Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Indian Creek Grist Mill

About 1.2 miles up the Indian Creek trail (about 2 miles from the gate at Deep Creek) one can see a large, marshy bottomland on the right, that has been previously cleared.  A lone boxwood stands in the middle of it, one of the only indicators of the prior life of the fascinating family that knew it as home.  Here once resided the Alfred Washington and Louisa (Conner) Parris family.  Alfred was born in Haywood County around 1834.  He was a Civil War veteran, being wounded at the Battle of Malvern Hill and subsequently furloughed.  He and Louisa arrived on Indian Creek with their young family sometime prior to 1874, and were some of the first white settlers in this remote area.  On Indian Creek, Alfred became a pillar of the community.  He was a founding member of the Indian Creek Baptist Church in 1874, donated land for the church and a nearby cemetery, donated land for a community school, and was a school committeeman.
Alfred Washington Parris
Courtesy:  David Lee on findagrave.com

Louisa (nee' Conner) Parris
Courtesy:  Ancestry.com

One of the interesting things that is little known about Alfred Parris and his home place is that in addition to his home, barns and other structures, he built a large grist mill here near his house.  Corn was life-sustaining for nearly all mountaineers from those early pioneers in the area up until very recent years.  Cornbread provided daily nourishment to the body (often twice a day).  Stock were fed on it, and hats and rugs and dolls were made of its husks.  For the purposes of consumption, much of the corn had to be ground.  Mortar and pestle were laborious and  impractical for providing the volume of meal required by a family, therefore, mills were by far the preferred method of obtaining cornmeal.  Many small family mills were built on branches throughout the Smokies, but there were few community mills....hence the uniqueness of the Parris mill.

Identified as the A.W. Parris Mill
Courtesy:  Pete Prince Collection, UT

Roy McClure Holding a Piece of the Parris Mill

There seems to be some discrepancy about the type of mill this was, but all agree that it was fed by a millrace that came down to it from the nearby Queen Branch.    An oral history given by Alfred Parris's grandson, Henry Davis, indicates that it was a tub mill with the wheel on the bottom, however, two oral histories given by Emma Parris Carson and Wesley Jenkins (both of whom were raised on Indian Creek) to researcher Pete Prince in the late 1980's indicates that it was an overshot mill and that the wheel was 12 feet in diameter.  This contention would appear to be supported by a find made by my research partner, Don Casada, who has located some of the gearing and remains of a large wheel at the site.  Additionally, there is an old postcard within the Pete Prince collection that identifies an old overshot mill as Alfred's.  Regardless, it would almost undoubtedly been very busy, as it was the only known mill to serve the Indian Creek community in the park.  The next nearest community mill was at the mouth of Deep Creek, over 4 miles away.  

Andy Kitchen
Courtesy:  Macie Michael
Several men served as the miller here.  Alfred built the mill and clearly ran it for quite some time.  After Alfred deeded the land on which his home and mill sat to his daughter and son-in-law, Laura and Dillard Wines in 1916, it seems certain that they would have taken it over.  In 1919, Laura and Dillard sold the land to Laura's sister and brother-in-law, Salinda Jane and John Columbus Kitchen.  An oral history given by Andy Cline, who grew up over the mountain on Stone Pile Gap, notes that Columbus ran the mill for some time, assisted by his son, also named Andy.  This is interesting because, as his picture demonstrates, Andy was blind due to a large brain tumor that eventually took his life.   Edna Wiggins (daughter of Andy Cline) remembers a time in approximately 1928, when her 9-year old brother, Sebie, had to make a trip to the mill when his father was ill; the Reverend Gaston Griffin (who was also a pastor for the Indian Creek Church) was the miller at that time.  We know little else about the mill other than that the toll was a gallon to the bushel.

Columbus and Salinda Jane (Parris) Kitchen (taken on Indian Creek)
Courtesy:  Macie Michael
The Parris mill seems to have been destroyed by some means (most likely fire) sometime between 1928 and 1930.  The North Carolina Park Commission records from approximately 1930 indicate that the only structures left at the site by that time were a four room log house and a barn in poor repair.  The Kitchen family had left some time before to work in the cotton mills of South Carolina, and a 90+ year old Alfred Parris was likely living with relatives in Swain or Jackson County.  Today, a few rusty pieces of metal are all that remain to tell the story of the mill's important place in the once-vibrant Indian Creek community.

In a brief anecdote in his tales of growing up on Indian Creek, Henry Davis remembers, "....They used to be a feller.....out on George's Branch up yonder.  He would buy corn at Bryson City and carry it all the way to granddaddy's mill down here to have it ground, when he could have it ground down there and had it towed so it wouldn't be so heavy.  But he wanted to bring it up down there.... I reckon he liked the miller."
Signature of Alfred Washington Parris
(North Carolina Archives)
Archives of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Don Casada
Macie Michael, great granddaughter of Alfred Washington Parris
North Carolina Archives, North Carolina Park Commission Collection
Swain County Register of Deeds
University of Tennessee at Knoxville,

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Depression in Letters

A few weeks ago, I took my children for a hike on the Kephart Prong Trail.  Beginning at a pull-off on the right about a mile past the Collins Creek picnic area, the trail is gorgeous, especially in the fall and spring.  On this day, our destination was the shelter that lies two miles up the trail.  But one of my favorite sections of the trail lies only about 0.2 miles from the trailhead.  The Kephart Prong Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp,  Company #411, was established on 25 May 1933 and operated continuously through 1942, at which time it was abandoned by the CCC but was subsequently used as a work camp for conscientious objectors during World War II. Several vestiges of the camp remain, including the signboard, boxwoods, the chimney for the barracks, and a water fountain. 

