Before the arrival of the Europeans, the land where Asheville now exists lay within the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation. In 1540, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, came to the area known as Guaxule, bringing the first European visitors. Along with the European visitors came European diseases, which seriously depleted the native population. The area was used as an open hunting ground until the middle of the 19th century.
The history of Asheville, as a town, began in 1784. In that year, Colonel Samuel Davidson and his family settled in the Swannanoa Valley, redeeming a soldier's land grant from the state of North Carolina. Soon after building a log cabin at the bank of Christian Creek, Davidson was lured into the woods by a band of Cherokee hunters and killed. Davidson's wife, child, and female slave fled on foot overnight to Davidson's Fort (named after Davidson's father General John Davidson) 16 miles away. In response to the killing, Davidson's twin brother Major William Davidson and brother-in-law Colonel Daniel Smith formed an expedition to retrieve Samuel Davidson's body and avenge his murder. Months after the expedition, Major Davidson and other members of his extended family returned to the area and settled at the mouth of Bee Tree Creek.
The United States Census of 1790 counted 1,000 residents of the area, excluding the Cherokee Native Americans and the Buncombe County was officially formed in 1792. The county seat, named "Morristown" in 1793, was established on a plateau where two old Indian trails crossed. In 1797, Morristown was incorporated and renamed "Asheville" after North Carolina Governor Samuel Ashe.
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