Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes Brasstown Pap

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Paradise


I drive by Paradise Road pretty much every day of the world. It’s in Brasstown, just down the road from the John C. Campbell Folk School.

When Pap was a boy there wasn’t a road named Paradise, but an area of the community. In fact there wasn’t even a real road through that area in those days, only a wagon trail.

Paradise is just below where Brasstown Creek flows into the Hiwassee River. In the days when you had to worry about crossing waterways without the convenience of a bridge, Paradise had the perfect ford for crossing the river and it was called Island Ford.

After the two waterways join together the river becomes wider. In Pap’s childhood days there was an island in the middle of the river and just below the island was where folks forded the river thus the name Island Ford. Pap said people said islandford as though it were one word.


There were bridges in the immediate vicinity of the ford. One in the same position as the bridge I cross every day. The other bridge was just below the first one, but angled across the river in a diagonal direction from the first.

You may wonder why people didn’t use the bridges instead of islandford?

It all depended on the direction you were traveling. Folks leaving the Martins Creek, Warren, or Hayesville area coming down through Brasstown towards Peachtree did use the bridges as did people going in the reverse direction. But for folks like Pap’s family who were traveling from the Harshaw area of the river below the bridges the closest and easiest manner of crossing was the islandford.

Folks looked for the quickest way of travel so Pap said people on foot used islandford too. According to Pap “You’d just take your shoes off roll your britches-legs up and cross over. It wasn’t no higher than knee deep right there.”

In March of 1941 there was a big snow in this area. Right after the snow Pap said it turned off bitter cold with temperatures falling below zero for over a week.

Pap was about 4 years old and his Uncle Frank was about 14 years old. They were going to the corn-mill in Brasstown from their home on the Harshaw Farm. Frank was driving the wagon and when they got to islandford the river was completely froze over. Frank decided if he drove the wagon across the ice would break under the weight and they’d still be able to get to the other side.

The ice held. Horses skidded, chaos ensued, and Pap was left with the imprint of a memory he’d never forget.

Sometimes when I drive by Paradise I think of Pap watching Uncle Frank try to get the sliding horses under control. I think of other uncles and aunts who traversed islandford too. I remember the story of Hazel, Frances, Mary Jo, and Wayne walking on the road that ran alongside the river headed to the John C. Campbell Folk School to see Santa Claus for the first time.

Back in those days folks walked or were pulled by horses or mules while today I scoot along in my car. Even with the stark contrast between my life and their’s I’m pretty sure those loved ones from days gone by would whole heartedly agree when I assert living in Appalachia is as close to Paradise as you can get in this ole world.


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

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  • Reply
    March 15, 2018 at 7:35 am

    Wonderful story!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    March 14, 2018 at 8:26 pm

    Tipper–I’m late to supper (well, to the literary feast at any rate) once again, and I see Ron Stephens has already mentioned one of my favorite songs, John Prine’s “Paradise.” It’s a wonderful piece of songwriting and as many will know, the underlying story is true.

    Don and I grew up knowing a fellow in Bryson City by the name of Leroy Sossamon (in fact an uncle of ours worked for him for many years) who was a poet as well as an entrepreneur. He wasn’t a particularly likable individual but the title of one of his poems (and it’s also the title of the book in which it appears) was “Backside of Heaven.’ I’ve always thought that was a wonderfully apt depiction of the high country we all love.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    March 14, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    Love the story. These stories always need to be in a book somewhere. Your blogs are a great way to keep memories.
    You wonder about how HOT, tropical, snake and mosquito infested places/islands come to be known as Paradise?? They are not.
    There’s a great FORD in the river on my grandparents property on Little East Fork where we could wash our cars, with buckets. We couldn’t of course use the spring water in the reservoir for such ‘foolishness’. The ford was a fun place to cool off in summer.
    Each person has their own idea of utopia. Now we know the location of Paradise. Lets not tell anyone else where it is.

  • Reply
    March 14, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    It snowed another couple of inches here again this morning and surprised everybody. It’s all gone now. It was enough that they called off school again.

  • Reply
    March 14, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    I’ve crossed the Tennessee River on a ferry just after WW11. I also rode a horse with my mother’s uncle while he delivered the mail. We rode down to a foot bridge, tied up the horse, crossed and waited for the mail man to come by in a car. He gave us the mail for folks on the mountain and we delivered it.

  • Reply
    March 14, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    I just love stories like this. My friend, Monte Kit mows for some folks that live there now. Most are not from around here, but I drove down in there and found Monte Kit mowing. He said most folks haven’t come in yet and I was impressed by that wide Hiawassee River running close-by. I ask Monte if he ever fished the River, cause where we were it sure looked like good fishin”. (and I didn’t have my pole.) …Ken

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    March 14, 2018 at 11:30 am

    My mother-in-law tells a story about riding the mule to school, i think. She & her sister were coming home and there had been such a downpour that the creek was up high. The water was up over their legs.

    We still have one ferry in this area–I’ve never crossed on it but would love to.

    Clarksville is on the Cumberland River and there are old pictures of cars out on the river one cold winter.

  • Reply
    Darrell Cook
    March 14, 2018 at 10:52 am

    My dad Eugene Cook farmed the Harshaw farm for around 15 years, beginning in the early 1970’s. The bottom land is over 2 miles long by the river. Often we would plow all night in the spring time. I enjoyed the solitude at night-plowing, feeling the spring chill and the smell of fresh turned earth.

  • Reply
    Melissa P. (Misplaced Southerner)
    March 14, 2018 at 10:50 am

    I wish I could post a photo. Took a photo of a nearby “town” (just a bump in the road actually) named “Hell.” The signpost had frozen over and had icicles hanging from it.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 14, 2018 at 9:15 am

    I love the story, Tip, I drive through there almost every day and have many times noticed Paradise Road and wondered how and when it got it’s name! I cannot imagine a life riding a wagon instead of a car. We think nothing of jumping in the car and going to town. When Pap was a boy going to town was a big deal…a big all day deal!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 14, 2018 at 8:11 am

    I’m happy for everyone who lives in Paradise, wherever they found it. Takes a particular attitude of heart and mind to find it in this troubled world and takes work to stay there.

    Reminds me of the song about Paradise, Ky down in Muhlenberg County by the Green River. Mr. Peabody’s coal train done hauled it away.

    I suspect the combining of two words to create another is a common feature of geographic place names. Once combined, they can get a bit garbled. I know a place originally called “Nevel’s Mill” that became “Nevelsville”. And there are “Shallowford” placenames scattered all over that were once probably “Shallow Ford”. Geographic placenames are an intriguing window into history.

    Your story of crossing on the ice reminds me of one of my Dad’s sayings, “Independent as a hog on ice.” He fit the description rather well himself.

  • Reply
    March 14, 2018 at 7:25 am

    The route to my in-laws included Purgatory Road and Devils Backbone. Even so, in a few weeks the spring wildflowers will make the area seem like paradise.

    • Reply
      Melissa P. (Misplaced Southerner)
      March 14, 2018 at 10:49 am

      Your in-laws weren’t, by chance, in Sharp’s Chapel, Tennessee were they? I ask because the road up the ridge behind our property is named Devil’s Backbone.

  • Reply
    Mary Ann Isenberg
    March 14, 2018 at 7:14 am

    We live on Paradise Road. My husband always says that we live on Paradise and in Paradise.

  • Reply
    Sheryl PaulI
    March 14, 2018 at 6:40 am

    I am sure the coldness of the creek would keep me on the bridge

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