Discovering Montford’s Early History

Zoe Rhine, Special Collections Librarian, The North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library

Looking north from the head of Montford at Bearden; cobbled street, trolley tracks, horse-drawn carriage with umbrella (probably indicating a street vendor), woman standing on street nearby and two streetcars in distance. Circa 1907-1910.

A couple of years ago I set out to see if I could find the origins of the name Montford. I pretty much figured I was in for a long haul. Many people have pondered the question: who named it and why was it named Montford?

In 1976 when Montford was getting a lot of deserved attention from being placed on the National Historical Register, Bill Moore a Citizen’s staff writer took several stabs at the origin of Montford’s name. Colonel Montford, a veteran of the War Between the States seemed a possibility, but records found that no such person existed. The librarian at the North Carolina Room was consulted, Sarah Upchurch, the chronicler of the Mondford area was questioned, as was local historian Dave Bailey. “But there were no answers.” Colonial Paul Rockwell said that at one time there was a ford across the French Broad River near a promontory called simply “the mountain” or “the mount.” He surmised then the ford was called Mountain ford or mountford.

And then a week later Bill Moore assumed he had it wrapped up when someone brought him a copy of the book, “Historical Sketches of North Carolina,” by John H. Wheeler published in 1851. Moore says the book mentions a Joseph Montford (actually spelled with the variant “Montfort” by Wheeler) being listed with the Halifax District at the Provincial Congress that met at Halifax in 1776, and sites further references to him in this book, which I was not able to find. At any rate, Moore decided if Asheville could take the name of a governor of North Carolina, Samuel Ashe (even though Ashe died before being inaugurated), then why couldn’t a little village in Buncombe County take the name of this Colonel? (Asheville Citizen 1/14/1977, 1/21/1978)

The community first learned about the development of a new community on June 10, 1890 in the Asheville Daily Citizen.

The article (shown below) also mentions that The Asheville Loan, Construction and Improvement company (ALCI) started out with a paid up capital of $300,000 and the officers were: President, George S. Powell; treasurer, W.W. Barnard; secretary, M.J. Bearden, with Board of Directors: George S. Powell, Richmond Pearson, J.S. Adams, T.H. Cobb and J.E. Rankin. These were no outside investors, but all respected businessmen of the city. Of special note in this article is that the acreage for the new suburb included property on the west side of the French Broad; note also that at this first announcement the name of the passenger depot is given as Montford Park station.

Less than a year later (and a lot of development not yet mentioned), on March 31, 1891 an article was published in the Asheville Daily Citizen announcing an improvement to the property, saying “there had long been an agreement between the ALCI and the Richmond and Danville railroad (which operated the Montford Park electric railway), that as soon as the buildings for the Bingham School were completed that a side track would at once be put down at Mondford Park station to accommodate the school. The article also, for the first time, reports that “for the privilege of naming the station, Mr. Richmond Pearson, last summer, agreed to erect a station building to cost not less than $2,000.”

Riverside Park, with Bingham Hill in background. Dogwood trees in bloom.

Well, now we know who named Montford. And I did find why Pearson named it Montford, but I also found a lot of other interesting early history of Montford along the way. More surprising details on the creation of this historic neighborhood to follow.

 

These findings were first published in the Montford Newsletter in September 2013. View the issue at this address:
montford.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Mont_sept_13_v3_web.pdf

Images Courtesy of Special Collections, The North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library.