Town of Tryon


Tryon Town Council

J. Alan Peoples - Mayor
Crys Armbrust - Mayor Pro Tempore
Bill Crowell - Commissioner
Bill Ingham- Commissioner
Roy Miller - Commissioner

Town Staff

Zach Ollis -  Town Manager
Jeff Arrowood - Chief of Police
Susan Bell - Town Clerk
Joey Davis - Fire Chief
Paula Kempton - Community Development Director

Town Website -


This was rough country. . .

Tryon, snug in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, used to be Indian country - peaceful and otherwise.

Before the American Revolution, there were scattered settlers here. The old Block House, now scene of Tryon's annual nationally known Steeplechase, used to be a peaceful trading post with the Cherokee Indians.

In the mountain vastness beyond the borders of the Carolinas, when whites began to encroach on the Indians' hunting ground, clashes followed. So North Carolina's Colonial Governor William Tryon (held office 1764-71) extended the state boundaries to the foothills to give protection to the Indians.

Legend is that Big Warrior of the Cherokee chiefs then named the mountain on one side of the line for himself, and the mountain on the other side of the line for Governor Tryon. At any rate, Warrior and Tryon mountains are landmarks to all Tryonites, and splendid mountains they are.

Tryon mountains haven't budged. . .

For two centuries, homesteaders here have delighted in identifying their mountains. Here is a reliable guide as to which is which, as given on the U.S. Department of the Interior geological survey map, (N.C. - S.C., Saluda quadrangle):

The Tryon range, which culminates in Tryon Peak at the north, lies in a NE by SW direction, and the northern portion, easily visible from the town, extends for about 10 miles.

Starting at the south, the mountain bearing the radio towers with their blinking night lights, is Hogback, 3226 feet; then Rocky Spur, 2500 feet. Melrose, 2638 feet, is next and can be identified at night by its green light. Beyond Melrose comes the Saluda Gap, which brings highway, river and railroad down from Asheville. Next mountain to the north is Warrior, 2466 feet. This attractive little mountain rises to a smaller peak at its southern rip, which is sometimes called Little Warrior. Beyond Warrior is a lower peak, in shape a perfect cone. This is Round mountain, 1831 feet. Through the gap to its north will pass, when constructed, U.S. Interstate Highway 26.

On the further side of the gap is a large mountain known as Miller. From many points it appears to be a part of its next neighbor, our highest mountain, Tryon Peak, 3231 feet. The radio installation on its summit may easily be seen. The northern portion of this ridge is known as White Oak, 3102 feet.

In revolutionary days. . .

With the American Revolution, real troubles began between the Indian and the white settlers. British Redcoats and Tory sympathizers used the Cherokees to raid and massacre the pioneer homesteaders.

After three massacres, Capt. Thomas Howard gathered his men at the Block House and organized a campaign against the Cherokees. Skyuka, a Cherokee, led Howard's men over a secret trail to Round mountain. Here Howard defeated the Cherokees.

There was a stone monument marking the scene of the battle. The secret trail in modern times has become Howard Gap Road. The name of Skyuka (whose gallantry is still debated pro and con) is perpetuated by Skyuka Creek, scenic Skyuka Road, and the Y.M.C.A. Camp Skyuka on Tryon Mountain.

Tryon's beginnings. . .

The City of Tryon, granted a charter from the State Legislature in 1885, was then incorporated into Polk County.

However, in 1920, a second charter was given, one reason being the changing of the name from City of Tryon to Town of Tryon, since the municipal population was, is and will continue indefinitely -to be, less than 10,000.

The Town, named for Tryon mountain, is geographically small. Its boundary is established by a circle with a radius of three quarters of a mile, giving it an area of 1.7 square miles. The elevation is 1067 feet.

Tryon, almost on the South Carolina border, developed on this particular spot because construction of the railroad to Asheville stopped here for two years. In fact, the Southern Railway station is close to being the geographic as well as the actual center of Tryon. (Incidentally, the railroad grade from Tryon up to Saluda is known to railroad buffs as the steepest east of the Rockies.)

Tryon was early cultural center . . .

In 1889, Tryon was the same little town it had been nine years before, when famed poet Sidney Lanier came here for the last two months of his life. The streets were still just slashes through the red clay.

