Appalachia Oconaluftee/Smokemont Profiles of Mountain People

Roy Arthur Childers 1905 -1996

Roy Arthur Childers 1905 -1996

(Photo of Roy Author Childers courtesy of Dwight Childers. Copyright belongs to

Yesterday I posted an interview with Frances David Childers, today we’ll hear from his younger brother Roy Arthur Childers.

Roy Arthur Childers was the sixth child of Thomas Clingman Childers, Jr. (1871-1957) and his wife, Bertha Elizabeth Lambert (1878-1942). In 1973, Roy was interviewed by his son Dwight about his childhood days spent in the Ocona Lufta Valley.

Couches Creek Memories (Interview with Roy Arthur Childers conducted by Dwight Childers 1973. retains sole copyright)

The things I remember about the most was riding to the field and back in a sled drawn by oxen. I remember about the sled runners going up over the rocks you know, up to one side and the other over the rocks. They was pullin’ so slow ‘t they [wudn] no danger you know. And it would tickle me to death to ride that sled on the hillside to gather corn, see. They gathered all the corn with oxens then.

That was up on that mountain there, and then up in the cove. That was where I was born, in a one-room log house. The last time I was up there, the barn was there; the’ was the old log barn there. So I doubt that the’s anything there, because the park officials burnt up and tore up ever house that was in them mountains, done away with them I reckon to keep people from slippin’ in there and campin’ in ’em.

We done most of our farming . . . half of our farming in what we called the cove on in above where we [lived].

He had over a hundred acres.

I think he paid a dollar and a half a acre, or something like that. I don’t remember us ever havin’ a surveyor in there. They just bought it from one to the other. My daddy bought this from his brother-in-law, Aunt Sarie’s husband, John Smith. His sister owned it before we did. She was his half-sister. I think they bought it before they was married, before they had any children.

That [the name “Couches Creek”] dates back as far as I can remember. The’ was some Couches that lived on that creek before that I remember anything about it. That’s where it got its name. That’s what I’ve heard.

[Families on Couches Creek]

Dee Ashe was the first . . . Penn Hyde, now Penn Hyde lived down near the mouth of the creek, and he had great long hair down on his shoulders. And then the’ was some Rolands lived way back in another cove there. The’ was several families lived on Couches Creek at one time. Some Rolands lived back on the east side of Couches Creek, and then Dee Ashe lived there. And then we lived there, and then Carry Nations lived on above us. He raised a family up there. And then Will Brown lived on the right-hand prong.

When me and Gerald was up there the last time we went up to Carry Nations. All the remains we could find there was an old bedstead. I’ve helped Carry Nations hoe corn for twenty cents an hour on them hills up there. He worked at Mingus Creek in a loggin’ job. He walked from the head of Couches Creek to Mingus Creek ever’ day.

[An Ordinary Day on Couches Creek]

Well, my job was to carry water to ’em in the corn field, take their dinner you know. I remember one day, I was takin’ their dinner to the older ones that was workin’ in the fields. That was on up the creek. We had two or three places we farmed at. It was on up the creek at another field up there. Now it’s all growed up into woodland. And I was crossin’ this creek an’ I had a little old red hat on, and I was takin’ their dinner, an’ I was crossin’ that creek and fell in, an’ lost my hat. It washed away. It was a little old felt hat, with a brim. It worried me a lot, but I went on and took their dinner to ’em. Never did find that hat.

[The field dinner] was beans, an’ whatever we made there on the place, beans and vegetables, corn bread. In a lard bucket. That was our food then. We made our own molasses. You never did see an old cane mill, did you?

My job was, too, during that time . . . huntin’ the cows, in the mountains. I was evidently seven or eight then.

We didn’t get too much schoolin’, because bad days we couldn’t go and then if they needed us to work in the field we’d have to stay there and work.

I’d take the dinner to the others in the fields, and then in the evenin’ later on, my job was to hunt the cows up. An’ I’d have to go barefooted, see, and back then the’ was plenty of chestnuts. I remember a hittin’ my heel on them chestnut burrs, an’ I’d have to set down then an’ pick chestnut burrs out of my feet. Where I could find a tan bark log, I’d walk the log, see. The’ was a lot of vegetation then in the woods. The old cows had bells on ’em. Sometimes you couldn’t hear ’em. You’d have to go up on a high ridge somewhere to hear ’em. Then they’d be on in the holler. An’ I’d walk them logs as far as I could go, bare­footed.

An’ get up a little kindlin’ of a evenin’ you know.

