Smoky Mountains Thankful November

Thankful November – Smoky Mountains

Collage of 2021 photos

“On one of your visits to the Great Smoky Mountains, take time to visit the remains of a true hardscrabble mountain farmstead. Not the deep-soiled, prosperous valley farms in Cades Cove or Cataloochee, but the rocky, steep-sloped, seat-of-your-pants, do or die farms in places like Roaring Fork or Bradley Fork or the upper Sugarlands.

You will find a chimney, only half still standing, and perhaps a shallow depression that describes the shape of the 16 by 20-foot log home. There will be a spring or stream nearby, or both. The spring will be trickling from a hillside, and by looking closely, you can discern how the head of the spring was dug out and artfully lined with stones to create a pleasant place to fill a bucket. The landscaping may have survived the house. A black walnut tree was planted for its shade and delicious nuts, red cedar for the chickens to roost, and boxwood, daffodils, and hyacinth because they were pretty.”

—”Great Smoky Mountains – Natural Wonder – National Park” Photography by Adam Jones Text by Steve Kemp

I’ve been fortunate to stog around the Smoky Mountains with Don Casada who is an expert guide. I’m always in awe of the beauty of the rugged landscape my people once called home.

There’s always a feeling of peace and comfort at the old homeplaces as if one were to sit quietly and wait the former owners might show up at feeding time or be seen going to the fields.

I like the line “you can discern how the head of the spring was dug out and artfully lined with stones to create a pleasant place to fill a bucket.”

Although they were people who lived a hard life, they were also a people who enjoyed beauty and took time to plant flowers, build artful chimneys, springs, and other things to enrich their daily lives.

Today’s Thankful November is a used copy of “Great Smoky Mountains – Natural Wonder – National Park.” Leave a comment on this post to be entered in the giveaway. *Giveaway ends December 6, 2021.

Last night’s video: 3 Useful Knots in Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    Robin Haupt
    December 5, 2021 at 2:01 pm

    It has always astounded and fascinated me how resourceful, strong and hardworking the people of Appalachia were and are. Can’t wait to call it my home one day.

  • Reply
    Philip D Mundy
    December 4, 2021 at 6:56 am

    This sounds like a nice book, I feel blessed to live close to the Smokies, truly one of the most beautiful places under Gods creation.

  • Reply
    Ed Choffin
    December 4, 2021 at 6:34 am

    I’ve always enjoyed exploring abandoned places and trying to imagine how the folks lived at the time. It’s easy to lose time thinking about their lives and what it took to survive during those times. There are still quite a few old homesteads to be found throughout the plains states. I find it helpful to remember how many blessings I’ve had in my life.

  • Reply
    Ben Wooded
    December 3, 2021 at 1:50 pm

    Sounds like a very enjoyable book. Thank you for your generosity!

  • Reply
    Jenny Young
    December 3, 2021 at 8:31 am

    I have never been to the Smokies. I’ve been all around them but never had an opportunity to go. I’d love to at least go through the book.

  • Reply
    December 2, 2021 at 9:57 pm

    We visit the Smokies every year and it feels like our second home. I’d love to read this book.

  • Reply
    Rebekah Robbins
    December 2, 2021 at 9:02 pm

    I just finished reading Requiem By Fire by Wayne Caldwell. The description of the spring sounds like it could have been taken from his book. For those people squeezing every ounce of life from the land would have much for which to be thankful. God bless my ancestors that lived in the Appalachia. Theis legacy flows through my veins.

  • Reply
    December 2, 2021 at 7:18 pm

    Tipper, thank YOU, again, for reminding me to be ever thankful for the bounty of Our Creator.

    My paternal grandparents had a home place in Nantahala Township in the 1880-90s. I’ve long wanted to find it to see and imagine what their life must have been life. My grandmother was a Tabor raised in the Broad Creek (IIRC) area that was homesteaded by her grandfather and great-grandfather in the 1840-50s. I’ve been through that area and visited the Tabor Cemetery there. After a lot of false leads I finally found my grandfather’s grave. From family lore, I know that the grave site is within walking distance carrying a native stone monument, but the actual home site has eluded me. Nearing 80, it’s unlikely I’ll ever see the place where my dad was born. Family lore says it was on the Little Tennessee.

