Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes Oconaluftee/Smokemont

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Oconaluftee

My life in appalachia Oconaluftee

*The Onconaluftee area is located in present day Swain County, NC-and is where the historic Lufty Baptist Church is located.

*Mud Creek, Collins Creek, Bradley Fork, and other tributaries flow into the Oconaluftee River. After passing through Cherokee, NC, the Oconaluftee joins in with the Tuckasegee River.

*Smokemont, the area surrounding the historic church was once a thriving mill town-with a population of over 1,000-before the park took the land.

*The name Oconaluftee is said to be derived from the Cherokee word which means “by the river.”

On the day we visited the church-we poked around a few other historic sites that were nearby-like the Oconaluftee Visitor’s Center.

We visited a small graveyard that was just off the busy 441 Highway. As we walked along the road-looking for the place to turn into the woods I wished there wasn’t so much traffic-that the cars weren’t going so fast-and that we’d hurry up and find the spot.

I felt like we were time travelers. Walking single file down 441 with people speeding to and fro in this modern world; stepping down into the woods; walking the footlog across the river to a different time and place: heart shaped gravestones no one much knows are there-broken bits strewn by people who left their home way too soon.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.




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  • Reply
    January 16, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    Reminds me of an area in Raleigh called Reedy Creek Park. It’s between central Raleigh and RDU Airport, and consists of hundreds of acres one can access via Reedy Creek Road or Ebenezer Church Road. There’s a bicycle-walking park there now, but as you walked years ago, there were empty broken-down homesteads where people once lived before they were cleared out for the airport and the park. About half way through, there’s a beautiful old stone bridge that spans a creek, I guess that might be Reedy Creek, bu am not sure. The park is dotted with small family graveyards here and there, and from time to time, a family gets permission to open one of the gates to drive in to bury another relative in one of them, even though most are very over-grown. All the houses are gone now, but as you walk, you can still see many broken stone foundations, and over-grown arborvetas and rosebushes that someone once loved and tended. Sometimes you’ll come across an old tin can or canning jar. It’s rather sad to think of families with homes there, suddenly being moved out, with no say so whatsoever. Yep, it’s very sad to me!
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    January 15, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    In the past few years, I’ve walked over 3000 miles in the back country of the Great Smoky Mountains, both on and off trail, and am terrifically thankful for the fine work done by the maintenance crews.
    While I basically never see a ranger in the back country nowadays (I’ve seen precisely one more than two miles from a trailhead), I routinely encounter maintenance guys working several miles by foot from a trailhead, often having carried weighty loads of tools and equipment in by hand.
    Unlike the bulk of the ranger staff, most of the maintenance crew are from the mountains, implicitly understand mountain ways, and know their way around both on and off-trail.
    In my view, as a heavy user and lover of the Park, the efforts of folks like Ed’s father to keep the front country clean and make the back country more available are the most important functions in making for an enjoyable experience. Unlike some bureaucrats, they more than earn their keep.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    January 15, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    I would encourage Dale Anderson to visit the Enloe Cemetery, located across from the visitor’s center at Luftee.
    I realize that there is an Abram (point of emphasis: Abram, not Abraham) Enloe monument in Harshaw Cemetery of Cherokee County, as Dale notes. There are a few other markers for Enloe men who died in the 1850’s and 60’s at Harshaw as well.
    Based on information at my disposal, I think it extremely unlikely that is the burial location of the Abraham Enloe of Luftee.
    There are grave markers for both Abraham (not Abram) and Sarah in the Enloe family cemetery across from the Luftee visitor center. Abraham’s marker indicates birth and death years of 1762 & 1841. Sarah’s marker indicates birth and death years of 1766 and 1864.
    In the 1830 census for Haywood County (the Luftee area was a part of Haywood county until Jackson was formed in 1851), Abraham Enloe was listed adjacent to Collins, Mingus, Beck, Conner, Sherrill, Couch, Hyde and other families closely associated with the Luftee area. Note that 1830 is prior to the Cherokee removal (1838), and the land where Harshaw Cemetery now stands was part of the Cherokee Territory.
    In the 1840 Haywood census, Abraham Enloe is still surrounded by some of the same names as well as others with long association with the Luftee area, including Carver, Bradley, and Gibson.
    Abraham died in 1841, according to his grave marker at Luftee.
    In the 1850 Haywood census, the first year in which the names of household family members were recorded along with head of household, Wesly (Wesley)Enloe, Abraham’s son, was listed in close proximity to some of the same families. In the 38-year old Wesley Enloe household was his mother, Sarah Enloe, aged 62.
    In the 1860 census, W.M. Enloe, age 47, is listed once again – but this time in Jackson County (Jackson having been formed out of Haywood and Macon in 1851, and the Luftee area was a part of original Jackson). Included in his household is a 73 year old female, S Enloe.
    To accept that the Abram Enloe of Harshaw Cemetery in Cherokee County would be the Abraham Enloe of Oconaluftee would require that one believe that, at an advanced age, Abraham took off on his own, abandoning his family and an incredibly beautiful bottomland which he had settled and invested dozens of years building and improving.
    As I say, I find that extremely unlikely.
    Dale, if you have trouble locating the Abraham and Sarah Enloe markers, please let Tipper know and she can put you in touch with me. I’d be glad to accompany you up there.

