Chimneys And Wood Stoves That Were Left Behind – And One That Wasn’t

Today’s guest post was written by Don Casada it is the second piece of a 2 part series. If you missed the first part-go here to read it.


Sarah Crisp’s new wood stove

Pearl recalls that her mother had a wood stove that gave out not too long after they built this place (it had been carried up by sled from an old home that they’d rented down on the banks of Pilkey Creek). The stove developed a hole in the firebox – perhaps the most common failure mode. So her parents walked down the rough sled road out of the holler, past that big old beech tree, on down the Pilkey Creek wagon road to Dad Collins general store where they caught a taxi to Bryson City. They went to a furniture store located just above the square in town, and picked out a fine new one – with the stipulation that it was to be delivered.

For those familiar with Bryson City in the 1960s and before, the store where the Crisps bought the stove was Browning Furniture. The Yummi-Yummi Chinese Restaurant is now located there.

Pearl says the very first time that a truck ever came up in that holler was when the driver brought that stove in there a couple of days later. He came all the way up in there, jockeyed the truck around and got it backed up to the rock wall below their house and then several of them carried it up to the house. After having walked up and down that old sled road myself, I suspect he may have lost two or three hubcaps, a muffler and some tailpipe getting in and out. I’d love to have been a fly on the wall when he got back to report Mr. Humphrey Posey Browning about the trip.

Now Sarah Pilkington Crisp loved that new stove. When TVA took their land in 1944, there was no doubt about it – that stove would come out with her. She and Miles moved to their new place out off of Franklin Grove Church Road west of Bryson City – on a side road that is now, appropriately, called Crisp Road. Years later, Pearl and her siblings tried to talk their mother into letting them get her a new electric stove. Sarah replied, in characteristic self-reliant mountain fashion “I’ll have you’uns know that if I wanted me a new stove, I could buy it myself. I know how to cook on this stove, and I don’t need a new one – this one works just fine.”

When Pearl and her children speak about Sarah, words like stubborn, contrary, and set in her ways are liable to come out. But when they do, you hear more than just a little pride in their voice.

And I’ll be dogged if I’m not proud for them.

Miles and Sarah Crisp. Miles standing erect
Miles and Sarah Crisp. Miles standing erect like that reminds me of the chimney at their place.

I once asked Pearl if her parents would treat them to a little hickory every now and then. Pearl said her father  “was a gentle man – the best man that ever was” and only whipped her one time – and that was for throwing a sweet potato up against the barn in a temper tantrum.

But she quickly added “Now my mom would get in there and thrash around amongst us.” Sarah Crisp was clearly a lady, but she also looks to me like she could do some serious thrashing when it was called for. Pearl tells me that she and her mother together, wielding a double-handled crosscut saw, went through a many a cord of firewood. I never knew her, but from everything I’ve heard, I’d bet a nickel that Sarah Crisp was getting her own stove wood up until the day she died – March 13, 1965.

One final note here….

Take a look at Miles Crisp in the picture above. Remember the photo and story of the chimney from yesterday? (if you missed yesterday’s post go here to see the chimney) Huston Nelms may have put that chimney up, but in my mind, that chimney stands there in silent yet clearly spoken testimony to Miles Crisp, that shoulders back, head held high, look you straight in the eye man who built a home out of hard work and love for his wife and children away back up yonder in the holler off of Pilkey Creek.

Wood stoves that were left behind

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little detour, but let me finally come back to Tipper’s question “Why do you think that people left those woodstoves at the old home places?”

Well, here’s my answer:  I don’t know, but I’m going to hazard some guesses below. I’d love to hear from Tipper’s readers if they have some other ideas (or even if they disagree with any of mine).

Possible reasons I came up with for leaving stoves behind:

  1. The stoves were worn out – like the one that had failed at the Crisp home (I should note here that I’ve not seen any evidence of it being left up in there, though I’d sure enough love to).
  2. The stove wasn’t a very expensive (or good) one, and didn’t seem to justify the aggravation of moving it.
  3. The family had selected a new home which already had a stove in it.
  4. Moving the stove was viewed as too hazardous a proposition. I’ve found woodstoves up at the head of some hollers where the sled road (if you could call it that) that took you in there was steeper than a mule’s face. What would have been hard work pulling a heavy sled in there could turn into a disaster going back down hill.

Personally, I’m sort of glad that a few stove parts were left behind – for whatever reasons.  There’s an old saw about how good firewood warms you three times – once when you cut it, once when you split it, and once when you burn it. Well, the physical warming days of these old left behind wood stoves may be long past, but a hundred years hence, heavy cast iron parts and pieces will still be there to warm the hearts of pilgrims wandering through the places their forebears once called home.

Stove back at the Will and Miley Woodard place
Stove back at the Will and Miley Woodard place on Peachtree Creek


I hope you enjoyed the conclusion of Don’s 2 part guest post. I’m glad he took a little detour from my original question to share the history of Pearl Cable and her family with us. Aren’t you?



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  • Reply
    wood burning stoves
    May 26, 2012 at 5:31 am

    The smooth inner layer of the liner means that tar will not accumulate as easily as it would do in the crevices of a masonry chimney.