  • Reply
    Darlene Cunningham
    December 2, 2021 at 5:10 pm

    Even though I was born and raised in Kentucky, I have always loved the Great Smokey Mountains. My husband and went there for our honeymoon. Last year our children surprised us with a 50 year anniversary celebration at our favorite place, the Great Smokey Mountains.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 2, 2021 at 4:55 pm

    Have you heard anything from Ken Roper lately? I never got to meet him either!

    • Reply
      December 2, 2021 at 5:35 pm

      Ed-I haven’t. I call but only get an answering machine.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 2, 2021 at 4:52 pm

    40% of The Park is in Swain County! That’s roughly 210,000 acres. I own 3 acres in Swain County! I pay almost $100.00 a year in taxes. The Park pays nothing. Much of the rest of Swain County is owned by the Nantahala National Forest, the Fontana Dam and Reservoir and by other governmental entities which also pay no taxes.
    I had to move away more than 40 years ago to find work. I could have stayed and worked in the tourist industry which means become a servant of the rich. The owners and managers of most local businesses were outsiders. I didn’t want to be a servant. You know exactly what I mean don’t you?
    I have hung onto my little 3 acres of rugged hillside for all these years hoping to one day return to my ancestral home but as the days pass my hopes grow dimmer. I am going to die in this god awful place where I lie and never see my home again. But beyond the home of which I speak is another one were rich men cannot live and money is of no value. I’ll never get to see you in this life, Tipper. Will I see you in the next? Promise?

    • Reply
      December 2, 2021 at 5:35 pm

      Ed-I will be there!

      • Reply
        Pat Drake
        December 4, 2021 at 11:12 am

        That’s Beautiful1

  • Reply
    Ron Bass
    December 2, 2021 at 4:45 pm

    I love the Great Smoky Mountains Park. I have visited there many times but every time I feel a great sadness for the people who were forced off their land to create the park. I think about how hard they had toiled to create a home. I would rather the people have kept their property if they chose to.

  • Reply
    Liz Hart
    December 2, 2021 at 4:10 pm

    I would love to win the “Great Smoky Mountains – Natural Wonder – National Park.” book. I normally check out the books I see on the Blind Pig from the local library.

  • Reply
    Lori Hughes
    December 2, 2021 at 3:00 pm

    The description was so well done, I immediately imagined myself there. What a wonderful thing, to be able to go back and physically see signs of your ancestors.

  • Reply
    December 2, 2021 at 1:32 pm

    Enjoying your videos and this blog!! Thanks for the opportunity to learn more about Appalachia.

  • Reply
    December 2, 2021 at 12:59 pm

    Smoky Mts is know all over. It beautiful to see. The fog that comes up looks like smoke over the mountains , that’s how it got its name. It’s amazing how many yrs ago the people had to carve and weave, stack to make what they needed. Its became history.

  • Reply
    Donna Brewton
    December 2, 2021 at 12:42 pm

    Visiting The Smokies in person would be far superior than viewing on tv specials. Alas, that’s all I have now. Would love ro have the book to use as a guide for my “bucket trip”. Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    Patricia A Small
    December 2, 2021 at 12:04 pm

    What a wonder to be able to see the remnants of the past and imagine how people lived and worked. The Smokey Mountains are beautiful and the people were too.

  • Reply
    December 2, 2021 at 11:44 am

    I’ve seen many places where a house once stood but the family cemeteries hold a greater fascination for me. I can see the names and ages of real people that endured the elements and survived. Then I can wonder about where they came from and where their descendants roamed away to and why. I can grieve with the family that lost that child at one or two years of age or the mother gone before seeing her children were grown.

  • Reply
    December 2, 2021 at 11:43 am

    I like that stog around in the mountains, that is a great word. Good stuff❤️

  • Reply
    Karen Toler
    December 2, 2021 at 11:30 am

    I could just see in my mind what it must of been like to live in that age of self reliance,building your own home and planting your yard…I love Black Walnuts…don’t know if I can grow one in the high desert .but would love to try….

