Appalachia Proctor / Hazel Creek Profiles of Mountain People

The Fred Lollis Story

Today’s guest post was written by Don Casada.

The Fred Lollis Story

The Fred Lollis Story

Background

Br’er Jim is the smart one in our family. After all, anyone who can figure out a way to go hunting and fishing, then tell lies and write stories about it for a living has just plain got things figured out.

Seriously, he has a gift for gab, a wonderful way with words, and a heart for the outdoors – and in particular, this place that we call home. A year or so ago, he gave me a copy of a book published by Sporting Classics which he’d co-edited entitled Passages. It’s a fantastic collection of short quotations from quite a spectrum of folks – from Hitler to Thoreau – but all geared toward some aspect of the outdoors – dogs, fishing, hunting, poetry, nature and perspective. [Lest you wonder, the quotation from Hitler had to do with how peaceful things would be now that all guns were registered.] The book makes for pleasant, contemplative reading. I suspect that I read most of it while soaking in the old cast iron tub upstairs in our century and a quarter old house. The tub isn’t as old as the house, since the home didn’t have indoor plumbing to begin with, but I’d bet it is closing in on a century itself. Although I’m not as old as the tub, the older I get, the more I enjoy its company.

But as I’m prone to do, I digress (a tendency that accumulates with the years).

Back during the winter when I was perusing Passages, I sent along a couple of quotations to a few friends, including Tipper. She latched onto one of them and said she wanted to write an article around it. Shortly thereafter, in early spring, she came back to me to see if I might have a photo to go with it. One thing led to another, and here we are with my having agreed to do the article.

As I think back on the sequence, I’m awfully inclined to believe that I’ve been snookered. For those of her readers who’ve not had the pleasure to see our Brasstown Angel in person, let me just note here that to go along with her halo, every now and then there’s this mischievous twinkle that shows up in her chinquapin eyes; when it does, buddy, you better watch out. All of this took place by e-mail, and I reckon I just missed the twinkling.

They came to an old clearing….

The passage which Tipper admired came from a 1936 book entitled Tranquility, by Col. Harold P. Sheldon:

“They came to an old clearing, with its log cabin long since a mere heap of brown mold under a wild tangle of raspberry vines, but with a neglected plot of flowers growing beside the worn stone slab that had been the doorstep of this primitive home – a vernal monument to some pioneer mistress long since forgotten and lost from the dusty records of mankind, but still remembered for her love of beauty by her lilies in this quiet, remote place.”

As some of Tipper’s readers know, my great young friend Wendy Meyers and I are in the midst of a project which involves locating and characterizing old home places in the Swain County portion of what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and studying the people who called the places home. My primary role involves the feet on the ground searching for places; Wendy does much more in the way of gathering information on the families.

When I first began the effort, my principle focus was on chimneys (standing or fallen) and detritus – washtubs, broken glass and dishware, and the like. But as time has passed, my attention and interest has leaned more toward living indicators such as daffodils, roses, periwinkle (vinca), yellowbells (forsythia), mock orange, boxwoods, daylilies, iris, beauty berries, snowball bushes and the like, none of which are native to the area.

When Tipper asked for a photo (and before she asked me to do the writing), I was knee deep in some engineering work, so picked a home site that involved less than a quarter mile, very easy bushwhack – the old Fred Lollis place – to go take a picture. Fred’s place was on Canebrake Branch, a small mountain stream a few miles northwest of Bryson City which was formerly called Sickatowey’s Creek (1820 Robert Love survey).

Fred’s home was situated in a broad, gently-sloping hollow, just below a place where several forks of Canebrake Branch converge. The branch provided not only water for garden irrigation during dry weather, but had sufficient volume and fall to support a small electric generator powered by an overshot wheel which Fred installed just over from the house.

