Dad’s Old Homeplace


“My dad and momma use to live in the Hurley Cove, right before you get to the Hewitts Quarry. Me and my brother, Harold, went up in there to dad’s old homeplace. As we neared the old homeplace, a creek was dried up at the lower end, and wild hogs had rooted up the place. Turkeys had also visited, but there was tiny possum grapes that had fallen from the canopy above and they were everywhere. We both stood still as we entered the remains of where mom and dad once lived. It was like being on hallowed ground.”   

—Ken Roper – 2018

I spoke to Ken earlier this week and he’s still hanging in there.

I’ve been to a lot of old homeplaces and I always get a powerful feeling as I wonder about the people who once lived there.


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  • Reply
    SusieQ and Donnie Ray
    November 10, 2020 at 5:15 pm

    Have been on a mini vacation at a Lodge the past few days so am catching up on post ….It was really touching and meaningful reading all the thoughts everyone has shared,,,,, both sets of my grandparents ,my parents , and also my husbands parents and grandparents are passed on from us…. also all houses they lived in with the exception of my husbands parents are also gone…. we sure do miss them . We also regularly drive past those places where the houses were and remember so much ..I remember exactly how the houses were inside and out…the smell of a grandaddy’s shed, the place he kept his coon hounds, and how he’d holler at them when they made too much racket. Or the cedar tree granny and I planted together..still there, and flowers she planted that still flourish. Sometimes you just yearn deeply for them ..How they knew and loved you, and how you knew and loved them.. and I so agree with Mrs. Cindy where she said – There is also usually a quiet almost sad feeling…like the mountains ( or land in my case, and heart) miss the people who used to live there …

  • Reply
    Jeanette Queen
    November 9, 2020 at 4:30 pm

    Such wonderful memories this stirs in my soul, when I walk over to my Grandma and Grandpa Princes’ homeplace, I feel the love of what was there when I was a little girl…’s still there.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2020 at 11:33 pm

    I love all these stories today. When my brothers come to visit, it nearly always includes at side trip to see whether the old home where we grew up and Dad’s shop are still standing/in use and good repair. One cousin is researching the location of our 5xgrandfather’s home in another state. Hope I live long enough for her to find it! 🙂

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 7, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    This post made me realize something about my Mom I never had, even after all these years. Every spring she would want to take a round to old home places on the national forest and collect remnant flowers, such as what we called “Easter lilies”. Until now I had always considered it was just about the flowers. But it wasn’t just that. I should have connected it with the time in the deer woods when she ‘adopted’ an overgrown cemetery and enlisted us guys to clean it off. It was about the people; her way of relating to people she never knew. She had that kind of heart.

    I like the old home places for a different reason. They make me think long and serious thoughts about life and living and leaving. That’s the kind if mind I have.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    I was blessed with a huge extended family, and during Summers and holidays their homes were my vacation resort. Cousins too numerous to count scattered all over within driving distance. We were all close, and I am still very close to many of them today. Later they scattered all about the U.S. but most stay in touch on FB and with a yearly reunion. Unfortunately, also we are seeing each other way too many times throughout the year at funerals of those dear to us all. I recall a time the news always seemed good with great jobs found and new additions to the family. As of late, I have learned the downside of huge families by receiving news of deaths and disabilities too often. A dear uncle my age had a massive stroke, and my memories of him range from making hideouts as youngsters to exploring the cemeteries of our ancestors after the last reunion. We missed the 2020 reunion because of Covid, and meanwhile two dear ones have passed on and will not join us next year at the reunion.

    One sunny day several just drove the backwoods to explore three cemeteries where many ancestors from past generations rested. As I sat leisurely by the tombstones of my great grandparent, I became keenly aware of how life is just an ongoing cycle. All my daily worries and concerns just faded away in that moment. I don’t know when if ever I would be able to visit the homeplace where my Mom and Dad once lived, but I know with a certainty that my creator designed me to go on and actually be happy. There is a master planner, so all is safe in his hands.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2020 at 11:25 am

    My maternal grandparents’ home, as well as the rest of that neighborhood was torn down for so-called urban renewal back in the early 1970s, as it was in the city. All those homes needed was some TLC. I loved my grandparents’ home. It was two story, and those steps upstairs felt like they went to heaven! There were two extra lots besides the one the house was on, so she had the biggest back yard of anyone we knew. The city replaced the neighborhood with subsidized apartments, and it’s a place full of welfare mothers and drug dealers. Richmond, Va.’s urban renewal projects were disasters. I feel sad when I see old abandoned houses out in country. I wonder what happened to those families. Did the families die out or did no one else in the family want the place?

