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Cane Pole
08-13-2012, 07:14 PM
I know this isn't about fly fishing, but it is about the Smokies.

Many of you may know of Lem Ownby, who was the last person who lived in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He lived in an old cabin up on Jakes Creek (above Elkmont). Lem was my grandmother's cousin. My grandfather and I visited him all the time when I was a kid - they were big buddies. I didn't know it at the time, but most everybody affectionately called him "Uncle" Lem. I called him that too, but it was because I really thought he was my great-uncle. I guess it was easier to explain "great uncle" to a young boy rather than "first-cousin-twice-removed" (I had to look it up).

When the National Park was established, Lem decided to take a lifetime lease, which meant that he could live there for the rest of his life. Lem was quite a character and he raised bees. As you can imagine, it was undoubtedly some of the best honey in these parts. Papaw liked the Linn honey, but I was partial to the Sourwood.

Lem was all but blind, and he could only make out shapes. One day while he was showing us his bee hives (for the umpteen hundredth time), he told my granddad and me that just a few evenings ago he heard a commotion when a bear was getting into his hives. I perked up when he said that he went out and ran it off. I immediately asked him how he was able to do that (being blind and all). He said he grabbed his shotgun and shot at it. I couldn't help but laugh having the visual of some old blind guy shooting aimlessly at a bear. I asked him how he could tell where the bear was to shoot at it, and he said he could hear it snorting. I told Papaw on the way home that I didn’t think I ever wanted to go hunting with Uncle Lem and we had a good laugh over it.

These are the only pictures I can find of Lem, and to my knowledge could very well be the last taken of him alive. He was somewhere around 93 years old, but nobody knows for sure. It had been quite a few years since I had been to see him, but I wanted to go because he was getting up in years. When I walked up, he was out milling around and I hollered at him from a distance so I wouldn't startle him, and l told him who I was. We sat on the porch of his cabin in a couple of old rocking chairs. When we sat down, he just rocked and didn’t say a word for what must’ve been at least 20 minutes. (That wasn’t too uncommon, but it was definitely a long time). I didn’t say anything either, and just thought that he didn’t realize who I was. Finally, I was about ready to leave, when he looked up in my direction and said, “How’s Doc?” (my dad) and “How’s Wilford?” (my granddad). He knew exactly who I was, he just wasn’t in any hurry. We talked for a while and he told a few jokes. That was the last time I saw him.

http://i267.photobucket.com/albums/ii302/morrisro/Hunting/th_LemOwnby_01.jpg (http://i267.photobucket.com/albums/ii302/morrisro/Hunting/LemOwnby_01.jpg) http://i267.photobucket.com/albums/ii302/morrisro/Hunting/th_LemOwnby_02.jpg (http://i267.photobucket.com/albums/ii302/morrisro/Hunting/LemOwnby_02.jpg)

Breck
08-13-2012, 07:31 PM
Excellent story Cane Pole. When were these pics taken and the last time you visited.

Breck

surfdog
08-13-2012, 08:32 PM
these stories are the reasons I check this site everyday.thanks for sharing a peice of your family history.

Grannyknot
08-13-2012, 09:35 PM
Cool Story.
Are you by chance the guy at the little outdoor store in west knoxville?

ifish4wildtrout
08-13-2012, 09:36 PM
A great read. I think it would suite me fine to have lived a life like that.

BlueRaiderFan
08-13-2012, 10:27 PM
Very, very cool.

Rob Johnson
08-14-2012, 02:15 AM
Excellent story. Trying to figure out where I have heard about bthis blind guy on Jake's creek before? He may be famous.

Cane Pole
08-14-2012, 06:39 AM
Excellent story Cane Pole. When were these pics taken and the last time you visited.

Breck

You know, I just don't recall exactly, but I think it was around Dec of 81 or 82 (I want to say '82). My recollection is that it wasn't too long before he died which I think was sometime around 1984. So it was probably a year or 2 before that. But, I simply don't remember - that was half a lifetime ago :confused:

Cool Story.
Are you by chance the guy at the little outdoor store in west knoxville?

Nope

Grannyknot
08-14-2012, 08:24 AM
Nope

You should look these guys up then. They claim Lem was their great great uncle. Possibly a different side of the family from you?

http://unclelems.com/Lem_s_Tales.html

Cane Pole
08-14-2012, 08:52 AM
You should look these guys up then. They claim Lem was their great great uncle. Possibly a different side of the family from you?

http://unclelems.com/Lem_s_Tales.html

I remember him telling my granddad and me about the Supreme Court Justices. We must've been up there relatively soon after that happened because it was fresh on his mind and he told his version of that story to us as if it was just "matter-of-fact" - he was quite adamant that he didn't want to talk to them. That was funny!

That was a long time ago and I remember that he just said it was some guys from Washington - didn't mention who it was. I know my granddad got a big kick out of it when he found out who they were. My grandfather was a real history buff -- (if you wanted to know anything about American history, the fall of the Roman Empire, or the Queen of Sheba then he was your man)

Not sure who owns that store. I'd say ol' Lem's got quite a few descendants. I know my great-great-grandmother died just before she turned 113 and had literally hundreds!

Right after I graduated highschool back in 1975, I was talking to a buddy of mine one day about the Smokies and hiking and hunting/fishing etc like we always did. Now we had been friends for a long, long time and had hiked all over the Smokies together and hunted together quite a bit. For some reason I started telling him about Lem and the fact that he still lived in the Park and all that. My friend stopped me and said, "Yeah, I know, he's my great uncle." I looked at him like he had two heads and said, "No, he's my great uncle." Turned out that he and I were 3rd cousins and didn't even know it. His grandmother was Lem's sister. Small World, huh?