[Cattle Feed]

Roughage . . . We raised corn; we didn’t know what hay was. You fed your hogs, your cattle, your steers, we fed our cows nubbins, the little tender ends you’d break off the corn. An’ use the rest for bread.


I enjoyed this interview as much as the one Dwight did with his Uncle Frances. I guess my favorite part was where he described riding a sled around the mountains. I’ve heard Pap tell so many stories about sleds from when he was little-from the time the horse ran away and took them for a wild ride to hauling things like Papaw Wade’s new stove. I liked the part about Penn Hyde and his ‘great long hair’ too.

If you want to hear more from Roy Arthur Childers jump over to Dwights site for more of the interview!


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  • Reply
    February 26, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Our dad restarted the Chestnut Tree in PA after the blight, and we well know what it’s like to step on a burr in bare feet. Yeowch!!!
    About the only thing I’ve found that’s comparable, or maybe worse, is sand burrs. We have those aplenty here in Angier, and they’re a pain, often getting festered if you don’t get every little bit out of your foot.
    I once did some research trying to figure out what to use to get rid of sand burrs. The best, and probably most valid, way was told to me by an old farmer who said to drag an old blanket or old rug through the field where the sand burrs are, then throw it on a fire…yep that would get some of them. LOL
    God bless.

  • Reply
    February 24, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Hi Tipper – I enjoyed this post so much! Getting caught up on blog-reading, and yours is always a treat. Thank you for sharing first-hand accounts, especially. A kind of magic!

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    February 22, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    Tipper, I can say little in my appreciation of this series that has not been said already by your readers. Thank goodness, as the interviews were transcribed and copied and printed, the idiom and tongue of the mountain folk was kept perfect.
    You gave me, as a winner of one of your drawings, Horace Kephart’s book “Our Southern Highlanders”. Reading that book and Foxfire books, I am reminded of a Bradley family who lived up Bunches Creek, in that Smokemont area. Like most folks, back before the national park changes, they got their sweeteners from honey and they, like most, kept several bee gums.
    Anyway, I remember one of their folkways said that when the master of the fold dies, the hives die with him unless the hives are moved immediately upon the master’s death. Mister Bradley did die, and his widow moved all the hives even before the old man was cold. Didn’t lose a hive.
    Well, anyway, it’s just an interesting folkway, among the many folkways, of the people who once inhabited the Smokemont area.
    Not to be laughed at, these were a smart and industrious people.
    Thank you for this series.

  • Reply
    February 22, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    My uncle had a large chestnut mare when I was a boy. She was a large horse and gentle as a butterfly. Looked like one of those Budweiser horses only no white stockings. We were best of friends. Those posts made me think of her. Used to have to climb upon the barn roof and slide down on her back (only way I could get on) she was so tall!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 22, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    It is wonderful to be able to ‘hear’ the old life stories. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 22, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    That old mate Kate was plodding along. She didn’t need prodding!

  • Reply
    February 22, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks again for the stories and the links!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 22, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    I can remember stepping on chinquapin burrs barefooted. It hurt, but not bad enough to make me put on shoes.

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    February 22, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Wonderful, wonderful stories again. Some rang bells in my head of life and my parents told it.
    Only the sleds were used to haul ‘baccer mostly instead of corn..
    Thanks to all,

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    February 22, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Speaking of Baptist missionaries…
    I would like to share a beautiful poem written by Rev. Alfred Corn. THE MISSIONARY
    A weary pilgrim
    Sometimes in sorrow then in song ,
    Sometimes beneath the burning sun,
    And then in a snowy storm.
    Sometimes I climb the mountain high,
    And mingle with the cloudy sky,
    Then plunge again into the valley deep,
    To seek and feed my Father’s sheep.
    I feed them with the word of God,
    And point them to my Saviour’s blood,
    Baptizing them in Jesus’ name,
    The Jew and Gentile all the same.
    I love to feed my Father’s sheep,
    I love the tender lambs to keep,
    I love to see them live in love,
    While on their way to Heaven above.
    They hear with joy the Shephard’s voice,
    They’ve surely made a happy choice,
    All in one fold they dwell complete,
    While resting near the mercy seat.
    Now hear the sequel of my song,
    I know on earth I’ll not be long,
    My work will soon be done below,
    And then to glory I will go.
    Alfred Corn 1817 Buncombe Co.,N.C.-1905 Young Harris,Ga. Missionary and Preacher-Baptist
    Taken from FAMILIES of TOWNS CO.,G.A.