  • Reply
    December 2, 2021 at 11:29 am

    The word “Home” always brings a tug at one’s heart when there was family love, and it warmed the heart of the children and greats as they came along. My husband took me to Pigeon Forge for our 50th Anniversary and what we loved the most was getting up early and driving up into the Smoky Mountains. One morning it was just finishing a sprinkle of rain and was hazy, but we had company crossing the old winding road. We saw more than one bear and a lot of turkey. The creeks were gushing with an abundance of rain. I would enjoy reading the book.
    I did notice the word “stog” and smiled because I have heard that word before but it was a long time ago. In my 60’s I would stog along after my Daddy following the old creek that ran through a portion of land at my Grandparents old home place. The old out house is still standing, as are the rocks that were used as a foundation and you can see the outline of where the garden was located. I remember the well that is covered now and my Grandmother’s daffodils still come up every spring to welcome visitors.

  • Reply
    Roger Greene
    December 2, 2021 at 11:10 am

    Having hauled and stacked rock from a few fields here in the Uwharrie’s as a pre-teen, every time I come upon a rock wall, or even just a rock pile, while fishing up some stream in the Smokies I have to stop and look around. I can imagine the sweat and raw hands, and even though I was small when Dad traded his share in a mule and got an Allice Chamber tractor, I can smell the mule and hear the mule’s labored breathing as it strains against the traces pulling the sled loaded with rocks. I have to stop and try to work out the lay of the field, and try to understand what was being done to eak out a living from the soil, either for the family or the stock.

    It is amazing the memories and the images that a pile of rocks can give birth to.

  • Reply
    December 2, 2021 at 10:37 am

    Love the Great Smokey Mountains! We have a wonderful Creator God!

  • Reply
    December 2, 2021 at 10:30 am

    I’ve got that in my ‘backyard’. 🙂

    They also left behind Easter Lillies and forsythia that light up the woods in spring. I’ve found old bottles, cutlery, and the broken tragedy of a lovely, white, glass bowl; I’m still trying to find all the pieces.

  • Reply
    December 2, 2021 at 10:08 am

    That brings up an image in my mind of a beautiful homestead that was active and thriving in its day. I would love to read more from “Great Smoky Mountains – Natural Wonder – National Park.”
    Thank you Tipper for all you do in celebrating Appalachian.

  • Reply
    Marilyn Reed
    December 2, 2021 at 10:05 am

    Years ago some of my older family members and I searched for their old homeplace down in the Missouri Ozarks. After struggling through undergrowth and trees, the stone foundation of the house was finally reached. My imagination soared as I listened to them talk about their early lives on that farm. Wish I could go back in time just for a moment to witness it.

  • Reply
    Kenneth R Rinehuls
    December 2, 2021 at 10:02 am

    I have found many such places,not looking for them but just came across them while turkey hunting or deer hunting.I bet the “”Deer hunter””has too.I even found a headstone marked Confederate Soldier and I often wonder how and when it came about.

  • Reply
    Sandra Henderson
    December 2, 2021 at 9:56 am

    I love seeing old chimneys way up in woods where they do have a spring or stream nearby. The way the stones were stacked and they still stand, just amazes me. I imagine the hearth with people around for all those years. It is so peaceful, you’re correct.
    Well, another, new to me, book! I’m excited to go read about it.

  • Reply
    William Dotson
    December 2, 2021 at 9:53 am

    Thanks for the chance to get this book, would love to read it and pass on to someone else that would like to read it also.

  • Reply
    Angela J Short
    December 2, 2021 at 9:42 am

    I enjoy the Great Smoky Mountains! We live about 2 hrs or less below there. I enjoy living in the mountains. Old home places are very peaceful to me. People worked together so well back then. My paternal grandparents had 11 children & raised 9 of them to adulthood. They did this without ever driving a car, only getting electricity when the youngest (my Dad) was a teenager & a lot of difficult work. They were happy though & were married 60 years plus. Amazing!

  • Reply
    December 2, 2021 at 9:32 am

    I love my creature comforts, but am drawn to these kinder, simpler times in GSMNP. It truly is a magical place, especially during early June when the synchronous fireflies emerge.

