Appalachia Profiles of Mountain People

Newman’s Ridge

Compatriots in north georgia mountains

Alex Lewis Stewart, the second of 16 children, was born in 1891, near the top of Newman’s Ridge in a tiny one-room log cabin which his father Joe Stewart had built a few years earlier. So remote was this locale during Alex’s growing-up years that roads were nonexistent, and the Stewart homeplace could not even be reached by wagon. There were numerous families living near them on the ridge, trying desperately to survive from the woods and from steep corn patches and garden spots.

Today these families and their descendants are all gone from Newman’s Ridge, and gone too are the huts and cabins where they lived. A half-standing chimney of unhewn stones, a few gnarled apple trees, and the trace of an occasional rail fence are all there is to indicate that people ever lived there. The little hillside fields, once so laboriously cleared of trees, are becoming forested once again. The Stewarts and their compatriots came into the forest primeval, confronting and conquering the untamed wilderness; then they moved on, but not until Alex spent a romantic and memorable boyhood there.

Excerpt from Alex Stewart Portrait of a Pioneer by John Rice Irwin


Interesting paragraphs from Irwin’s book. While I liked it all, it was one word that made me want to share it: compatriots.

Pap uses the word compatriots to describe friends and close acquaintances.


*Source: Alex Stewart Portrait of a Pioneer by John Rice Irwin.


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  • Reply
    Ronnie Seals
    April 30, 2019 at 10:12 am

    Mr. Irwin gave me this book years ago. He was a good friend of my grandfather, Henry Harrison Mayes, and his son Clyde. He and Clyde had worked together to transfer Harrison’s religious signs to the museum, and I met him at the dedication. Later, It him a letter asking him to take a look at a book I was writing. He declined, I think his health was failing at the time and his daughter had been in a bad accident, but he sent me the book about Alex Stuart. Mr. Stuart was a fascinating man who could do almost anything he set his hand to. It’s a great read.

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    September 5, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    In the early 1960s I actually made a trek to a home way back in the hills of Johnson County Kentucky. My hubs, a student pastor, was a seminary student I was a college student. He had been assigned to a charge of four churches, the parsonage was in Oil Springs. Paintsville is the county seat. We went to the churches on weekends, returning to Wilmore, Kentucky during the week to attend classes.
    One nice spring day it was decided that we would make a Sunday afternoon visit to an older gentleman. A member of the church went with us. We drove until we got to a crick. A really old pick-up truck was on our side of the crick. We got in and crossed the crick.
    Then the interesting part began. We walked the rest of the way, there were field full of weeds. There were narrow ridges where we had to walk single file. There were fences to climb. I was glad someone who knew the way was with us.
    The cabin was small, sparsely furnished, and very neat. The visit with the gentleman was uneventful and was appreciated. I imagine we were offered something to drink and maybe to eat, I truly do not remember. I do know that would have been the custom for anyone, especially the preacher.
    We reversed our steps on the way home. There are a couple more things. It was in the days that women wore dresses and stockings. We were pretty much broke, I had only one dress. The whole trip was complicated by a rain storm that blew up late in the afternoon. We got soaked. My hose were ruined, my dress was the kind you dry clean. When it got wet it shrank. I had a miniskirt before they ever became a fashion statement.
    Once we finally reversed ourselves and were home someone came by with a dress for me to wear to church for Sunday night services. It was baggy, but I had no choice. Friends still in the dorm loaned me dresses for the next few weekends.
    I am sure that only ruins remain of that little cabin. It would be astonishing if anyone lived back there now unless a bridge and road have been built. It was definitely quite a memorable adventure!

  • Reply
    April 28, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    Sounds like my kinda place.. I heard a Man say one time his best friends are the ones who lived 500 miles away..

  • Reply
    April 28, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    As far as I can recall, “cohort” has always been a group of folks who liked doing things together – usually things that benefited or enriched others lives. The those who like to “enrich” the “educationese” vocabulary commandered the term because someone got tired of the word “committee” and decided to appoint us to “cohort groups”. I protested – and was frowned upon – somehow the fact that we were assigned to these groups especially made the use of the words “cohort groups” inappropriate. Just another way of “spinning” a concept to imply things are other than they are. . . .

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    April 28, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    Members of Sons of the American Revolution, of which I am a member, refer to each other as Compatriot Jones, Compatriot Smith, etc. I like the usage.

  • Reply
    Charlotte Woody
    April 28, 2015 at 11:19 am

    I purchased a copy of this book on a visit to John Rice Irwin’s Museum of Appalachia a number of years ago. I enjoyed it so much and have shared it with many friends and relatives. Alex Steward was an amazing individual.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 28, 2015 at 11:14 am

    I like using the words compatriot and cohort when describing people with like interests. Friends is about worn out and gang has negative connotations.
    Au revoir mon amie!

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    April 28, 2015 at 10:37 am

    Well, Tipper! So far this morning Jim and I have been reading from our new books we acquired at the HIGH HAMPTON WRITER’S CONFERENCE this past weekend. Now I have stopped to consider your word.
    My consideration of the word COMPATRRIOT took me to my crossword dictionary. I knew the meaning of that word! However now I have two new words listed with it. They are COMPEER and CONFRERE!
    May I share two books we got at the writer’s conference at HIGH HAMPTON INN? They are”Dear Mark” by Susan Clotfelter Jimison and “Our Brother’s Keeper” by Jedwin Smith. We talked – a long time – with both authors! Both books are very heavy reading. So now I must go to the gardens, for a break! Our morning is bright and sunny – which should be enjoyed OUTSIDE! I am attending the HHS Reunion for my high school class SOON!!!!
    Cheers, Eva Nell

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    April 28, 2015 at 9:46 am

    I have heard the word uses in that same line of thought…We are very fond of John Rice Irwin…he is a compatriot of all Appalachians…They had a sheep shearing at the Museum of Appalachia, I believe it was last weekend…One could learn all they wanted to know about sheep, baa, baa black sheep and Mary and her little lamb!…LOL
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    April 28, 2015 at 9:39 am

    My dad used ‘cohorts’ in reference to the fellows I ran around with – probably because of the shenanigans
    in which we were involved.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 28, 2015 at 9:25 am

    ‘Compatriots’ is certainly a timely word for America. Ben Franklin reportedly said, “If we do not all hang together we shall most assuredly hang separately.” Thus, ‘…to this we pledge our lives….’. The word is about the bonds that underlie both the society at large as well as each of its composite communities.
    Newman’s Ridge is in upper east TN and extends from northeastern Claiborne Co. all the way through Hancocke County and into Lee County. The sides and each end are steep and rugged so the absence of a wagon road is understandable.
    The Hensley Settlement within the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park is a partially-restored mountaintop community of about the same time period. It is a great place to visit for an amble back in time.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    April 28, 2015 at 9:06 am

    I haven’t used the word “compatriot” in a long time, but it used to be common among those in Choestoe (“the place where rabbits dance”) as those with Scots-Irish ancestors settled the hills and hollows (only we called them hollers) of that Appalachian Region. Webster defines “compatriot” as “a person born, residing, or holding citizenship in the same country as another.” And when we think about it, even if we move out from the homeplace, as did the Stewarts of your story, we still hold that compatriotism–a tie that binds heart to heart, place to place, custom to custom, life to life.

  • Reply
    April 28, 2015 at 8:52 am

    I enjoyed that little excerpt and
    story while it lasted, but I kinda
    thought it would be from someone
    we know.
    I don’t think I’ve ever heard a
    person call another a “compatriot”
    but it does sound fitting…Ken

  • Reply
    Sallie R. Swor
    April 28, 2015 at 8:11 am

    I feel fortunate to have met Mr. Stewart and am happy his story can still be read. The beautiful coopering he did is on display at the Museum of Appalachia in Norris. To have raised a family in those conditions is amazing to me.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 28, 2015 at 7:29 am

    That’s a good word, Tip. In our lifetimes I think that each of us have a few true compatriots, true friends of our heart and soul. I am thankful for the compatriots that I have had and I count you one of them.

  • Reply
    April 28, 2015 at 7:17 am

    I haven’t heard that word used for a very long time. It always had such deep meanings when it was used during my younger years. The fireplace stones remaining seem to have some deep coloring. How beautiful!

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