Tuesday, August 13, 2013

If a shoe could talk.....

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 found myself wondering about the child or children who had worn that shoe, and what stories the shoe could share with me if only it could talk.  Could it tell me of walking to school and church? How many rows of corn had its wearer hoed?  How much work had to be done by the child's father and/or mother to earn the money to obtain it and its mate?  Could it tell me of the cold winters it protected its owner(s)' feet from?  Could it tell me about visiting the local cemetery to bury brothers, sisters, parents, or other relatives?

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.


  1. I am so excited to hear of this wonderful project. There is a growing lack of interest in the history of our nation and the people who pioneered their way across the country. Perhaps your writing about the families that lived in Swain County generations ago will remind us all of the importance of knowing our own histories.

    1. Thank you so much, Gail. I agree. I hope you will enjoy the blog.


  2. Wonderful caption ... your blog is now my favorite. I look forward to much more in the coming months. Carol Cochran

    1. Thank you, Carol. In the past, you and I have shared the experience of sitting down beside a tombstone and wanting to know its story. I hope that I'll be able to do that on this blog.

  3. This story reminds me of how tough things were way back then and how families survived and supported each other. This is so unlike many families today. You made me remember how tough it was for my parents when we were youngins.