Chimney at Kephart Prong CCC Camp
The water fountain at Kephart Prong CCC Camp

The CCC, part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 'New Deal' program, offered hope for economic survival to the families of young men aged 18 - 25.  First begun in 1933 and operating until 1942, the CCC employed these young men in natural resources work throughout the country.  The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was but one of the many natural areas that benefitted from this program.  Workers were sheltered, clothed and fed and paid a wage of $30 a month, $25 of which was sent home to help support their families.  For families receiving these monetary fruits of their sons' labors, the $450 this equates to in 2013 currency meant the difference between having a home (however humble) versus living on the street, or eating beans and rice versus starvation.  

The Great Depression hit Swain County hard.  Though those of hardy stock in the mountains, who were used to 'making do or doing without' weathered the time better than those in the cities, it was still an era during which families barely scraped by.  With unemployment in 1933 hovering around 25%, the opportunities presented by the CCC must have seemed like a god-send to desperate families.  Many in Swain County applied for the precious few positions available to 'local men' for work in the Smokies, or for work elsewhere.

John T. Needham
GSMNP Superintendent
Courtesy:  GSMNP Archives

CCC Recruits in front of Park Offices in Bryson City, 1933
Courtesy:  www.nps.gov

 The park archives at Sugarlands contain page after page of names of our county's men, young and old, who applied.  Some were interviewed, and many were not.  Most were turned down.  Eighty years later, a few of the letters of application to John Needham (acting park superintendent at the time) can still be found in the park archives, and that is what I have chosen to share with you today.  For ease of reading, I have transcribed these letters, however, in order to stay true to history, I have left their grammar and syntax as they were written. They provide a poignant glimpse of life in Depression-era Swain County.

Granville Isaiah Calhoun 1875-1978

May 22 1933
Mr. John T. Needham
Bryson City N.C.
Dear Mr. Needham
I wish to file my application for a forman place to handle the men on the road up Forney Creek.  I have had a lot of experience in building all kinds of roads here in this part of the country building trails in the Smokey Mountains wagon Roads and R-Road work.  I built the first 5 miles of Railroad up Hazel Creek for the W.M. Ritter Lumber Co. whos head office is in Columbus Ohio.  I worked for N. Carolina Mining Co. for most of 2 years and worked for the North Carolina Copper Mining Company and _____ there agent there for 33 years and am agent here for them now.  I dun open cut work and under ground work.  I had charge of 125 men for them while the was ________________ for copper and I had 125 men working under me when I was building R-Road for the W.M. Ritter Lumber co. on Hazel Creek in this county.  I have had considerabl experience in __________ powder and hand drilling with common labor.  I can do nice tunnell work under ground.  I am 58 years old, way (sic) 220# and am in good health.  I have had Typhoid Fever in 1908 and bin vaxinated since several times.  I have had Small Pox in 1910.  I never have had any venereal diseases in my Life.  I have had measls mumps.  Never have had Pneumonia..
If any further information is desired would be glad to furnish it.
Yours Truly, 
G. I. Calhoun

Granville Calhoun's second CCC letter, pg 1
Courtesy:  GSMNP Archives
Granville Calhoun first CCC letter, pg 2
Courtesy:  GSMNP Archives








William Thomas Cole (1887 - 1965)

(Forney) Bushnell
June 14 1933
Mr. J.T. Needham
I understand you are going to have some carpenter work done at camp here at Forney.  I would like to help you out in that line if you are going to be in need of a carpenter are another Blacksmith.  If you don't need a carpenter I have had a quiet a lot of experence with a drilling crew in rock - and blasting if you would need a man like that.  I live here at church by side of Monteith.
William T. Cole
P.S. When you was here getting names I was not thru my corns but am most done now.

William Thomas Cole CCC Letter
Courtesy:  GSMNP Archives

James Monroe Cole (1888 - 1961)

East La Port, NC
June 15 33
Mr. Needham;
Dear Sir,
I am sending in my application to get work with Smoky Mountains National Park as a road builder or any forest work.  I was borned and reared in Swain Co., Have wife one child, mother and invalid brother whom look to me for dependence.  If can't get in just now hope you will file my applications & remember me, if you are adding on more men. 
Very Truly,
J.M. Cole
East La Port
North Carolina
James Monroe Cole CCC Letter, pages 1 and 2
Courtesy:  GSMNP Archives

Silas Henry Greene:  1896 - 1995

Judson NC July 25th 1933
Mr. Needham Park Mgr.
Dear Mr. Needham,
I would be glad if you can furnish me employment in the Park as I am a world war veteran.  Was over sea with the 30th Div, and have never had any help from the Gov.  I am in hard luck financially and I have a family of 7 to support.  If you can place me on any kind of job to help support my family will certainly apprecate the position.  Thinking you in advance for anything you will do for me in obtaining a position, of any kind of labor. 
I am yours truly
Silas Greene
Judson, NC
Silas Greene CCC Letter
Courtesy:  GSMNP Archives

Granville Calhoun, follow-up letter

Bryson City NC
Oct 25th 1933
Mr J.T. Needingham
Bryson City NC
Dear Mr. Needingham
I was told today that the new camp on deep creek had no Superintendant yet and that the place was going to be given to a local man.  one who nows (sic) the mountains and who has had experience in these mountains and who nows how to build roads and lay out trails in the mountains.  I think I could fill the place and handle the men all right.  I would apreciate a chance at the place and if I failed I would wilingly step down and let some other man take my place.  I looked for you this evening and did not find you to talk to about this job.  I can do the work ______________________as has been dun at Forney Creek just as good as any man, I think and would like chance at the job as superentendant same as Mr. Greer has at Forney.  Please let me know if you think I would stand any chance at getting the place. 
Yours Very Truly
G. I. Calhoun
Granville Calhoun's second CCC letter, pg 2
Courtesy:  GSMNP Archives
Granville Calhoun's second CCC letter, pg 1
Courtesy:  GSMNP Archives

There can be little doubt that the simple prose contained in the letters these proud mountain men penned, imparts a much clearer depiction of the Depression in Swain County than mere statistics could ever hope to show.  Regrettably, I do not know whether these men were ever provided the opportunity to obtain the much-needed work they so desperately desired.  It is certain, though, that most every young man who had the opportunity to work for the CCC had a similar story to tell.