Fred, a confirmed bachelor, was a gentle man who adored children, according to Delia Woodard Watkins, an 88-year young lady who grew up nearby. She describes Fred as a tall, dark, and handsome sort of fellow who always dressed up for church. After church – held at the Epp Springs school near the mouth of Canebrake Branch – let out, he’d laugh and play tag and other games with the children. Delia noted that the older girls in particular were delighted when good-looking Fred played tag, since according to their rules, the one that got tagged got kissed. Now while she didn’t acknowledge a part in such matters, Miss Delia was a mighty pretty young thing herself, and was noted as a speedy runner. The fact that she turned into a teenager in the late 1930s and remembers these tagging and kissing details is mighty suggestive, don’t you think?

When World War II came along, Fred joined the Marines. His papers indicate that at the time he registered with the draft board, he was working for TVA on the Fontana Dam. He had previously worked at odd jobs such as on the survey crew for the North Carolina Park Commission in the late 1920s when land was being acquired for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But he’d also used his farm to produce cash crops, for instance growing beans to sell in the big town of Bryson City.

During the time that he was away in his country’s service, TVA made the decision to acquire all the property, flooded or not, along the north shore of the to-be-impounded lake, including Fred’s. When Fred returned home, he found that his home – located three-fourths of a mile from the impounded waters – had been taken by eminent domain.

Fred and a handful of others legally contested TVA’s right to take land which was not flooded. The small group received positive rulings up to the U.S. Supreme Court, at which point the lower court rulings were reversed. The Supremes allowed that congress had, in essence, given TVA the authority to dam(n) and take whatever they had a mind to. Greatly distressed, Fred took his portion of the $7,269.89 paid by TVA for the 194 acres of land he jointly owned with his brother Arthur, and got about as far away, both geographically and otherwise as he could while remaining in the continental U.S., moving to the San Francisco area. For years he made a living there as a baker.

But in his later life, the mountains of his birth called him home, and Fred lived out his remaining years on the west side of Deep Creek close to other members of the Lollis clan. He set up a trout hatchery near his house – yet another enterprise by a man who was obviously both talented in any number of areas and was possessed with considerable gumption.

In addition to selling fingerlings, he stocked an old mine pit near his house with them. At some point, he decided to get all the trout out of the mine pit and called on the family to help with the catching. According to his grandniece, Shirley, it took a considerable effort to both haul out and clean all the trout, and they ate on those trout (from the freezer) for a long, long, long time.

On Thanksgiving Day of 1966, shortly after the family had slaughtered and worked up a hog – an annual rite – Fred called his nephew Vernon and asked him to drive him over to the VA Hospital in Asheville. He’d been going to a chiropractor for back pain, but said he thought a doctor ought to have a look. Fred went into a coma the following day, never learning that he had advanced cancer or that two of his ribs had already been completely eaten away. The physical pain must have been terrific, somewhat mindful of the mental torture he’d dealt with when his Canebrake Eden was taken away. Fred died on December 13, 1966, just over two months before my Grandpa Joe.

Fred Lollis chimney, daffodils by Don Casada

 

Today, the chimney at Fred’s place stands in solitary and silent guard, much like the tall and handsome bachelor who made the place his home. It is a testimony to how handy a man he was – from making of surveys to water mills and trout hatcheries, from bean-growing to baking. But his skill of multiple crafts was complimented by his love of things of beauty – a love manifested all around the home in the form of scattered roses, a large patch of yellowbells near what was likely a springhouse location, and several clusters of daffodils below the mill.

Fred’s body rests in the Deep Creek area, not far from other members of his family as well as my own, including Grandpa. But in my mind’s eye, Fred’s not really there at all. He has laid his burdens down, not by the riverside, but alongside a bold mountain stream. There he rests, leaned back in a homemade chair under the branches of a sheepnose apple tree – like those which stood just above his home – whittling out a gee-haw whimmy diddle and smiling as he watches a group of children laughing and splashing in pursuit of spring lizards. Wars and dam(n)s are studied no more; mental and physical anguish are gone. In that place, the authority of eminent domain is wielded not with an ironic combination of bureaucratic zeal and indifference, but with the personal love and attention of the Maker of springs, daffodils, trout, mountains, and men like Fred Lollis.

