On The Zeb Vance Trail
From his boyhood home in Weaverville and the Governor’s Mansion in Raleigh to the short-term capitol in Statesville and on to Congress and Washington, DC, North Carolina’s Civil War Governor Zebulon Vance stayed on the move.
Join us in a trip to two locations on Zeb’s trail.
Our first stop is Vance’s boyhood home, now a state historic site. This five-room log pioneer farmstead is nestled in the Reems Creek Valley near Weaverville in Buncombe County, and today it is furnished to interpret the period from 1795 to 1840. Vance's famous mountain family and his own illustrious political career as Civil War officer, governor of North Carolina and U.S. senator are traced at the homestead. At the site are six log outbuildings - the corn crib, springhouse, smokehouse, loom house, slave house, and tool house – that give you a sense of what life on an isolated mountain farm must have been like.
Young Vance left the home place at age 12 to go to school, but he was called back home two years later when his father died. He stayed and worked the farmstead until he was 21, when he headed off to Chapel Hill for law school. Vance continued to roam after his graduation from Chapel Hill. He moved to Asheville to practice law and then to Raleigh and the Governor’s mansion.
In what you might call a strategic relocation, Civil War Governor Zebulon B. Vance moved the state government lock, stock and barrel from Raleigh to Statesville in the spring of 1865. Union General William Tecumseh Sherman was closing in on the state capitol that April and Vance decided North Carolina’s government needed a change of venue to a safer location.
For a few weeks Vance joined his wife at a private residence in Statesville, making the home the Governor’s mansion and this heartland village the de facto seat of government. Union troops, who occupied Raleigh shortly after Vance cleared out, eventually caught up with the Governor in Statesville. They raided the house and arrested him May 13. After seven weeks of detention, he was released and returned to his Statesville residence.
Built around 1840, the Historic Vance House is one of the oldest structures in Iredell County. Built partially of logs, the Greek Revival two-story home that was originally on West Broad Street almost became a casualty of progress. Fortunately, the Daughters of the Confederacy bought the building in 1950 and moved it to its current location on Sharpe Street. Time ravaged the home, but Statesville history buffs raised enough money to perform extensive renovations. It reopened in April 2003 as the Historic Vance House Museum.
added: December 18, 2008
updated: January 2, 2009