The Fred Lollis Story

Today's guest post was written by Don Casada.

Waterwheel - William Calvin, Elizabeth Jane Welch place from Don Casada

The Fred Lollis Story


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 ( or Sporting Classics ("


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Of Mountains, Mountain People, and Mountain Waters That Call Their Children Home

Today's guestpost was written by Don Casada, Don also provided all the photographs.

Hazel creek basin

Looking northeast up the Hazel Creek basin from the south side of Fontana Lake

Of Mountains, Mountain People, and Mountain Waters That Call Their Children Home
written by Don Casada 

Close on the heels of dog days, on a warm September morning, a shuttle boat carried a gathering of folks across Fontana Lake. Shortly after leaving the launch area at Cable Branch, the boat passed over the streambed of what was once a fine mountain river. 

From way back in the mountains, hundreds of feeder streams laughed, jumped, played, and sang along their descending way. Boisterous waters showered diamond sprays of life onto the stream banks where ramps, sarvis, squirrel corn, bluets and yellow root reaped the blessings of their contagious joy. They were living, life giving waters. 

Trickles became branches, branches became forks, and forks became creeks. The accumulated collections fed the Oconaluftee, Tuckasegee, Nantahala and Little Tennessee Rivers, waters eons older than the Cherokee names which predated the arrival of white men. The Tuckasegee, a man among men flowing on an east-west course, met the south-to-north flowing lady of the Little Tennessee. It was love at first sight, and the couple was married near the place that would become the little town of Bushnell. Tuck, the gentleman, defied human convention and took on the name of his bride. Although they called themselves the Little Tennessee, it was Tuck’s east-west course that they followed from that point on, in deference to his better judgment. For Tuck, unlike the sweet Little T, drew much of his life blood from the Great Smoky Mountains which they would skirt along the rest of their way. Of all those who traveled these mountains, no one knew every holler like Old Tuck.

Now more mature in demeanor than in their earlier rambunctious ways, the two that were now one inclined to a gentler course, as if on a front porch swing of a Sunday afternoon. But they could still kick up their heels every now and then. Like all couples, they’d occasionally have their issues, separating to the left and the right around Calhoun Island near Wayside. Differences resolved, they rejoined hands downstream, and the family continued to grow along the way.

Damned by progress and dammed by the TVA, laughter and family ties along this section of the Little Tennessee have been silenced and broken for seven decades. The life-giving energy from North Carolina Counties of Jackson, Macon (Macon’s part includes a charitable donation from Rabun County, Georgia), Graham and Swain is deadened by the dam, harvested by turbines, and sent by wires without payment into Tennessee. The formerly vibrant river lies buried beneath 370 feet of stagnant water and silt accumulation at the point where our boat passed over.

Our destination was Hazel Creek, a place where unhindered waters still flow and echoes of laughter yet linger, unreachable by the roads of an uncivilized world. There are those who despair the lack of road access to this land, including some of our little company. A sense of betrayal by the same federal government – which took the land that many called home - underlies the despair. But were there now a road to this place, I fear that the song it sings softly in minor mountain key would be lost in the discordant strife and the noise. That has certainly been the case for Cades Cove, located just across the spine of the Smokies, where an armada of automobiles daily assault what was once a place of perspicacious people imbued with both the spirit and ability to make do.

There are reasons aplenty to go to this place and others like it. I routinely find myself seeking the refuge of walking and crawling, sometimes tumbling and sliding through these mountains, most often alone. Whisperings of advice and signs of parental affection – as well as stern admonitions – from these mountains (which are indeed our parents) are most readily perceived by the wonderfully lonesome, if somewhat prodigal, child.

But on this day, I was glad to be in the company of some like-minded companions. Though seeking a place, ours was not a search for solitude. We were intent on congregating, committing, honoring, and remembering. 


The particular place on Hazel Creek to which we were headed has been known since the late 1800s as Proctor. Sometime before 1830, Moses and Patience Proctor settled here and began raising a family. Their home place was on what is now known as Shehan Branch in Possum Holler. It empties into Hazel Creek – or directly into the lake itself when it is full – almost four miles from where Hazel Creek once emptied into the Little Tennessee River. 

  Robert Brazier Map of 1833

Robert Brazier map of 1833.  The red dot marks Proctor, the blue ellipse indicates Cades Cove 

The Proctors had come over the main spine of the Smokies from Cades Cove. If it was solitude and elbow room they sought, they found it. Based on the sequence of names in the 1830 Macon County census (this area is now in Swain County, but Swain wasn’t formed until 1871) and knowledge of where other families located, it was likely well over a half-dozen miles to their closest neighbors. Something just felt right about this particular place, so they carved out a home and a life for themselves and their children here. Bradshaws, Cables and others were soon to come to the area, but it remained sparsely populated for decades. 

