The old Drover’s Road was an early path for farmers of the southern Appalachians to the markets on the coast. Along this road in the late 1800s, a large, plain house, then known as “Sherrill’s Inn,” saw the daily arrival of “The Flying Cloud,” a stagecoach which brought tired and thoroughly jostled customers for old man Sherrill and his wife’s cooking, whisky, and beds. Passengers were on their way from coastal towns to Asheville, about fifteen miles away, which even then was gaining a reputation as a health-oriented mountain retreat.
In those days stagecoach riders would likely see pigs, turkeys, mules, and other livestock being driven along the dusty road as it curled up to the front porch of the house, which served as a resting place for drovers and their flocks. The Inn became Hickory Nut Gap Farm in 1916, when Jim and Elizabeth McClure, newlyweds from Illinois, purchased it with plans to farm and raise a family there. This remarkable couple left a legacy of commitment to the land and community that lives on in the family to this day, and their home-place has become a widely recognized symbol of social, agricultural, political, and spiritual development in Western North Carolina.
Contemporary struggles to preserve small farms and farmland, growing interest in local economies, and the desire of people in our rapidly changing culture to establish authentic, sustainable, and meaningful communities wherever they may live, gives this story of the McClure legacy a relevance that goes well beyond the sheltered coves and hollows of the region.