By Jan Lawrence
Weaverville – The beautiful forests and majestic mountains continue to attract “settlers” to Western North Carolina, just as they have for the past 230 years. One family who came before 1800 was the Brittain family.
Oral tradition states the first Brittain who came to America was James Brittain, born 1709 in Wales. He was a lineal descendant of Sir William Brittain. He first settled in Virginia and then North Carolina, in a place named “Greenfair,” thus far not located. Into the mountain cove at the north end of Weaverville came William and his wife Rachel Brank Brittain in 1788. The cove became Brittain Cove. William was born in Orange County, NC in 1762 and served in the Revolutionary War, for which he received a pension. He and his brother, James, have been recognized as instrumental in the development of the town of Asheville.
Many deeds for William Brittain appear in the Buncombe County records. He was the first judge in Buncombe County and he and Gabriele Ragsdale were the first representatives from Buncombe County to sit in the NC House of Commons where he went in 1792, the year Buncombe County was formed. He represented Buncombe County until 1821.
William and Rachel Brittain raised their nine children in the cove and are buried in the family cemetery near Dula Springs. His will is on file in Asheville. William’s memorial tribute published in the Highland Messenger 8 May 1846 reads: “William Brittain, Sr., age 84, a soldier of the Revolution, a representative of Buncombe Co. in the House of Commons during Gen. Washington’s Administration, and a servant of his country at home and abroad for much of his life. He was responsible for the naming of the town of Asheville. He died 12 March 1846 at his residence in Buncombe County.”
The William Brittain Cemetery is less than .2 of a mile north of the Weaverville Post Office on Dula Springs Road. It was established by the family near their home. In 1989 three inscribed tombstones, two inscribed field stones and a large field stone were there. In addition to the grave of both William Brittain and his wife Rachel, is their son George Washington Brittain. Two sons and the wife of George Swain are known buried there without markers and six others are believed buried there.
Brittain Cove continued to thrive with the addition of families. The four beautiful springs provide delicious water to this day. The next settler of note was Thomas Dula whose land purchase on the Little Ivy River was recorded in the Buncombe County Land Records in 1833.
He was the kin of Tom Dula of the “Tom Dooley hang down your head” ballad fame. The Brittain Cove Presbyterian Church was founded in 1892 and remains an active church today. The Dula Springs Hotel opened in 1905 and remained a resort until the 1950s.
Charlie Chambers, hotel owner and manager, often said: “The Lord understands that folks need to dance in the hotel when they’re visiting, so He doesn’t hold it against them.” Tom Myers, grandson of town of Weaverville founder Michael Montraville Weaver, purchased a part of the hotel in 1968 and lived there until his death. That building remains in the Myers family. A trip up Brittain Cove is quite pleasant, so treat yourself. You will know the reason some who settled the cove built high on the mountain, most likely had to do with water.