Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Smith-McDowell House: "Twists and Turns"

c.1875 Click for Larger Image
"Twists and Turns"

In 1881, Alexander Garrett and wife Elizabeth purchased the Smith-McDowell House (purportedly then called "Buck House") from William Wallace McDowell and wife Sarah Lucinda Smith McDowell (daughter of James McConnell Smith, who built the house).

The Garretts, along with their son Robert Urey Garrett, his wife Mary Frances Tarr Garrett, and six-year-old granddaughter Alexandra, moved from St. Louis to Asheville. The family had emigrated from Ireland in 1847. Alexander Garrett had amassed a sizable fortune as a businessman in the Midwest. He retired to Asheville to enjoy the climate and to engage in land speculation. The elder Garrett sold the Buck House for $1 to his son Robert Urey Garrett (who owned the property until 1898).

The first wife of son Robert Urey Garrett, Mary Frances Tarr Garrett, died in 1884. A few years later the widower remarried (1887): Myra Adeline Gash, daughter of Leander Sams Gash and Margaret Adeline McClain. Her grandmother, Nancy Cordelia Gudger (1777-1851) is a sister of Joseph Henry Gudger (1826-1859), who married Elizabeth Adaline Smith (1829-1912), sister of Sarah Lucinda Smith (1826-1905) -- wife of William Wallace McDowell. After the death of James McConnell Smith in 1856, Joseph Henry Gudger purchased the Buck Hotel in Asheville.

Thus, a Gudger owned the Buck Hotel and a Gudger descendant owned (or at least was married to the owner of) the Buck House (now called the Smith-McDowell House).

And, it gets better, even if more confusing:

The first child of Robert Urey Garrett (by his first wife, Mary Frances Tarr Garrett), Alexandra Garrett, married Robert Pulliam Johnston (1870-1924), who apparently is referenced in the following --

"Johnston Estate is Given to Smith Heirs: Superior Court Verdict for Mrs. Miller and Others -- Construction of Ante-Bellum Will Recalls Interesting Facts of Asheville's Early History"

By virtue of the fact that the jury answered all issues in favor of the plaintiffs in Superior court yesterday morning in the case of Lula R. Miller and others against Robert P. Johnston and others, property located on Broadway, Spruce and Walnut streets valued at $100,000 is awarded to Lulu R. Miller, Jacob F. Weaver and the heirs of [Joseph] Henry Gudger. The plaintiffs in the foregoing suit are the heirs of Mrs. Elizabeth A. Smith [Gudger], daughter of James M. Smith, the construction of whose will made in 1856, was one of the chief points at issue in the case. In the course of the trial of the case, which was hotly contested by counsel on both sides and took up more than two days of the court's time, much interesting data relating to distinguished citizens of Asheville before and after the Civil war was unearthed.

The property which is now the site of many of the most valuable and important businesses in the city, in 1856, the date of Mr. Smith's will, was entirely given over to the use of the Buck hotel, one of the most noted of the ante-bellum taverns and frequented as a resort by the famous and distinguished men of the Civil war period.

As the will was made before the war and the testator willed slaves to his children, the reading thereof awakened many interesting memories in the minds of the older men in the court room.

It was the contention of the plaintiffs that this famous property was __________ Elizabeth A. Smith, the daughter of James M. Smith, the jury so held.

The Johnstons came into possession of the property under the provisions of a deed made by E Sluder [possibly wealthy Asheville banker/businessman Erwin Sluder who often went by E. Sluder], who had come into the possession of it in 1860.

It is an interesting fact that one of the corners called for in the Smith will was the old law office of Senator Zebulon Vance. One of the deeds in the chain proving title in the property was executed by Henry Grady, grandfather of Henry W. Grady, the famous orator. One of the executors named in the will was David L. Swain, at one time governor of the state and for thirty years president of the university, while a witness to the instrument was Nicholas W. Woodfin, one of the most prominent lawyers of his day in Western Carolina.

The property now has located on it the residence of Mark W. Brown, which faces Spruce street; the Annandale creamery, the large boarding house formerly used by the Elks as a temporary home and the building occupied by the Shaw Motor company.

The plaintiffs in the foregoing case were represented by Jones and Williams, while Mark W. Brown, W. R. Whitson and J. Sneed Adams appeared for the defendants.
. . . .

Source: The Asheville Citizen (Asheville, North Carolina), Friday, 29 October 1915.

Source: Some of the foregoing comes from the history of the Smith-McDowell House assembled by the Western North Carolina Historical Association.

When his father-in-law, James McConnell Smith, died in 1856, Joseph Henry Gudger purchased the Buck Hotel in Asheville (also called the Smith Hotel). Gudger acquired the hotel furniture from Smith's estate for $595.29. He quickly refitted the building and advertised it in the April 9, 1857, issue of the Asheville News (newspaper) as having "Good rooms, attentive servants, table supplied with luxury -- Sulphur and Chalybeate Water has been discovered within two or three minutes walk of the Hotel." By October, 1858, the Southern, Eastern, and Murphy stages were stopping at Gudger's Hotel, as it came to be called, and business was flourishing. Unfortunately, Gudger died at the age of 38 in October, 1859, as a result of "whiskey." The hotel soon passed out of the Smith family. However, Elizabeth Adaline Smith and her second husband, Winslow W. Smith, did operate the hotel for a time.

Source: The Smith-McDowell House: A History, Dr. Richard W. Iobst (1998) at 13.

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