——————

Passages cover jim casada

 

I hope you enjoyed the story of Fred Lollis as much as I did! If you’d like a chance to read the book, Passages, (which started this whole guestpost idea) you can jump over to Jim Casada’s website. Here are the details:

“Published as part of the celebration of Sporting Classics magazine’s 30th anniversary, Passages: The Greatest Quotations from Sporting Literature is a compilation of enduring and memorable tidbits of wisdom and wit from the world of the outdoors. Coverage touches on all aspects of the natural world, with separate sections devoted to hunting, fishing, dogs, poetry, humor, and viewpoints on the sporting life. The excerpts, drawn from books, periodicals, and other sources, were chosen by co-editors Chuck Wechsler, the Editor and Publisher of Sporting Classics, and Jim Casada, the magazine’s Editor at Large. The latter conceived the idea of a “Quotes” section as the back page of the magazine 28 years ago, and over the years it has become one of the most popular sections of Sporting Classics.

The selections included in Passages constitute the best of thousands of literary quotations which have appeared in the magazine’s pages over the years. Readers will find musings and insights from great names in sport such as Hemingway and Ruark, Rutledge and Leopold, Thoreau and Buckingham, Hill and Babcock, along with snippets of verse from the likes of Robert Service, Rudyard Kipling, and Robert Frost.

The 208-page book includes an Introduction by Jim Casada; an essay entitled “A Fit Inheritance” by Michael Altizer; and dozens of old woodcuts, drawings, and etchings as illustrations. The attractive Smythe-sewn hardback, with gilt edges, gold embossing on the front and spine, and a handsome dust jacket, sells for $25 and can be ordered from Jim Casada (www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com) or Sporting Classics (www.sportingclassics.com).”

Tipper

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Tamela
    July 11, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    The Casada brothers are wonderful storytellers and have such a strong heart connection to their stories that one can’t help but be reeled into them.
    Don’s story of Fred Lollis is certainly, as others have said, bittersweet – but perhaps that seasoning is the essence of a good story.
    Thanks for sharing it.

  • Reply
    james gentry
    July 9, 2014 at 8:54 am

    This was a wonderful read. I am so glad you introduced us to Fred. Very well written. Bittersweet.

  • Reply
    Annette Casada Hensley
    July 7, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    Tipper, thank you for talking my brother into writing this story. His passion truly shows itself in his writing. Can’t wait for Wendy & him to get to a point where they can publish some of their research. Delia Woodard Watkins is the mother of one of my classmates and has become a much loved friend. She is truly a gem and has been the source of much of Don’s info.

  • Reply
    SandyCarlson
    July 7, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    This post is why I love your blog.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    July 7, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    RB and Ed (and anyone else interested),
    Canebrake is now part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP), as is nearby Peachtree Creek where Delia Woodard Watkins, daughter of Will and Miley Sutton Woodard, grew up. After TVA took the land in conjunction with the building of Fontana Dam, it gave the land on the north shore of Fontana Lake to the Park Service.
    The land taken for the construction of Fontana was small in comparison to that taken for the original formation of the GSMNP (less than a quarter of the Park land in Swain County came from the north shore area).
    A word which aptly describes my own feelings relative to the park – both the original and the TVA portion – is bittersweet. The park provides a large backcountry area where a mountain boy like me can fetch himself for a day of wandering in which, as the hymn In the Garden goes, “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses…….and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”
    On the other hand, when you walk through some of the places which had obviously been tended with great affection and care (both the Fred Lollis and the Will & Miley Woodard places are excellent examples), your heart cries out for their loss.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 7, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    By the way, Ron, Delia’s father was one of nine children born to Will Woodard and Miley Sutton. Will had another wife, my great grand aunt Sarah Breedlove, and eight more children. That’s all I know about so far, but there is a gap of nine years between 1905 and 1914.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 7, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    I really enjoyed “The Fred Lollis Story”. Don’s writings, although sparse compared to Br’r Jim’s, exhibit a passion for his beliefs not as evident in his elder sibling’s. He gets pissed and puts it on paper. I like that! I am like that!
    A question for Don. Does he know who has title to the Lollis Place now? Here where I live now, both sides of Lake Rhodhiss and Lake James were, until recently, owned by Duke Power (Crescent Resources). Now it’s all being sold off to real estate developers who in turn sell lake front lots in gated communities to multimillionaires. We used to walk down to the river to “take a kid fishing.” If we try it now, we get arrested for trespassing. If you don’t have a boat, the only access you have is around boat launches and then it’s bring your own rock and learn to speak Spanish and a plethora of oriental dialects.

