Swannanoa Valley Museum, Black Mountain, North Carolina             

Rachel Jane Stepp (left)
  September 15,1846
 January 14, 1919

Swannanoa & Black Mountain,
Buncombe, North Carolina
 wife of
Marcus Maloney Jones
 December 7, 1846
  May 17, 1923
Sulpher Springs, west Asheville, Buncombe, North Carolina

Mountain community of Grey Eagle . . .

During most of the 1800's, the community that is now   incorporated as the town of Black Mountain was known as Grey Eagle.  Rachel Stepp's ancestral family were immigrants to America in the 1600's. They lived in  Virginia and  Wilkes County, North Carolina, during the 1700's.  Old Highway 70 (shown at lower end of map) was the main Stage Road through this community, connecting Asheville in Buncombe County and Old Fort and Morganton in Burke County (now in McDowell) during the 1800's.

                           Black Mountain Station . . . 

Completion of the railroad into the community created  Black Mountain Station in 1880.  Hotels were built to accommodate tourists and the growing influx of people who brought businesses to the area.  Wealthy families built summer homes. The economy grew.  The town was created and officers were elected. 

Rachel's Uncle Mont Stepp was among the first mayors and hotel proprietors.  Mont's older brother, Joshua P. Stepp, was Rachel's father.  Joshua died during the Civil War at Richmond, Virginia, on August 27, 1862. Rachel's mother was Isabella Anna Porter (Stepp), daughter of Alexander and Jane Young Porter.

Library of the Town of Black Mountain, North Carolina

      Mont Stepp's Hotel in Early Black Mountain

At left on the map (above) is Lake Eden Road, that winds north through  Swannanoa River's North Fork community, where the Stepp families, and Rachel's mother's father,  Alexander Porter, owned large tracts of land. 

Jesse Stepp owned the Buncombe side of Mount Mitchell, including the summit, where he donated acreage for the gravesite of Professor Mitchell.    Now within the borders of Yancey County, the Mount Mitchell State Park was developed in recent years to honor Prof. Mitchell, who measured the mountain's height and lost his life in 1857, on one more trek up the mountain.

 Rachel's Swannanoa Home was built by her aunt, Elizabeth Louise Porter Gilliam

This was Rachel's Home . . . bought for her in 1873 by her uncle,  William Y. Porter.   (Db 35/ p512) 

Photo from research shared by author Dale W. Slusser, Asheville, NC

Rachel Jane and Marcus Jones  (left), known by friends and family as Jennie and Mark, lived for thirty-four years, 1873 to 1907, in the two-story, L-shaped, white clapboard home that appears to the left in this, almost 100-year-old photo (above), taken in 1925.   Construction of the first, main building of The Mountain Orphanage had recently been completed.  Within weeks or months, the old home would be torn down to make way for landscaping at the new building.

This first, main building for The Mountain Orphanage has stood since 1925, while the complex now known as The Presbyterian Home for Children, Youth, and Families, on Lake Eden Road, has developed around it during the intervening years. 

The Porter Lands
This home and farm tract were part of the extensive acreage owned by Rachel's grandparents, Alexander Porter and Jane Young Porter, along the Swannanoa River and the Swannanoa North Fork. 

The Porters divided and deeded to each of their  sons and daughters several 100+-acre tracts on the west side of the Swannanoa River's North Fork, where the daughters and son, John H. Porter, and their spouses had settled and built homes.   The Porter's unmarried son, Maj. William Y. Porter, was deeded the old Porter home and farm for $2,000. 

Rachel's aunt,  Elizabeth Louise Porter Gilliam

Alexander and Jane Porter deeded the Gilliam home, and forty-one acres of the farm, to their daughter, Elizabeth Louise Porter, Rachel's mother's sister.  Louise and her husband, William C. Gilliam,  built this home in the late 1840's.  (9/12/1859 - Bunc. Co. Db 26/p 498)

Elizabeth Gilliam died in 1862 and her husband William died in 1865.  Elizabeth's brother, Maj. William Y. Porter, became guardian for her minor children. 

Death of  Rachel and Mark's First-born son Joshua

The death of Rachel's young son, Joshua Alexander Jones, left her emotionally depressed in west Asheville, where she and Marcus had resided after their marriage.  

Rachel wanted to be back home near her family at Swannanoa.  Rachel's third child, Rosannah "Annie" Jones, born May 28, 1873, was likely born at her grandmother Isabella's home, the Stepp House on the North Fork.  Annie stayed quite often with Isabella and Aunts Rose and Lizzie during the years that followed.

