Lakey Gap Citizens
by G. A. Burgin
Jan 7, 1954
Lakey Gap road begins at the intersection of Fairview and Old Fort road. The road came straight up the creek part of the way and part of the way it would be on the banks of the creek. In those days they made all roads straight to the foot of the mountains. As you started up the mountain there was a house which stood on the right side of the road and Riley Melton lived there. Years later there was a government still over to the left of the road, they made and sold "good old mountain dew."
Straight up the mountain to the top was the county line. At that time Broad River was part of McDowell County; it was later cut off to Buncombe County.
The road came on across the mountain, which is Lakey Gap. The road came on over a bluff, down to the left side of a drain until it crossed the drain. It was later changed to the right side of the drain. In between these two roads was a house and an old lady lived there by the name of Freeman. There was a large rock below this house in the bank of the road and a man broke a jug of old mountain dew against it and it went by the name of Joy Rock.
Straight down the mountain there was a church built on the side of the road; they called it Lakey Gap Church. Lakey Gap Church was a well-built log house. Over to the right from the church in a field is where Tommy Stepp lived. John Williamson, Pink Bartlett, Jeff Deal, the Rev. John Evans and his son-in-law all lived in the same vicinity.
To look at that old road now it looks as if it never could have had so much stuff hauled over it. There was lumber, tan bark, poplar squares, cross ties, acid wood, apples, chickens and eggs. In those days that brought in a lot of dollars and cents.
The road forked at the Gustavino's bridge. One road led to the left, the other to the right. The right road led straight to Black Mountain. There were no settlers on the road at that time between the Gustavino bridge and Flat Creek. There was no bridge over Flat Creek at that time; there was a foot-log to walk across. The road went across the field about where the riding stable is now; up to Black Mountain Avenue, now crossing the railroad and up Cherry Street to No. 70 highway; both sides of Cherry Street were in the woods.
There were three houses below the railroad; the old Joe Stepp house, which stood on the corner of Black Mountain Avenue and Vance Avenue, a big double log house. Next was the McKay building. It was just below the brick building where Mrs. Addie Brittain lives today. It was a two-story wooden building. The McKay family lived on the second floor; Mr. McKay had his store on the first floor. The McKays had three children; Mrs. Brittain, Mrs. Lilly Wilson and J. M. McKay, Jr. The other house stood between the Hosiery Mill and railroad. The Aldridge family lived there. Mr. Aldridge was a railroad engineer. His wife was the largest woman I ever saw.
Above the railroad, Silas Dougherty had a store near where the Junior Lodge Hall is today. He lived up on the corner of State and Dougherty Street. He was married twice. I did not know his first family. His second wife was Jimmy McNair Dougherty. They had three children, Con, Walter and Mrs. A. F. Tyson. They were useful citizens. Con and Walter are dead.
Mont Stepp built the old Black Mountain hotel. It was build for the tourists who came from the lowlands out of the heat to these mountains to get pure air and water. The hotel burned down several years ago and they built one back and called it the Gresham. It is torn down and another landmark is gone.
At the fork of Montreat road and State Street near Lance's filling station was the old school house. It was a one-room building. They had all studies and classes in one room. The teacher got almost twenty-five dollars per month. Near Cragmont Road west of Tomahawk Lake on the hill is the old home of Billy Dougherty. His wife was Miss Walker. He had a corn mill on those shoals at the dam. He owned all of the land around there and sold it to the Methodist Colony Co. and they later sold it to the Lakewood Development Co.
On Cragmont road near Tabernacle church is the old home of W. C. Hall. His wife was a Miss Finley. He was a railroad construction foreman. He later sold out and moved back to Black Mountain and put up a store and sold goods as long as he lived. He was postmaster under Woodrow Wilson's administration.
We will now go back to the Lakey Gap road at Gustavinos. As I have told you the history of the right road that lead to Black Mountain I will tell some on the road that led to the left.
I was told at one time that there was an old man who lived here where these roads forked by the name of Lakey and that was how the name Lakey Gap started. In a little field on the right side of the road is where Henry Goodson lived. His wife was a Miss Lakey. Down to Lakey Gap Chapel up in the cove to the left is where George Morgan lived. Lakey Gap Chapel was started by Miss Lyda Wilson and she has done a great work.
Where Verlon Morris lives now is the old home place of Silas Stepp who died in the Civil War. His wife is Mrs. Nellie Fortune Stepp. She was a daughter of Fletcher Fortune. She and her son Halcom Stepp lived at the old home place until their deaths. Up in the cove above the Stepp place, now the Clark farm, is where William Harris lived. They raised their family there and both died there. They have five children now living. His wife was Mrs. Mary Stepp Harris. She was a daughter of Silas Stepp. Next in front of Miss Ann Wilson in that field is the home place of Jessie Watkins. His wife was Mrs. Mattie Hamby Watkins. They have only one living child, Mrs. Ida Adams.
Over across Flat Creek, the north side, is where Jimmy McNair lived in the house that Mr. Hegaman bought from the McNairs. He owned all that land on both sides of Blue Ridge Road.
