Genealogical Ties To The Ocona Lufta Valley

Smokemont baptist church swain county nc

Ever since I stepped foot in the Historic Lufty Baptist Church I wanted to know more about the people who called the area home before it was part of the Smoky Mountain National Park.

Florence Cope Bush’s book-Ocona Lufta Baptist Pioneer Church of the Smokies 1836-1939 told me about William Henry Conner. I learned more about William and his son Dock Conner by discovering a reprint of a newspaper article that was published in the Knoxville Journal in 1976, The Saga Of The Dock Conner Family written by Vic Beale. Most interesting was a recorded interview with William Henry Conner which can be heard on the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English website.

Don Casada shared the story of Robert and Elizabeth Beck Collins in his guestpost Robert and Elizabeth Beck Collins – Pioneers of the Pioneer Church of the Smokies.

I enjoyed learning about the folks above so much, that I kept researching to see if I could find any other firsthand accounts from folks who lived in the Oconaluftee area during the years Lufty Baptist Church was still open.

I searched Ancestory.com; I searched every NC genealogical site I could find; I Googled every imaginable phrase I could think up about people who called Ocona Lufta Valley home and came up with zilch in every instance.

But one day I finally hit pay dirt! I haven’t a clue how I found the website full of fascinating stories-I was jumping from one site to another thinking I’d never find anything interesting when bingo I landed on a genealogical treasure trove of Western North Carolina managed by Dwight Childers.

I’ll use Dwight’s own words to introduce the scope of his website to you:

“The purpose of this project is to discover and remember our ancestors in western North Carolina, and beyond. The name “www.Childers-Shepherd.org” has been chosen simply because it describes our immediate patch on the vast quilt of family connections surrounding us. These two families provide a starting point for our discovery but do not intend to exclude any of our many cousins or any part of our extended families of different names. The limitations are time and energy rather than any rigid notion of what constitutes a meaningful connection.”

After stumbling onto the website, I contacted Dwight and he graciously and generously allowed me to share some of his research work here on the Blind Pig & the Acorn. (Dwight will of course retain all copyright)


Today I’d like to share the story of Dwight’s ancestors: Thomas Clingman Childers, Jr. (1871-1957) and his wife, Bertha Elizabeth Lambert (1878-1942) both were members of Lufty Baptist Church. Thomas and Bertha were married in Swain County in 1893. They had 12 children, and also raised their grandson, Edward Roberson after his mother, who was their oldest daughter, died. (to see the list of their children go to this page of Dwight’s website)

The follow history appears on this page of the site: www.Childers-Sheperd.org.

Several of the children were born at the home Thomas and Bertha established on Couches Creek, near Smokemont, a few miles up Highway 441 from Cherokee. (This is the next creek north of the Mingus Creek Mill, which is now a museum.) They purchased the land of about one hundred fifteen acres from Thomas’s half-sister, Sarah Ward Smith. This land later became part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Some descendants have enjoyed hiking up the creek to the old homeplace over the years. The buildings were removed long ago, but signs of habitation, including stones from the old chimney, now fallen, remain.

By late January of 1920 (when the census was taken), they were in the Upper Hominy section of Buncombe County. Children remaining at home were Naomi, Roy, Ruth, Bonnie, Edmund, and grandson Edward Roberson. On 7 May 1930, the census of Beaverdam township, Haywood Co NC, found the family thus: Thomas, 56, farm laborer; Bertha, 52; Bonnie, 16; Henry, 14; Edmund, 12; and grandson Edward Roberson, 12. The value of their house and land was $750.

By 1935, according to the 1940 census (taken on 9 April), the family had moved to the place on what was Wiggins Road in Upper Hominy township, Buncombe County. In 1940, daughter Bonnie, son Edmund, and grandson Edward “Ted” Roberson were still at home. Bonnie was listed with the occupation of “reeler” in a rayon plant; Edmund was a farm laborer; Ted was unemployed. Soon, both Edmund and Ted would be abroad in active service in different theaters of World War II. (Ted enlisted 18 Jan 1941 at Fort Bragg, NC; Edmund enlisted 22 May 1942 at Fort Jackson, Columbia SC.) According to a family story, Thomas stopped shaving when the boys left home and pledged to resume only when both boys had safely returned from the war.


I hope you enjoyed the first taste of information from the www.Childers-Shepherd.org genealogy website. Come back tomorrow when we’ll hear from Thomas and Bertha’s oldest son Francis David Childers (1893-1983).


*Source: www.Childers-Sheperd.org. Dwight Childers retains sole copyright of material.



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  • Reply
    February 24, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    What a detective Tipper is! It must be like fitting the pieces of a puzzle together, only to find more pieces at the bottom of the box to continue to flesh out the puzzle picture.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    February 21, 2013 at 6:19 am

    Dolores-I wondered the same thing about his beard!! I read another page on Dwights great site that said he did indeed shave because both boys came home safe-and that everyone was glad he got rid of the beard LOL : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    February 20, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Thanks for the history. Of course, I am wondering and hoping that Thomas was able to shave once the boys returned.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 20, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Tipper, I’ve just finished a book of early settlers in WNC. It’s fascinating to read of the day to day life of these people. They had a hard life. Those early settlers must had been made of some tough stuff to first get here from Scotland then to survive eking out a loving from the ground.
    The stories are amazing. Thanks for focusing on this.

  • Reply
    February 20, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Oooh, this is great stuff! Thanks for your diligent research in finding Dwight Childers sight which is fascinating in itself, but I still have not found my own elusive Haywood connection, other than census, etc.

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    February 20, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Adam Corn was called into the ministry in Henderson Co.,N.C. in 1812. He preached to Indians and organized churches for Indians and pioneers. He and Humphrey Posey organized the Locust Field Church in Canton,N.C., 1st church west of French Broad River. He helped organize several churches in N.C. before becoming the 1st. moderator at the founding of the Tuckasegee Baptist Ass. in the Cullowhee Baptist Church in 1829. Also in 1829, Adam and Humphrey founded Mount Zion Church, 1st church in the Tenn. River Baptist Ass. Adam had a part in the founding of the Lufty Baptist Church on June 6,1836. Much of this info came from Tommy Flanagan, Families of Towns Co.,Ga. Adam Corn is my gr,gr,gr,gr. Grandfather.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    February 20, 2013 at 10:36 am

    I love this — and I also like rambling through cemeteries reading headstones, looking at old pictures even if I don’t know them. Thanks for sharing (and doing all the hard work of researching).

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    February 20, 2013 at 7:53 am

    Tipper: You have opened a vast door of knowledge. It will be a great pleasure to read more about this Childers/Shepherd Family. It is amazing that the mother, Bertha was able to survive so many ‘deliveries’ of babies – probably right there in the home! AMAZING!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    February 20, 2013 at 7:16 am

    The history of ordinary people is fascinating to me. I look forward to more.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 20, 2013 at 6:39 am

    So interesting, and what a great find the site was. Local history is fascinating and a graveyard is a wonderful place to start.

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