Political Rough & Tumble

Are you a little tired of all the political campaign rhetoric? Have all the debates and speeches got you bleary? Well, have it known that political shenanigans are nothing new. Case in point, here is an example of a political brawl that occurred over a hundred years ago.

On November 2, 1904, two men were injured following a fracas at Asheville’s Hotel Berkeley. Tom Settle of the city and Skyland’s Homer Cathey exchanged blows after a heated political discussion about an upcoming election and the candidates for the office of sheriff. According to newspaper accounts in the Cherokee Scout and the News and Observer, after ill words, Settle, an Asheville attorney and former Republican congressman from Rockingham County, struck Cathey with a walking stick. Cathey, described as an “ardent Democrat,” responded by tossing Settle into a plate glass window, after which Settle slipped and fell halfway down the stairs to the bar room. Cathey had attempted to kick Settle, but his foot did not connect with his adversary.

The fisticuffs were declared a “most dramatic scene,” and it was reported that both men suffered cuts and scratches from the broken glass. Both brawlers appeared before the magistrate the following day and were fined $1 and court costs. According to sources close to both men, Settle and Cathey each regretted the incident.

Settle went on to serve as a special attorney for the U.S. Court of Customs in New York City. According to Cathey’s record, he must’ve been something of a hothead. He was involved in an altercation on a train in 1905, was arrested for simple assault and assault with a bottle in 1906, and in 1910 he was again charged with assault after he struck and knocked down Dr. E. T. Coyner, pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church, after a misunderstanding about yard debris.

Further inspection yields that Cathey’s malevolence caused Thomas Wolfe to model a character after him. According to Thomas Wolfe: When Do the Atrocities Begin? by Joanne Marshall Mauldin, Wolfe’s brother Fred revealed to editor Edward Aswell that the “stalking – prowling – brutal “character Dick Cathey in Wolfe’s unpublished novel, was actually Homer Cathey. To avoid a libel suit, Aswell “elected” to delete the chapter.


The Berkeley Hotel in downtown Asheville was the scene of a brawl between Tom Settle and Tom Cathey in 1904.


About Western Regional Archives

Western branch of the State Archives of North Carolina. We opened in August 2012 and our mission is to help preserve, and make accessible the documentary heritage of western North Carolina. We are located at 176 Riceville Rd., Asheville, NC and can be found on the web and on facebook.
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One Response to Political Rough & Tumble

  1. Kimberly Carver says:

    This is a great article! It definitely puts this year’s election cycle in perspective.

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