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Linville Falls

Originally published: 2012-06-08 12:02:00
Last modified: 2012-06-08 12:02:00

Our Avery County: All things Linville

Visitors to Springfield, Ill., often notice a recurring theme. Abraham Lincoln was from Springfield, and it seems impossible to turn around without running into something in Springfield with his name on it. There is Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport, Lincoln Land Community College, Abe Lincoln Gun Club and even Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation. In fact, an online search at produces 318 entities in Springfield that use portions of the 16th president’s name. 

If Avery County had something to compare to the popularity of Lincoln’s name, it would be the name of Linville. Not only are there geographical features – Linville Falls, Linville River and Linville Ridge – but businesses as well, like Linville Animal Hospital, Linville Volunteer Fire Department and Linville Falls Trailer Lodge and Campground. 

It all starts with William Linvil, which we usually write “Linville.” According to family history, William Linville was born in Pennsylvania around 1711. He followed the Shenandoah Valley south, and in 1749 to 1750, built a cabin in the Clemmons area of present-day Forsyth County. He was a militia captain and was related to the Boone family by marriage. His daughter Ann had married George Boone, Daniel’s older brother. Jesse Crump writes in “The Boone Family History” that William Linville’s health began to decline in 1766, and he took his son John and another man by the name of John Williams across the Blue Ridge to hunt. The small party pitched their camp 10 miles below the present Linville Falls. About daybreak, the party was attacked by a band of Cherokee. William and his son John were killed, and John Williams was wounded. He was able to escape and bring word back to those along the Yadkin of the tragedy that had occurred. 

George Boone, possibly with Daniel Boone in the party, made his way back over the Blue Ridge, and according to the family, retrieved the bodies and buried them in Forsyth County. 

The Cherokee supposedly called the river “Eeseeoh” meaning “a river of cliffs.” However, Eeseeoh is not really a Cherokee word, or it is a corruption of some Cherokee word. It is unclear just who christened the falls Linville. In an article in Daily National Intelligencer in 1835, a explorer wrote that “The falls of Linville are not far distant from the Table, and though not at present a place to be visited by the softer, will repay one of the harder sex, for the fatigue of finding his way by a rough road over the ridges, to Linville cove ... “ 

The headwaters of the Linville River are found on Flattop Mountain, Sugar Mountain and Peak Mountain, near Seven Devils. The river flows through Avery County, and then into Burke County, finally ending at Lake James. 

Most people are familiar with the Linville River, which flows through Pineola and Altamont. Linville Falls, technically in Burke County, is a famous stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway. John D. Rockefeller Jr., donated the Linville Falls’ site in 1952. Yet another famous place bearing the name is Linville Gap. Better known as Tynecastle today, at 4,045 feet Linville Gap was once the highest point served by a passenger train in Western North Carolina. Of course, the railroad was destroyed in the flood of 1940. And then there is Linville Caverns, in neighboring Burke County. The “Frozen Niagara” opened to great fanfare on July 1, 1939. Linville Gorge, proclaimed the “Grand Canyon of North Carolina,” was designated a wild area by the Forest Service in 1951. In 1964, with the passage of the Wilderness Act, the 7,575 acres became one of the first components of the National Wilderness System. At present, the Linville Gorge Wilderness area contains a little more than 12,000 acres. Also in McDowell County is Linville Mountain. 

There are two communities that bear the name. Linville Falls Village is the older of the towns, and sits astride the lines of Avery, Burke and McDowell counties. There were permanent settlers here by the end of the 18th century, and included the Franklin, Wise and Dellinger families, among others. The Town of Linville was unofficially known as “Stumptown.” In August 1883, the first post office in the area was established as Clay, named for the Clay family that lived there. In 1885 the post office name was changed to “Porcelain,” and in 1888, to “Linville.” The town was originally laid out to include, according to Covington’s history, “factories, shops and a thriving commercial district.” Linville Land Harbor was established to the west of Linville in the 1960s. Entities such as Linville Ridge and Linville Resorts are much newer. 

A few places, like the old Lynville Baptist Church, probably located off Goose Hollow Road, no longer exist. 

The term Linville is not as popular locally as Abraham Lincoln is in Springfield. But then again, do we really want an “El Presidente Burrito & Baja Grill” like they have in Springfield? Probably not. 

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