Appalachia Smoky Mountains

Noland Creek


Noland Creek

The Noland Creek area of Swain County NC is part of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, but at one time it was home to a good many people. Every year the descendants of the people who once inhabited Noland Creek return to the area to pay their respects to their ancestors who are buried there.

Beginning in May and ending in October a series of Decoration Days are held at graveyards scattered throughout the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The special days are facilitated by the National Park Service.


Don Casada

A couple of weekends ago Chitter and I tagged along with Don Casada to the Noland Creek area for the Wiggins Cemetery Decoration Day.


Neither Chitter nor I had ever been to Noland Creek and we were amazed by it’s rugged beauty. Don said he’d tried to find the family Noland Creek was named after, but couldn’t find any record of folks by the name of Noland living in the area. Don also relayed a humorous story Lawrence Hyatt told him about the name.

As a boy Lawrence lived on Noland Creek and he told Don the train conductor would call out “Noland Creek, Noland Creek – no land, all rocks.”

rocks in Noland Creek NC

The area is full of rocks. Many are impressively large. As soon as I saw the huge hunk of quartz in the photo above I knew Chitter would be wishing she could figure out how to get it home. Being a true rock-hound she walked all around the boulder and had an in-depth conversation with it.




Chitter and I were mesmerized by the remnants of the once thriving community that called Noland Creek home so many years ago. Every where we walked we saw evidence of those who once walked beside the rushing waters.


Foundation remnants of power house on Noland Creek

Along the way Don pointed out at least two school sites and a grist-mill. One of the coolest things Don showed us was the foundation of an old power house. Certainly not everyone living on Noland Creek had electricity, but even a few folks having electricity in that remote area in the 30s is pretty impressive. Brasstown seems like New York City compared to the back of beyond area of Noland Creek, yet electricity wasn’t run in Wilson Holler until the 60s.

Schools, limited electricity, and beautiful rock work that’s lasted through the years tell me the people who called Noland Creek home were above average when it came to carving out a life in the rugged mountains of Swain County.


Map courtesy of Don Casada

Drop back by tomorrow for a guest post written by Don about the Cagle family who lived on the other side of the Noland Divide in Deep Creek.


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  • Reply
    Charlotte Wrenn
    August 26, 2020 at 5:20 pm

    I am researching the ancestors of my daughter in law and have found William Reddy Noland, her 5th great grandfather. This website says Noland Mountain was named for William: “In 1839, Evan Hannah married Elizabeth Noland and Elizabeth’s father, William Noland, moved to Big Cataloochee at the lower end of the valley on the south side of Cataloochee Creek. A note of interest if that Noland Mountain is named after William.” The Hannah House is preserved and part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

  • Reply
    Sean Noland
    January 1, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    Great article! Love the bit about All Rocks. I use a similar phrase when giving someone my name – I do this to ensure no sneaky Ks or Ws slip in there on accident (as they often do) and for crying out loud, please don’t forget the D at the end – took 400 years and a really long boat ride to get that D put there – please don’t drop it now!

    My phrase is “Sean, like Ocean – All Water, No Land” …

    Yes, yes, yes – it’s silly – and that look on your face right now – that is what I normally get in return. But it works!

    Thank you so much – I’m having a great time reading through your blog. Having traced my roots back to Cataloochee, and beyond, I’m now broadening my searches for more info on the family looking up place names from the surrounding areas. I had read somewhere, back before I documented and made reference notes, that there was a townsite, or a mill town more likely, right where the creek met Little TN river – then was covered up when Fontana Dam went in. Going to brush up on this more to see if maybe the loggers in my line (I know who they are now!!) had a hand in the naming – who knows? Hidden documents await!

  • Reply
    October 26, 2018 at 1:10 am

    Beautiful Photos!
    Beautiful Heritage!

  • Reply
    October 24, 2018 at 1:10 am

    Such beautiful memories told in words and pictures- thank you.

  • Reply
    Marshall Reagan
    October 23, 2018 at 8:28 pm

    That looks like some of the neighborhoods where my great grandmother & grandmother grew up in. the Mathis the Reagans the Birchfields Clingmans & others that were more Cherokee than white .

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    October 23, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    Sometimes I wonder if we have progressed with our busy lives we live today, we have more conveniences but less time for relationships. These rugged folks lived by the sweat of their brow but seemed more at peace with their lives than many people do today. In the words of a song “A country boy can survive’ I wonder how many of today’s folks could survive if the Electrical Grid were to go down.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    October 23, 2018 at 10:49 am

    Brings tears to my eyes to remember how they had to live just to get by. I have a feeling they were happier than many folks today with all their goodies.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 23, 2018 at 10:35 am

    While you are looking for the Noland that Noland Creek is named for keep an eye out for the Wiggins that gave Wiggins Creek its name. The humorous reasoning for the name Noland Creek sounded familiar. I think my Daddy might have related it to me half a century ago. Daddy knew the Park well. He worked for the Park Service in maintenance in the ’60s and early ’70s. The crew he worked with kept the backcountry roads and trails cleared out and maintained the cemeteries that were inaccessible except by boat and on foot. Daddy and his buddies would sometimes spend a week at a time in the hard to get to places. It took them a day to hike in with their equipment and a day to hike back out.

