People Who Once Lived Here

wooded hill

The acreage above our house is full of old homeplaces. There were a few that were still inhabited when Pap was a boy. I loved to hear his tales about people who called the place home and was always mesmerized by the thought of families living in a place I’d only known as wilderness.

The photo above is the closest old homeplace to our house. It’s a quick walk along the ridge that our house is built on. Just as you drop off the curve of the ridge the place is within sight.

I’ve always been fascinated with it.

No one lived there in Pap’s lifetime. Pap’s father Wade said his father Benjamin told him that a family of Cherokee lived there when he first came to this country. In Benjamin’s words the Cherokee lived like white men. I’m guessing that means they lived in a cabin or house similar to what Benjamin and his family lived in.

When I was a child we found a sunken area that was rocked on all sides on the little knoll. Pap said he thought it must have been a cellar for the people who lived there.

Several years back the area was logged in an effort to salvage pine trees before the beetles killed them all. Since the logging it seems harder to see the once obvious outline of the old house.

Every time I walk by the old home site I’m left wondering if the Cherokee were part of the tribe who escaped The Trail of Tears or if maybe Benjamin got his story mixed up and they weren’t even Cherokee.

The knoll would have made a beautiful homeplace. Tucked into the surrounding ridges with a fine view of the creek. I hope whoever lived there enjoyed their life as much as I do mine.


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  • Reply
    February 20, 2020 at 7:05 pm

    Gosh,I sure have enjoyed reading every single thing everyone has shared … I have also searched history of our ancestors on….. and the Trail Of Tears passed near places some of them lived in Kentucky. My Paternal Grandmother’s first husband’s Grandfather married a Cherokee woman said to have passed through near where they lived. Her name was listed on their marriage certificate as Elizabeth ”Wolf” as it was said she was of the Wolf Clan. On My Maternal Grandmother’s ”Walker” family line a couple of generations back, there were by marriage family ties with the Chickasaw Indians who lived in the area, where they resided … It’s been so neat to learn more about our family lines searching on Ancestry, and when you find pictures/stories it’s , well it’s something to appreciate to just know about, ponder over, learn from.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 18, 2020 at 7:04 pm

    Some of the Indians in our area and perhaps in others escaped the removal by passing themselves off as white people. Even if they looked like Indians, if they could get a white person to vouch for them, they weren’t forced to go. If they could prove they had modicum of white blood they were allowed to stay. Some of my ancestors were living among the Indians in Western North Carolina long before the removal. If fact until 1838 the Little Tennessee River was the western boundary of North Carolina. Everything west of the Little Tennessee (just the Tennessee at the time) was called Indian Land. Some of my ancestors moved in amongst the Indians as preachers and teachers.
    When white people came into Western North Carolina there were well established towns and outlying farms already there. They couldn’t buy the land because the Indian’s religion taught that everybody owned the land. The Government seized on the opportunity and claimed all the land that wasn’t titled. The Indians were given the option to buy the land they possessed but their religion forbade it (they didn’t have and money anyway). So they were told they would be given land in Oklahoma to do with as they wished and that the government would help them move. Surrounded by soldiers most of them complied. It turned out not to be the “help” they expected.
    Some Indians did except the white man’s religion and customs and were allowed to stay if they had the means to purchase their property. All the Government wanted their land for was to sell it to raise money to pay back it’s war debts. So they stayed and blended in with the rest of society.
    Mommy said she remembered when a family lived back up in behind our place on Wiggins Creek. I explored that whole area and found several old house sites, some with sill logs and part of the floor still there. Others were only stacks of rocks at the corners of the house seat. I don’t have any idea which one was the one occupied by Indians.

  • Reply
    February 18, 2020 at 5:07 pm

    I love reading these accounts and imagining the life of early settlers. I have rarely come upon anything like has been related here, or maybe I just didn’t realize it.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    February 18, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    In piedmont area of SC old home sites can be seen every spring by the daffodils blooming. Daffodils never forget. My fathers home site has a field of daffodils and jonquils every spring even though the house has been gone at least 75 years.

    My farm house in Ohio was built in 1826. Newark was founded in 1802. The well is a hand dug well close to 3′ in diameter, but the original spring still flows from the hillside. I found it one day covered in wild rose. It was lined with concrete and an arched cover some time many years ago.

    The stones for the basement were dug from the hillside and set in mud. I was hoping for a log house, but it was has a hand hewed frame structure put together with wooden pegs. Sawed clap boards covered the structure.

    We no longer live in it, but I use it for storage and workshop. I am now curious as to what is the oldest remaining house in Licking County.

