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Hattie Deaver (1835-1922)

Picturing the past: Harriett Matilda Deaver

By Laura Sperry

The Deaver name is familiar to many history afficionados in Transylvania County due to the presence of the Allison-Deaver House, a preserved historic family home that now operates as an educational center and museum. One of the Deavers associated with the house is Harriett Matilda Deaver, who went by Hattie and was born on June 8, 1835. She was the eldest child of William Deaver (1794-1865) and Margaret Patton Deaver (1805-1894) who are credited with the house’s construction. Hattie never married and stayed in what would become Transylvania County for her entire life.

Early life

Parents William and Margaret built the now restored Deaver House about 1830 when the area was still considered part of Buncombe County. County boundary division over time meant that the house was in Henderson County around 1840, and finally Transylvania County in 1861, despite the house never leaving its original location.

Because of the county lines, Hattie attended grade school at Mills River Academy (1830-1921), a small community school affiliated with the local Presbyterian Church that burned down in 1921 that was later replaced with a different public school building. The NC Room at Transylvania County Library has a collection of Hattie Deaver’s compositional essays from her attendance at Mills River Academy that illuminate her thoughts on themes such as happiness, the power of association, and botany. Hattie’s formal education does not seem to have extended beyond this time.

Church involvement

According to her obituary, when Hattie was seventeen years old she joined the Davidson River Church at a camp meeting on August 14, 1852 and remained a faithful member of the congregation for the duration of her life. Church involvement was important to Hattie, as indicated by a 1937 Transylvania Times article on a history pageant held by the church years after Hattie was deceased where her niece portrayed Hattie as a main character in founding the Women’s Auxiliary/Missionary Society. Hattie also appears to have been involved in the auxiliary for many years, as evidenced by archived letters addressed to her from the National Presbyterian Women’s Organization in 1914 regarding an upcoming event she was organizing for her chapter. Earlier records suggest that Hattie may have helped the Women’s Auxiliary with purchases from her brother John’s store after the church building burned in 1891 and the replacement church building needed new furnishings.

Property ownership

The family held numerous properties, and Hattie seems to have frequently bought and sold land, sometimes in partnership with her siblings and sometimes on her own. Evidence suggests that a parcel of land she sold in 1907 to Davidson River Church’s Reverend William H. Davis for his family home, which he named Ivy Hill. Davis was the minister of Davidson River Church from 1878-1890 and then again 1906-1914. In her later life, Hattie was the sole owner of her house and land and even had her occupation listed as “farmer” on the 1900 Federal Census. During this time in history, that occupation on a Census did not necessarily mean the homeowner spent their days working the land; it more often indicated that they were a property owner whose living came from their property ownership.

Letter addressed to Hattie Deaver in Deavers NC, 1883

United Daughters of the Confederacy local charter member

Hattie and her sister Mary Jane Deaver Glazener were the first names on the charter for a local chapter 1353 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) when it organized in 1911. Much like the Daughters of the American Revolution, this heritage group’s local chapter in Transylvania County was a service organization that honored the fallen, but as years went on and fewer veterans remained, they shifted to what seems to have been a very small and relatively casual organization, according to the chapter report published in 1947. The report highlights the main effort of the group – the creation of the UDC Library. This was the very first library in Transylvania County and was located near the courthouse in the approximate location of the current gazebo. Despite being a tiny building, it boasted a much-needed amenity: a women’s public restroom –  the first in the county. The library’s collection grew over time and eventually became a public institution. Hattie is in part responsible for this endeavor.

Later life

By 1910 Hattie appears to have given up solo home ownership to live with her widowed sister Mary Jane Deaver Glazener. They remained in the same household until Hattie’s death on March 16, 1922. She had broken a limb and been recovering for several weeks before the effects of the break led to her death. She is buried in the Davidson River Cemetery along with many of her family members.

The Transylvania County Historical Society leads tours of the Allison-Deaver House upon request. For more information, email [email protected]. Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. This article was written by Local History Librarian Laura Sperry. Sources available upon request. For more information, comments, or suggestions, contact NC Room staff at [email protected] or 828-884-1820.

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