Long before interstates or train track connected the 63 miles between Asheville and Newport, the challenge for a farmer was to get his products to a large city market to sell. The fertile valleys of the French Broad River and Cocke County produced abundant foodstuff that was in demand for people as far south as Charleston, SC.

In 1874, then Tennessee Bureau of Agriculture agent, Joseph Buckner Killebrew reported: “These are exceedingly fertile valleys, the soil equal to any in the State. It is alluvial and deep. With anything like fair cultivation, it will produce from fifty to one hundred bushels of corn to the acre.”

While corn can be used for milling or distilling, much of the corn grown in Cocke County was used to fatten hogs to sell in the markets of the South.  Hogs are voracious eaters and the corn yields in the river plains of Big Creek and the French Broad were prolific. In contrast, the plantation farmers in Georgia and South Carolina used their lands for cotton and rice to sell in large cities and globally.  With most of the land in use for cash crops, plantations owners needed to purchase pork to feed the large number of field hands working to plant, tend, and harvest their crops. The annual hog “drive” through Cocke County to Asheville would begin in early November along the dusty road running parallel to the French Broad River.  Once reaching Asheville, the farmers would then the sell the hogs directly to plantation farmers or to slaughterhouses.

A drover could move his herd of pigs about 10 miles a day, keeping his hogs moving with shouts “Soo-eey,” “Su-boy,” or “Ho-o-o-yuh.”  Along the route, there were inns that had pens and feed for hogs, and perhaps a bed for the drover. One of these inns, Wolf Creek Inn, stood where Wolf Creek enters the French Broad south of Del Rio.  The road became so well known for the hog drives, that Asheville has placed a statue of walking hogs in downtown to represent the heritage of this porcine economy.

By 1880 and the completion of the railroad between Newport and Asheville, the years of the road taken over by large hog drives became a distant memory.   Today the 25 E highway between Newport and Hot Springs, NC is known as the East Tennessee Crossing Byway, a national scenic byway.  It is a bit ironic that this road is very much favored by motorcycle clubs for group rides, some of which are riding Harley Davidson, known in slang as Hogs.  The legend is that a Harley Davidson racing team selected a hog as a mascot and the label has stuck ever since.




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