  • Reply
    Sue McIntyre
    February 18, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    I too enjoyed “exploring” the old home place where I grew up in Northeastern Georgia. We had bottomland and hills. A creek ran thru the middle of it. I waded thru the creek searching for Indian pottery after it rain. We would also find arrowheads in the freshly plowed field. The hills had rows of perfectly stacked rocks that created a type of roe or terrace. They ran the entire length of the ridge. There were also several mounds of solid rock covered by years of decaying leaves, trees and beautiful soft moss. At the age of about 12 years, I decided to find out what lay underneath those mounds. Every afternoon I would make my way to the top of that hill and start removing the rocks one by one. When the bad dreams started, I realized I did not want to disturb what ever lay beneath. I replaced each rock. That has been almost 45 years ago. The woods have reclaimed the mounds, and their secrets. All you can see are the soft outlines of the mounds. I still go back there. I sit quietly and think of what may have been. I did read that in my area, during the removal of the Cherokee, white settlers would move into the already established homesteads of the Cherokee, often with the crops still in the fields. History makes us who we are. How sad when we don’t learn from our mistakes.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    February 18, 2020 at 1:35 pm

    I love the way you tell stories of your dad, Pap, and like my Dad, he was Smart as a Whip. I’m glad he was around long enough for you to get some of his knowledge that he so generously gave.

    I also love the way Pinnacle Creek (and others) tells a story of how things once were. There are so many Good Commenters on here I couldn’t mention them all, but you are appreciated. …Ken

  • Reply
    aw griff
    February 18, 2020 at 11:30 am

    I come across many of the old homesites in E.KY. while hunting. The mouth of the holler I lived in as a boy has no homes and only the well is left. The holler is over two miles long and there was at least 8 homes there at one time and a grist mill. Most of the old wells sat at the base of the hills and the gums have completely rotted away and wash off has filled them up. The farm right above our ole homeplace is where Cecil Hunneycutt was killed by moonshiners that thought he had turned them into the law. He was shot in the back while chopping wood. I’ve never been on that place without thinking of this. The only noticeable sign anyone ever lived there is a filled up well. My Brother bought the farm at the head of the holler and there is an old well full of water and a cellar dug into the side of the hill. The log cabin is gone. Farther up the holler are foundation stones of a house. The hills are so steep and the holler so narrow I’ve wondered how in the world did those people make a living. The last person I know of living on what is now my Brother’s place was a moonshiner back in the 1950’s.
    I hope to take my metal detector in there sometime and hunt my Brother’s place. I know people were living there at least back to the 1840’s. It’s a good two mile walk to reach it.

  • Reply
    Barbara Harrison
    February 18, 2020 at 11:04 am

    Our farm we had to sell in Sweetwater had a old late 1800 farm house & cemetary, i loved poking around, diggin up clues, researchin the names & the history. Sadly i know the old homestead will come down to make way for modern structures, which breaks my heart. I just love your writings as much as i love to dig in my own Tn and Southern geneology and heritage ♡ i think my daddy instilled that in me. When i was kid he hauled us up into the back mountains to meet kinfolk where he’d come from. Some of the homeplaces were still very basic, without luxuries i was growing up with. I was facinated by my Tennessee kin & their way of life and still cling to it and their memories.

  • Reply
    James Foreman
    February 18, 2020 at 10:23 am

    James Foreman

    Reading BP&A this month was a revelation to me. I had never thought about it before but as you walk through these hills you often come upon stones that ware once part of a chimney or flat stones laying together on the ground that could have well been the hearth of an old cabin. Either the logs that were once part of the cabin were repurposed or used for firewood. Nevertheless, I am not talking about just one instance here or there but if you walk around these hills like I did in my teens, having nothing else to do between the time I got out of school when mom was out selling Avon until dad arrived from work a few hours later but roam the woods.

    I really had not thought about it before until reading The Blind Pig circular but… I too was familiar with remnants of past cabins and settlements all over these hills and then that little cartoon light bulb went off inside my head and the realization came to me.

    There was an earlier time in this part of the country before horses were replaced by cars and during those times, a horse could take you into any part of the woods that you so desired living. You could pick out your favorite view and squat there with your trusty horse tied up to the front porch pole when you moved around during the day and in the barn for him to sleep at night. But, things changed when the automobile was introduced.

    You just simply could not get an automobile up the mountain without first having to build a road. I think it was during this transition from horse to car that people started moving from the hillsides down to flatter valley areas, living with their neighbors on the same plane, where all could be connected by a road which lead into town, stores, and a market to sell your goods. Now I realize why when walking through the woods we find so many remnants of past pre-automobile housing sites

  • Reply
    February 18, 2020 at 9:42 am

    They lived their lives and dreamed their dreams, and sometimes all that is left is their rocks left over from root cellars or along the perimeter of a field in an effort to clear their land. I love the past, so it is only natural that I would love genealogy. I eagerly gather more than the dates of births and deaths etc. It is like finding a treasure to locate their grave or an old obituary. I find in many instances you can actually tell a short story of their lives. However nothing compares to standing at an old chimney or spotting a little planting of flowers that lingers after all these years. This seems to put you right there. Nothing takes you away from the cares and problems of the world like exploring the past. It always leaves me with a feeling of gratitude to them for paving our way. Also my cares are minimized when I realize their hardships.
    My family recently explored around a remote site they refer to as Joseph Green cabin site. A search around the old ancestral chimney from the 1800s shows no bottles, no garbage, and very little showing that humans once lived in that humble cabin. They found a piece of nail and a handmade spoon barely identifiable. We have a picture in front of the cabin from long ago. Some of the men were on mules, and the women and children lined up in front of the cabin. Love your posts, Tipper, and they show such depth. Nothing portrays the Appalachia I know and love better than you. Our local magazine is more like reading The Ladies Home Journal. My Dad would say they were trying to “get above their raising.”