  • Reply
    Glenda C. Beall
    November 7, 2020 at 11:25 am

    This post fits with what I tell my students who want to write about their lives and their families. When we can go back to the old home places, we stir memories and we stir curiosity about the people who lived there. I have visited the home places of my mother and my father and learned the history of their families, my grand parents and great grand parents. When possible I think it is good to visit the old home places even if no one is there anymore. Let your mind wonder and your imagination go wild.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    November 7, 2020 at 10:59 am

    Tipper–Using verbal instructions from Ken as a guide, I’ve actually been to what he calls the Hurley Cove. I don’t think you’ll find the place name on any map but you can be virtually certain that in addition to Ropers, there was a Hurley family which lived there. It’s in the upper end of the Nantahala Gorge, and while rugged, not quite as steep as a horse’s face, which is the case with most of the Gorge’s terrain. There are plenty of hints of the human presence, mostly in the form of old roadways.

    I went there hunting turkeys, and while I didn’t come out toting one over my shoulder, I had a meaningful exchange with one and abundant sign told me the grand birds were “using” in the area with regularity. I later told Ken about the experience and it clearly delighted him.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Gene Smith
    November 7, 2020 at 10:03 am

    Years ago I took my late mother to see her old home place in Salem, SC. There she told me about the time one winter when two of her brothers were scuffling on the floor in front of the fireplace. A new pair of shoes belonging to one of them somehow got kicked into the fire, and he had to wear his old work shoes another year. Money was tight.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    November 7, 2020 at 9:31 am

    It’s interesting to hear the thoughts that folks have about going to old home places. I’ve sought out and found over 600 former home places in the Swain County section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Each place does have its own “feeling.” But coldness is a sense that has never come to me (other than physically cold, that is).

    Maybe it’s because of my engineering training and practice, but my mind generally turns toward the practical aspects of what living there was like. Two questions always enter into that:
    – How far was it to water – and did whoever toted the water have much of an uphill climb?
    – Was the place cold in winter?

    Both of those considerations were clearly on the minds of folks when they sited the home. With but one or two exceptions that come to mind, all of the homes were very close to a spring or small branch. The exceptions actually had piped water which came from water collection boxes as much as a quarter mile away. Again, with a couple of exceptions, the homes were located where they’d get sun before noon even at the winter solstice.

    In my view, thinking along practical lines such as this actually puts one in a place that is closer to the frames of mind of the folks who once called the place home. They had to be practical minded to survive. Much of that practicality has been lost with the modern infrastructures of water and electricity.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2020 at 9:15 am

    When I look at pictures of the old home places, I get a sad feeling. Those small, uninsulated houses with no indoor plumbing required everyone including the children to work hard.
    Hurry home, Ken.

  • Reply
    Ed karshner
    November 7, 2020 at 9:14 am

    Ken’s words gives me chills. Those old homeplaces are hallowed ground. I was going to take the kids to the old Spud Run homeplace this Fall, but covid.

    This post is giving me a lot to chew on.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2020 at 9:04 am

    It seems as I get older I find myself thinking more and more about the past and wishing there was someway of going back. My grandparents home is gone nothing left but memories. By this time of year, I find myself thinking of how it used to be and wishing we could back home or to our grandparents and get together for Thanksgiving or Christmas with our cousins and aunts and uncles like we used to. All of my family has passed on now except for an elderly aunt and a few cousins I never see. I encourage everyone to spend as much time as possible with your love ones because the time will come when you will not be able too. This has really been brought home to me after the death of our daughter and so many of mine and my wife’s family. I think I read something by Don Casada about going back to the old home place for Christmas and remembering how it used to be, I can very much relate to that. Sorry for writing so much.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Christensen Bennett
    November 7, 2020 at 8:56 am

    This instantly reminded me of when I visited my great-great-grandparents graves. My father’s father left when he was very small and my dad never met any family on that side. As I tracked back the family history, I discovered my great-great-grandmother Sorine and her husband (he, not related to me but he raised her son) from Norway buried in NE. I decided to take a 3-week road trip by myself through six states starting with NE. I visited several of their houses, still standing. I went to the Victorian home their son (my great grandfather), a carpenter, built. A young couple had bought it and were restoring it. The owner gave me old newspapers that my family had used to insulate it. They almost crumbled to the touch. But the most meaningful was finding my great-great-grandparents final resting place. As I stood there I introduced myself and thanked them for the life they had given me. Their sacrifices and journey to America made the foundation for mine possible. I am so grateful for them.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    November 7, 2020 at 7:59 am

    I went back to the old home place. It seemed so small and yet seemed big when I was a child. The grounds had grown up and the huge garden plot had long since disappeared under countless weeds and brush. The house itself felt empty and cold as I wandered from room to room. It was a very sad day indeed and I never went back nor did I ever feel the same about that house again. After experiencing the sadness, some tears, a cold feeling in my soul, and loss, I realized HOME IS THE PEOPLE THERE! Once the family leaves, the home fails to exist except in my mind where sweet memories seem to pile up like files in an unused cabinet. Home is where the heart is and once you leave, there really is no never going back….

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    November 7, 2020 at 7:20 am

    Glad Ken is coming along. Love the post. There is a feeling you get when you visit an old homeplace.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 7, 2020 at 6:41 am

    I’ve been to some old home places, mostly family from my fathers side of the family so it was in Haywood County. I’ve noticed there is almost always flowers that have reseeded themselves through the years. There is also usually a quiet almost sad feeling…like the mountains miss the people who used to be there.

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