewalks. The first sidewalks were built with the property owners sharing expense on a voluntary basis; some had sidewalks and some did not. There was no stock law then, so livestock ran loose. The early economy of Swain County was farming, trading, merchandising, and manufacturing. The Western North Carolina Railroad laid tracks through Bryson City in 1884. Previously, all travel was by stage, wagons, or horseback. In 1889, the city was renamed Bryson City to acknowledge services rendered by one of its founders, Capt. Thaddeus Bryson, and to distinguish it from Charleston, SC.Three different courthouses were built in Bryson City between 1873 and 1908. Court was held at the first courthouse until 1882. An 1879 fire created the need for a new courthouse. Construction began in 1881 and was completed in 1882. This courthouse also as completely gutted by fire on January 3, 1908. A third courthouse was completed on the public square in November 1908 and is still there, but no longer used for judicial proceedings.
The increasing popularity of the automobile led to a decline in railroad transportation, and Southern Railway (who had replaced the Western North Carolina Railroad) dropped passenger service in 1948. After Norfolk Southern ended freight traffic on the railroad in 1985, the state of North Carolina purchased the tracks. In 1988, the scenic Great Smoky Mountains Railroad was established with its depot and departure point in Bryson City.
We dined at several places in Bryson City including Anthony’s – recommended by fellow bloggers, Lois and Kjell, who visited in March (we also had a deluxe pizza). We can recommend the Everett Street Diner for breakfast.
This was a long post, but the only one on Bryson City itself. We’re touring part (very small part) of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park Thursday, before starting the return trip home on Friday.