  • Reply
    October 23, 2018 at 9:41 am

    I love the history of the pioneers in the mountains. You Tube using a Roku gives an amazing amount of Appalachian history. The mountains get in your blood, I suppose. My choice of vacations is “The Smokies” with a ride through Cade’s Cove. During that ride it is hard not to let your mind wander back to the old folks who once lived there. I’ve seen the ocean, but to me there is just not the peace and history found in all mountains.

    I am so fortunate to have visited a one room school a few times with cousins and younger uncles and aunts. My uncle who is exactly my age likes to tell of the Board of Education paying him a tiny salary to get to the one room school to build a fire before the teacher and other students arrived. He had to clean the old floors once a month, and carry in all the wood for the fires. Kids could be trusted to follow through on chores in those days. We all still sometimes get together to go rediscover the old school site, visit family cemeteries, and peer down the still open well. It has become an ATV paradise, but to the folks who once dwelled there it is still home. Thanks, tipper, for sharing some history.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    October 23, 2018 at 9:16 am

    Tipper–Obviously today’s post tickles my fancy, since I’ve fished the waters of Noland Creek as a boy and man for portions of six and possible seven decades. I’ve spent some wonderful nights camped in the drainage. On one occasion I got about as irritated with an officious “‘possum sheriff” (park ranger) as it is possible to be. It was wet as only the Smokies can be, thanks to a couple of days of soaking rains, and I had labored mightily just to get a fire going to cook supper for me, my wife, and our young daughter. I finally got it to going and had a pan full of trout (catching a limit had been difficult because the creek was up) frying up nicely when the guy showed up. He insisted I take the trout out of the pan so he could measure them. I pointed out that a blithering idiot (didn’t use that description but I sure thought about it) could tell that all of them were 10 or 11 inches long when the required “keeper” length was and still is 7 inches. He remained insistent and at that point Scots-Irish stubbornness took over. I told him I wasn’t going to ruin supper, wasn’t going to take the trout out of the pan, and if felt it necessary, he could just write me a ticket. I also just happened to mention the name of the district ranger and indicated that if he wrote up a ticket I would go straight to his superior. At that point, all bluster and little more, he backed down.

    Noland Creek was also the location where I got the “galling” of my life. I was probably 9 or 10 years old and Dad and I fished and waded miles up the creek. I was wearing jeans and at some point fell and got them soaked crotch-high. The walk out, which saw me striding as spraddle-legged as any cowboy who ever rode the range, was pure pain. I had patches on the inside of my thighs rubbed raw that I couldn’t cover with my hand.

    Of course one remembers these sort of things, but there’s been many a creel full of trout, many an idyllic day of solitary angling, which made Noland Creek a pure joy. Don and I are blessed to have lots of photos of the region taken in the period just before it became national park land, thanks to them being shared by a nephew of the photographer, I. K. Stearns, and perhaps he’ll use one or two of them with his story. Among the photos is one of the legendary mountain fisherman, Mark Cathey.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    October 23, 2018 at 9:14 am

    Those pictures remind me of a place back home where Mom grew up. They didn’t have money to lose, yet I get the urge to hunt those grounds with my metal detector and know that anything I might find was left behind and touched by my ancestors.

  • Reply
    October 23, 2018 at 9:12 am


  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    October 23, 2018 at 8:33 am

    Noland Creek is so beautiful Thanks for such article and photo

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    October 23, 2018 at 8:16 am

    This place is beautiful but my hubby being from Texas isn’t very interested in the Appalachian hertlitage . I think we hold a thousands of books yet to be written Tipper you are so informed of the beloved mountains please keep us informed.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 23, 2018 at 8:05 am

    I have that same fascination with places the tide of history has left behind. Maybe it is because of growing up among abandoned mining camps. There is something sobering and melancholy about the artifacts of a once-bustling place now reclaimed by woods, drifted over in leaves. Who knows what places and activities we now know will fade away and disappear. The reminders teach us perspective, humility and respect for those who went before – or at least should do so.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    October 23, 2018 at 6:57 am

    Beautiful! I love that area. My grt-gndpa, Sumry Bryson, was a cousin to Thad Bryson whom Bryson City was named for. Was out there recently on the motorcycle. Went to the tunnel on the Road to Nowhere and also down old 288 and walked almost to the old bridge at Land’s Crk.(my new knee gave out) Also went up Deep Creek and made the circle back to Bryson City. Spent the night at the old motel on the Tuck and had a balcony overlooking the river….going back soon.

  • Reply
    Sheryl A Paul
    October 23, 2018 at 6:49 am

    Areas like this are so beautiful. I imagine you can almost see the people that once lived, played, and worked there.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 23, 2018 at 6:45 am

    Compared to life today that seems like the dark ages. It’s not just no power it’s no cook stove as we know it, no indoor plumbing, no bathtub, no refrigerator, no computer/internet, no electric power, no electric lights and I cold go on but this makes the point. It was a way different life. It was a life full of work just to stay warm and feed your family.
    Tough people, my hat’s off to them!

  • Reply
    October 23, 2018 at 5:44 am

    Wow, truly amazing how folks made life work for them back in the day, and how far we’ve come.

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