"Buckhorn Tavern"

Alexander House Has An Interesting History

"The News Herald," Morganton, NC August 1, 1931

Oldest Wooden House in County, Probably Built About Year 1812 By William Alexander

In Early Days It Was Known As "Buckhorn Tavern" Sheltered Many On Yellow Mtn. Road

By The News Herald reporter Cole Savage

Transcribed by Sandra J. West

What is thought to be the oldest house made of wood in Burke County is the old Alexander home in Quaker Meadows Township. It was built about the year 1812, and is therefore, 110 years old, according to Frank DeVault whose mother was born in it in 1825.

It stands in an open field to the left of the yellow Mountain road as you go from Morganton. It is a little way east of Noblitt’s store. On the old Yellow Mountain wagon road it was exactly half way between Morganton and the foot of Linville mountain, being 7 ½ miles each place.

It was built and run by William Alexander, hence the name now, "Alexander house." In its early days it was known all through this section as "The Buckhorn Tavern."

The Buckhorn Tavern stood back a hundred yards or more from the road in a large shady grove of native hardwood trees. In the pioneer days of this section of the State, it was the haven of rest for many a weary and footsore traveler going from the frontier of Tennessee to the seaport town of Charleston, South Carolina. In the days before railroads the Yellow Mountain road was one of the main thoroughfares through Western North Carolina and over it traveled many drivers of livestock, yes driver of cattle, sheep, hogs and turkeys, taking them from west to east to market. Most of them stopped at the Buckhorn Tavern where they were provided with food, shelter and entertainment for themselves and a yard and feed for their animals.

They found a large two-story house built of hewed forest pine logs. It was 62 feet long with a ten-foot hallway between the two large rooms’s downstairs and front and back porches running the entire length of the building. The rooms, downstairs and upstairs were each 21 feet long with a first room upstairs over the open hallway. Two giant chimneys stood one at each end of the structure. Four large fireplaces furnished roaring wood fires in winter to warm the guests. The chimney at the west end was built of rock. It is eight feet wide at the bottom and originally the fireplace was five feet wide. That was in the day when the institution was in the middle of the forest with wood easy to get. Now wood is scarce and the fireplace has been reduced considerably. Frederick Roderick built this chimney. It was said of him that when he finished a chimney he would stand on his head on top of it. He did it on this one.

When the house was first built, it was only about half as large as it is now. The west end was built first. The chimney on the east end is made of brick. The date 1843 is scratched on the outside of it near the top. Its fireplace burns wood four feet in length.

Back of the house the old log smoke-house which Mr. Alexander used is still standing and in use. The meat log which has been used for generations is still in it. Standing at the door one fancies seeing venison, bear meat and pork in it all at the same time. The old log kitchen which stood apart from the house has been gone about 60 years.

The vegetable garden to the east has been in constant use for more than 100 years. That is a long time for one spot to have produced vegetables in Burke County. Kraut, pickles, peas, beans, tomatoes, and onions being derived from it to feed the passing multitude for a century.

In a cabin in the front yard which was demolished several years ago, John McKamey Wilson Erwin lived as an old bachelor for 20 years. He was a brother of Mrs. William Alexander. He was known far and wide as a fiddler. He would sit and play for hours. The instrument he used for entertainment so long is now in the hands of his great nephew, Ernest Erwin, of Morganton, who prizes it very highly. He died in 1874.

Doubtless if the happenings of the Buckhorn Tavern could be chronicled, the account would make interesting reading. In it a post office called Canoe Hill was kept for many years. That was discontinued about 80 years ago. Linville Store post office was established there in about 1898. From this house left three sons of Mr. and Mrs. William Alexander who went to California during the gold rush of 1849. Sam went across the country from Tennessee. James and William went by boat by way of Panama. Sam died soon after he arrived in California. The others got a good deal of gold but died in Philadelphia of typhoid fever on their way back. As a little girl, the daughter Mary sat in the chimney corner and saw the stars fall on November 13, 1833. She said they fell a little before daybreak and looked like about half as much as a flurry of snow. Later Jacob DeVault, a stock driver of Fordtown, ten miles northwest of Jonesboro, Tennessee spent the night here. He met Mary Alexander and later courted wooed, and won her. They were married here on July 21, 1853. It is said Zeb Vance visited this place when he was a boy. Col. Hinton and his regiment stopped and had dinner here during the Civil war. The body of Frankie Silver lay in state in a shed in front of the house the night after the hanging in Morganton and was buried on the place the next day. As so on, and so on. The place was closed as a tavern in 1881.

The family cemetery is about 600 yards southeast of the house. Nine graves hold the remains of the relatives who are buried there. On the gravestone of the mother are these words: "In Memory of Sophia, Wife of Wm. Alexander, Born Oct. 30, 1786. Died Dec. 21, 1874, Age 88 yrs. 1 mo. 21 d." Col. McKamey Erwin, her brother and seven children of the Alexanders are the others. William Alexander was not buried here. He died on a visit to his brother, Jack Alexander in Ellijov (?)[Prob. Elijay—Ed.], Georgia and was buried there.

Originally the farm connected with the Alexander house consisted of 1400 acres. Now it consists of 142 ½ acres which with this house is owned by Rufus Carswell. Mr. Carswell and his family live in the house and farm the place.

[Transcriber’s comments: A photograph of the house accompanies the article. The house has been gone for many years. A monument for Frankie Silver was placed on the site believed to be Frankie’s grave in the 1950’s by Beatrice Cobb, publisher of the Morganton News Herald. There are two other sites that claim to be the burial site for Frankie Silver, including the orchard at Altapass.]

©Burke County Genealogical Society Page 78 & 79 August 2010


Last known structure picture of Buckhorn Tavern

Only thing left standing today 2012

The old chimney and remains of Buckhorn Tavern
is located about 8 miles west of Morganton on
Hwy 126 in the Lake James area. It is located
on private property owned by Ken Ingram. So
be sure to ask permission if going to see.
It's about 200 yards on left before you get to
Buckhorn Tavern Road coming from Morganton.
2743 Hwy 126

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