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.