In 1848, Joseph Brackett composed the Shaker Hymn, Simple Gifts. Though penned a thousand miles away near the northeastern end of the Appalachian Mountain range, the words could well have applied to the lives of Patience, Moses, and their children in the Hazel Creek valley:

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free,

‘tis the gift to come down where you ought to be.

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

It will be in the valley of love and delight.

Times and seasons pass; lives and circumstances change. The Civil War took away two of their sons, Moses, Jr. and Mansfield. Moses, Sr. died, perhaps of a broken heart, in 1864.  Patience lived to see the end of the war and the return of two sons and a son-in-law, but according to family tradition described by Duane Oliver in Remembered Lives, she was never the same. She died in 1870, and is buried beside Moses on the ridge near their home.

Over time, their children and their children’s children drifted to and fro, ranging up the river and across the mountains back into Tennessee. Ritter Lumber Company arrived and set up a massive operation in the early 1900s, providing hundreds of jobs - for a time. But by the late 1920s, the raw materials of the entire Hazel Creek basin had been sawn, kiln dried, cut to dimension, and shipped away to become floors, furniture, books and toilet paper, so Ritter Lumber closed shop. While there were still several dozen families who owned land and lived in the area, including some descendants of Moses and Patience, the vast majority of the Hazel Creek drainage was now owned by land speculators such as Jack Coburn and James Gudger (to whom Ritter had sold its vast holdings). Private fishing waters were established, with uninvited natives unwelcome.

Physical connections to vestiges of life as it had once been were completely severed by the construction of Fontana Dam in the early 1940s. Exercising powers of what might be called pre-eminent domain with a will, TVA acquired all lands on the north shore of Fontana, removed the people and turned the land over to the Department of Interior for inclusion in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is worth noting here that the entire area along the north shore of the Little Tennessee had been coveted for the Park since the 1920s; in fact, it had been included in the original park outline, drawn in 1926.

In the course of a century, Hazel Creek witnessed the coming of the first white settlers, an era of slow increase in families on subsistence farms, followed by a period of rapid industrial and job growth, an equally rapid loss of resources – and thus industry and its jobs. By the time the 1930 census was taken, there were but two dozen individuals on the entire north shore who listed saw mill or logging as their trade, and most of these were well to the east of Hazel Creek. 

Just over a decade later, there was to be no more permanent human presence. 

And yet…..even now, there is something about this place which seems to want people around, and it keeps calling its children home. I have, by shank’s mare, traveled the length and breadth of the Smokies. In most of the places I walk, I get a sense that my mountains are content with the occasional passerby, preferring to speak in private, at least with this itinerant pilgrim. But lower Hazel Creek and the Proctor area in particular seem to me to be a section which asks when I’ve traveled there alone: “Well, it’s good to see you, but why didn’t you bring the rest of them along with you?”

I reckon Proctor just couldn’t stand the idea of not being able to come to Elisabeth Holt’s 16th birthday party, so it reached out across the miles, and called her home. Just as her sister Caitlyn had before her, she chose to be baptized in Hazel Creek near the place where their fifth-great grandparents, Moses and Patience, lived, raised a family, died, and are buried. 

Baptism is an affirmation and a public, personal statement of faith. When I asked the girls why they chose this place, Caitlyn indicated that she did so to affirm her gratitude and connection to all her forebears, and especially to her Pawpaw Troy Proctor, who had died a couple of years before. Elisabeth echoed Caitlyn’s thoughts about the family, and went on to say “but it’s also because I feel really connected to the mountains – it’s my favorite place to be.”

 Proctor cemetery hazel creek

Celyn Holt, Christine Proctor, Caitlyn Holt and Elisabeth Holt at the grave of Moses and Patience Proctor

It is the element of baptism – water – which truly distinguishes the Southern Appalachians, and in particular, the Smoky Mountains from other mountain ranges. The Smokies are a temperate rain forest, with the upper reaches receiving over 80 inches of precipitation a year. The combination of abundant water and elevation range make this place host to an incredible variety of wildlife. Over a hundred species of trees grow here, and the spectrum of wildlife could be described as enthusiastically exuberant. 

