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An early view of the foundations of Avery County Courthouse in Newland. Courtesy Avery
County Museum

Originally published: 2012-02-10 09:53:53
Last modified: 2012-02-10 09:54:29

Our Avery County: June 1912: Newland town lots go up for sale

Michael Hardy / (

In just a few months, we are going to be approaching the anniversary of another one of those important events in Avery County’s history: The auctioning of Newland town lots to individuals took place in June 1912. No surviving copies of a local newspaper have come to light about the event, so we are forced to rely upon other sources. On June 8, 1912, Charlotte Observer ran an article about the proceedings. This piece provides a unique glimpse into local history. 

“Newland, June 6: If the sale of town lots and the prices realized from them is any indication of the future, if beauty of location and availability to surrounding country and richness in resources as yet undeveloped and if the backing of a citizenry that has always stood for the best and noblest in North Carolina’s history means anything, then the county seat of Newland in the new county of Avery should rank in the years to come with the foremost in the state. 

“There was held at this place yesterday a public auction of lots in the town of Newland conducted by M. W. Clay of Montezuma, which brought into the treasury of Avery County more than $5,000 on the first consignment, embracing approximately three acres of the townsite. Included in the village as property of the county is a tract of 145 acres, practically all of which was donated either by interested owners or by outside corporations. E. H. Morriss of Mocksville bought the first lot cornering on Avery square and Estatoa Avenue, for $250.The auctioning began at 11 a.m. and continued until 1 p.m. when the company adjourned for dinner. In all, there were 50 lots sold at the first session, the prices ranging from $75 to $260 a lot. The average price ranged from $100 to $150 apiece. The afternoon sale was interfered with by a rain that deluged everything for a period of two hours. The sale was attended by a throng of 1,000 people, who came not only from all sections of Avery but from all of the neighboring counties. There were scores of interested citizens present also from distant cities such as Johnson City, Tenn., Bristol, Elizabetown (Elizabethton), Lenoir, Hickory, Asheville and Knoxville. 

“Newland – The unusual feature of the sale was the fact that there was nothing on the site to designate it as the location of a town, save numerous white posts at intervals bearing street names and in the center the concrete foundations of a large building, which when finished will be the new courthouse. Green grass at present covers the town, with the Toe River meandering in the foreground and in the distance a rampart of mountains, covered with forests. Above bends the bluest of blue skies, unmarred by smoke or anything of industrial life. On the farther side of the Toe, circles the railroad, a narrow gauge, known as Linville River Railway. It runs from Cranberry to Pineola, a distance of 13 miles. Cranberry is known to the world by reason of the location there of the famous Cranberry iron mines, the ore of which is celebrated. Cranberry is the terminus of the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina road, which extends 34 miles to Johnson City. These two roads afford Newland’s railway connection with the outside world.

“Newland is located on the Toe River, the name being an abbreviation of Estatoe, the name of an Indian maiden who is reputed to have cast herself into the waters of this stream when her father, a noted Cherokee chief, refused to sanction her wedding to a young warrior of the tribe. The river rises on Sugar Mountain about four miles distant, and is fed by numerous streams that head on the slopes of the lordly Grandfather. After forming a basin at Newland, known as ‘the old fields’ of the Toe, it passes through Mitchell to Alta Pass ... The location of the county seat was decided by popular vote, Elk Park, Montezuma and other towns already established competing for the honor. The land on which the town was located was donated by W. P. Dungan and W. E. Hunter, bankers of Elizabethtown, Tenn., by the Graham Lumber Company, and J. F. Templeton of Waynesboro, Va. A small tract was also purchased. The site was surveyed and streets and lots laid out by J. J. R. Erwin, Sheppard Dugger assisted by mapping out the incoming roads so that convenient connections might be made. Mr. Dugger also assisted in many other ways in the planning for the new town. The engineer in charge and those who assisted selected Indian names for a number of the principal streets, such as Estatoe Avenue, on which the courthouse fronts, with Avery Square, of two acres, just across the street. Wanteska, Nattalee, Sokassa, Ottaray, Eskona, meaning ‘oak,’ Montezuma, Watauga, etc. Other names also appear, such as Linville, a boulevard 80-feet wide.

“The new county courthouse, the foundations of which have just been laid, will cost $18,500. The work is being done by R. C. Campbell of Lenoir. The funds derived from the sale of the town lots will go towards the erection of this courthouse. This building will be ready for occupancy it is hoped by the late fall.” 

From such humble but optimistic beginnings, Newland was laid out nearly a century ago.