  • Reply
    February 22, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    That first bit reminds me of one of my mom’s earliest memories of growing up on the farm, riding the stone-boat over the fields.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull, Ph.D.
    February 22, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Tipper: I kinda felt like I was reading about my own daddy, who was born on Tuni 02-18-1900. They lived in a little crib kind of house with cracks so the wind would blow snow in on to their beds. Traveling by ox drawn carts was the main transportation. Probably safer than a mule!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    February 22, 2013 at 10:56 am

    This is as interesting as the story yesterday. I can relate to a
    sled and corn thing pretty much.
    We kept a mare in the Spring and
    her name was Alice. Our corn field
    was above the house. I was the
    youngest in our family so those
    corn rows sure looked long to me.
    One time we were gathering corn,
    the sled was almost full, so I
    climbed in for a ride back to the
    barn. About that time ole Alice
    got spooked by a copperhead and
    did I ever go for a ride. She didn’t stop till we got to the barn, with daddy yellin’ all kinds
    of stuff at her. Wonderful memories of childhoodl…Ken

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 22, 2013 at 9:23 am

    Oh Tipper, it’s awful that the government destroyed the houses and barns after they took them away from folks. I guess politics and common decency are opposites to each other.
    I like that expression “of an evening” I have heard that used before but not a lot.
    This was a hard life that people lived.
    My grandmother died in 1967 at the age of 70 or so. there was around a thousand jars of canned food in her cellar and a very large freezer full of food. She was a young woman during the depression and knew what it was to be hungry. She didn’t ever want to be hungry again. She worked really hard preserving food so that wouldn’t ever happen again.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    February 22, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Interviews are good in that they give us insights into the “old way” of doing work and living; but the language is priceless! We are about to lose that particular flavor of expression in our “standard” English.

  • Reply
    February 22, 2013 at 8:04 am

    Interesting how things were back then – farming and the various foods that were eaten. I cringed at thinking about stepping on those chestnuts. What a big ouchy! This interview was as interesting as yesterday’s. I can’t imagine searching for those cows in one’s barefeet.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    February 22, 2013 at 8:02 am

    The wrought iron bed frame at the Carrie Nations place that Roy Arthur mentions is still there. It is laying on a bed of its own – in this case, periwinkle. Rocks from the scattered chimney pile lie nearby. In a few weeks, the blue-hued periwinkle blooms will be joined by the smiles of a fine patch of yellowbells.
    The Childers home sat on the sunny north side of Couches Creek, whose waters bring joy to the day and play a fine lullaby for youngsters and old timers alike at night. Yellowbells decorate the bank between the home and the creek. On the south side of the creek, there is just a hint of where their barn stood.
    I mean this as the highest compliment to Roy Arthur and his folks when I say that they had to be tough people, for they carved out their life from a pretty, but a difficult-to-work land.
    Many thanks to Dwight for sharing the incredible work that he has done in preserving the story of our peoples and their times.
    For any of Tipper’s readers who happen to be in the Oconaluftee area, Couches Creek flows under US 441 about 2 miles north of the Luftee visitor’s center. There is a place where you can pull your car off the road about 0.2 miles above the creek. There are two old home sites within a hundred yards of the road. One sits close to the creek on the north, the other is on an elevated perch to the south with a couple of boxwoods that can easily be seen from the road as you drive by.
    One of these would be where long-haired Penn Hyde once lived.
    On the hill to the north is the Conner cemetery. Like most mountain cemeteries, it’s atop a steep-sided knoll. Relatively speaking, though, it’s a fairly easy climb. You can catch your breath there and ponder the lives lived by
    – Abzena and JDS McMahan (JDS was a Civil War veteran),
    – Julia and James Chambers who made their home across the Luftee river from the mouth of Couches Creek in a well-loved place,
    – little Gladys Conner, with a lamb perched atop her grave marker
    – pilgrims, known only to God, whose resting places are marked by field stones

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 22, 2013 at 7:30 am

    I love this kind of reading. I could get into some of this and lose the whole day. We had a sled like the one described here as late as the 60’s. We used it to haul stuff into the barn and other “stuff” from the stables out to spread on the field. I remember me and Harold getting in that sled behind an old white mare and deliberately letting it go off over the lower road bank. The old mare didn’t care, she just kept prodding along. When we got tired of the roller coaster ride, we would just yell “Gee” or “Haw” and she would pull us back in the road. I think her name was Kate but I can’t remember for sure.
    Thanks for a great morning read.

  • Reply
    Tim Mc
    February 22, 2013 at 7:03 am

    Great stories,, I wished I had been smart enough to have taped some of the older folks,, it would be so wonderful to hear there voice again.. We new a set of twins who were both preachers, their names were Paul and Silas Lang. Missionary Baptist preachers, back in the day of riding a mule. Boy the stories they could tell…

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