But with every trail these young men built, every road they constructed, and every seedling they planted, a ray of hope was borne into the lives of their families....who were impoverished not only of money but also of spirit during those bleak days of the 1930's.  These letters allow me to 'see' the Depression in Swain County and how it unwittingly helped to make the GSMNP the rare gem that it is today.  They make me appreciate our county and our park in a way that I never could have before.  I hope they will do the same for you.

CCC Camp 411 Enrollees in front of barracks
Courtesy:  www.nps.gov
Annette Hartigan, Former GSMNP Librarian
GSMNP Archives

Monday, September 30, 2013

A Remarkable Woman

Annie Clark Cagle, taken at Deep Creek homeplace
(Courtesy:  Glenda Cagle Garland on www.deadfred.com)

I frequently find the inspiration for a story when I look at old pictures, and today's is no exception.  This beautiful woman is Annie Clark Cagle (1876 - 1954), who lived in Swain County from the late 1800's until 1929.

As one leaves the Deep Creek section of the Park via the graveled Galbreath Creek road, at least 5 old home sites are passed before reaching the Park boundary.  One of these, lying to the right side of the road where Tom's Branch passes under the road on its way to becoming a beautiful waterfall, was the home of the Lee and Annie (Clark) Cagle family. 

Google Earth view of the area near the Cagle homeplace
(Google Earth)
It was once quite an impressive homestead, as is outlined in the North Carolina Park Commission document shown below.

Assessment of the Lee and Annie Cagle Homestead by the N.C. Park Commission
(Courtesy:  NC Archives and Don Casada)

Annie Clark (1876 - 1954) was deeded this land by her brother, David Hardy Clark; it  was a part of her father's farm that he had established after moving his family here from Haywood County.  Around 1891 at the age of 15, Annie married Henry Lee Cagle and they settled on this land, close to family, to make a home.  Between 1894 and 1919, Annie gave birth to 13 children, (four girls and nine boys) and raised them here.   In 1929, the family was forced to sell their beloved home in the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and relocated to Bartow County, Georgia, where one of their married daughters was now living.  They took with them all of their children still living at home, including son Winfred, who had been born in 1915 (the 11th child).  Being homesick for the mountains, Winfred returned to Bryson City just a few years later and lived here for the remainder of his life, dying in 1993.  Winfred was a great teller of tales about the early days in these mountains, and was interviewed in the early 1970's by several different people.  The recordings of these interviews are retained at the Park Headquarters at Sugarlands along with the transcripts, which total nearly 150 pages.  The transcripts provide a fascinating glimpse into life as it was in the Deep Creek and Galbreath Creek area in the 1920's, and I plan to share much of this in later blog entries. 

The 13 children of Lee and Annie Cagle, late 1950's
Winfred is on the first row, third from the right
(Courtesy:  Glenda Cagle Garland on www.deadfred.com)
But for today, I'd like to share what he had to say about his mother, a remarkable woman of the Smokies.  (In order to preserve Winfred's wonderful mountain vernacular, I have left his speech patterns intact in this transcription.  It may be slightly harder to read, but conveys a much greater sense of the way in which it was told).

The Clothier

'Mother.....well, she made all of our soap. In fact she made all of our clothes.  She made, all of our overalls.  Made our hats.  Our shirts an' ever'thing we wore she made 'em right with her fingers right in th' house.    She'd knit us mittens to wear to school.  An' we'd wear, uh wool socks that would come up, just oh 'bout well a finger length an' a half below the' knee. And ......she made 'em so they'd stay right up on your legs an' they woudln't fall down. She ribbed them at the top y' know where they'd stay snug, snug to y'r leg and they didn't, bag down into your shoes.'

Joe Queen's Barn, with pasture in the background
(Courtesy:  GSMNP Archives)

'We'd go up to Joe Queen's up on the mountain. (Author's note:  Joe Queen's home that Winfred refers to here is the cabin at the Oconaluftee Pioneer Farmstead).  ....An' we'd buy a tow sack, packed full of wool. He had a mountain...just lots of sheep up there. An' we'd buy a tow sack full of wool, for a dollar. 'S all he could pack in. Then we'd bring it down; we'd pick the cuckleburrs out of it. An' y' had two sets of cards. Now, this w's the' kind y' make, fix your wool out of. We'd pick th' cuckleburrs out of that wool. They's one of them cards you, card it with, an' it straighted it out. Then our mother took, th' other cards, an' you card it. Then y' run 'em backwards. An' it rolled it off into a little roll just 'bout as big as a broom handle an' about that long. These little rolls of this wool. Then she had this spinning wheel she put it on, this spindle. Put a shuck. Take a piece of shuck an' put it on that spindle, an' tie that, uh, wool on that, 'n' start that spinnin' wheel it'd spin that into thread. Out of th' wool. 

The Walker Sisters of Little Greenbrier, carding and spinning
(Courtesy:  The Saturday Evening Post)

Then she took that, an', put it, if we wanted say she wanted t' fix us some, uh dark brown, if we wanted dark brown socks, she'd go out to a walnut tree, an' dig around the walnut tree an' skin some of th' bark off of th' walnut roots. Put it in a pot, an' boil it. Real good.

