north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     The modern-day traveller cresting the Blue Ridge on Interstate 26 might catch a glimpse of a twenty-foot tall stone monument immediately east on a high bank. Erected almost a century ago by the “Junior Order of United American Mechanics” (since disbanded), the obelisk is dedicated to the memory of Captain Thomas Howard who with militia members clashed with Cherokee Indians near the site in 1776. The interstate and the monument sit squarely in the gap named for Howard and alongside the old route that bears his name.

     The Howard Gap Road was a principal route used by settlers and traders entering western North Carolina. It begins near the present-day Fletcher community and the French Broad River south of Asheville and traverses in a southeasterly fashion. Historically, this road predates the fabled 1828 Buncombe Turnpike that follows a similar route into South Carolina in a southwesterly direction. The Howard Gap Road runs for about sixty-five miles, thirty of those in North Carolina. Around Union, South Carolina, it connects with other routes leading on to markets at Charleston.

     First used by Indians, it, like the turnpike, was travelled in the nineteenth century by livestock drovers. US 176, completed in 1927, removed much traffic from the old route making it essentially a local road. But most of the route can be retraced today, the major exception being the steep portion at the Green River Gorge that was destroyed with the construction of the I-26 High Bridge (Peter Guice Bridge). The marker site is in a high traffic area where the route crosses US 64 just outside the most developed commercial district in Hendersonville.

Sadie Smathers Patton, The Story of Henderson County (1947)
Frank L. Fitzsimons, From the Banks of the Oklahawa (1979), Volume III
Spartanburg Herald-Journal, September 19, 2001
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north carolina highway historical marker program

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources