Appalachia Logging

Mountain Traits from Dorie: Woman of the Mountains

Dorie and daughter
Photo of Dorie and Wilma courtesy of Ed Ammons

“Dancing was looked upon as a device of the devil by most mountain folks, but not Ma. She loved to dance. She’d lift her long skirt above her ankles and dance a dazzling Carolina clog. Her feet moved so fast it was hard to see them. Grabbing Luther, Lola, or me, she’d dance around the room until we were out of breath. “Do-si-do and here we go,” she’d laugh as we whirled. All too soon, our fun was over and it was back to worktime for her. I never saw Ma sit still very long. Her energy kept her from relaxing in the rocking chair beside the fire. If she sat down at all, her hands were busy mending or crocheting.”

Dorie: Woman of the Mountain pg 62 (1907-1912)


“Fred’s family were frequent visitors, happy to have him near them again. I still didn’t feel comfortable around them. Maybe it was my own fault that we didn’t understand each other better. I was always quiet and reserved, in complete contrast to their boisterous, laughing manner. Mountain people didn’t say anything if they were not sure what to say. So, usually I said nothing. I always remembered a quote from Abraham Lincoln who said, “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and let people wonder if you’re a fool than to speak and prove you are.”

Dorie: Woman of the Mountain pg 148 (1917-1924)


“The Tremont Hotel was situated across the railroad, imbedded into the side of the mountain. The front porch was placed so the visitors had the best possible view of the river and the mountains. The Tremont settlement, with its boxcar, portable housing, and work sheds was out of visual range of the hotel guests.

Settlement people knew the hotel was off limits to them. But that was all right. Mountaineers wouldn’t go anyplace they didn’t feel welcome. They understood that the rich were different. That was a part of life they couldn’t change. By now, most were aware of the differences between the two classes. Many of them had lived near the Wonderland Hotel in Elkmont where the same system worked. The Wonderland was a place to wonder about and view with some envy, as the ladies from Knoxville and other far away cities sat on the front porch in their finery and daintily fanned the gnats and flies away from their perfumed, painted faces.

The rumors and stories of what went on in the hotels kept the natives entertained. Some thought of them as the Sodom and Gomorrah of the mountains. A few local girls were employed as maids at both hotels. Pretty, young daughters were warned to stay away from the places.

Dorie: Woman of the Mountain pg 199 (1924-1937)


I hope you’ve enjoyed each of the excerpts I’ve shared from the book Dorie: Woman of the Mountains, as well as my thoughts surrounding those excerpts. It’s been almost two years since I read the book. From the first page I loved Dorie and was fascinated by the life she led. The stories from her life often wonder around in my head as I go about my way.

The book captures a true picture of the people from the Southern Highlands of Appalachia from that time period, and in certain aspects, from today as well.

Mountain people didn’t say anything if they were not sure what to say.” and “Mountaineers wouldn’t go anyplace they didn’t feel welcome.” Are attributes that are still common to Appalachians today.

I commonly see people show a stoicism about their lot in life just like Dorie noted in this line: “They understood that the rich were different. That was a part of life they couldn’t change.”

I feel a true kinship to Dorie. I wouldn’t compare myself nor my life to the hardships she endured, yet her thoughts about the world and her people feel right at home in my mind and in my heart where I look at the world in much the same manner as she did.

The entire time I was reading the book I kept thinking “Now these people are like my people. They’re the same as us.” As the pages drew thinner and I neared the back of the book, I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to keep reading about Dorie, I wanted to see where life took her and her people. Little did I know there was a surprise waiting for me at the end.

Wilsons worked in lumber company


Appendix 1

The following names were listed in the time books belonging to Robert Vance Woodruff. They worked with the Little River Lumber Company beginning in the spring of 1923 and ending in the fall of 1934.

When I reached the appendix page at the end of the book and began reading the names of the various employees who worked for the Little River Company during that time period, I thought “Hey wouldn’t it be cool if I actually recognized someone’s name?”

On the second column of the first page there was Ben Wilson. “Hmph.” I thought. “Maybe that was Pap’s Grandpa. (Pap’s grandfather was named Benjamin Wilson)

I flipped the page and continued to read the names. Second page third column-there was Wade Wilson. I thought “What!!!??? Could it really be Papaw Wade?”

I couldn’t wait to ask Pap if he thought the Ben Wilson and Wade Wilson listed in the book could belong to us. Pap said “Well I’m not for sure, but I know they both did lots of logging between here and Madison County so its certainly possible that it was them especially since both their names were listed.”

