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Asheville is a city in, and the county seat of, Buncombe County, North Carolina, United States. Located at the confluence of the French Broad and Swannanoa rivers, it is the largest city in Western North Carolina and the state’s 12th-most populous city. According to 2019 estimates, the city’s population was 92,870, up from 83,393 in the 2010 census. It is the principal city in the four-county Asheville metropolitan area, which had a population of 424,858 in 2010, and an estimated population in 2019 of 462,680.
Before the arrival of the Europeans, the land where Asheville now exists lay within the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation, which had homelands in modern western North and South Carolina, southeastern Tennessee, and northeastern Georgia. A town at the site of the river confluence was recorded as Guaxule by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto during his 1540 expedition through this area. His expedition comprised the first European visitors, who carried endemic Eurasian infectious diseases that killed many in the native population.
The Cherokee had traditionally used the area by the confluence for open hunting and meeting grounds. They called it Untokiasdiyi (in Cherokee), meaning “Where they race”, until the middle of the 19th century.
European Americans began to settle in the area of Asheville in 1784 after the United States gained independence in the American Revolutionary War. 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 made in lieu of pay. Soon after building a log cabin at the bank of Christian Creek, Davidson was lured into the woods and killed by a band of Cherokee hunters resisting white encroachment. 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 as a separate nation. Buncombe County was officially formed in 1792. In the 1800 US Census, some 107 settlers in the county were slaveholders, owning a total of 300 enslaved African Americans. Total county population was 5,812.