By Lauren Stepp
Horse Shoe is quiet. An unincorporated community nestled in a bend of the French Broad River in Henderson County, the sleepy-eyed village boasts two stoplights, one gas station and no grocery store. Blink, and you miss it.
But in its heyday nearly two centuries ago, Horse Shoe was a different place. In 1841, the community almost became the county seat, though proponents of placing the seat closer to the Old Buncombe Turnpike narrowly won by 109 votes.
“Horse Shoe was certainly the nerve center of Henderson County,” says native Steve Pope.
Steve is deeply rooted in the area. His late grandmother, Lohren Davenport Pope, saw the community at its liveliest. Less than 20 years before her birth, the Hendersonville and Brevard Railway, Telegraph and Telephone Company had been chartered to build a railroad connecting Henderson and Transylvania counties. Formally opened on October 25, 1895, the railway presented an opportunity for the Davenports, an enterprising bunch who owned acreage flanking what is now Highway 64 in Horse Shoe.
In the late 1800s, Lohren’s father, Dave, and her uncle, Andy, opened Davenport General Store, a two-story shop fringed by corn cribs where families could purchase victuals.
“At the store, everyone brought eggs and chickens to swap for crackers and beans that were stored in barrels,” says Pat Pope, Steve’s mother. “They would trade like that more so than with money.”
Pat knows about the store’s business transactions from stories told by her mother-in-law, Lohren. The Davenports also kept careful records in a ten-inch-thick ledger, though many pages were destroyed during the Flood of 1916.
“Horse Shoe flooded madly,” says Pat. “The railroad was under water and the river got up into the forks of an old sycamore tree that fell down not too long ago.”
Of course, the Davenports bounced back. For decades, Lohren’s family operated the Maplehurst Hotel, a summertime refuge for South Carolina residents with disposable income who could afford to escape the heat. Many traveled from places like Charleston and Anderson, some arriving by rail and others by carriage. Guests were provided with modest quarters, each room outfitted with a bed, washstand and water pitcher. Little is known about what the guests did for entertainment. It is assumed they relaxed on the banks of the French Broad or went for meandering walks along a maple-lined trail near the hotel.
“As a child, my grandmother planted trees to line the path from the train depot to the hotel,” Steve says of the trail. “Many are still living today.”
According to Steve, a concrete wall with remnants of a wrought iron fence—a relic from the hotel—also stands where Banner Farm Road dead-ends at Highway 64. Besides these subtle reminders, there is little evidence of days bygone in Horse Shoe. Pat does her best, preserving what she can by word of mouth, but much was lost when Lohren passed in 2006.
“The best I know is just what I’m repeating,” she says. “All else, sadly, has been forgotten.”
To learn more about Horse Shoe’s history, visit PackasPlace.com/about-the-farm.