  • Reply
    December 2, 2021 at 9:31 am

    Learned a new word from your blog today.
    “Stog”, always good to add to my vocabulary
    There are several old homesteads near us, all leave your imagination running wild as you think why they moved. One such place nearby is the community of LOST COVE on the Nolichucky River in the Poplar Gorge between Tennessee and North Carolina. The railroad leaving appears to have been it’s end.

  • Reply
    Marilyn Craig
    December 2, 2021 at 9:30 am

    I love to find old homesteads when I’m out on hikes in the woods. Our own property has the foundation rocks of an old home and barn, along with two cisterns that still hold water. I stand in awe of how those huge foundation boulders were moved. Thanks for sharing the excerpt from this book, Tipper.

  • Reply
    December 2, 2021 at 9:22 am

    As a child, my family drove through the Smokies on our way to visit relatives in Georgia. I have wonderful memories of that trip, seeing things I’d never seen before—the beauty of the mountains, rhododendron, a wild bear (with his head in a garbage can). I’d love a book to remind me of that trip.

  • Reply
    Sharon Cole
    December 2, 2021 at 9:21 am

    Thank you, Tipper. When we are visiting the NC mountains and pass an old home place, I always imagine the family that lived there. Your video with Don was so enjoyable. Take care and God bless!

  • Reply
    Danilee Varner
    December 2, 2021 at 8:35 am

    Your writings cause us to stop reflect and appreciate what our forefathers were like and all that they accomplished.

  • Reply
    Angelyn McLain
    December 2, 2021 at 8:31 am

    I think the Smokey Mountains are so beautiful! I often think of what it must have been like to live in them before they became a park.

  • Reply
    December 2, 2021 at 8:24 am

    Raised on the family ‘Homeplace’ in SW Ohio, I didn’t really appreciate what earlier generations had done to preserve & improve the old home. Dad taught us about our 2x’s great grandparents who built the first residence, a cabin, on the farm; their son who came back from the Civil War (his brother had died of war wounds) wanting to build a frame house for his new wife; his struggles to raise 10 children, even tho his first wife died leaving 5 small children, and how Dad & Mom eventually were able to buy the ‘Homeplace’ from a bachelor uncle.

    We saw evidence of ancestors earlier lives. Dad used flagstone from the path that led to a spot where the cabin had stood along with ‘the rocks’ that kept dairy products cool all year round to build a patio in back & widened the front porch. The outhouse, only in emergency use after plumbing was installed; the smoke house that was abandoned after the ‘locker’ opened in town to keep our meat frozen; the summer kitchen detached from the house was taken back to the woods for kids to camp out in… slowly, the house & farm were modernized.

    But as has been said, “the rocks remain”.

  • Reply
    Terry Huffaker
    December 2, 2021 at 8:14 am

    My grandparents farm was such a place; hills, hollers, gravel road, a branch or creek, and a flowing spring. They raised 13 children on that little farm and in their built by hand home which still stands. My grandmother, who lived to be 89, accepted change to the home as time passed! One exception; she never cooked on an electric stove in her lifetime. Her wood burning stove remained throughout the changes. Keep the good memories of our yesterdays coming, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 2, 2021 at 8:11 am

    I think maybe one of the things that draws us to the old house places is that bittersweet stream of coming and going we are all in together. They came. And went somewhere. We are here but passing. In that we are in a unbreakable fellowship with them. When we think of them and notice the signs they left behind we somehow touch on a heartstring that binds us all together. The bible even remarks on those who had “no respect for the builders thereof”, who were only about themselves.

    One of the things this post causes me to wonder is how those displaced by the coming of the park would feel about it now if they could come back. Does it make it OK that millions come every year? Ah well, my mind runs on tracks like that, questions that have no answer or no good answer.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    December 2, 2021 at 7:42 am

    Enjoyed the post, Tipper. I’d love to visit Smokey Mountains National Park someday, but until I do this book sounds like a nice way to visit. I’m a country girl and love trekking out into the hills and woods.

