History of Bryson City NC
Native Americans have called Bryson City home for nearly 14,000 years. The village of Kituhwa, believed to be the oldest Cherokee village, was located on the Tuckasegee River, about a mile upstream from Bryson City. American soldiers destroyed the Kituhwa tribes in 1776, but the Cherokee continued to hold ceremonial dances at the site throughout the 19th century.
A Cherokee chief received a 640-acre reservation, which included most of what is now Bryson City, in 1818. The cheif sold part of the land to Darling Belk in 1819 and another part to John B. Love in 1824. The splitting of this land caused the Belk heirs and Love’s to fight an extended legal battle for many years. Love gained control in 1840 and the following year sold a portion of the land to James Shular. Shular sold the land in parts to Thaddeus Bryson and merchant Alfred Cline.
In 1871, Swain County was formed from parts of Jackson County and macon County. The city began to form when Lucy Ann Cline agreed to sell several lots of her land to create the county seat. Initially known as Charleston, the county seat was laid out in a T-shape. The first Swain County Courthouse was finished in 1874, followed shortly by the completion of the new jail.
In 1889, the people of Charleston officially changed the city’s name to “Bryson City” in honor of the many services to the city that Thaddeus Bryson provided. They also changed the name to eliminate confusion brought on by sharing a name with Charleston, South Carolina. The city began to prosper after the Western North Carolina Railroad tracks had been completed in 1884.
When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park opened in 1933, Swain County began receiving a lot of revenue and tourists. The completion of Fontana Dam in 1944 created the only highway connecting Bryson City to North Shore, the remote area of the Smokies.The U.S. government began constructing a new highway in 1948, but it wasn’t completed until 1972. Envrionmental and financial issues had stalled the projects and the road became known to locals as “The Road to Nowhere”. In 1988, a scenic line known as the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad was established with its depot and departure point in Bryson City.
Today Bryson City is a popular tourist destination. The town is filled with outdoor recreation, unique shops and the many trailheads leading into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park bring visitors from all around the country.