On August 22, 1873, Rachel's Uncle William Porter bought  forty-one acres, and the Gilliam homestead, from the Gilliam's eldest son, William C. Gilliam, who had moved to Hamilton County, Tennessee.  William bought the home and farm for Rachel and Marcus.  They moved into the home in the fall of 1873, after Rachel was fully recovered from the birth of Annie. (08/22/1873 - Bunc. Co. Db 35/p 512 )

On March 13, 1877, Mark Jones bought the Swannanoa home from William Y. Porter, by a Family Trust Bond. (Db 141/p96) 

William Porter died intestate in November, 1899.  On January 9, 1806, Mark assigned the Swannanoa farm and home over to Rachel. 
( Db 141/p377)

At the same time, Rachel presented her receipts to the Probate Court, proving the purchase of the Swannanoa home from William Y. Porter.  The Buncombe Court, through the administrator of William Y. Porter's estate, issued a deed to Rachel for the home  and forty-one acres, registered on January 9, 1906. (Dbk 141/p383)

Through the son who knew him best, it is known that Mark was  going through a mid-life crisis that pulled him emotionally away from his obligation to Rachel.  The family wanted to know why Rachel had allowed Mark to mortgage her home : "I wanted to keep peace in the family," they were told. 

By September, 1907, Rachel's home was lost, along with an additional tract in west Asheville.(Db 150/p560)

Rachel's Young Years and Marriage
Though Rachel would be four in December, 1850, she was still age three on this census taken in November, 1850, in the Joseph Stepp family neighborhood.   

1850 U. S. Fed. Census, Swannanoa Twnshp
Res.1653  Joseph and Rachel Stepp - Res. 1654 Fidelio Stepp - Res. 1655 Asher (Azor?) Stepp  -
Res. 1656  Joshua Stepp, Isabella A., and Rachel J.(named for her Stepp grandmother, Rachel Waters and her maternal grandmother, Jane Porter.)

1860 U. S. Fed. Census, Swannanoa, NC
Res 143 J. P. Stepp, Isabella Anna, Jane, Rose, and Nancy Elizabeth.  Res. 144  W. Y. Porter
Res. 145
Alexander Porter and Jane Porter

Rachel was age thirteen on this 1860 Census.  I can imagine that, at age thirteen, and becoming a young lady, Rachel was happy living with her family and grandparents, Alexander and Jane Young Porter, in their home along the main Stage Road to Asheville.   Lots more exciting than living up the North Fork Road, which would have likely seen light traffic.   Rachel would have visited with her Aunt Elizabeth Gilliam's family, an adjacent homestead to Alexander and Jane.

Goodbye, Papa! 
There was a last goodbye from her father, Joshua, (right) as he rode away to the War.  Rachel would not see her father again.  From the  evidence available, Joshua died of typhoid fever in Richmond, Virginia, in the summer of 1862.

Probate Court Guardianship
On October 15, 1862, Isabella A. Stepp, her brother, Maj. William Y. Porter, brothers-in-law John M. Stepp and William M. Hemphill were appointed by the  Buncombe Probate Court as Guardians of Joshua's daughters, Rachel Jane Stepp, Rosannah C. Stepp, and Nancy Elizabeth Stepp.

Young Marcus Jones
Marcus was born and grew up in west Asheville at Sulphur Springs.  His parents were Col. Joshua Russel Jones and Laura Marinthia Jones (nee Garman).

When the Civil War began in April, 1861, Marcus was age fourteen.  At age sixteen, he joined  the local militia or home guard.   Col. Joshua R. Jones led the local guard, and the colonel must have felt confident that his son would be safe under his command and influence. Mark was fortunate to have been too young to join regular service in the war. 

Rachel and Marcus marry
No information has survived in the family to tell us  how Rachel and Marcus may have met, as Marcus grew up miles away in west Asheville. 

On May 26, 1868, Mark and Jennie were married at the Tabernacle Methodist Church, the earliest organized congregation in the settlement area of Grey Eagle.  They married on a warm sping day, three years after the War ended, and after high country cold winter of that third year had passed, and the chill after dogwoods' bloom just a memory.  The skies were now cloudless and blue.  Inside the church, the pews would have been filled with friends and family from the neighborhood, and from west Asheville, where Marcus had grown up.

By 1870, Rachel and Marcus were living at Sulphur Springs in west Asheville near Mark's sister's family, Eldridge and Tolitha Jones Wilson.

 Their first child, Nora Isabella Jones, (left), born  April 19, 1869, would grow up to be a beautiful and energetic young woman. She established a tailoring, custom-made, clothing business in Asheville, that  continued well into the 20th century.



Rachel and Mark's first-born son, Joshua  Alexander Jones, died before his second birthday in 1872 in west Asheville.  His grave marker was found broken from its base in the Sardis Methodist Church Cemetery in west Asheville. Charles R. Hendrix, great-grandson of Nora Isabella, cleaned the stone, then cemented it to the original support.

At the death of her young son, Rachel was expecting another birth in a few months. It must have been grief, and longing for her family - her mother, her sisters, and a longing for the place she called home - that brought Rachel back home to Swannanoa.  

The third child born to Rachel and Mark was Rosannah Jones, called Annie. Annie was born on May 28, 1873, and probably born at   her grandmother Isabella's home.   Isabella would have wanted to protect her daughter during this crucial time of loss, and expecting another birth.

At times during her childhood, Annie often stayed with her grandmother Isabella Stepp and Aunts Rose and Lizzie.  She is with them on the 1880 Census. 

On February 26, 1870, the Probate Guardian's Bond was renewed to protect the estate of the two younger sisters Rose and Elizabeth.