Next is the Black Mountain Inn where the Rev. T. K. Brown lived. He was a Baptist preacher. His first wife was Mrs. Lidda Fortune Brown. She was the daughter of Fletcher Fortune. They have two children living, Mrs. Howard Kerlee of Black Mountain and Mrs. Daisy Allred of High Point. His second wife was Mrs. Mary Davis Brown; she was a daughter of Robert Davis of Rutherford County. They have four sons now living, Sheriff L. E. Brown, Roy Brown, and Tom Brown of Black Mountain and Ralph Brown of Asheville.
Down next to Flat Creek is the home of Louis Dougherty. His wife was a daughter of Louis Ingram. Up in the Y. M. C. A. is where John Hemphill lived. His wife was a Miss Kerlee. Squire John Stepp had a corn mill there just below the ford of the creek. Up across the railroad and No. 70 on the north side is the old home place of Squire John Stepp; the old house, another landmark, is gone.
At the airport south side of railroad was the home of Elisha Kerlee. It was a big double log house. It burned down several years ago and another landmark is gone. Down at Morgan's plant on that knoll near the railroad is where Dr. Cliff lived. Over in Lytle's cove, was the home of George Fortune, a son of Fletcher Fortune. His wife was a Miss Hamby. Across the road from Morgan's plant is where Milt Lytle lived. He had both eyes punched out in a fight and he went by the name of blind Lytle. His old home stood there for many years but was torn down and another landmark went; he lived and died before my time.
Major Porter lived where the test farmhouse was. William Porter lived back of Veterans hospital.
Above Mountain Orphanage is the old home of Lewis Ingram. Over next to Tabernacle church is that of Bill Cobe Stepp. Back of there is the home place of Mrs. Ebby Stepp. Mark Jones lived in the same neighborhood. Above Royal League is the home place of Benny and Tommy Fortune. Benny was married to a Miss Turner. Tommy was never married. They were grandsons of Fletcher Fortune. Near Royal League was the old home of Thomas Rhymer, Sr., and Thomas Rhymer, Jr. Up the read we come to the old home place of Fletcher Fortune. His daughter lived there until her death, Mrs. Mary Fortune Panther. Next up the creek was the home place of Berrie Burnett, next was Joe McAfee, and next Fate Burnett. Will and Bart were sons of Fate Burnett. They lived near the new North Fork dam. Champ Burnett lived just above the new dam. Anderson Kelly lived in the North Fork section.
Next were the Walkers, who lived between the Old Mountain View Church and the new Mountain View church. There were James, Albert, and Jule Walker, whose widow is still living. Jim Henry Walker and Johnson Walker also lived up there. Johnson Walker was a Free Will Baptist preacher. Tom and Charlie Morris lived on North Fork.
Across the ridge from the new Mountain View church on the right side of the road is where Bill Gragg lived. Over near Homer's Chapel is where Daniel Walker lived. East of there up in a big cove is where Powell Walker lived. Where John Brittain's place now is was the home of George W. Stepp. Coming up the road across the little gap to the left in that field is the old home place of the Rev. Tommy Dawson.
Up Montreat road in front of the Freezer Locker over in that field was the home of Azor Stepp. He died and his widow, Mrs. Selina Moffitt Stepp, and her son John Byrd Stepp lived there until they died. Across east from there in Padgett town is where Jim Pagdett lived. He and his wife died there.
Back to No. 70 highway which was then only a narrow, rough mountain road, near east limit of the town of Black Mountain is the old home of Elijah and Elisha Kerlee. They were twin brothers and they lived together. One was married and had a family. The other was a bachelor. Howard Kerlee and his family lived there until he died. His widow, Mrs. Ella Brown Kerlee, her son Elijah Kerlee, and daugher, Mr. Morris Garner, live there now.
Next was Columbus Kerlee, who lived in Chocolate town where Wallis Gragg lives now. Pressie Watkins lived up to the left of there. He was the grandfather of two of our popular young men of Black Mountain, Clyde and Frank Watkins. He was a great lover of the mountain. He would guide parties to Mt. Mitchell. It was said that he guided a group of preachers to Mt. Mitchell. They were camping under a big rock on top of the mountain. A terrible storm came up. It scared those preachers almost to death and they went down to praying. Mr. Watkins was sitting there cutting his tobacco when one of the preachers raised up and said, "Brother Watkins, why are you not praying? We are going to be killed." The old man said, "Well, I don't know but one little morning prayer and it would not be worth a d - - -n in a storm like this." It was said he was taking a group of folks through this mountains and they were asking him about everything they could think of. They came to Graybeard and asked him what mountain that was. He told them it was Graybeard. "Why did they name it that?" someone asked him. He said, "That was one of the oldest mountains around here; just one older and that was Grandfather Mountain; it was the oldest of all."
I have given at least 80 percent of the population of Black Mountain township at that time. The Stepps, Doughertys, Walkers, and Burnettes were members of pioneer families of this part of the county. The Fortunes and Lytles were pioneers of Rowan County, which is now McDowell County.
All of these highlanders did their days well to make this county a better place for rising generations to live in. But they too have gone the way of all the earth to that undiscovered country, whose born no traveler has ever returned to meet a just, all wise and loving God, who will reward them according to their works.