1880-1916 in Sapphire

Sapphire Valley 1880-1916

Gem mining continued for several years while industrialist from the north began to discover  Western North Carolina.  These industrialists included George Vanderbilt who bought 3000 acres (now expanded to 125,000 acres) in Asheville and created one of the world’s largest private homes – The Biltmore House.

Day trips to The Biltmore House are encouraged and discounted tickets are available at the Sapphire Valley Community Center.

Fairfield Lake, Lake Toxaway and the Railroad

 E.H. Jennings, another visionary from the north preferred the higher ground in the mountains of Western North Carolina. In the 1890’s, Jennings and a group of stockholders formed the Toxaway Company and purchased 30,000 acres in Transylvania and Jackson Counties.

Railroad Service (1)

sapphire valley resort cashiers highlands lake toxawayThe original railroad to service this area was the Hendersonville & Brevard that ran to Brevard, NC.  A man named J Frances Hayes bought the line in a court sale and renamed it the Transylvania Railroad in 1900.  He then expanded it from Brevard some ten miles to "Toxaway" which today is Rosman.  The Toxaway Company, which Hayes owned in part, built a paved road to Lake Toxaway.  (Later 'Toxaway' became Eastatoe and in 1905, was named Rosman.)

In 1905, the Southern Railway leased the Transylvania RR and operated the trains all the way to Lake Toxaway when additional rail was installed. The growth of the Sapphire Valley area would not have been possible without the rail line. Soon, these trains were carrying passengers to 5 new Inns built by the Toxaway Company. The Inns included The Toxaway Inn, Sapphire Inn, The Lodge, the Franklin Hotel, and Fairfield Inn in Sapphire Valley.

Southern Railway actual had daily service arriving at the Lake Toxaway Train Station. From the station it was an 8 mile horse and bugging ride to Sapphire Inn (on what is today Whisper Lake) and 11 miles  to Fairfield Inn on Fairfield Lake. This ride could take up to 3 hours!

In addition to having some of the first rail services in the mountains of Western North Carolina, the three lakes built by The Lake Toxaway Company - Lake Toxaway, Sapphire Lake and Fairfield Lake  - are some of the first man made lakes in the Appalachians.

Fairfield Inn

sapphire valley resort cashiers highlands fairfield innFairfield Inn (click here for more history on the Fairfield Inn) opened it’s doors in 1896 and served guest from mid-June until mid-September.  In 1900, in order to provide food for the Inn, a farm and farm house were constructed in the Valley. The original farmhouse is still there, serving most recently as The Library Lounge and Restaurant. Today, Red Bird Golf Course and the Sapphire Valley Racquet Club sit in front of the old farmhouse and serve tennis and golf daily.

The Toxaway Company failed in 1911 and was purchased by E.H. Jennings. Mr. Jennings sold off the Toxaway area property, keeping 7000 acres in Sapphire Valley  and what is now known as Lonesome Valley.  He operated the Fairfield Inn until his death.
The end of the first years of Lake Toxaway ended in 1916 when a strong hurricane came in from the Gulf and dropped an estimated 24 inches of rain
over 24 hours. The dam, not built for massive overflow, failed on August 14, 1916 sending 640 acres of water down the Toxaway Gorge.

The area went dormant, the Toxaway Inn abandoned and then torn down in 1948. It would not be until 1960, when new investors the found property, formed the new Lake Toxaway Company and revitalize the area.

1: Railroad History courtesy of Mr. Tom Fetters
2. Toxaway Inn Train Station courtesy The Greystone Inn.

Please visit our newest site: History of Sapphire Valley.org!

This site by the Sapphire Valley Historical Society has all the latest historical updates as well as updates on our projects!