Monday, January 25, 2016

Keeping Warm at Rocky Point Ferry

All of the books in the 'Little House' series written by Laura Ingalls Wilder are undoubtedly some of my all-time favorites, which I still pull out to re-read to this day.  Some of my favorite 'scenes' from these books describe the times when Pa would play his fiddle on cold winter nights, having his girls dance to warm themselves before retreating to their icy bedrooms.

I thought you'd enjoy a similar scene from the Rocky Point Ferry, which provided passage across the Little Tennessee River from Graham County to Swain County before the impounding of Cheoah Lake in 1919.  Enjoy!
Crossing the Little Tennessee River on the Rocky Point Ferry

"Nearly one mile below the mouth of Twenty Mile creek is Rocky Point ferry, presided over by that philosopher and musician, who is known far and near as Chris Linn. Chris lives just above the ferry, in a log cabin containing an entire room. The logs afford some resistance to the winds of winter that howl up and down the river, but the spaces between them afford none, and the wind goes shrieking through that cabin in a way to freeze the marrow in the bones of anyone but Chris Linn and his interesting family. Instead of allowing their marrow to freeze, they pile on the logs in the wide fireplace, and huddling around, let her howl. There are six or 7 children, the oldest being a beautiful girl of fifteen summers…There is no superabundance of clothing, even during summer, but that makes ‘no differ’ to Chris and his family. There is just one possible fly in the ointment of their contentment, and that is the breaking of fiddle and banjo strings. If those strings never broke the even tenor of their way would be uninterrupted. But banjo and fiddle strings will snap at times, and with them snaps happiness at that home. While the strings hold true and strong, the winds may howl and the river rage, but Chris with his fiddle and Miss Julia with her banjo defy them both with ‘jig chunes’ that would make an elephant dance for joy.  As Chris fiddles and Julia strums, the children dance before the fire, and ‘joy is unconfined’. The puncheon floor rocks and sags, the shadows play hide and seek with the ruddy firelight upon the cabin wall and the midnights of winter often find the inmates cutting the pigeon-wing and flinging the double shuffle with hearts as free as salvation."
'Bud Wuntz' in The Morning Post (Raleigh, NC), 16 August 1903
Chris and Matilda Mary Julia (nee' Farley') Lynn (probably circa 1910-1925)
Source: "Remembered Lives: A Narrative History of Our Family" by Duane Oliver
Notes to the reader who is interested in exploring further:
1.  Christopher (1860-1925) and Matilda Mary Julia 'Tilda' (nee' Farley) (1869 - 1946) Linn/Lynn lived in Graham County, where they operated the remote ferry for many years. Despite living in Graham County, they received their mail at the post office across the river in Fairfax, Swain County. They were the parents of at least 8 children (6 boys and 2 girls), and of these, at least two of their sons, Boyd and 'Gard' worked as loggers for the Ritter Lumber Company.
2. ' Bud Wuntz' was the pen name (for the newspaper) for John Preston Arthur (1851-1916), the author of "Western North Carolina, a History (1730-1913)" (available for free on Google Books, or $0.99 on Kindle), and "A History of Watauga County, North Carolina: with Sketches of Prominent Families" (also available for $0.99 on Kindle).
3. Please reach out to me directly via email if you'd like to read more about the Linn/Lynn family than I have included here.  I have the article in PDF form and will gladly send it along.
"Remembered Lives: A Narrative History of Our Family" by Duane Oliver.  Copyright 1993.
The Morning Post (Raleigh, NC), 16 August 1903 on


  1. The picture of the Ferry fascinates me. It looks to be at least 40 feet long and 12 feet wide. I can see 8 full grown men, a yoke of oxen and a fully loaded wagon. There appears to be plenty of room for much more cargo aboard. The only visible method of propulsion appears to be poles in the hands of some of the men. I don't know the stretch of the Little Tennessee where the Ferry operated but I am assuming it was slow moving at that point. Slow moving water usually means it is deep. Deep water is harder pole a boat in. Shallow water is easier poling but you generally drift downstream quite a bit and have to pull the boat back up along the riverbank each time you cross. I have only been in smaller, flat bottomed, river boats and they are hard to maneuver. I can't even imagine trying to load this thing and get it across the river.
    I have the Lynn family in my family tree but I don't have Julia as part of her name. Gard's name was apparently Gardner. I have him as Gardie also. I have subscribed to If that is the where you got the information about the Lynn's then I can go there to read the article. If not I will contact you for the PDF.
    Frances Rogers who commented on your last post is probably far more familiar than I am on this subject. The next time I contact her, I will tell her about this post.

    1. Hi Ed -
      It is pretty amazing, isn't it? I'll email you a screen capture of the area in which it operated - it's between the dam and the Twentymile section of the park, and about a mile below where Rhymer's Ferry operated. I'll also send you a link to an 1899 NCGS Bulletin that describes the water in that area. Apparently the next 15 miles of the Little T were quite torturous just beyond the Ferry.

      The information is on but I will send you the PDF anyway.

      I've come across several iterations of the family names. Frances had actually put up the memorials for the Lynns and has her name as including 'Julia' - given the name as used in the context of the story, this makes sense to me.

  2. I found the article and enjoyed it immensely but only to a point. When describing the sources of The Mighty Little Tennessee, the author, as most are apt to do, ignored those of which I am most fond. Where is mentioned Brush Creek or Sawmill Creek? Where are Rattlesnake and Licklog Creeks? How about Tellico, Burningtown, Lakey and Cowee Creeks? These are not just tiny capillaries. They are major arteries! Where is Painter Branch, Wikle Branch, Charlie Branch, Tarkiln Branch? Ammons, Monkey John and Long Branches?
    It seems that the geographical center, the very heart, is ignored. It is as if a hole has been burned in the parchment where Needmore once existed and none of earth even wonder what might have dwelt there. I feel a sense of urgency for gathering and archiving its stories but without an interested audience that feeling changes to that akin to the curbside preacher proclaiming his message to an ceaseless stream of automobiles whose passengers are inclusively overcome with a sudden need to roll up their windows and look the other way. It's their loss, you might say. But, it is mine too!

  3. Thanks so much for the article about Chris and Tildy! I had never run across it, and would love to have the pdf, but don't have your email address to request it. Mine is My father knew the Lynns, and Chris was the maternal uncle of his stepfather Johnny Birchfield. Matilda was listed as "Julia" in the 1870 census and was a cousin of my father.

  4. The article is fascinating. I, too, would love to read more about those people. I traveled to Needmore last year because of Ed's compelling writing about it. It is a beautiful and storied place. I want to learn as much as I can about the history of WNC.

  5. Who is the person in charge of this blog? I can't find a name anywhere...