History of Waynesville, NC

Colonel Robert Love, an American Revolutionary War soldier, founded the western North Carolina town of Waynesville in 1810. Love is the one person to thank for donating the land that the courthouse and jail now stand on. It also makes up the town square. Waynesville gets its name from Love’s former commander in the Revolutionary War, General “Mad” Anthony Wayne.

The town of Waynesville was incorporated in 1871. It wasn’t until 1995 that the town of Hazelwood was merged with Waynesville to form one community. Today, Waynesville boasts a population of almost 10,000.

Waynesville started to see major development 1884. During that year the railroad officially pulled into town. Waynesville began to see the fruits of the agricultural, lumber and tourism industries that were beginning to pop up throughout town as well as the county and western North Carolina.

The railroad – its first tracks, was located along Richland Creek in Waynesville, northwest and downhill from Main Street. Primarily swampland before then, it was the first real construction in the area albeit the few scattered buildings. Upon completion of the train depot and all that the railroad brought to the area, development of Richland Creek began again. It also became known as Frog Level by townsfolk because of its low-lying location along the creek. When the rains came in and it flooded, the town was at “frog level”.

Frog Level and downtown Waynesville continued to be the central focus socially, economically, and commercially with a growing number of retail businesses springing up through the 1940s. From hardware stores to auto dealers and garages, and furniture stores to wholesale groceries, warehouses and lumber companies, business was booming in the Frog Level area in the 1930s and 1940s, and all of it dependent upon the railroad. However, as the automobile industry flourished, the railroad began to slip in need and in importance and led business away from Frog Level. In 1949 the last passenger train pulled into the depot in Waynesville. Though freight trains still pass through Frog Level two times each day, most just continue on to the neighboring town of Sylva.

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