Before the baptism, the Angelettes, Chitter and Chatter, sang of waters, recalling when John baptized Jesus in the River of Jordan. Dennis Cole, in lifting his cousin Elisabeth from the water, said “buried with Him in baptism, raised again in newness of life.” Water goes whithersoever the Trinitarian spirit of evaporation, condensation, and gravity wills it to go.  I was struck by the thought that molecules of water which once flowed in the Jordan could very well have been transported across both miles and millennia, and were right there in the Hazel Creek’s cleansing flow on that day.

Along the edge of the pool where the baptism took place, grew a cluster of brilliant red cardinal flowers. Closely associated with water themselves, they flourish along streams, seeps and springs. Words of Isaiah, put into song by Fanny Crosby, came to mind.  Fanny, though blind from childhood, could see further and clearer than most of us ever will:

Though your sins be as scarlet,

They shall be as white as snow.

Though they be red like crimson,

They shall be as wool.


Elisabeth Holt and Dennis Cole after Elisabeth’s baptism

As Elisabeth emerged from the water, her appearance was a radiant white. A light breeze or angel wings rustled through sycamore and oak leaves nearby. The glow of the sun and the Son was reflected in her countenance. Somewhere known only to God, but I suspect it was not all that far away – perhaps just across the river, resting beneath the shade of the trees, generations of Proctors – Moses and Patience, James and Malinda, Jeff and Sarah, Harvey and Minnie, and Christine’s husband Troy – assembled and together sang the song which Elisabeth’s grandmother Christine had requested of our group (but at which we failed miserably):

“Yes, we’ll gather at the river,

The beautiful, beautiful river,

Gather with the saints at the river,

That flows by the throne of God.”

Hazel Creek was stripped sadly bare a century ago. Then the Little Tennessee River and a way of life were flooded by TVA and taken for the national park. But in spite of it – and in an ironic and bittersweet way, perhaps because of it –the Possum Holler and Proctor area which we visited on this day was far more like the promised land of Moses and Patience than if there had been no dam and no national park. There would certainly be no calling of children home to a theme park at Proctor.

In a way, the circumstances are somewhat akin the betrayal of Joseph by his brothers. As Joseph would later say, in forgiving them, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

Whatever the case, on this day, there were smiles on earth and in heaven. A child had come home, to the place where she belonged – to the place just right.

Irrespective of legal title, these mountains belong to Elisabeth. What is more, she belongs to them. No matter where she may wander upon this earth, neither they nor the living Savior who have claimed her will ever let her go.


I hope you enjoyed Don's post as much as I did! Leave him a comment and I'll make sure he reads it.


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Jacob Goleman Johnson September 16, 1921

The proctor graveyard

Last weekend, our trip back in the hills, took me and the girls across Fontana Lake to the Hazel Creek area. Details about our main purpose for the trip will come in a later post, but today I wanted to share something else with you.

Hazel creek proctor

Sunday was an off day for the usual decoration brigade of nice men who transport families and friends to the various graveyards found throughout the area-so that meant we were all walking once the boat let us off. Luckily our trip didn't require us to go very far.

While a few folks set up dinner, a few others-including me and the girls-headed up the road a ways to visit the Proctor Cemetery. We had been there before-but I had forgotten what a beautiful graveyard it is. Like many other mountain graveyards-you have to walk up an incline steep as a mule's face to get there-but once you do it's always worth the effort.

Goleman Johnson Sept 16 1921

As we wondered through the cemetery and read tombstones-I remembered or thought I remembered there was a really neat heart tombstone. I was right-its almost at the very tip top end of the cemetery.

I didn't remember the name at all-just that it was shaped like a heart. The photo above is from the first trip I made-since then the North Shore Cemetery Association has placed a newer marker in front of the old one which reads: Jacob Goleman Johnson Born & Died Sept. 16 1921.

Sometimes making a negative of a tombstone photo will make it easier to read-when I morphed the photo above-I could easily see 'Our Baby' just above Goleman. I didn't see Jacob anywhere on the stone-but I'm guessing the North Shore folks were going by census records.

Jacob goleman johnson sept 16 1921

I don't think I noticed the foot stone the first time I was there-at least I didn't take any photos of it if I did. Sunday I noticed it is another heart with a star enclosing the letter J.

I've pondered the 2 stones since last week. Right off I noticed the date Sept. 16 was coming up fast. I also thought of the love that went into making the stones-no easy task when you're starting with a rock and most likely using nothing but a hammer and chisel.