  • Reply
    Sallie Covolo aka Granny Sal
    January 14, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Loved this post..BTW the Lincoln- Enloe Tradition is in the legend is in the Storied Mts Book , page 44 in my book. It was written by James Cathey who is kind of related to my family. My Uncle married Christine Cathey who was his daughter . I have to read that book again, My dad was buried right off 441 before you get to Cherokee.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 14, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    That area of the Park was where my Daddy reported to work every morning. Daddy wasn’t a ranger or anything exciting like that. He was a maintenance man. He picked up the trash that the visitors left and emptied trash cans. He cleaned out trails so they could walk safely. He repaired roads and bridges to make the park more accessable. He painted and cleaned the park buildings. He cleaned and maintained graveyards all over the park. He had a heart attack while on duty at Hazel Creek. He has been dead for close to forty years now and I don’t know how it looks now but when he was working there they kept it looking good. Daddy’s cousin Ray DeHart also worked for the park service. He lived next to the campground on Deep Creek. He is dead now too.

  • Reply
    Peggy Lambert
    January 14, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    Tipper you did good on telling about your trip to the Lufty Baptist Church.The girls did good also singing.
    Hope to see more.

  • Reply
    January 14, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    Isn’t it wonderful that so may of your readers have their own memories and stories of this area you are writing about, Tipper!
    I agree with Jose about the similarities from place to place. Also, from time to time, going back thousands of years!
    And now I’m going to google for the Florence Cope Bush book Don recommended. I mostly rely on audiobooks these days, but I may have to find this one even if it IS on paper!

  • Reply
    Susie Swanson
    January 14, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Enjoyed the post Tipper.. Oh how I’d like to walk in that old church.

  • Reply
    Dale Anderson
    January 14, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    I am a descendent of
    Abraham (Abram) Enloe who settled in the area where the Oconaluftee
    Visitors Center is now. A number of years ago my Mother and I looked for the same cemetary trying to find where Abraham Enloe was buried only to find out that he died in Murphy and is buried in the old Harpeth Methodist Cemetary. I have visited the site several times and the marker is near the church. My Grandfather worked on Hwy 441 when it was being built across Newfound Gap and lived in a construction camp at Smokemont. Some of my earliest memories are of visiting him there and taking a dip in the cold Oconaluftee River.

  • Reply
    January 14, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    It’s always nice to know about
    these Mountain Churches, even
    though I’ve never been in that
    one. Love all the comments and
    experiences our friends have had.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    January 14, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Charles, I really should’ve run Tipper and the girls up by your old stomping grounds; that should definitely be the goal for another trip.
    Jim C, you should’ve guessed that Tipper heard the Mud Creek name from someone who’d gotten it from the same original source as you (C.A). It was also listed as Right Fork on some old maps. I’ve wondered from time to time if the name Mud Creek moniker was applied to the stream by some locals AFTER the Nomenclature Commission named it Kephart Prong.
    Bill B, I didn’t pass along the Enloe/Lincoln tale, which I think historians have generally tended to discount in recent years, but it is still intriquing. I also failed to take Tipper and the girls across the road from the visitor’s center to the Enloe Cemetery, where Abraham and Sarah are buried. Those are two of the historically most significant grave markers in the county, of course. Sadly, the last time I visited there, their grave markers were almost completely covered over with weeds and dirt. Brother Jim, Wendy Meyers and I did some unauthorized cleaning, but I’ve been intending to go back and check on the condition.
    However, a couple of the cemeteries we did visit had very significant figures as well. I’ll not mention them since Tipper may be planning to write about them in coming days. I’ll give a bit of a hint and say that two of the graves visited were of men whose names stand out in the history of the church and the history of the region. Hopefully, you’ll hear about them from Tipper in coming days.