Bran
08-14-2012, 12:07 PM
I have cherished this conversation since you and I talked about it a couple of years ago. It's always a joy to hear! I could have lived right there with him, and been just as happy as a pig in mud. I love to hear stories about the way things were. My latest interest is studying the indians and the way they lived, both the one's here in Southern VA and the groups in NC and TN. I'll tell you, folks had a hard scrabble life, but, they didn't know that, and were just surviving. Now, in the world we live in it looks like heaven to some of us to not worry over "things", and just to make a living honestly, by your sweat, and be content to sit on the porch at the end of the day and think it all over.
My Grandaddy, and his before him were much like Uncle Lem. They worked a Tobacco crop, cut their own fire wood, dug their own wells, milked the cow, fed the hogs and chickens the feed that they raised and ground, and tended a couple of hives of bees. All of that, sun up to sun down, and I'll bet I worry over more things in a day than they did in a month! I miss that life even though I only knew a little of it as a child. I miss when there were no computers, and cell phones, and email, and on and on. Here's to Uncle Lem, my Grandaddy, and all of our forefathers, they would be miserable in the world we live in today. We would be better off in more ways than one if we lived in their world.

Bran
08-14-2012, 02:21 PM
By the way Robb, where was the cabin exactly? I'm not sure if you've been up there recently but they've made a parking lot there where you turn out to go to the cemetary above Daisy Town and I've walked on up a ways to a little house right there against Jake's creek that sits maybe 1/4 mile to a 1/2 mile above the upper end of Daisy town.
I can't remember for sure but I'm thinking the trail crosses right there.

Grannyknot
08-14-2012, 04:06 PM
........ My latest interest is studying the indians and the way they lived, both the one's here in Southern VA and the groups in NC and TN.

Bran, you should read William Bartram's "Travles and Other writings".

jeffnles1
08-14-2012, 06:07 PM
My grandmother grew up on a tobacco farm in Kentucky. They didn't have tractors, a car or electric in their home. She said she didn't know anything about the "Great Depression" until many years later when she moved to the city with my grandfather (after WWII). She said they were poor before, during and after the depression.

There were things to worry about back then. My great grandmother (her mom) almost died during the influenza outbreak. She was in bed for several months after.

Simple cuts could be life threatening and many diseases that today are treatable were death sentences back then.

On the other hand, the stresses we experience in our daily lives are huge compared to "back then".

I never lived on the farm. I've lived in the city and 'burbs all my life. I do very frequently fantasize about the life Lem led.

Jeff

Cane Pole
08-14-2012, 06:48 PM
By the way Robb, where was the cabin exactly? I'm not sure if you've been up there recently but they've made a parking lot there where you turn out to go to the cemetary above Daisy Town and I've walked on up a ways to a little house right there against Jake's creek that sits maybe 1/4 mile to a 1/2 mile above the upper end of Daisy town.
I can't remember for sure but I'm thinking the trail crosses right there.

I have not been back up in there in quite some time. Lem's cabin was up Jakes Creek, probably about a mile from the confluence with Little River. I think it was close to where the Meigs Mountain trail crosses Jakes. Back then you could drive up to it.

pmike
08-14-2012, 11:33 PM
Speaking of cousins...back soon after i graduated in 73, I noticed a beautiful blond from a neighboring school. That girl was "Hollywood Pretty" no joke and had a figure to match her beautiful face. I, along with about a hundred or so other guys used to chase after her, trying to impress her but never getting anywhere (thank you Jesus). I eventually lost track of her and after several years was preparing to move from Florida to Oklahoma for school. Before moving I had gone out shopping for a few clothes with my Mom and we happened upon a lady that had once been married to one of my Mom's cousins but had since, divorced him. As we spoke with this lady, she mentioned that her daughter "Linda" was there and should be somewhere close by...low and behold a few minutes later, "Linda" walked up and sure enough she turned out to be that beautiful blond, who was in fact my cousin.

A similar situation happened to my nephew one day when he brought his date home to meet the family and his mother, my sister recognized the "date" as one of our cousins.

Sorry for going off topic here, but I couldn't help but think back after reading about your cousin :)

Mike

Rob Johnson
08-14-2012, 11:36 PM
Knoxville journalist Carson Brewer wrote about Lem Ownby around 1980. You can find a couple of stories about Lem in Brewer's book "A Wonderment of Mountains, The Great Smokies" which I highly recommend. Mr. Ownby said that becoming blind was "unhandy" and yet he soldiered on for many years. Brewer tells a story of Lem that two supreme court justices came to his home and he refused to see them. They thought highly of his "stubborn independence". Me too.;)

Bran
08-15-2012, 08:10 AM
That story is right here:
http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2010/jun/19/uncle-lem-was-unimpressed-by-justices/

Grannyknot, I've heard of Bartram's book. I'll check it out and thanks!

Robb, I'm going up there next time I'm out that way and just look. I know it's probably grown up now but I'm just curious.

You history buffs would enjoy coming to Southside VA and visiting me sometime. I live at the center of one of the largest plantations from the old south. Matter of fact the owner, James Bruce, is on record as the largest single slave owner in american history. What a distinction, right? Anyhow, the mansion burned in 1896, it was named Woodbourne, but, the over seer's house is still standing behind my house. The Bruce's cemetary is in my front yard, and there are slave graves all over our farm with the remains of the slave quarters foundations, old ice pits, and about 3 or 4 winters ago I found the blacksmith shop foundation. I knew this because I cleaned back the piles of leaves and rotting vegetation and found the base and outline of the firing kiln and a few tools almost rusted away.

Mr. Bruce's 2 sons each built greek revival style mansions, both of those are still in use. One you can Google and see, it's named Berry Hill and is about 10 miles from my home. It was sold and is a resort/ conference center. The other was Staunton View and it is still in the Bruce family now.