I tried to explain my thoughts to Chatter. Not to sound mean I said, but in those days loosing a babe on the same day it was born was quite common. Not that it hurt any less, but it was almost expected to loose at least one child. Yet the parents of Goleman Johnson seem to have taken extra pains with his burial.

I imagine it took someone, maybe the father himself, a good long time to carve the stones. I imagine it was an emotional day when they were finally placed. A sad sad day, but hopefully a day they felt they had done right by Jacob Goleman even though he had left them much much too soon.


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Appalachia Through My Eyes - Hazel Creek

Hazel Creek NC photo of hazel creek

This time of the year, the 8th grade students at The Learning Center!start looking forward to their annual field trip to Hazel Creek (an area where people were displaced both by a TVA Dam and by the formation of the Smoky Mountain National Park). 8th graders study NC History-and the school makes every effort to focus on history close to where the students actually live. A trip to Hazel Creek fits perfectly into that effort. The school practices cross curricular teaching-so after the trip the students are required to write a fiction essay based on the trip to Hazel Creek.

Some of you may remember, when Chitter and Chatter were students at The Learning Center! I made a partnership of sorts with the school. They allowed me to publish the best essays written about Hazel Creek as part of my Appalachian Writers series and as a way to encourage the students to keep writing. (if you missed it you can go here for the details)

One chilly day last November we packed up the students and headed for Hazel Creek-only to be turned around by the first snow of the season when we reached the gap above Topton. Since the ferry rides across the lake stop during the winter months it was Spring before the trip could be re-scheduled-and unfortunately I didn't get to tag along on that day. But the students had a great time-and learned a lot about the area and the people who once lived there.

There was only one essay submitted for me to publish from the trip. It was written by Will Coleman and is pefect for my Spooky October Series.


A Trip To Hazel Creek And Beyond written by Will Coleman

It was a cold and foggy morning, like something out of a horror movie; we were heading to the displaced community of Hazel creek. I hadn’t quite been feeling myself as of late, sometimes I would forget what I was doing, or just fade in and out of consciousness. I kept telling myself I was just tired but that didn’t seem right, and this trip was about to give me the most confusing piece of reality I'd ever encountered.  

As we cruised towards Hazel creek I saw a faded, almost ghost-ish vision of the other pontoon boat flipping on a rock, I shook my head and it was gone. As we neared the muddy beach, laden with bleached white rocks, I thought I saw a little kid up in a tree, I blinked hard and he was gone, I must have gotten less sleep than I thought.

As we got off the boats and they left I saw another ghostly apparition of the water flooding in and covering the entire muddy beach. The class started off down what seemed to be an old road, there were bricks, and stones and oddly enough a Gator 4X4. Sam and Patrick tried to start it to no avail, my classmates then suggested hotwiring, but no one knew how, so we abandoned the useless machine were we found it. Walking farther down the path I saw two small stones standing vertically, it was the unmarked Indian grave, then I could’ve sworn I saw a woman with a feather in her hair, weeping over the grave and being carried away by a large man in a feather headdress. I nudged Masen and asked him if he saw what I saw, but I got the "what are you talking about?" look and I dismissed the whole thing. The Calhoun house was cool, but I kept seeing little kids running around and whenever I would ask someone about them or try and talk to them they would just disappear. That’s when we set off for the Proctor/Farley cemetery, things were about to get very, interesting I should say.

The trail to the graveyard was a tell-tale sign of the area, we climbed a steep hill, which then dipped down and then bolted up again. On the gentle descent down I wondered how far the graveyard was, a voice responded to my question, "Not much farther, just up the next hill" I bolted upright, no one was close enough to have said it that gently. I didn’t recognize the voice, but in another odd sense I knew it better than I knew my own voice, now I knew I was going crazy. So I kept walking, but this time in the company of Masen. We walked into the graveyard and looked at the graves, graves of young children, many who hadn’t lived a day, laden the cemetery. I came upon the grave of a man named James E. Russell, August 20th 1912 - June 5th 1937; he was 25 when he died. I felt kind of attached to him, like I knew him, as I walked away something pulled me back towards the grave. Next thing I knew I was unconscious, or was I?

I felt weird, I didn’t feel any pain, but I felt the grass brushing against my feet. Odd I was wearing shoes before things went dark, and my clothes didn’t itch. Then something like sunlight at the end of a long dark tunnel appeared. Then I was immersed in sunlight, enough to blind a man, soon things came into focus. I was sleeping in a sort of sitting position, my back against a tall tree, head cocked downwards. I stood up and stretched, I was wearing an itchy rucksack vest, some poorly sewn, dirty, holey jeans, and I didn’t have any shoes. I looked around, I was in the woods, then something rustled behind me, I pulled a large knife from a concealed pocket on the inside of the vest. A small boy, probably about eight or so walked towards me, not even flinching. He had an old wicker basket; it was half filled with cheap bread, berries and some stringy meat.