Then take all that bark out of there an' that was good dye. Then she put that wool in there, the thread after she made it in, put it, made it into what they call hanks. I'd say it'd be about, th' string of thread strand of thread would be about two hundred fee long. Make a strand put it in that an' you'd dye it. Then you take it out an' hang it up on the clothes line, an' dry it.....

 I don't know how she done it for thirteen of us, but she did.' 

The Gardener

'We had two big gardens. An we raised a fall cabbage...my mother sowed her own seed. Raise these plants an' set 'em out late in the summer. An' they'd make, oh huge cabbage heads. Now they have the little cannon ball now, or hamburg cabbage, th' small head but, what she grew then was.....some of 'em 'd weigh six or seven pounds.' 

Old Cabbage Field
(Courtesy:  www.seedlibrary.org)

The Doctor
'My mother.....she could make, I always tell people that she could make anything she wanted to or cure anything. They didn't make that...she made her own salve, made her own medicine an' ever'thing. I guess the first time that any of us, ever had a doctor with any of us one of my brothers took typhoid fever, back in the 20's, and, he was sick for, 'bout thirteen months. An they's thirteen of us. And never, we didn't never was a one of us in hospital.....

 And my mother made a salve..... I'm gonna make up some, this spring just quick as the leaves comes on the trees.....and she made it, she used beeswax, bammygills buds (balm of Gilead) and this wild chestnut leaves, an' white oak bark and dogwood bark, an' slippery elm. .....you c'd just put it on any kind of cut place or skinned place and just about overnight hit'd heal, just bring th' scab right on that 'n' just hit'd heal......

.......I know, after, we moved to Georgia, they's a lady there, next door to us ..... she had some kind of a spell.... St. Vitus's Dance or something (see notes at the bottom)  an' she fell in th' fire an' burnt all of her clothes off of her an' burnt, 'bout 75% of th' skin off of her body. And....th' doctors had done ever'thing for her.....She was gittin' worse all the time. Just....she was just a solid bandage of gauze from her toes to the top of her head on one side, burnt, over half of her hair off , an' burnt th' skin off of her an' when it did grow back her arm growed down to her side. An' burnt one of her ears smooth off.

 An my mother told....her husband, she said,' if the doctors has give up and can't do nothin' for her ........I can make you some salve if you'll let me, make it an' apply it. I can heal that, an' she'll be well an' going to the field.'. He says, 'She's yours, you can have her.'   My mother made up a box of this salve and so she went there an' got some pieces of white cloth you know. An' she would warm this salve and apply it on this cloth an' then she'd put it on these places. An' hit just healed that lady right up. An' she got up an' was a walkin' an' would carry her husband's dinner to the field to him when he was a workin'.

I believe she could've cured leprosy if there'd been any around with the salve she made. 'An the medicine. She could make medicine or salve for anything, measles or anything.' 

A DIY salve for burns
(Courtesy:  www.boulderlocavore.com)
What makes Annie Clark Cagle so worthy of remembrance?  Was it her seven-pound cabbages?  The half-bushel lunch basket she packed each morning to feed her children at school?  The excellent health she kept her family in?  The clothing she made for her entire family? 

Signatures of Annie and Lee Cagle
(Courtesy, Swain County Register of Deeds)
No, in my mind what makes Annie Cagle so amazing is that she would have been an ordinary mountain woman of the time.  In a day and age in which we may purchase ready-to-wear clothing at stores on virtually every street corner, it is difficult for us to conceive of the toil these women undertook to provide something as simple as a pair of socks for their children.  In a day and age in which one may shop for their doctor and may find remedies for many ailments even at the gas station, we cannot conceive of the idea of having to plan the planting and tending of the garden for the manufacture of next year's medicine.  Yet such matters that seem so trivial to us today, consumed the daily lives of women in these mountains from the wee hours of the morning until late at night, from early childhood until their death. 

Annie, surrounded in her picture by her chickens, cows and outbuildings ... paradoxically symbolizing both domestic tranquility and grueling toil at the same time.....stands as a worthy representative for the thousands of mountain women that raised up members of America's 'Greatest Generation' here in the Smoky Mountains.

Truly, she was a remarkable woman.

Notes to the Reader:

St. Vitus Dance is the historic term for Sydenham's chorea, a disorder characterized by rapid and jerking movements, and which is a potential complication of strep throat or rheumatic fever.  A video of a girl with this disorder may be viewed at this link.

Annie Clark Cagle, her husband Lee, and many of their descendants are buried at the Mount Pleasant Church cemetery in Pine Log, Georgia.  Winfred Cagle is buried at the Swain Memorial Park.

Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, Bartow County, GA
(Courtesy:  www.placekeepers.com)


Ancestry.com for census, birth and death records
Christine Proctor
Glenda Cagle Garland
GSMNP Archives
North Carolina Archives
Photos:  Don Casada, Glenda Cagle Garland, GSMNP Archives, Swain County Register of Deeds, www.boulderlocavore.com, www.deadfred.com, www.googleearth.com, www.placekeepers.com, www.seedlibrary.com,

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Lesson in Equality

This picture captivated me from the first moment I saw it.

John A. Woody family and unknown black man
(Courtesy:  Christine Proctor)
The old man in the picture is John Quincy Adams Woody, a Civil War veteran who served as a private in the Thomas Legion from 1862 - 1863.  Presumably the others, excepting one, are some of his children and grandchildren.  But 'tis not them, nor the fine log home, nor the dog, nor the chickens in the photo that so captures my attention.  No - it is the black man in the middle. 

No one in the family is still living who remembers his name, where he was from, when he was born, how he came to live with the Woody's, or when and where he died.  But they do know one thing - John A. Woody considered him his friend.  In the post-Reconstruction era in the South, this relationship was quite an anomaly.  Blacks might have gained their freedom and the right to vote but had little else....certainly not the respect or friendship of most white folks during that time.  John was the exception, but his family - at least in the beginning - was the rule.