  • Reply
    brenda s 'okie in colorado'
    February 14, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    Thanks for the fantastic story. I love old cook stoves. As a child I remember having breakfast at my Grandmother’s brother and sister-in-law’s home in Natural Dam, Arkansas. The best bacon, eggs,and hot biscuits came from their wood stove. Delicious! My Grandmother was born in that old cabin in 1904.
    My husband and I were just given an old wood cook stove from his 2nd cousin in Coalinga, Calif. It still works and has all the parts.
    I think some folks might have died and left behind their cook stoves. The newer generations probably didn’t want them, so they were just abandoned.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    February 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Good Job Don, Bunny and I enjoyed your story of her Great Uncle Miles and one of her treasured cousins Pearl. I enjoyed your reference to Humphrey Posey Browning as he was a “Son of Needmore” as am I. H.P. as I affectionately called him served as Postmaster at Needmore before my Grandfather, Grandmother and Mother. Humphrey Posey Browning was named after one or the early preachers Humphrey Posey who helped found and Pastored several early churches in Macon and Swain Counties. One in particular being Brush Creek Baptist which was founded in 1832 which makes it the oldest church in the Tennessee River Association and is where I attended and joined when a youngster. Tipper, thanks so much for helping keep the history of our beloved mountains alive.

  • Reply
    February 14, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    And to Chitter and Chatter and all
    the other pretty ladies that
    frequent our wonderful home blog.
    I really enjoyed Don’s real life
    stories of how it once was for our
    folks who struggled and endured
    the hardships just a county away.
    My prayers continue for Pearl as
    she makes a steady recovery…Ken

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    February 14, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Great story! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    February 14, 2012 at 10:57 am

    A fond childhood memory for this city person is being at my Aunt and Uncle’s vacation cabin. The cabin was very rustic. It had an old apple green enamel wood stove.I’d wake up to the sound of my Grandma stoking the woodstove and starting the coffee. Tell Pearl we are hoping she recovers soon. Mr. Casada, I really enjoyed reading your story.

  • Reply
    February 14, 2012 at 10:26 am

    I agree with Ed- better than a doughnut!
    I get my coffee, sit down to read your column and am transported to another time and place- it’s the best part of the morning-
    Thank you to Don, also-

  • Reply
    February 14, 2012 at 10:04 am

    I also have enjoyed these posts. Thank you Don and Tipper! As for moving them, having just installed a wood burning stove in our cabin, I can understand why that thing is not easily moved!!!

  • Reply
    February 14, 2012 at 9:35 am

    I enjoyed the story. When I think of stoves I always think of my grandma B. When I was a little child her children went in together, had the house re-wired and bought her an electric stove. They put it next to her wood stove. The first time she used it she burned the biscuits. They were burned uniformly. She was furious because her old oven was so uneven she could always find a few biscuits not burned. She never used the electric stove again.

  • Reply
    Lonnie L. Dockery
    February 14, 2012 at 9:29 am

    I really enjoyed that Don. Thanks.

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    February 14, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Thanks for part two! Always interesting to read of the “olde days”.

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    February 14, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Very interesting! I think that! the wood burning stove is seeing a comeback.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    February 14, 2012 at 8:53 am

    Very interesting story Don. Maybe a new book title “If wood stoves could talk” 🙂
    Thanks for sharing Tipper!

  • Reply
    February 14, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Great story! That analogy of Mr Crisp’s posture with the strong, proud remnants of that stone chimney says it all about him and the people of Appalachia.
    Hey!…you know what day it is! I got my card ready.

  • Reply
    February 14, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Don, I , too, have enjoyed these two installments so much. You know, people visit the Smokeys or Fontana, and they just don’t know what came before. You can tell them, and they still don’t know.Some of my ancestors left that immediate area in the early to mid 1800’s. I’ve always wondered what might have been left behind- nothing much from that long ago. Thank you for bringing it to life with your stories, pictures, and real-life witnesses.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 14, 2012 at 8:37 am

    I got up this morning anticipating today’s post and it didn’t disappoint. I turned on Mr. Coffee, then my computer and went straight to the BlindPig. I read all the way through it before my first cup of coffee. Then I got my coffee and read through it again. And yesterdays again too. It was better that a doughnut with that coffee.
    Don, this is just plain good stuff!
    Tipper, you have a way of bringing out the best in your guests. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    February 14, 2012 at 8:37 am

    Thanks, Don, for Part 2. All this talk of wood stoves reminds me of my Grandmother McLain’s huge wood cook stove on Cope Creek in Sylva and the wonderful yeast rolls that baked in the oven just about every day. Lunch was the big meal of the day on the farm (called dinner then – evening meal was supper). I was a little guy less than 6 years old and every day after lunch, I would stuff my pockets as full as I could get them with the leftover rolls and eat them all afternoon during my adventures around the farm. Of course, seeing how much I enjoyed the rolls pleased my Grandmother greatly.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 14, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Thanks for the story Don, it was a good one.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    February 14, 2012 at 8:03 am

    I love the comment “thrash around amongst us” — my grandmother died in 1957 still cooking on a wood stove! She swore that you could taste the gas if you used a gas stove and that if it was electric that bread/cakes didn’t “rise right”

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 14, 2012 at 7:59 am

    Thanks again, Don for a fine story. My grandmother had a wood cook stove in her kitchen till she died. She had an electric stove as well and she used it but the wood stove was her favorite.
    I remember the biscuits that came out of that wood stove. Nothing could compare!
    I think you have covered the reasons for leaving behind a wood stove but it still makes me a little sad to think of those old stoves being abandoned after years of good service.

  • Reply
    February 14, 2012 at 7:47 am

    Thank you Don for sharing your story. I enjoy reading about the olden days.

  • Reply
    February 14, 2012 at 7:21 am

    Thanks Don for your story—I so enjoy reading about the lives of the folks who really had to work and make a place for themselves in that time. Perhaps if some folks today would have to do what they did–instead of it being so easy the world would not have changed the way it has—- Also please tell Pearl we are thinking of her with hopes of a speedy recovery and keep us abreast of her condition…

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