The Transylvania County administrative offices are located at 21 East Main Street, Brevard, NC 28712; phone: 828-884-3100.
Transylvania County, as indicated by its Latin name, meaning "across the woodland," is located across the Blue Ridge Mountains in the southwestern section of North Carolina. It is part of the "Land of Sky," a term first used by Frances Christian Fisher writing under the name of Christian Reid in 1875 and taken up by later tourist and planning organizations. Transylvania's 379 square miles range in elevation from over 6,040 ft. on Chestnut Bald in the northwest to less than 1200 ft. in the southwest where the Toxaway River flows into Lake Jocassee at the South Carolina line. This dynamic variety in elevation, and one of the highest average rainfalls east of the Pacific Northwest, have combined to make the area truly the "Land of Waterfalls," a name adopted by the Brevard Board of Trade in a 1907 publication. Other notable geographical features include the rock formations of Dunns Rock, Standing stone Mountain, Looking Glass Mountain, and Devil's Courthouse.
The first permanent white settlers came to the area in the late 1770s, in spite of the fact that it was not legal to live here. In many cases, their illegal settlement was unintentional; it was due to confusion over the actual boundary separating North and South Carolina and precisely which ridgeline was the western edge of colony. The families were of European origin, but many had migrated here either up the Eastatoe Trail from the South Carolina coast or down the Great Valley Road from Pennsylvania or Virginia. They typically had been in this country for several generations, often coming west through other places in North Carolina such as Morganton or Old Fort. The earliest families were of Dutch, French, Scotch-Irish, Welsh, and English extraction who established farms of moderate size, mostly along the Davidson River, the East Fork of the French Broad River, or in the Cherry Fields.
Jacob Leiden was one such settler, who originally came from Holland and traveled throughout Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina looking for a homesite. He is the earliest known permanent white settler in this area; in 1772, he built a home with his family in the area now known as Penrose Their descendants have continued to build on the same land, and many of the properties included in the survey bear their name (by the 1790 census, the name had been Anglicized to Lyday). Other early settlers whose descendants' homes are represented in the survey are Deaver (Deavor) and Merrill (Merrell) from France; Galloway, Gillespie, Henderson, McGaha, Orr, and Patton from Scotland; Bryson, McCall, Aiken, Owen, and Reece from Ireland; Glazener, Summey, and Hogsed from Holland; Hamlin, Whitmire, and Fisher from Germany; Osborne (originally from Norway) and King through England; Duckworth and Wilson.