John Quincy Adams and Manerva Palestine (Bradshaw) Woody
(Courtesy:  Christine Proctor)
Shortly after the man came to live with the family, two of the older boys came by to stay a night or two with the family.  It was a time during which it was common for family members and passers-by to share a bed, and this night was no exception. The boys were horrified at the thought of having to share a bed with a colored man and fought viciously with one another over who would have to do so.  But John Woody, having none of it, decided to teach his sons a lesson.  He had the black man sleep in the middle of the bed, and the boys on either side of him.  The watchful John made certain that they stayed there all night.

The lesson was learned, and the man became a beloved member of the family, residing with them for many years.

There were precious few African-Americans on the North Shore of what is now Fontana Lake.  A few families described in the 1910 and 1920 Forney Creek Township census as either 'black', 'negro' or 'mulatto', moved into the area for the logging industry, residing on Hazel Creek and in the Forney area.  Another family lived in the Epps Springs community.  However, none may be found in census records pre-dating 1910, and none are found in any records with John A. Woody's family at any time.  Who was he? 

Sadly, his identity appears to be lost to history...but is his picture?

A cartoon showing the breadth of the
North Carolina 'Spanish Flu' epidemic

In 1918 and 1919, the 'Spanish Flu' epidemic swept across Swain County, claiming many lives in its relentless march. Despite its isolation, Hazel Creek was not to be spared, and there are a number of graves on the creek that attest to the epidemic's ferocity.  One of these lies on Sugar Fork, in the Higdon cemetery.  The stone simply reads, 'A Black Man'.  No one living remembers his name.....but they do remember that he was an elderly man who cared for many of Hazel Creek's flu victims before finally succumbing himself.  After he passed, he was buried at the Higdon Cemetery, but outside the fence.  Despite giving his life for the white folk on the creek, he was segregated from them in death.

The writing on the back of the Woody picture states that it was taken at Medlin, a community that lies just a short distance away from the Higdon cemetery and which was discussed in last week's blog post.  John Woody, who died in 1903, appears to be very old in the photo.  If the image was taken in the late 1890's or thereabouts, then the black man in it would have been much older by the time of the flu epidemic.   Is it possible that the Woody family's picture may reveal to us the face of the man buried in the Higdon cemetery?

'A Black Man' stone, Higdon Cemetery
(Mike Gourley, findagrave.com)

We will never know....in all likelihood it was not.  And yet, it is interesting to speculate. If the two men were one and the same, was his selfless care for the white folk of the community, which led to his own death, a way of  paying back the kindness and inclusion that John Woody and his family had provided him, a black man, over the years? 

When the park began granting access to the North Shore cemeteries, an effort was made to permanently mark the graves of those individuals who had only fieldstones denoting their final resting place.  This effort is ongoing, and hundreds of graves of known individuals have received small stones, rescuing them from anonymity.  When the Higdon cemetery was surveyed, folks recalled the man who had helped care for their kin, and the decision was made to provide a proper stone for him, despite not knowing his name.  But most symbolically, the fence was moved in order to integrate the black man whose care and devotion to the white settlers of Hazel Creek was so well-remembered some 60 or more years later.  And who might one think was one of the primary people leading the effort?  Christine Cole Proctor, John Woody's great-granddaughter. 

While his civil war service and the family of 9 upstanding citizens that he raised are noted with pride by the family, it seems that a lesson in equality, imparted to his sons  over 125 years ago and enduring to this day, was John A. Woody's greatest legacy.

John A. Woody Tombstone, Tellico Cemetery
(Gail Anderson, findagrave.com)

John Quincy Adams and Manerva (Bradshaw) Woody are buried at the Tellico Cemetery in Macon County, North Carolina. 

For those wishing to visit the Higdon Cemetery, the annual decoration day is on the third Sunday in August.  The park service provides transportation from the Cable Cove boat ramp.  For more details, please visit the link below:

Family story:  Christine Cole Proctor
Photos:  Christine Cole Proctor; Gail Anderson and Mike Gourley on findagrave.com
Decoration Day in the Mountains, by Alan Jabbour and Karen Singer Jabbour.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Hazel Creek Shopping Trip

Upon the death of my great-grandparents, John and Edna Alderdyce, in the late 1970's, my mother (the family genealogist) came into the possession of a very old ledger that had been passed down through the family. The ledger had been owned by a man named John Butterfield, who had owned and operated a mill in Brooklyn, Michigan and was a record of his transactions with many of the folk living in the area between 1841 and 1844. Deciding that the ledger should go back to its home state, Mom photographed it in its entirety and then donated it to the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan in recent years. Both of us get a great deal of pleasure at the thought of Brooklyn-area researchers finding the names of relatives and their transactions in that book.

We in Swain County are fortunate in that a descendant of a Hazel Creek settler in the early 1900's had a similar thought. 

Louis Hampton with Children
(Courtesy Alatha Cantrell and
WCU Special Collections)

Louis Ashville Hampton was married to Laura M. Proctor, a great-grandchild of Moses and Patience Proctor, around 1905. It was a second marriage for both, to which they each brought children. They settled in the area of Hazel Creek near its horseshoe bend and counted among their neighbors and friends many of Laura's extended family and the yet to be published author, Horace Kephart.

