Henry River History

Henry River has a long, interesting history, and I hope to tell part of it’s story through old news paper clippings and various links. I’ll update this page as I come across more.

Newspaper clippings from 1916 extolling the idyllic and prosperous lifestyle of the village. On bottom is a rare picture of the main mill building, which no longer stands, as it burned down in 1977.

The mill was mostly spared from some of the worst flooding in state history, also in 1916. The same article proclaimed that all but one river crossing and bridge in the county was washed away.

One of the stains on the history of the village was the death of sheriff David W Oaks in August of 1966. Oaks responded to a call from one of his deputies who had been shot in the arm by 62 year old Boyce Liverett, who the deputy had been attempting to serve warrants on. Liverett was employed in some capacity at the mill fixing machinery and lived in the mill village.

What followed was a shootout that left the sheriff dead and wound up as a manhunt for Liverett, who was eventually captured and sentenced to prison in 1967 for the crime.

You can read more about Sheriff Oaks on the Burke County Sheriff’s Office website, and about the events of that night in this article from the News Herald newspaper of Morganton. In 2019, when Burke county built a new jail, a memorial to the slain sheriff was included at the entrance.

It can be difficult to find, but there was an “Images of America” book for Henry River by Nicole Callihan and Ruby Young Keller published in 2012. It has more stories of the town as well as many interesting images of the village during it’s heyday.