  • Reply
    January 14, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Enjoyed the story. I wonder about the folks that lived there, what they were like and who exactly they were. Wish we had more places like that here to visit.

  • Reply
    January 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Thank you Tipper, for taking us along on your rambles and sharing your thoughts as we go along. And thanks to the other readers who add so many dimensions to our rambles!

  • Reply
    January 14, 2013 at 11:03 am

    I don’t remember much from my first trip to Cherokee when I was three, but I vividly recall going to the Visitor Center and Pioneer Homestead when I was six. The sounds of the river and its name enchanted me. Thank you for sharing your recent visit.

  • Reply
    January 14, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Boy, sounds like a very interesting trip down memory lane from way back in time. Perhaps, the grave stones deteriorated over time with weathering and lack of upkeep. If you took some pictures, it would be great to share them if you are comfortable doing that. The church definitely looks intriguing. Of course, the girls voices in the church are still echoing in my ears.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    January 14, 2013 at 9:41 am

    While rambling around Oconaluftee did you hear the Local Legend that Abraham Lincoln once lived here on the farm of his real father Abraham Enloe? Linciln’s mother Nancy Hanks was supposed to have been a hired hand in the Enloe household when she gave birth to the future president while the Enloe family lived in Bostic, NC prior to the family moving to Oconaluftee. Legend has it that this caused some stress between Abraham Enloe and his wife so Mr. Enloe paid a traveling horse salesman named Tom Lincoln to marry Nancy and take her and young Abraham to Kentucky. The Oconaluftee Ranger Station and Pioneer Homestead are located on the Abraham Enloe Farm. There is information online about this legend by Googling Abraham Enloe.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    January 14, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Tipper–Two thoughts about an area I know intimately (at least the watery part of it, since I’ve fished about every mile of all those streams you mention, along with Beech Flats Prong, Mingus Creek, Chasteen Creek, Straight Fork, Raven Fork, and others which form part of the Lufty drainage).
    First, I’m mighty curious where you came up with the name Mud Creek. It’s entirely appropriate and actually tickled my fancy, although the stream is today known as Kephart Prong.
    Second, since you mentioned the written history of the church yesterday, I wondered if you were familiar with another book by the same writer (Florence Cope Bush). It is “Dorie: Woman of the Mountains,” and a portion of the book is set squarely in the area where you roamed. It is a truly grand tale of the author’s mother and the life she knew in the high country. I think anyone who enjoys this site would find the book fascinating, and it’s available in an inexpensive paperback format.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    January 14, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Hello Tipper
    I enjoy reading all your comments, because it’s a great way to know the true history of the people who make a nation.
    It gives me something to know fascinating customs of other peoples, especially those of Judeo-Christian origin in all its aspects, that when one passes through the sieve of language, concludes that there are many more similarities than the differences.
    The wisdom of grandparents, children games, popular sayings, superstitions of rural people, the devotion to the Lord, so many things we equalized, only with different shapes.
    Best regards to everyone from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jose Luis.

  • Reply
    January 14, 2013 at 8:25 am

    OCONOLUFTEE… that is a word I once saw on a sign when I was a little boy passing through North Carolina near The Indian Reservation one morning. Had to get my big brother to pronounce it. I was taken by the sound of that word. I loved it; I thought it had a poetic sound and knew it had to be Cherokee. I can tell you feel the same about everything from the mouintains.
    This was a good trip this morning Tipper! My mind will be lost in the mountains all day.

  • Reply
    Charles Fletcher
    January 14, 2013 at 8:02 am

    You should have went up the road
    on 441 to the old CCC camp site where I was stationed. I am sure Don has been there. Like everything
    else from the 1930-40s it has disappeared except a few stone walls and the old bulleting board.
    Charles Fletcher

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