 A few weeks ago, I had lunch with sisters Alatha (Russell) Cantrell and Dolores (Russell) Price, who are great-grandchildren of Louis and Laura. Alatha, who is her family's genealogist, brought materials pertaining to her great-grandparents, a portion of which relate to the subject of this week's blog post. A few years ago, one of the Hamptons' descendants decided that some family materials in his possession should be retained in an archival facility in the mountains. These materials were donated to Western Carolina University's Hunter Library, and are housed in the special collections area. Among the items in the collection are a 1909 letter from Kephart to Louis, some envelopes, postcards, and some receipts. But the true prize of the collection is a ledger covering the period of time from 1903 until 1949.

Laura (Proctor) Hampton (1877 - 1918)
(Courtesy Alatha Cantrell)
Louis Hampton's records from 1903 - 1913 are of particular interest to Swain Countians, for they provide a one-of-a-kind glance into shopping on Hazel Creek close to the turn of the 20th century. During this time period, the majority of the food consumed by the family was grown at home and/or hunted. However, certain commodities had to be purchased that could not be obtained in any other manner. Louis Hampton went literally all over the upper Hazel Creek area in order to purchase what he needed.

My good friend, Don Casada, has put in thousands of hours on the ground and sifting through old deeds in a quest to map and assign ownership and/or tenancy to as many of the old homesites as possible, on Swain County lands which are now park-owned. Knowing that he'd done a great deal of work on Hazel Creek already, I asked him to create a map of some of the sites and individuals mentioned in the ledger in order to visualize their locations relative to one another. This excellent aid is shown below.  In a day and age in which we can complete the majority of our shopping within a one-mile radius of town (at least in Bryson City), the distances which Louis had to travel to work and to obtain some of the necessities of life (by foot and horse, no less) are quite enlightening.  For a relative idea of distance, Don has noted that it was 4.5 miles by road from Louis Hampton's home to George A. Brooks' home. 

A map of the Hazel Creek area, showing key locations noted in Louis Hampton's ledger
(Courtesy Don Casada)
Louis Hampton appears to have worked in some capacity for the much-contested Everett / Adams / Westfeldt mine on Sugar Fork.  The mine operated for a number of years in the late 1800's but was closed in 1901 due to litigation between past and current owners.   As it did not re-open until the 1920's, by which time Louis Hampton had left Hazel Creek, what he was doing for work is unknown.  As one of his records states that he essentially house-sat for W.S. Adams, it is probable that he served as a caretaker.  The North Carolina Mining Company, noted as being the payor in the picture below, bought the mine from Adams, who was, interestingly enough, its president.  The $25 per month that he received from the North Carolina Mining Company appears to have been his primary source of income, though he notes payment for odd jobs in other areas of the ledger.  In looking through his records, this amount, though seemingly small to us today (it would have been equivalent to about $450 a month), appears to have provided for the basic needs of the family.

Given that Horace Kephart lived in one of the abandoned workers' cabins at the mine when he arrived on Hazel Creek, the friendship between the two men was likely begun here.
Everett / Adams / Westfeldt Mine
(Kephart Collection,
WCU Special Collections)

One of the records detailing Hampton's monthly pay
(Courtesy Alatha Cantrell and WCU Special Collections)

Due to his employment at the mine on Sugar Fork, it seems only natural that Louis Hampton would have made many of his purchases at Granville Calhoun's store in Medlin.  This small settlement was located at the confluence of Sugar Fork and Hazel Creek and consisted primarily of this one store (in which the post office also resided) and a few nearby homes.  There are several accounts in the ledger providing transactions with the Calhoun store, but this one caught my eye for his purchase of 'jelley' for 35 cents.

Account with the Calhoun Store at Medlin
(Courtesy Alatha Cantrell and
WCU Special Collections)
The Calhoun Store at Medlin
(Kephart Collection, WCU Special Collections)

  The W.A. Franklin store, which was far down Hazel Creek toward Possum Hollow and near the Proctor School, also carried many of the necessities of life, from cloth to soap to coffee.  According to Duane Oliver's excellent book, 'Hazel Creek from Then till Now',  Franklin instituted a 'scrip' system for the convenience of his customers, allowing them to essentially charge their purchases.  Despite this added convenience, I think it's interesting to note here that the storekeepers on Hazel Creek seemed to keep their prices essentially the same with one another.   In this remote mountain wilderness, keeping the goodwill of all the folk living in the area would have been worth far more than the risks of engaging in a price war.

Account with the W.A. Franklin Store
(Courtesy Alatha Cantrell  and WCU Special Collections)
He also visited the Bradshaw store prior to its acquisition by the Ritter Lumber Company in 1907.  Duane Oliver relates that Bradshaw's stocked cinnamon bark which was chewed by young folks on the creek.

Allen Welch, a cousin of Laura Hampton, provided not only meat, eggs and lard, but also some hauling that Louis Hampton required.

Allen Welch
(Courtesy of the book,
'Remembered Lives' by Duane Oliver)
Account with Allen Welch
(Courtesy Alatha Cantrell and
WCU Special Collections)

George Addison Brooks was a male midwife (he claims to have delivered over 300 babies in the area) and the ad-hoc dentist to whom one would go to have a tooth pulled with the pliers which hung on his wall.  He also appears to have able to provide an interesting assortment of goods, ranging from corn to suspenders and shoes.

Account with G.A. Brooks
(Courtesy Alatha Cantrell and
WCU Special Collections )
George Addison Brooks
(Courtesy Swain County Heritage Book)

In 1904, Louis visited the Calhoun store on the day before Christmas.  He purchased candy, an orange and other goods.  One wonders who the treats were found by the next morning?  Was it one or more of his young children with ex-wife Charlotte Melvina Hall?  Or were they the young daughters of his soon-to-be new wife, Laura?

(Courtesy Alatha Cantrell and WCU Special Collections)

The most poignant entry in the ledger, and my personal favorite, is recorded on 21 July 1913. 

