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A Short History of Sherwood Forest - Part of Cedar Mountain Community
A SHORT HISTORY OF SHERWOOD FOREST
In the year 2011 as Transylvania County celebrates its 150th birthday, Sherwood Forest, comprising 1,000 acres and 200 homes, is a vibrant part of the Cedar Mountain Community.
Long before Sherwood Forest was conceived, the first historical significance of its location was that of Feed Rock, a large, high rock outcropping now sporting homes with beautiful views. In the 1840s Jones Gap Road was completed, linking Greenville and points north of Cedar Mountain, and major livestock drives began coming across Feed Rock as the drovers used the French Broad Turnpike. After the railroad came to Brevard, the turnpike era ended, but Feed Rock continued as a feeding station through the 1920s.
The building of the new Greenville-Brevard highway in the 1920s made possible further development in the area. Dr. B. E. Geer, prominent Greenville educator and industrialist, along with a friend, Ted Snyder, began accumulating the land that would later become Sherwood Forest. Geer’s company, Judson Mills, bought most of the acreage from them. The 1,089 acres were intended to be a recreation area for mill employees, but this never came to fruition. A lake was needed, and Geer hired Ted Snyder to build a concrete dam on the creek later named Mill Creek. Thus Judson Lake was created, now known as Trout Lake.
After completing the dam in 1928, Snyder erected a millrace downstream and assembled a large over-shot waterwheel and a gristmill. He charged customers a fee to grind their corn into meal and grits.
Shortly after establishing his mill, Snyder built Waterfall Cottage beside the dam and lived there until 1942, acquiring a wife and four sons along the way. In 1939 he constructed a large inn overlooking the lake and called it the Robin Hood Inn. This was a joint venture incorporated by Snyder and the inn’s manager, Mrs. S. B. P. Snell of Clearwater, Florida. John Snyder, Ted’s son, recalls her as “an old and diminutive lady with snow-white hair and a severe demeanor.” He also recalls the imported French Chef “who baked, as a demonstration of his superior skills (prior to the opening of the inn), what became known as the French Chef Cake.” The inn consisted of 20 guest rooms, each with a private bath, and one suite. The lobby was 38 by 45 feet, and the focal point was a huge stone fireplace. Meals were announced by a bugler wearing a Robin Hood costume, and this motif was reflected throughout the inn’s service, including dishes. The resort enjoyed good business during its first summer, but fire destroyed it on April 19, 1940. Arson was suspected, but the mystery remains today, with several theories still floating around. John Snyder continues to seek information that would explain the fire.
Ted Snyder offered the property for sale rather than rebuild the inn. A textile manufacturer from Greenville bought it as an investment and held it until 1946, when Dr. Geer purchased it for his son, Robert A. Geer, a World War II veteran. Bob lived in Waterfall Cottage and operated a dairy farm on the lower part of the property, complete with a dirt-floored barn and milking parlor, still standing. Bob and his family moved to South Carolina in 1956, and the property was once again for sale.
At just the right time, Arthur and Betty Kay Dehon of Columbia, South Carolina, were looking for a business opportunity in Brevard. They wanted to buy just a few acres but bought the whole parcel. That year, 1957, the Dehons moved into the Waterfall Cottage with their children, Art, Jr., and Sondra. The cottage was accessible only by an unpaved road to the lake and a wooden bridge across the dam. While exploring the ruins of the old inn, Arthur found a china fragment with a picture of the legendary Robin Hood on it, inspiring him to name the place Sherwood Forest. His business, Robin Hood, Inc., was incorporated on August 1, 1957.
Arthur and Betty Kay planned their development for “people who would cherish the natural surroundings and live in harmony with their neighbors.” Arthur laid out the roads and lots to minimize the loss of trees. One of his first projects was to plant the white pines near the entrance as well as “bare spots” throughout the forest. The Dehons insisted that prospective buyers walk rather than drive around so that the place would “sell itself” with its diverse plant and animal life. Four other lakes were created, and all flow into Little River by way of Trout Lake and Mill Creek.
In 1965 Arthur placed an ad for Sherwood Forest in Audubon Magazine, calling it “The Audubon Colony.” Although the National Audubon Society put an end to the use of the term in ads, Robin Hood, Inc. continued to use it in promotional brochures, letterheads, and entrance signs through 1979. Today the golf course has earned the right to be associated with Audubon by using the required environmentally-friendly maintenance procedures.
Another aspect of the Dehons’ development plan was to create a master craftsman’s village along the highway frontage. One of the crafters, who built the house now known as the Robin Hood Centre, persuaded them to convert the Robin Hood Barn into a theater, complete with a wooden floor, stage, lighting and restrooms. The theater was not a commercial success, but summertime square dances were very popular and are still held by private groups. The Barn is also a favorite place for weddings, parties, and Sherwood Forest holiday picnics.
The Sherwood Forest Golf Course was built in 1967-8 and is the most visible aspect of the development. It is an eighteen-hole, par-three course with a pro shop and sometimes boasts llamas as caddies!
In the 1990s, the Dehon family ended their relationship with the Forest, and the Sherwood Forest Homeowners Association assumed all responsibility for its administration and maintenance. Sherwood Forest continues today as a unique, friendly, and caring community.
Written and Submitted by: Carolyn Mills
Arthur Dehon, Jr.
Betty Kay Dehon
Dr. B. E. Geer
Robert A. Geer
Mrs. S. B. P. Snell