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Preserving Deerfields: Sanctuary a Family Tradition
Greg and John J. Redden, co-owners of 890-acre Deerfields in west Henderson County, inherited their beloved mountain sanctuary from their grandfather Monroe. The brothers comprise the third generation of the Redden family to cherish Deerfields and all of its natural wonders. Their grandfather adored Deerfields, and he worked tirelessly to assemble an unspoiled mountain retreat secluded amongst the wilderness of the Pisgah National Forest.
The Redden family first settled in Henderson County during the late 19th century. Although the county was previously inhabited, its rugged terrain and the physical barrier of surrounding mountains made the region a still sparsely populated place. Monroe’s father John, great-grandfather to the Redden brothers, served as one of the first rural mail carriers in Henderson County. John guided a horse-drawn buggy over rutted dirt roads, often traveling routes exceeding 30 miles to reach remote areas of the county. His wife served the community, too, teaching seven separate grades at the public school in Hendersonville and also serving as its principal.
While still a young man, Monroe Redden ventured away from Henderson County —150 miles by horse to Winston-Salem—to try his hand in patent medicine sales. Monroe proved successful at his trade, using his income to attend law school at Wake Forest, graduating in 1923. Upon returning to Hendersonville, he practiced law for more than two decades. In 1947, Monroe gained election to the U.S. Congress and went on to serve three terms in Washington, DC.
It was in 1927 that Monroe Redden began acquiring mountain property. He partnered with several other families for the purchase and creation of a mountain retreat to use for hunting, fishing, and backwoods solitude. The haven became known as Deerfields (the history of this name will come in another story).
Monroe endured the onset of the Great Depression relatively unscathed. Far more fortunate than his partners, he purchased each of their property holdings, totaling about 300 acres. Upon gaining full ownership, he began building a log cabin at Deerfields for use as a hunting lodge. It was heralded as the only residence to be constructed in the county following the onset of the Depression.
In spite of his prosperity at Deerfields, the property consisted of two non-contiguous tracts separated by an isthmus of federally owned land. “At that point, you couldn’t hunt on the national forest. It was forbidden,” said Greg Redden. It was even illegal to carry firearms across the “government land.” In order to hunt on his isolated parcel, Greg explained, “they had to completely dismantle their guns, put the pieces in their pockets, and reassemble them on the other side.”
Greg’s grandfather was ever eager to join his two pieces of property. While they were so near in proximity, government restrictions made them feel a world apart. Unable to use his gun, Monroe Redden used his cunning instead. The congressman acted upon a tip that the government intended to purchase of a 600-acre tract of land in the neighboring county. He moved quickly to buy the tract before the government bought it first. The government was furious; it even threatened to seize the tract by enacting eminent domain.
Everything had played perfectly into Monroe’s master plan. He proposed a deal to the government: a trade of his newly acquired 600 acres in return for the 300 acres of national forest that separated his two tracts at Deerfields. Though risky, the plan proved to be a work of genius; the government accepted his offer. Deerfields finally became contiguous, and the bulk of it bordered federally protected forest that Monroe knew would remain pristine wilderness.
Congressman Redden jumped on an opportunity to purchase another 300 adjacent acres in 1958; Deerfields thus expanded to more than 900 total acres. Monroe absolutely cherished his secluded Deerfields retreat, driving ten miles from Hendersonville every afternoon to visit it after practicing law in the morning. “This was his domain. He sat up on the porch and fed the deer. He just loved being here,” remembered Greg.
While Monroe Redden’s vision and resourcefulness led to the fulfillment of Deerfield’s contiguous and unspoiled character, it was his grandsons Greg and John J. that completed his dream. Solidifying their grandfather’s efforts, the Redden brothers sought out conservation for Deerfields through Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy in 2008. Ultimately, they intend to conserve 828 acres at Deerfields with CMLC’s help—a fitting tribute to Monroe’s tenacity to unite it and his passion to preserve it.
by Peter Barr, CMLC Trails & Outreach Coordinator
Read more stories of CMLC’s conserved lands at www.carolinamountain.org/stories.