(Courtesy Alatha Cantrell and WCU Special Collections)
Who was this baby for whom he bought flowers?  Was Laura delivered of a stillborn child or a child who lived only a few days?  Or were these for the deceased infant of a friend or family member? 

We will likely never know the answers to those questions, but what is certain is that the knowledge imparted by this ledger is priceless.  Simple though it may be, it provides a fascinating glimpse into the everyday commerce of a now-vanished community in Swain County at the turn of the 20th century.  

I hope you've enjoyed this shopping trip back in time.


A short time after the 1913 ledger entries, Louis, Laura and family moved east to work in the cotton mills of Gaston County....far from the hills of home.  Laura did not live long after the move, dying of renal and cardiac disease at the age of 40 in 1918.  Her death was likely precipitated by the birth of a son, James, the month before her death.  Sadly, little James did not make it and passed away one month after his mother.  Daughter Sarah Effie (the grandmother of Alatha and Dolores) lived to marry and have children but also predeceased her father, dying at 41 of cervical cancer.  His other children with both spouses outlived him.
At the age of 85, Louis Hampton departed this life to join his family.  He is buried in the Marlow Cemetery in Anderson County, Tennessee.


 - Alatha Cantrell and Dolores Price
 - Ancestry.com
 - Don Casada
 - Duane Oliver books "Hazel Creek from Then Till Now", and "Remembered Lives"
 - Hunter Library Special Collections, Western Carolina University:  Kephart Collection, and Louis Hampton Papers
 - Linda Banwarth
 - Margy Trehern
 - The Swain County Heritage Book

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Noland Creek was Home (A Story of the Cole Hyatt family, Part II)

In Part I of this two-part tale, last week's blog entry related the early days of the Cole Hyatt family until approximately 1940.  This week's narrative concludes their story.


Phillip Goodenow Rust
(Photo posted to Ancestry.com by user cayrton)
In the early 1930's, a young and wealthy MIT graduate and businessman named Phillip Goodenow Rust moved to Noland Creek, where he proceeded to create a mountain estate unlike anything seen to that point in Swain County. Wealthy not only by birth but also by virtue of hard work, Rust was a successful businessman who had recently married Eleanor Francis Dupont, an heir to the Dupont Chemical family fortune.  He bought up over 4,300 acres of heavily logged land in the Noland Creek watershed, upon which he undertook a massive reforestation project, built a summer cottage for his family, cottages for friends and family who wished to come and vacation, a nurse's cottage, sheep and equestrian barns, a trout farm, and a kiln for Eleanor, who was an avid potter.   To power all of this, Rust built a waterwheel-powered turbine, the remains of which are still visible just off the Noland Creek Trail.  To manage the estate, Rust hired a number of local individuals, one of whom was Cole Hyatt.
Rust Electric Plant on Noland Creek
(Courtesy of NARA)
Starting out for Mr. Rust by running fencing and other miscellaneous duties, Cole quickly gained his trust and admiration for his work ethic.  Around 1940, Mr. Rust approached Cole about full-time work as a warden for his estate for payment of $1000 a year, a home provided rent-free, and sufficient land to plant a crop and graze a few cattle and some hogs. In 1941, Cole moved his family to the Solola area of Noland Creek.  The remains of the home that the Hyatts lived in on Noland Creek lie 2.6 miles upstream from the Noland Creek parking lot on the Road to Nowhere, about 100 yards before reaching the third bridge on the trail.  In the 1940's, this home was considered relatively luxurious for the area, having seven rooms, running water, a shower and best of all - electricity!  Today, over 70 years later, the front walk is overgrown by massive boxwoods but still leads to the front steps which yet remain.  The foundation of the home, the concrete shower pan, and the piping are all still there as well, as is the front yard's cedar tree in which the chickens would roost at night.
Hyatt family at their home on Noland Creek
(Courtesy Lawrence Hyatt)
Life was happy there for young Lawrence.  He walked to Bearpen Branch (the site of one of Noland Creek's former schools) every day to catch the bus to school at Bushnell, and helped with the household and farm chores.  He remembers dinners at the home, where Mr. Rust would come to enjoy Fannie's delicious cooking while business was discussed.  He also recalls helping his father out a bit with the running of the estate.  One chore he remembers with some degree of trepidation was the annual sheep-shearing.  Lawrence had to turn a crank which would, in turn, provide power to the sheep shearers.  With some 250-head of sheep to de-fleece, he recounts with a chuckle that he would turn that crank until he thought his arm would fall off.  However, the bears in the area would wreak havoc on Rust's sheep, until eventually all were killed off but one.  Mr. Rust had Cole bring the last sheep on Noland Creek home with him, as a present for Lawrence.  Lawrence dearly loved the sheep and would tether it in the yard to mow the lawn.  But a bear would eventually come for it as well, carrying it off one evening.
On December 7th, 1941, Lawrence and his father were standing near their hog lot across the creek from their home, when the radio announced the onset of World War II.  Cole's thoughts instantly turned to his boys, as several were of age to be drafted into the military.  From that time until the day Lawrence would come running up the road to what is now the Mill Creek campground in 1945 to tell his father and Mr. Rust that the war was over, the safety of his sons was daily on his mind.  Also on his mind, though, was the impending loss of his home and lands on Goldmine Branch.  Like many of the other individuals and families on the north shore of Fontana Lake whose home and lands would not be inundated by lake's waters but to which access would be cut off, Cole Hyatt did not feel that he should have to give up his property.  Unlike others, however, he refused to sell his land and in October of 1944, TVA issued a declaration of taking, condemning the property.  In response, and in partnership with Phillip Rust and other area landowners Arnold Bradshaw, John Burns, Fred Lollis and Columbus Welch, Cole Hyatt sued TVA, asserting that the government entity had exceeded its authority in condemning lands that were 'above pool'.
Lawrence Hyatt on the steps of his old Noland Creek home
(Courtesy Don Casada)
While the battle for their property raged, however, the dam effort proceeded on.  Once the waters of Fontana Lake overtook NC 288 at the mouth of Noland Creek, the Hyatt family was forced into a painful separation.  Since neither the Hyatt lands nor the Rust estate were as yet in the possession of TVA, Cole stayed on at the estate as warden and was also able to oversee his own land, on whom he had placed a tenant.  But the children had to go to school, so Fannie moved out with Lawrence and Lucille to a home on Deep Creek.  Lawrence attended the Bryson City Elementary School and the family attended church at the old wood-sided Deep Creek church, which once stood where a tubing center now plies its trade to tourists.  On Saturdays, or other days as needed, Cole would take a boat which Mr. Rust had provided him, to Round Hill, where Walter would pick him up, take him to see the family and to run any necessary errands, and return him to Round Hill to make the long trek back to his Noland Creek home.  As Mr. Rust was ever mindful of the safety and well-being of his employees, he hired other local men such as Dock Gibby to stay with Cole, but the separation from his family was difficult to bear.  One can only imagine what life there must have been like for him, with only one other person on the creek and his only other connection to the outside world being a park radio on which he would 'report in' every hour.  Holidays and summers brought a joyful reprieve from this loneliness, though, as his family would always join him on Noland Creek....the home of their hearts.
Ultimately, the family's happiness and tenure on the North Shore was doomed to come to an end.  Despite wins over TVA in both the Federal District Court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the United States Supreme Court would prove to see the case differently.  Despite excellent arguments on their behalf by well-respected Bryson City attorney McKinley Edwards and Asheville attorney George Ward, the petitioners lost their battle on March 25, 1946.  In an 8-0 decision, the high court issued a stunning reversal of the findings of the lower courts and announced in their decision that TVA had the constitutionally-mandated authority to condemn all the land at issue.  It was a heartbreaking defeat, one which was to haunt the family for the rest of their days. 