Was it really my Papaw and my Great Grandfather in the list of names? Is that why I felt such a kinship to Dorie and her people? As Pap said “I don’t know for sure.” And really, I don’t need to know for sure. I already know Dorie and her family were my people-we share a common landscape, a common dialect, a common way of looking at and living in this world.



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  • Reply
    October 29, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    Really enjoy Blind Pig and the Acorn when I stop by. Thank you for sharing. Always takes me back to my young days when we were living away from town.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    October 29, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    I would love to win the book.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    October 29, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    We need more Dories! I would love to read this book. One of my favorite books is The Dollmaker. Strikes such a chord of familiarity and remembrance as do these excerpts you’ve shared.

  • Reply
    C. Ron Perry, Sr.
    October 29, 2015 at 10:10 am

    I would love to win a copy of the book. Even if I don’t win, I may purchase a copy.

  • Reply
    Rita Shain
    October 29, 2015 at 10:03 am

    I would absolutely LOVE a copy of this book! As long as I can remember I have been fascinated with the mountains and the people of Appalachia. Currently I am reading Bill Bryson ‘ s “A Walk In The Woods”. It is a great informational and at times a funny read, but I am sure I would enjoy this book far more!!

  • Reply
    Barb Wright
    October 29, 2015 at 8:04 am

    I am catching up(computer trouble),and I am so happy I didn’t miss this! My dad was a woodcutter for years. Would love this one!!

  • Reply
    Henry Horton
    October 29, 2015 at 7:35 am

    Well, i really shouldn’t (Been so lucky already.) But…looks like a really interesting read so throw me in the pot!

  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    October 28, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    Wonderful stories. Doesn’t it make you wish you could go visit the places spoken of here, the hotels,the settlements and such.
    So many wise words about the ways of mountain folk too…ways to live so you’ll never find yourself in a place you don’t feel an absolute joy to be in.
    I’m glad Dorie danced. It IS in The Bible after all, Exodus 15:20, 2 Samuel 6:16, 1 Samuel 30:16, 30:11, Psalm 149:3 and Psalm 150:4 describe appropriate happy forms of dancing.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    October 28, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    I love the stories of days gone by.There’s so much we can learn from them,

  • Reply
    October 28, 2015 at 6:41 am

    This book certainly sounds and reads like it has a lot of history to offer. I would really enjoy reading it. You have done such a great summation of the books.

  • Reply
    Beth Durham
    October 27, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    I have LOVED the excerpts from Dorie. I read this book probably 15 years ago – picked it up in a gift / bookstore in the Smokies and read it several times.
    I passed it around and someone KEPT it -about 2 years ago I tore my house apart looking for it because I wanted to reference it. So now I have it on my “get this book” list because it’s one to be kept for sure.
    Dorie is such an inspiration – to many people (especially I think outsiders to mountain life) there was not a single bright spot in her life of poverty, hard work and hard times. Yet she laughed and danced and loved and that is so typical of our people.
    I think it was her daughter who put together the book and aren’t you glad she took the time to do it? Otherwise this precious woman would have been lost to history.
    Thank you for sharing Dorie here.

  • Reply
    colleen Holmes
    October 27, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    Enjoyed this post. The excerpts of the from the book are interesting. I love your blog.

  • Reply
    Sandy Kirby Quandt
    October 27, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    Tipper, thank you for bringing this wonderful woman’s story to our attention. Although I never lived there, my dad’s family was from the Appalachia area of Loyall, KY and I’d love a chance to win this book and read what life was like for women in Appalachia.

  • Reply
    October 27, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    I just found your blog and loving every minute of it…when I read the word “arsh” potatoes, boy did my heart skip a beat, my mother called potatoes that all my life…she passed away in 2004 at the age of 93…and I miss her more everyday…now I wonder did my mom come from up your way…or her ancestors…sure have a lot of things similar like washing in the big iron washpot and making lye soap, she did all of that when we were growing up, in East Texas..I would love to win the book…thanks so much for the offer…

  • Reply
    October 27, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    All the excerpts from the book were fascinating. I would love to read the entire book. Today’s information on Dorie yielded another interesting tidbit. We’re birthday twins (born on the same month and day, just different years). Does that mean I deserve to win a copy? What an interesting life she led. Thanks for sharing her book.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 27, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Dorie “Dora Evelyn Woodruff” was born 4 May 1899 in Swain County, NC. Cora Lee Dehart was born 24 May 1899 in Swain County. Cora (also known as Core, Corie and Grammaw) was my grandmother. Many of Dorie’s characteristics described in your excerpts fit my grandmother to a T.
    Leave me out of the contest for the book. I couldn’t wait! I’m going to the Post Office later today to see if its there. That’s if the Lords willing and the creeks don’t rise which is a definite possibility.