However, the Lanier Library was opened to the public in 1890 -admittedly at the time little more than a shelf of books. Lanier Library is the last subscription library in North Carolina and one of 16 in the United States.  This institution, the oldest civic organization in continuous operation in Tryon, gives remarkable insight into Tryon's history.

On its 75th anniversary, -the library published "Lanier Library Diamond jubilee' - must reading for anyone interested in Tryon's early days. A few lines from the book concerning the library's community programs will show how visitors from the turn of the century found an intellectual center in a small town:

"John Burroughs, inheritor of Thoreau's title as the great American naturalist, was a well-known figure in Tryon -'a little old man with a long white beard.' Hans V. Kalrenborn, editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, addressed the club on problems of national interest during two winters he spent here. Robert B. Peattie of the Chicago Tribune, gave a most interesting talk on the making of a newspaper. The son of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edward Emerson, an artist and head of the Boston Art School, lectured . . . Luis Agassiz, Swiss author and scholar, contributed two fascinating lectures on astronomy." And so on.

Actor Williazn Gillette built a home here; Historians Charles and Mary Beard, and Donald Cullmn Peattie and Roderick Peattic are among Tryon's widely known former residents. Present-day Authoress Margaret Culkin Banning wrote a recent novel with the locale Tryon. Jazz legend Nina Simone was born in Tryon, just a few blocks from downtown.

Folks keep coming here. . .

From the turn of the century, drovers and traders traveling from Kentucky and Ohio, came through here by the Howard Gap Road, on their way to the markets of South Carolina.

Beginning about 1925, Northerners came increasingly, for health reasons, of to find a quiet spot in an interesting community. The trend has never stopped.

Today's population is unusual because it brings together citizens for varying reasons. Few communities can count such a high percentage of defendants from its first settler families; many of today's residents bear the family names of pioneers of four generations back. Retired men and women continue to come from all parts of the country, and young people come too.

Tryon's Weather. . .

We quote from the U.S. Weather Bureau climatologically survey: "The Tryon area is . . . protected by a series of..... barriers which tend to hold back the flow of cold air..... The weaker of the winter outbreaks are turned aside and prevented from reaching Tryon, and even the strongest are modified in passing over the mountains. While the temperature drops below freezing on about half the nights in December, January and February, it is rare even in the coldest weather that it fails to rise above freezing during the day. There has been only one case of zero weather . . . in the past 50 years.

"Summer afternoons are warm, but rapid cooling takes place after sunset, so that even at the warmest time of year early morning temperatures average below 66.

"Precipitation is abundant in the Tryon area, and well distributed throughout the year . . . . Some snow falls at Tryon almost every winter, but the average amount is less than half that which falls in many areas of (the state). The sun shines more than half the daylight hours . . . . Average relative humidity is around 70%."

Morris the Horse



The 19th-century surveyors who laid out Tryon stuck a compass in the map and drew the town boundaries as a circle a mile and a half in diameter. At the center of that circle stands the Tryon Horse.

Today's landmark is the fifth-generation Tryon Horse. A jumbo version of one of the most popular toys they made, the Tryon Toymakers and Woodcarvers built the first Horse in 1928 for the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club.

In season, the Tryon Horse serves as a downtown billboard for the club, with dates for the Tryon Horse Show or the Block House Steeplechase Races displayed on his saddle pad. In earlier days when school let out and the stores closed for the horse show, the Horse was rolled down the road for signpost duty, giving visitors directions.

The original Tryon Horse was destroyed in the 30s when the building in which he was stored burned. The next Tryon Horse was ravaged in 1946 during a wild getaway ride when he was kidnapped -- not for ransom, just for the devilment -- by a few fellows who were enjoying a jar or two of white lightening. The third succumbed to age and weather in the 60s; and the fourth Horse was totally restored in 1983, when he acquired a fiberglass body made by a boat builder. He stands twenty two hands high.


Occasionally the Tryon Daily Bulletin prints a letter from a reader who has had a conversation with the Tryon Horse. In those letters, the Horse is always referred to as "Morris," the name given him by a group of friends, the "Wilderness Road Gang," who put holiday garlands and a rakish top hat on the Horse every Christmas.