The railroad helped open up Western North Carolina in the mid to late 1800s. It provided faster and more comfortable travel to and from the region and helped expand tourism. It also offered an easier and more affordable means of transporting goods to and from the area.
Short line railroads served small towns off the main lines. The Hendersonville and Brevard Railroad, Telegraph & Telephone Company was complete in 1894. Between the towns there were several stops to load and unload passengers and freight and to refuel.
The first stop in Transylvania County was Blantyre. The community of Blantyre blossomed around the railroad station. The area had a post office known as Irvin prior to the arrival of the railroad. The name was changed to Blantyre in 1901. Silas Merrill served as the Irvin/Blantyre post master from 1889 until 1910.
In December 1910 Thomas J. Shipman was named post master. Shipman was also the depot agent and a merchant. The Shipmans had a large home beside the railroad station that served as a way station, providing food and lodging.
The earliest store in the area appears to have been Silas Merrell’s dry goods business. Other general stores were operated at various times by Shipman, King Justus, Charles Baldwin and James Knight. The last store in the area was operated by the Justus family. It closed in the late 1960s.
Other businesses in Blantyre included Carl Blythe’s steam operated saw mill, William Byrd’s timber saw mill and a mill to run a thresher engine owned by Justus and Morgan.
In the early 1900s the North Carolina Department of Agriculture operated test farms throughout the state to study the effects of various soil types and climates on growing crops. Reports from the Department of Agriculture provide information on these test farms, including the one in Blantyre.
The Blantyre School was built by T.C. Holtzclaw on property donated by Charles Baldwin in 1911. It served the area for about 20 years.
The Blantyre Baptist Church was organized in May 1921. They used the school house for several years before constructing their own building nearby. It was completed in 1932 using materials from the school which was being torn down.
A special thanks to Earlene Orr for providing information from her research on the Blantyre community for this article.
This painting (right) depicts the small Blantyre Station on the Toxaway branch of Southern Railway running from Hendersonville to Lake Toxaway. The large home beside it was owned by the Thomas J. Shipman family.
Throughout the coming year “Picturing the Past” will be featuring the communities across the county. We are particularly interested in the small stores and businesses that operated outside of Brevard and Rosman. If you have photographs and basic information on any of these that you would be willing to share, contact Marcy at the library.
Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the N.C. Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs. For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at [email protected] or (828) 884-3151 ext. 242.