I remember finding my first old home site when I was around the age of 10. It was down in a hollow and about a mile from my home. Not much was left of it.....a few rocks remained stacked where the chimney had been, and daylilies and mock orange grew around it. There were some depressions in the ground that had been dug by the folks who had built that cabin long ago. There was even some detritus left; the only thing I can specifically remember finding, though, was a child's shoe. It had been well-preserved for decades, lying under the litter of oak leaves.
|An old shoe found at a home site in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.|
I so badly wanted to know.
Land acquisitions beginning in the late 1800's and continuing through the early1940's for logging, and for the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Fontana Dam, National Forest lands, and what is now the Needmore Tract have left hundreds of such sites scattered throughout Swain County on public lands. Many old sites also remain on Cherokee Tribal lands, and the lands of private owners. To most of us, these are places of recreation and relaxation, yet for the descendants of the brave pioneers who forged a living on these lands, these places are hallowed grounds. These sites, and the cemeteries in which their inhabitants are buried, have much to say to us about our ancestors and others whose lives have shaped these county lands for hundreds of years.
For within and without the walls of the homes and buildings once (and in some cases, still) present on these sites, real lives were lived. Lovers married, children were birthed and raised and schooled, Christians were converted, the necessities of life were purchased, families toiled for their existence, and loved ones died. Through site remains, cemeteries, historical records, books, old photographs, and the stories told by their former inhabitants, it is possible to know these people and their communities once again, and to leave a lasting record of their existence for posterity. For every homesite and every tombstone has something to tell us of the lives they stand in memory of.
My goal, through this blog, and the book I am writing, is to resurrect them.
These are their stories.