  • Reply
    Joe Penland
    October 27, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    Living near the area where Dorie lived I also feel a kinship. I would love to read the whole book.

  • Reply
    Jeanna M
    October 27, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    I love this book. Own it so not entering. It is a wonderful look at life for women in Appalachia.

  • Reply
    Cynthia Schoonover
    October 27, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    Thank you for sharing this book. I enjoyed reading about her life, especially her dancing, and now I want to read the entire book!

  • Reply
    Margaret Johnson
    October 27, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Would enjoy this book Dorie: Woman of the Mountains. I feel the connection to Mountain people and their way of life, always have and always will.

  • Reply
    Glynda Chambers
    October 27, 2015 at 11:57 am

    Tipper, thanks so much for your post about this book and this remarkable woman. I was so caught up in the story you first wrote about I immediately went to Amazon and ordered the book and I am so glad I did. The book Is amazing and reading about the life of this wonderful woman will be with me for a long time.

  • Reply
    Debbie Nobles
    October 27, 2015 at 11:43 am

    She sounds so much like my grandmother Jessie Hall Wilson born in Clyde, NC.I would love to read more about woman living then.They were so strong and loved life.

  • Reply
    Brenda Schlosser
    October 27, 2015 at 11:28 am

    I would love to win this book. If not, I am hoping my library has it or can get it. I must read this book. You have definitely hooked me in for more of the story! I’m pretty sure I would rather have lived as she did, rather than like the rich. I just bet she was happier. Thank you, Tipper, for sharing this incredible lady with us. I also enjoyed the Civil War letters.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    October 27, 2015 at 11:11 am

    I agree with you, these are my kind
    of people and I enjoyed the excerpts you provided. If we traced
    it back, we’d probably find a lot
    of kinship in those names…Ken

  • Reply
    October 27, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Tipper, you really have my interest. I know the feeling of not wanting a book to end, and seems one gets so entwined that is not easy coming back to the mundane chores of life.
    I can relate to Dorie, as I still have a picture in my mind of the logging camp worked by my Grampa’s family. They even had a company store where my young Aunt Bea worked, and the store was more or less a community center. I recall hunting Easter eggs there once. Then seemed to wake up one day and “poof” it was gone. The lumbar was quickly utilized for other purposes.
    I want that book, and whether I win or not I will probably purchase. Reading is on my list of Winter sports!

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    October 27, 2015 at 10:28 am

    “Don’t say anything if you ain’t sure what to say.” and “Don’t go anyplace you don’t feel welcome.” Sounds like my Mama talking.

  • Reply
    October 27, 2015 at 9:59 am

    It seems the joyous time were spread out, but remembered fervently. I love reading about the times of our early ancestors, it tends to keep me humble. As always, thank you for sharing such poinent memories. I would love to read her entire book and share it with others as well.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    October 27, 2015 at 9:46 am

    I can identify with Dorie also, my families have been in the mountains for generations and they performed what work was available to sustain life. Many of them traveled to where work was located at the time but most of them returned to their homesteads when their jobs dried up to scratch a living out of the mountain soil which often wasn’t really suited to agriculture but they managed to raise large families on what they could produce. My wife’s Maternal Grandparents traveled to Washington State to log and my Maternal Grandparents would travel to Oregon to work in the orchards but both sets of Grandparents answered the call of their Appalachain Mountain Roots and returned to Swain County to raise their families even though my wife has an Aunt who died young in Washington where we still send money to help with the cemetery upkeep where she is interred. This connection to their deceased is one facet of the mountain culture which seems to be fading from our culture which is regrettable. It is hard to realize the hardships they endured moving large families the distances they traveled considering the transportation that was available during the early part of the century. I would love to read the book to compare the similar life styles they lived.

