Tempie Avery was a young girl purchased in Charleston in 1840 by Nicholas Woodfin. During her time on his plantation she became a midwife delivering both black and white babies in Asheville.
After the Civil War, Mr. Woodfin deeded property to Tempie at 26 Pearson Drive, the current site of the Montford Community Center.
On December 30, 1868, Nicholas Woodfin conveyed one acre of land to his daughters to be held for the use of said Tempie Haynes Avery . This lot, now 34 Pearson Drive, is the land on which the Montford Community Center now stands. This map shows that the conveyance from the Woodfins to Tempie Avery predates construction in Montford beyond West Chestnut Street.
The Stumptown community, most of which shows in above map outlined in yellow, developed on land adjacent to Tempie Avery’s home. Stumptown was a thriving predominantly African American neighborhood before the development of Montford beyond West Chestnut Street began around 1891.
While Stumptown was less than 300 acres, it was home to over 250 families. The Urban Renewal of the 1960s-1970s cleared the whole area. By gaining property through eminent domain, the city of Asheville “replaced dilapidated houses and an intact neighborhood with a ball field, a community center and tennis courts. Welfare Baptist Church remains.” See “Growing Up in Stumptown” by Pat Fitzpatrick, May We All Remember Well.
While Tempie’s life after emancipation was not easy, she used her learned skills as a nurse and midwife to support herself and her children. A widow before 1900, she also worked as a laundress. According to notices in the Asheville Citizen, Tempie was a well-known and respected community member in both black and white communities. At the time of her death in February 1917, she was remembered as one of the oldest and most respected “colored” women in Asheville.
“OLD COLORED WOMAN, AGED NINETY, DIES,” Asheville Citizen-Times, February 18, 1917.
The above information was taken from a draft of the Application for Public Property Name Change, written by Cathryn McLeod and Martha Warren, as they propose to the Asheville City Council that the Montford Community Center’s name be changed to the Tempie Avery Montford Community Center to continue the legacy of Tempie Avery and her devotion to children, both black and white.
For more information on Tempie Avery see previous HeardTell post.
Post by Zoe Rhine, North Carolina Room librarian