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Old 11-23-2011, 10:07 AM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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Default A Tidbit of Park History

Since at least a few of you who follow this forum have an interest in history, I thought I would share an anecdote connected with the ceremony and FDR's talk which sort of constituted the Park's official opening. The Park had been around for a number of years when FDR traveled to Newfound Gap, but it still did not have the geographical configuration it does now. That would come a few years later with the completion of Fontana Dam and the flooding of the lake. At that point TVA removed folks living along the reaches of all the streams and branches flowing into the Little Tennesse River's north shore. It wasn't pretty. I won't go into detail here, but TVA's exercise of eminent domain was about as heavy-handed and heartless as is humanly possible. If you read some of the comments of so-called social workers or agents with TVA, you would know there is a special place in **** reserved for them. Enough of that though. I mention it simply because one individual who attended the inaugural Park ceremonies was from lower Forney Creek (or Forney's Creek, as it was known at the time).

My father was present at the event, but he got there the easy way--by car. But George Monteith, a bachelor who lived on lower Forney's Creek, went by shank's mare. He hiked from less than a half mile from where Forney's emptied into the Little Tennessee River, up to the headwaters of the creek, out the main ridge line from the Clingmans Dome area to Newfound Gap, listened to the speeches from FDR and others, turned around, and hiked back home. I have no idea of the exact mileage he would have covered in a single day, but it probably would have been somehwere in the area of 40 miles.

I knew George Monteith well as a boy and young man, but I had no idea of this remarkable perambulation until after his death. I knew him as someone who was a remarkable fisherman with a cane pole (he was, in effect, Tenkara fishing long before the Japanese term and method was ever heard of in these parts). Give him a long cane, eight or 10 feet of line, and a Tellico nymph--it was time to get grease in the skillet and sift some corn meal.

I have no idea whether this will interest anyone else, but I thought it worth sharing to sort of test the waters.

Jim Casada
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Old 11-23-2011, 10:30 AM
kentuckytroutbum kentuckytroutbum is offline
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Jim-

Interesting story. My Dad was born & raised in E. Tn, near the town of Treadway. He, and his Dad (my grandfather) related similar stories to me about the heavy handed way that the TVA dealt with the landowners. The local people were thankful for the electricity when it finally got to them, but the animosity about TVA lasted a long time.

Thanks for sharing with us.

Bill
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Old 11-23-2011, 10:34 AM
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Grannyknot Grannyknot is offline
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That's quite a feat Jim. Thanks for sharing that.

Do you know of any books that are written specifically on the removal of the people living on the north shore? Maybe a book about the building of the dam has a chapter on the removal of residents?

When my dad used to work for TVA fisheries he got a hold of some old case studies that were distributed to employees about the "relocation" of the residents of Loyston and the controversial building of the big valley levee during the construction of Norris Dam. I would think that there were similar case studies or documents on Fontana dam.
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Old 11-23-2011, 10:57 AM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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Grannyknot--I'm almost certain that there are detailed case histories in the TVA archives in Atlanta. My brother has done far more digging into this than I have and I'll try to remember to ask him. As for books, Lance Holland's Fontana has useful information. Far more detailed, although a dry-as-dust read is TVA's official account, The Fontana Project.

There is still considerable animosity directed at the TVA in Swain County, and there was actually a petition/lawsuit aimed at having Alcoa, rather than TVA, build Fontana. The lead petitioner and organizer was Jack Coburn (Coburn Knob in the Park is named for him and he provided the site where Horace Kephart is buried). He was probably the most influential man in the area.
He and his wife, along with a sister-in-law, died in a wreck in the Nantahala Gorge shortly after the petition had gone to authorities. Many folks felt the wreck, which saw their vehicle end up in the Nantahala River, it was highly suspicious. I know exactly where it occurred and it is a straight stretch of road (unusual in the Gorge). Locals suggested that a truck had intentionally run them off into the river. Who knows, but what is indisputable is that TVA was capable of mean, underhanded activities in its land dealings and legal proceedings.