William Y. Porter had a legal obligation to protect the properties of  the Stepp daughters. Also, he must have felt a personal obligation to the family, particularly to his sister, Isabella, the widow of Joshua P. Stepp, who lost his life in the Civil War.

My mother's aunt Frances  Jones Whisenhunt (below), youngest child of Rachel and Marcus Jones, was born at this Swannanoa home on August 12, 1889.  In conversation, Aunt Frances referred to her homeplace and the place where she was born as being the site of the early Mountain Orphanage.

                          Frances B. Jones Whisenhunt

Jennie and Mark's children
Jennie and Mark have many descendants - nine of their ten children lived to adulthood, and had families.

 Children of Rachel Jane and Marcus:

        April 19, 1869  -  Nora Isabella Jones
                                  (C.Stinnette) (William Grant)
       April 7, 1871  -   Joshua Alexander  Jones
                                  died infancy
       May 28, 1873  -  Rosanna  Jones, "Annie"
                                   (Arthur  L. Walton)
       Dec. 5, 1874  -   Arthur Govan Jones
                                   (Mary A. Gorman)
       Sept. 29, 1876  - Hester Isabella Jones
                                   (Samuel Flemming Turner)
       June 25, 1878  -  William Orlando Jones
                                    (Bessie Walton)
        Feb. 23, 1880  -  'Dock' Calhoun Jones
                                    (Etta Massey)
        Oct. 13, 1881  -  Winfred Lee Jones
                                    (Sarah Lenora Foster)
                                    (Martha Gibbs)
       April 29, 1884  -  Robert Maloney Jones
                                    (Mary Eva Fuller)
       Aug. 12, 1889  -  Frances Burroughs Jones
                                    (Daniel W. Whisenhunt)

1880 Federal Census, Black Mountain Twnsp

This 1880 Census (below), and additional  records, reveal a close family relationship between Isabella, her daughters, Rachel Jane, Rose, and Elizabeth, and her brother, William Y. Porter. 

1880 U.S. Fed. Census, Black Mountain, NC


Res. 112  Isabella and Elizabeth and Rose have young nieces Rosana Jones (Annie Jones) and Letta Gilliam living with them.  Res. 116  From the listing schedule of how the entry taker visited each resident, the residence 116 entry of Rachel's uncle, William Porter,  conspicuously places him at the North Fork cabin, which Rachel and Mark moved to after Mark mortgaged and lost Rachel's Swannanoa home.   By 1880, William's elder sister by four years, Isabella, is the only surviving member of his core family, and they had always been close. Isabella's daughters and the young nieces would certainly have been welcome company for him.  There is no record of William having a wife, nor children. 

There is no 1890 U. S. Census that might have told us if William Porter continued to live at this residence through 1890, or beyond, until his death in November, 1899.

There is evidence though that he  acquired five tracts of land, comprising about 500 acres, in Yancey County, which is north and adjacent to the North Fork area.  This Yancey County area was a mica mining area.  It may be that William Y. Porter bought the Yancey land with plans to establish a mica mine. 

Wagner 2011

The North Fork cabin (above) was covered in  siding and is now used as a staff residence for  Camp Rockmont properties in Black Mountain, North Carolina.  

Through a study of early censuses of this neighborhood,  the cottage, originally constructed of logs, could have been built by John Morgan, whose residence in 1860 was close to the Joseph Stepp house, where Isabella lived after the Civil War.  

Obituary for Rachel Jane Stepp Jones -
January 14, 1919, The Asheville Citizen

Pack Library, Asheville North Carolina

From the Asheville Citizen:
Funeral Services for Mrs. M. M. Jones, who died suddenly Tuesday morning at her home in Black Mountain, will be held Thursday at the [Methodist] Tabernacle Church, Black Mountain.  Rev. Holloway will be in charge.  Mrs. Jones succumbed to a sudden attack of heart disease.  She is survived by her husband and eight children : Miss Frances Jones; W. L. Jones; A.G. Jones of Black Mountain; R. M. Jones of Greenwood, S.C. ;W. O. Jones of Greenville, S.C.; Mrs. Leslie Turner of Raleigh; Mrs. Roy Grant of Asheville.  Mrs. Jones leaves a wide circle of friends.                           

Rachel and Marcus Jones Bible
the deaths of Marcus and Rachel, their Bible was kept by son Winfred and his wife Martha, who for a time lived in Asheville.  In 1940, Winfred bought a 100-acre farm and a home at Rosman, near Brevard, North Carolina.    After the deaths of Winfred and  Martha, the Bible was  inherited by their youngest daughter, my Aunt  Dixie Jones Jordan (below, right).   
Dixie's religious faith and her family were important to her, and she was careful to see the Bible was kept with care.
 She shared the Bible's wealth of family information during a Jones family gathering in  2009.  Later in 2011, she and I, with her brother Clyde,  took a day to explore the farm near Brevard, North Carolina, where Dixie had grown up.  It was a day I remember and cherish. 

I was saddened to hear of Dixie's death several years ago.  She was a warm and generous person. 

Narrative and Website  © Iris Teta Eubank Wagner 2010 -2018.