  • Reply
    Sheryl A Paul
    December 2, 2021 at 7:38 am

    I love the feel of the Smokey Mountains. So overjoyed the powers that be were able to protect that area from the threat of “progress”. I always get the feeling of I am finally home when I drive through and visit the spots along the way. I would be devastated if I could never return to this magical spot

  • Reply
    December 2, 2021 at 7:29 am

    Reading excerpts like this makes me long for those simpler, slower times even more than I already do. To me, there is nowhere on earth like the Tennessee mountains. This sounds like an amazing book! Thank you for your generous heart, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    December 2, 2021 at 6:58 am

    Long before the region became a tourist destination, the Great Smoky Mountains were and still are one of the most remarkable places on earth.

  • Reply
    Cathy Sparks
    December 2, 2021 at 6:53 am

    I was blessed to get to visit that very area about a month ago. My guide was my brother and sister-in-law who are local residents. We skipped the “touristy” things and just took in all the natural beauty. It was an amazing trip and I would like to learn of more of these places so I can request them on my next trip down. My husband has Parkinson’s Disease so we are trying to do as many things as we can while he is still able.

  • Reply
    Martha D Justice
    December 2, 2021 at 6:40 am

    We have visited the Great Smoky Mountains many times and have driven the Roaring Fork and been through the Sugarland. We’ve gone into the old homesteads and just tried to imagine how their daily lives were. Filled with hardships but also love of these mountains and their families. True pioneers.

  • Reply
    Ken Caldwell
    December 2, 2021 at 6:38 am

    It is always good to walk up on an old homeplace in the woods. You can stop and think about the people that once lived there.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 2, 2021 at 6:29 am

    There is/was an old homeplace up the mountain from my grandmother’s house. It had belonged to some of my family. There was a wood cabin, or I should say the remains of a wood cabin. There was a spring house (remains), smoke house remains, can house remains, and outhouse remains. There was a garden plot that could still be defined with rhubarb still growing on one edge.
    I used to love to go there and just feel the past. It was a relative that had lived there but I no longer remember the name.

  • Reply
    Wandena Swartz
    December 2, 2021 at 6:24 am

    I love visiting the old farms! I have been to Cades Cove and Cataloochee but not the other two. I look forward to checking them out!

  • Reply
    Matt Laminack
    December 2, 2021 at 6:23 am

    Every time we go to the smoky mountains we drive through to visit the old homesteads at Roaring Fork. Such an awesome place. I will have to find Bradley Fork next time.

  • Reply
    John Hart
    December 2, 2021 at 6:20 am

    Now I have to look up “stog”. I have a feeling i have been doing it and did not know the word.

  • Reply
    Greg Church
    December 2, 2021 at 6:15 am

    All of the old home sites in the park draw me and send my mind a wondering. If time travel was possible, I would like my feet to find themselves on a dusty mountain road about 125 years ago.

  • Reply
    December 2, 2021 at 6:14 am

    As i read this my mind easily wandered back to the hard scrabble farms of many of my kinfolk. The nearby springs were always a landmark to go by when searching for the original homesteads.
    My grandparents also had a well, long ago dried up, but captured recently in a photo by an exploring adult grandchild. It brought back memories of dropping a bucket from a long rope. Then there was that ole flat rock right out in the middle of the creek where many stood through the years. Sometimes they stood just for a photo with wet pant legs visible, and other times after they completed a swim in the creek dammed up for swimming and baptizing. I myself once lazed on that large rock on long summer days. It even became a goal by some if the water was deep enough to swim when the creek was up, but if not we just kicked off our shoes and waded to the rock. Such fun for children growing up, but many years later the rock was still waiting there patiently for the return of its children. A photo shoot in recent years would be in front of the fallen down root cellar with piled up rocks visible in the background. No children play there anymore, but the old homeplace is never lonely. The nearby sounds of the loud ATVs can easily be heard all Summer, as they roar down the Pinnacle Creek section of the Hatfield and Mccoy trails. The happy sounds of adults playing can be heard instead of children, with the old remnants of what once was reclaimed by nature. Even Grandpa’s beehives and the old apple trees that once lined the path are long gone, but the rocks remain right where they always were.

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