By Jan Lawrence
On August 8th, 1808, Michael Montraville Weaver was born in the Rims (Reems) Creek Valley at the John Weaver Homestead.
Since he was more than 20 years younger than the oldest brother, several of his siblings had already left home. They probably felt more like aunts and uncles than brothers and sisters. Montraville was educated at home, as were all the children. On December 30th, 1829, he married Jane Eliza Baird, who was born on August 17th, 1810, on Beaverdam in Asheville.
Jane was the daughter of Bedent Baird and Mary Ann Welch Baird. Bedent Baird and his brother Zebulon Baird were among the earliest merchants in Asheville. They brought goods by wagon from Saluda, and the brothers owned three of the original town lots when Asheville was established. The marriage of Montraville and Jane connected two very prominent families in Buncombe County. They initially lived with his father and mother, but had started a house nearby. Montraville was licensed to preach by the Holston Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church on September 12th, 1829, about three months before he married. His father was one of the founders of the Rims Creek Presbyterian Church, initially on the south side of Reems Creek where Parker Cove is now (2019).
When Bishop Asbury, who was sent from Europe by John Wesley, came to “The North Carolina Alps” (as Bishop Asbury called our mountains) to preach, he converted many people, John Weaver and Jacob Weaver being two, to Methodism. John and Jacob helped establish the old log Rims Creek Methodist Church.
Montraville’s father, John Weaver, wrote his will on May 10th of 1830 and died in December of that year. His will stated: “…that my property, personal and real, be kept together as it is now, under the care and control of my son, Montraville Weaver, for the comfortable maintenance of my wife, Elizabeth, during her lifetime…I give and bequeath unto my son, Montraville Weaver, the tract or parcel of land whereon I now live, containing six hundred and seventy-two (672) acres…to him and his heirs forever.” The will continued and bequeathed furniture to the girls and the balance to the rest of the sons. Thus 22-year-old Montraville Weaver became a preacher, a husband and a landowner with the additional care of his mother in a 15-month time frame. There is no evidence that he was overwhelmed; however, he must have been.
The old log church was moved by the congregation in 1830 to the Salem Campground and that’s where Montraville preached. He was the last to preach there. His tombstone in the Old Weaverville Cemetery sits where the church pulpit stood. The church became the Weaverville Methodist Church. It sat on Church Street until July 4th of 1917 when it burned after being struck by lightning. It was rebuilt at the current location on Main Street.
The Sons of Temperance constructed a building in 1854, known as the Masonic and Temperance Hall, and it became a high school or academy and boarding school. The Conference House was built in 1836 to entertain the Holston Conference although the campground was incorporated in 1832. The buildings were the forerunner of Weaverville College, officially chartered on December 7th, 1873. The first building was completed in the spring of 1874 and the college was deeded to the Methodist Church in 1883. Montraville Weaver gave the land on which the first administration building was built in addition to money. A later article will cover the subject in greater detail.
In the early 1850s, Montraville and Jane moved with their family to a double log cabin on what is now Central Avenue. That is where he died. In 1874, he stood on what is now Main Street and gave a half mile in all directions. Thus the town of Weaverville was born and was named Weaversville after Michael Montraville Weaver. The “s” was later dropped.
Ten children were born to Montraville and Jane. The first was Mary Ann Elizabeth Weaver, born on November 28th, 1830. She was named for both of her grandmothers. On September 9th, 1851, she married James Americus Reagan, who originally came as a circuit-riding preacher with the Holston Conference.
He was principal of the Masonic and Temperance School until 1858. J. A. Reagan went to medical school in Shelby, Tennessee. His biography was included in a previous edition of this paper. He became the town’s first mayor and the first president of the college. Mary Ann Elizabeth died at age 59 and is buried in the Old Weaverville Cemetery where her parents and grandparents are buried.
Martha E. Weaver was born in 1832 and married John “Jehu” Wellington Vandiver, a Methodist preacher, on April 10th, 1953. As each child married, the parents gave them land and built them a house. The Reagan house is located on Reagan Lane near the intersection of Main Street and Weaver Boulevard. The Vandiver House now houses attorneys north of the Alan Shepard building, formerly Shope’s. J. W. Vandiver was active in the town and former postmaster, serving two terms. Their daughter and her husband built the house across from the Baptist Church, now the library, which became known as the Erskine House or Secret Garden.
Margaret Matilda Weaver was born on February 4th, 1835. On March 2nd, 1855 she married a Methodist preacher, Wiley Francis Parker, who later became known as “the fighting parson” in the Civil War. Their property and house were located on the south end of Main Street. Rev. Parker preached for many years near Spartanburg, South Carolina. The miller, Davolt Hunsucker, and his family lived in that house for many years. The pew Bible in the Methodist Church was given in his honor. He also had preached there.
The fourth child was James Creed Fulton Weaver, who was born May 9th, 1837. His property was at Flat Creek. He did not marry and at age 25 was killed in the Civil War. The fifth child was John Baird Weaver, who was born in 1839 and married Ora Catherine Garrison in 1866. The census of 1860 states he had “blindness from his nativity.” He and his bride lived with his parents.
The next article in this series will conclude with the family.
Editor’s Note: Jan Lawrence is the Chairperson of the Dry Ridge Museum in Weaverville.