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
 - 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


  1. Enjoyable, as always. It makes you appreciate how easy we have it today, with our cars and other conveyances to get us where we need to go.

  2. Most of the locations shown in the map are based on the maps in the WCU Kephart collection (link at bottom below), and are marked on a commercial topo map which I use with my Garmin GPS unit. Many thanks to George Frizzell and Jason Brady of the WCU Special Collections for their excellent advice and information sharing. The exceptional value and provenance of those maps will be among the subjects Wendy and I discuss this coming Thursday (Sept 12) at the Jackson County Genealogical Society meeting in Sylva.

  3. A clarification on the map....

    The Kephart Collection maps identify the place that I marked as "Allen Welch" as being where his brother, Dilly lived. Both were the sons of Joseph Welch and Catherine Proctor. When TVA took the land some 40 years later, Allen's son Jack was the grantee. There are a cluster of homes in the area, so I took the liberty of placing Allen there along with his older brother Dilly. The census records for 1900 and 1910 certainly support that liberty taking, as the two were either adjacent or separated by a single entry in those years.

    That said, Allen Welch also had property on upper Shehan Branch, and it is entirely possible that he - like many others of the time - did considerable moving around - as did his parents and their parents before them. That mobility, clearly substantiated by the Louis Hampton books and life, is of course quite inconsistent with the portraits of huddled isolation painted by Kephart and Morley.

  4. This is my family's homeplace...My Grandma is Della Birchfield (Hall) and grandpa is Samuel Cass Birchfield...kin to the Cables and Halls of Hazel hearing the old stories...