History of Mars Hill North Carolina
The town of Mars Hill history is mainly based off of the oldest educational institution that is still in its original location, Mars Hill College. The first families to come to the area of Mars Hill struggled with sending their children to next county for school. Edward Carter, who had several children in the area, took charge of the situation by establishing the French Broad Baptist Institute that later became Mars Hill College. Slowly, a town began to grow around this little academy. The name of college, which became the towns name, comes from a Bible verse found in Acts 17. “So Paul, standing before them at the Mars Hill forum, addressed them.” This name was chosen by the founding fathers to ensure the school remained a site of learning and of biblical significance.
During the Civil War, Mars Hill became a crucial location due to the crossroads for north-south and east-west travel. Many Confederate units posted in Mars Hill throughout the war and in 1865 union troops burned the college dormitory and the teachers residence. Though many buildings remained unharmed, it took nearly 40 years to replace the destroyed buildings.
The college continued to grow throughout the years, allowing the town to prosper as well. A general store was built and a doctors office established. Many boarding houses were constructed for students. The first public school was erected in 1904 on North Main Street.
An important piece of Mars Hill history is the infamous bank robbery of 1935. On a September afternoon, six armed men held up the Bank of Mars Hill. The robbers were discovered by two unsuspecting local girls. The girls notified a community member who then relayed it to the telephone switchboard operated who sounded the town fire alarm. The robbers fled the bank with $2,000 and began spraying the streets with gunfire. Over 100 bullet holes were found in buildings on Main Street and a college girl was hit by one of the bullets. Police Chief, Garfield Ponder, did is best to stop the criminals by unloading his revolver on the getaway car. Eventually all the robbers were arrested, tried and convicted. Since the days of fleeing bank robbers, Mars Hill has quieted down a bit. The town is home to a variety of churches, restaurants, businesses and more. It is a popular location with tourists that seek the slow paced, hospitable mountain environment.