  • Reply
    RB
    July 7, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Devilish thing about this whole story is, the government took his land (while he was off serving in WW2 no less), and now all up there along Canebrake Branch and beyond is being developed into 3-6 acre lots for luxury homes that MUST be valued at several hundred thousand dollars before they can buy the property to be built there – all this after the government kicked him off and gave him and his brother only a little over $7,000 for their whole 194 acre.
    Now I don’t care what measure a man (or government) uses, that’s just plain wrong; and might be an answer to why so many have grown to distrust our government so much.
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    July 7, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    Tipper,
    Sorry for not proof-reading my comment.
    That should have been Fred Lollis…Ken

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    July 7, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Tipper,
    I liked the passage of the “old clearing” too. I’ve known a few of
    those “Mountain Men” like Fred Hollis
    and I’m always amazed at their knowhow.
    Don, you did a great job, explaining
    some of Fred’s undertakings, and you
    truly have earned a Son of the Smokies.
    …Ken

  • Reply
    Luann
    July 7, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    Wonderful post. Thank you for such a touching ‘word picture.’

  • Reply
    C. Ron Perry, Sr.
    July 7, 2014 at 9:50 am

    Wonderful article. Delia’s mother, Miley Sutton Woodard was the daughter of my great grandfather, Silas Sutton and his second wife, Mary Ann “Polly” Ball. Silas was a chimney maker and built many of the chimneys in and around Bryson City during his livetime (born in 1856) and some are standing today after the houses have been long gone. I loved this story and all of your stories for that matter.

  • Reply
    Tom
    July 7, 2014 at 9:47 am

    Thanks, Don! A truly great story about a true mountain man. So very glad that he was able to come home again to the mountains he loved.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    July 7, 2014 at 8:33 am

    I should have noted that the photograph of the waterwheel was not from the Fred Lollis place. That one was at a home owned by William Calvin and Elizabeth Jane Welch, grandparents of a classmate of mine, Dan Welch. There are no known photos of either Fred’s mill or his house. I was also unable to locate a photo of Fred, unfortunately.
    The photo of the daffodils and chimney was taken at the Fred Lollis place; I was standing close to the branch, just down below the former mill site.

  • Reply
    Ken Ryan
    July 7, 2014 at 8:15 am

    Great job, Don. I enjoyed it immensely.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 7, 2014 at 7:24 am

    Thanks, Don! Your love of these mountains shows through in every word. I live in a little patch of woods in WNC and I feel comforted by every tree and the lot next to mine has the foundation remains of a house. I’ve never researched it but sometimes wonder who lived there.
    Fred sounds like a true man of these mountains. I’ve known a few of them.

  • Reply
    eva nell wike, PhD
    July 7, 2014 at 7:23 am

    A wonderful and far-reaching post. It includes many issues which need more attention from ‘the poor folks’ point of view.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    July 7, 2014 at 6:48 am

    This story left me wanting to read more about Fred Lollis. It is great to know that I share a love of Appalachian history with others. Thank you to Don for having such a deep interest in the families and history of the area.
    How many times have I passed a still standing chimney or a small cluster of daffodils in a remote location only to wonder about the folks who once lived there? My favorite is to view an old overgrown narrow roadbed that obviously carried horses at one time. Sure wish we had an excellent writer like Don Casada to research and write about these locations in southern WV. Thank you, Tipper, for having the unique ability to search out the things that touch the heart.

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