Jim Casada
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Old 11-23-2011, 12:16 PM
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Thank you Jim, very interesting, especially your last comments. Definately a point to ponder. I always enjoy reading history but it's always better when handed down or told from a story teller as this is. As you pointed out, a lot of the "official" records are dry as dust. Living in the center of Civil War country I have some official volumes on the battles and batteries but it's always more interesting to read the quoted accounts or like Outdoor Life magazine phrases it "This happened to me".
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Old 11-23-2011, 04:47 PM
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that was a great story, thanks.
there is still animosity toward tva here. i used to work with a great guy, darrell, a few years ago. an older dude, he grew up fishing the little T where tellico lake now sits. i loved and hated talking history with him because he did have alot of anger directed at tva and a couple of senators from tennessee. the conversations always started out great, about how beautiful it was and the best trout fishing in the southeast and usually ended with him red in the face. i was afraid he would go into cardiac arrest.
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Old 11-23-2011, 05:02 PM
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Rog 1 Rog 1 is offline
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While I am not from the "mountains" my mother's family is and I still have blood kin in the area...several years ago my fishing buddy and I were on our annual fall trip and were coming down from Ramsey Cascades...at the parking lot were two gentlemen walking the area and looking at the water....as luck would have it we were engaged in conversation about out luck at fishing and soon discovered the older gentleman had grown up in a cabin at that exact spot....wish I could remember his name but just can't pull it up.....I do remember he was a preacher living around Pitman Center....but he relayed about having been raised on the mountains and how they were moved out by the government....I did look up his name and he has taken part in local festivities where he spoke on his family's history....my uncle's uncle lived up on Greenbrier and he and his cousin would catch grasshoppers in the apple orchard, place them in match boxes for bait containers and fish up through the gorge above where the foot bridge is today...My grandfather's grandmother's maiden name was Porter...had wondered if there was a connection with Porter's Creek in Greenbrier...but found out the creek is named for one of the surveyors that mapped out that part of the Park...later found out that he was from Virginia where our "Porter" had come from so maybe there is a far off connection...stuff like this is just amazing....Happy Thanksgiving.
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Old 11-23-2011, 07:47 PM
rbaileydav rbaileydav is offline
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i have always been fascinated by the history of that area and what it must have been like back then. Lots of change, a lot good but definitely some for the bad as well. Please keep up these type stories as they are fascinating to us outsiders and while kephart is great it is always more interesting to hear form the actual local perspective.

thnaks and keep em coming

DD
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Old 11-24-2011, 08:25 AM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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rbaileydav--For what it is worth I guess I could be considered a Kephart scholar (I wrote a lengthy Introduction to the University of Tennessee Press reprint of Camping & Woodcraft, edited a collection of his writings on firearms published by Palladium Press, and have published numerous articles on him over the years). From that perspective, along with the fact that I had the opportunity to interview a number of folks in Bryson City who knew him well in their later years, I'll make a number of points about him:
1. Although he had a box of flies among his belongings when he died, no one ever remembered him fishing and I don't think he ever mentions personally fishing anywhere in his writings.
2. His depiction of mountain folkways in Our Southern Highlanders is terribly unreliable and unfair. He demeans us, especially in the revised edition from the 1920s, and adopts all sorts of stereotypes.
3. His information on mountain linguistics or speech patterns, on the other hand, is spot on.
4. On a personal level he was a sorry individual, abandoning six children and a wife to come to the Smokies. Drink was the great burden of his life and he never overcame its deadly hold (literally deadly as he died in a wreck after visiting a local moonshiner).
5. Once he abandoned his family, he did absolutely nothing to help them.
6. His greatest mastery lay, without much question, in camping and cooking, and I personally nominated him for the American Camping Hall of Fame. He was, along with Theodore Roosevelt, an inaugural inductee.
7. I presented my views of Kephart at a symposium at the Univ. of Tennessee Library early this year. Anyone interested in a great deal more detail can visit the Tuck Reader (an on-line publication) and read an abbreviated version of my remarks.

In closing I would note that my father knew Kephart and had no use for him. That was generally true in Bryson City and Swain County, according to Dad (who died this past year at the age of 101), although there were a few notable exceptions.

Jim Casada
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Old 11-24-2011, 01:25 PM
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pmike pmike is offline
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Default Great info

I cannot imagine that kind of a hike even if spread out over several days. Just the few miles we hiked up Deep Creek took us a couple of hours, some brusied feet, and one toe nail. Seems like the folks of the pre-park era had to work pretty hard, even at the simple aspects of daily living.
Thanks for sharing!

Mike
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