Cole and Fannie Hyatt at their new home in Cherokee County
(Courtesy Lawrence Hyatt)

With much sadness, the family moved, driving their livestock overland and taking their belongings out by boat.  Unable to locate a farm in Swain County that fit their needs, they instead found a house with 125 acres in the Hanging Dog area of Cherokee County which they were able to purchase with the sale of their Goldmine Branch farm.  (Readers are referred to Don Casada's comment below to note the 'comparability' of the Hyatts' farms in the two counties.  It should additionally be noted that the original amount offered by TVA to Cole Hyatt was over $2,000 less than his final payment after the lawsuit.)  The family moved and settled in, installing electricity and a well in short order.  Cole once again became a full-time farmer, and Lawrence and Lucille finished school in Cherokee County.  Though a beautiful place that friends and family often visited, it was never 'Home'.  In time, Lawrence graduated from high school and being unable to find work locally, moved to Kinzua, Oregon, where he quickly worked his way up to a lead position with a lumber company. 
Cole and Fannie Hyatt, circa 1946
(Courtesy Lawrence Hyatt)
Sadly, another tragedy was to strike the family in 1953, just six months after Lawrence had moved across the country.  In a disastrous haying accident, Cole Hyatt's back was broken and he was left permanently paralyzed on one side.  Lawrence returned home in the immediate aftermath and, seeing the dire situation the family was in (his mother now having to care for both Lucille and Cole), decided to bring them to Oregon.  He fitted a little bed in the back of his truck for his father and over the course of six days drove the family cross country to live with him.  Despite the great comfort and assistance provided to them by Lawrence, Fannie was desperately homesick for the mountains, and returned to their home with Cole a year and a half later.  A few years thereafter, Lawrence moved his young family, which now included a wife and two sons, back to the area in order to help his mother. The other siblings also helped as they were able and as they retired; with the family's help, Cole and Fannie were able to stay on their farm.  Their oldest son, Walter, was unable to return to aid his parents, having perished in a work accident in 1962.
Due to the exceptional and loving care given to him by his devoted wife and family, Cole Hyatt lived for 23 years after his accident, dying in 1976 at the age of 84.  Despite her grief, the ever-strong and determined Fannie continued to live her life to the fullest, even plowing and tending her garden into her 90's.  In 1996 at the ripe old age of 100, she joined Cole in their eternal home. They now lie interred near other members of the Hyatt family and their good cousins and friends, John and Emeline Cole, at the Lauada Cemetery.  Lawrence has long served on the board of directors for the cemetery's association.  An avid genealogist and historian, he has also produced several books of family genealogy, using the proceeds to pay for tombstones for members of his family and other North Shore individuals whose lonely graves were once marked only by fieldstones.  By virtue of his work, the Hyatt family's legacy will live on not only through their descendants, but also through the stones which now mark the final resting places of those who were once unknown.
Tombstone of Cole and Fannie Hyatt, Lauada Cemetery

The family's legacy lives on in one final way.  Should you get a free hour, drive down old NC 288 to its terminus at the boat ramp and the Beasley Place.  Walk the old trails there, and drink from the fine spring.  Look at the picture of the home as it once was, and investigate the front porch steps which now lead to a grassy patch.  Then sit within the pavilion, look down upon the old road......and ponder on the remarkable family legacy that was begun  at this very place over 100 years ago by a comely lass with raven locks and a lanky farmer from Goldmine Branch.

Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com).
Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute
Interviews with Lawrence Hyatt, Christine Proctor, and Leonard Cole
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) - Atlanta
Photos courtesy of Lawrence Hyatt, Don Casada, and Ancestry user cayrton
Swain County Register of Deeds office (http://www.swaincorod.org)
Tennessee Valley Authority