  • Reply
    wayne smith
    October 27, 2015 at 9:44 am

    reading about dorie brings back trace memories of stories told in my childhood by older relatives. at reunions or front porch visits (way before tv). they told things they remembered or had heard about the old times. thank you for bringing these memories back. maybe one of the smiths on the list is a distant relative.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 27, 2015 at 9:43 am

    Well …. you just solved a puzzle for me. In all my reading these days what my heart is looking for is the connection that “these people are my people”. Those traits Dorie (and you) identified are examples of that. And it is also, in some unquantified measure, why I follow BP&A.
    I would suggest another trait though. While ‘the rich are different’ my Dad would never accept the notion that anybody was any better than he was. His way of saying it, about men anyway, was “They put their pants on one leg at a time, just like I do.” I still feel that way.
    Stay dry y’all, if you can.

  • Reply
    Rosamary Christiansen
    October 27, 2015 at 9:36 am

    Thank you for sharing Dorie’s book. Very much enjoyed it and think it’s high time for me to start my own collection.Rosamary

  • Reply
    October 27, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Have enjoyed the excerpts from the book. Like Dorie’s concise writing style. She seems very perceptive and insightful.

  • Reply
    Jerry Finley
    October 27, 2015 at 9:27 am

    This sounds so much like my own people. My family,both sides, have lived and died in the mountains of western NC for 5 generations. Jerry

  • Reply
    October 27, 2015 at 9:26 am

    I also felt a kinship to The Woman Of The Mountains when I read how she danced with her children. Mom knew she could entertain us with her dancing and singing even if it was only a minute between stirring the soup beans and peeling the taters. She never read us a bedtime story, but would sing to us each night as she held a quilt around the potbelly stove just before wrapping it around six little feet in the same bed. I can’t wait to read the book.

  • Reply
    barbara Gantt
    October 27, 2015 at 9:07 am

    I am enjoying these post so much. I would love to read the whole book. Thank you for giving us a tiny picture of life in the mountains. Barbara

  • Reply
    October 27, 2015 at 8:53 am

    The book sounds very interesting! I love true stories about local Appalachian Folks. As always, great job Miss Tipper.

  • Reply
    patti braswell
    October 27, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Blind Pig and the Acorn is my must read everyday. Thank you for sharing your stories with us that allow us a peek into the lives of you and your family.

  • Reply
    Richard Moore
    October 27, 2015 at 8:42 am

    I liked the sections you provided so much that I ordered the book. It just arrived today so I have much more good reading to look forward to.

  • Reply
    October 27, 2015 at 8:41 am

    Well if there was logging going on in the mountains…there had to be a Blalock there! Roy Blalock was on that list! No wonder I feel such kinship and love the mountains. Our family history is traced back to three Blalock brothers who came from England/British Iles to North Carolina. Hope I win this sweet book.Cannot wait until my sister, Charline sees your post today. She just moved back to mountains in Tenn.last Thursday. She is loving all the fall color and I wish I was right there too!

  • Reply
    roger fingar
    October 27, 2015 at 8:04 am

    Dorie’s writing, being much later than the Civil War letters, feels much more contemporary in word meaning and syntax – less time and cultural cobwebs to claw through to really “be there”. I find ideas and attitudes similar to Dorie’s, in writings from “old Florida” times. There is a thread of universal experiences among the working people (and working poor) from all places and times. Thanks for putting together these excerpts and photos.

  • Reply
    October 27, 2015 at 7:44 am

    My mother’s parents were cooks for a while in a logging camp above Citico and my father left home at 14 to work for Bemis Lumber Company. Her stories have a familiar ring to stories I’ve heard from them.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 27, 2015 at 7:30 am

    I truly love stories like this. Life was full of work and still she took the time to have fun with her children. Wonderful!

  • Reply
    Dan O'Connor
    October 27, 2015 at 5:23 am

    I truly agree in that there is something in the way Dorie: Woman of the Mountains is written that speaks to me. I grew up in the lower foothills of the mountains in northern Virginia and I loved being in the mountains, it always felt good being there. When I moved to Knoxville in 1979 I spent every weekend in the mountains for many many months. Not knowing anyone when I came to Knoxville the mountains were where I felt at home. Whether or not I am lucky enough to be picked for your gift of the book, this is a book I will get. Thank you for sharing and introducing me to the book.

  • Reply
    October 27, 2015 at 4:48 am

    I love this so much. I’ll bet if you read Wilma Dykeman’s “The Tall Woman,” (if you haven’t already,) you will feel that same kinship and connection to place and folk. It’s wonderful storytelling.

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