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 18, 2020 at 9:28 am

    About the Cherokee living as non-Indians, a local historian over in Gilmer Co. GA, Lawrence Stanley, wrote that after the Removal an unknown number of Cherokee filtered back as single families or small groups. Their neighbors knew who they were but it was just not talked about. I find that story totally believable on each side; Cherokee attachment to place and Appalachian neighborliness. Of course, by its very nature, written documentation is sparse. There were interviews of Indians done in Oklahoma in the 1930’s that might shed some light on some of those who returned. At any rate, I think, Tipper, that you have ample historic reason to not doubt the story in addition to your faith in your family. I wish there were more documentation of The Return to round out the story of The Removal. It would help make the Removal itself a bit less of a tragedy maybe. Even in southeastern KY were I grew up I heard stories of families of Indians visiting the area before my time.

    As to “wilderness”, I know a forest ecologist who said that in his mind the Eastern Wilderness Act essentially recognized that Wilderness is renewable. He reason for saying that was because that Act designated areas as “W”ilderness that had historically been heavily impacted by human activities, readily visible to anyone knowledgeable about the woids. I personally feel that view – as you mention – is more true than to pretend Wilderness must not have traces of human occupation. Those old homeplaces (love that word) are a lesson in life and humility.

  • Reply
    February 18, 2020 at 9:25 am

    Several years ago, I met a lady and her husband when they stopped by to tell me they had just bought the farm across from my lane. I’m happy to say she has become one of the best friends I ever had. She told me her Mamaw and Papaw used to live here. She remembers Mamaw telling about the kids from the orphanage coming over to ask for food. Mamaw told the kids she just didn’t have food to give away unless they were willing to dance for her. And dance they did. As I study the history of this area, I can almost see the little kids sneaking across the lane excited to perform a dance for some bread and a glass of milk.
    Two houses burned here on the farm over 100 years ago. It’s plain to see where they used to stand. Huge flat rocks are still present at one location that was once a part of the homestead. I have been told the house burned and fell into the cellar. When I find pieces of pottery or old bottles, I want to get a backhoe to dig up the old cellar and see what has been buried for so many years.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    February 18, 2020 at 9:20 am

    Tipper, unless there was a spring nearby, a home on a knoll was a rare thing. Of the 600+ home sites I’ve marked in the Swain County portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the number that were perched on a knoll can be counted on one hand, and in every case but one, there was either a spring close by (as within 25 yards) or spring water was piped to the house from a spring box located above the home (in one case, about 750 ft from the house, and about 25 ft in elevation above it.

    That one home is an outlier; it was owned by a fellow named Ed Cline and stood right out on the end of a ridge with a steep drop off on three sides on the west side of Deep Creek. It was over 100 yards to the closest water. It’s possible that Ed had water piped to the house (there were branches in hollows on either side of the ridge), but I’ve found no evidence of it. Somebody in that home did a lot of water bucket toting.

    Was there a nearby spring for the home you’re talking about.

    By the way, when William Bartram made his epic journey into the land of the Cherokees in north Georgia and western NC in 1775, he gave a description of the physical nature of their towns and homes. Regarding the latter, he said they were one story structures with debarked logs notched at the ends, and with the logs chinked inside and out with “clay well-tempered with dry grass.” The roofs were either chestnut tree bark or long shingles. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

    • Reply
      February 18, 2020 at 9:53 am

      Don-several springs just up the way from the old house site. My use of the word knoll probably wasn’t the right usage. The area really isn’t a hill so knoll came to mind, but its not really a knoll either 🙂 Just a littler higher ground than the area surrounding the front of it.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    February 18, 2020 at 8:07 am

    My Granddad Nick Byers’ cabin is thought to have been built by the Cherokee. He bought the cabin and 90 acres from the Chapman family in 1923. The cabin is held together by wooden pegs and now resides at the Mountain Heritage Center in Blairsville, thanks to the late Charlene Gray Sullivan.

  • Reply
    Leon Pantenburg
    February 18, 2020 at 7:57 am

    There are many such places in Campbell Swamp, Mississippi. At one time, in the mid-1800s, there was a small village, complete with store and church. I love walking around in those areas in the spring. Generally, I will find daffodils around the edges of where a house once was.

  • Reply
    February 18, 2020 at 6:27 am

    Boy does that bring back memories. I was always fascinated by the Kennedy Place. If any of the remnants of the old house were there it was early in my childhood. Two big old red oaks were out front and growing up i visualized my kids playing under them. Buttercups still bloom there. Alas that part of the place went to another heir and has been sold. Somewhere on a ridge not far from here was the cabin about which Bolivar Shook wrote the Flatt & Scruggs song “Cabin On The Hill”. That cabin had been gone so long none of my late dad’s family could remember where it was.

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