"Breakfast is served" He exclaimed and made himself a sandwich. I kept the knife firm in my hand,

"Who are you?" I asked. With a mouth full of food he replied

"Who else am I Todd? I’m your brother, duh."

I stood my ground "My names not Todd, its Will."

"You ok Todd? You never turn down squirrel and berries on bread, now put your knife away and sit down"

"For the last time my names NOT Todd, and I don’t know you!"

"Maybe you should go down to the river and get a drink that might help clear your head."

I walked down to the river, I wasn’t sure how I knew where it was, but I did. The water was clear and cold, moving swiftly downhill, going who knows where, doing who knows what. I stood up and started thinking, when I walked back up the trail I was greeted with a firm slap on the back and what the boy had called, squirrel and berries on bread.

"You feeling better now? Have some, you caught and skinned the squirrel yourself, enjoy."

I sat down hesitantly and tried the meal, it wasn’t half bad.

"What’s your name again?" I asked

"Its James, duh, you really must have hit your head hard yesterday. Maybe I should take you to Doc Simmons."

"Ya, maybe you should, James."

As I faked a limp, things became clearer, I had somehow traded places with someone from 1920; I saw a barbershop, a fully stocked café, Movie Theater, and a train depot. Off in the distance I saw a school, Ball Park and a sign that read, Town of Proctor, Population 1000. As we walked into the doctor’s office I heard a toilet flush, then a skinny man with wire rim glasses appeared from behind a door drying his hands with a hand towel.

"Hello boys, how can I help you?" he said in a surprised tone

"Well Doc. . ." James started, but the good doctor interrupted

"I told you James, call me Mr. Simmons"

"Sorry, Mr. Simmons, Todd hit his head yesterday and thinks his name is Will"

"Amnesia, give it time, he’ll come to"

We walked out of the office; I decided to just roll with the whole amnesia thing. We started walking through town; James tried to "remind me" of who I was by showing me the town. He actually was helping me build a profile of his brother Todd. I thought the two of us were very similar, we liked a lot of the same things, and I started thinking that we would’ve been good friends had we not lived nearly a hundred years apart.

On our way back to what I assumed to be the Russell house, several people stopped us to ask how I was doing after my fall. Every time James would reply in a hushed tone, "he has amnesia" they would put their hand over their mouth and with tender eyes look at me with pathetic sympathy. When we walked into the house, the sun was rolling behind the beauty of the Great Smokies. A woman stared us down with a predatory gaze, then yelled in an embarrassing motherly tone,

"Where have you two been?! You had me worried sick, and what’s this about Todd hitting his head and getting amnesia?!"

"Love you too mom" James responded casually, he walked into another room and sat beside a burly man listening to the radio, I assumed it was Mr. Russell. He sat beside his father listening to what seemed to be the News. After a fantastic meal of chicken and corn Mrs. Russell rushed us to our rooms and threatened us with gardening should we ever scare her like that again. As I drifted off to sleep I realized I hadn’t seen anything weird the whole day, and that was weird in of itself.

The next morning James and I rushed out of the door after enjoying a quick breakfast of fruit. As we ran by the Calhoun house I saw little kids running around, they were mirror images of the ghosts I saw, what had seemed to be, the day before. As we crossed the bridge leading to the ball park I noticed the river was higher, and more turbulent than usual. James didn’t seem to notice; I quickly caught up to the energetic eight year old. He had told me over breakfast that every Saturday, which it apparently was, that the field was lit up by ten large luminous lights so bright they could blind ten men in one shot. So as we rounded the bend behind the ball park and saw that no one was setting up we became suspicious, entering the locked gates with ease we snooped around. As I entered the announcer’s booth I noticed a few barrels that had an orange and red flammable sign on the side of them, James being his irksome self decided to investigate the incendiary tanks. To his disappointment they were empty, In his absence I fashioned a piece of malleable metal into a cross and found some twine, that’s when I saw something that was not for my eyes, something that could change history.

Judiciously I grabbed the concealed knife and nonchalantly walked out of the ball park, James and his guileless self hadn’t noticed my departure. I rushed impatiently towards the clearing; I stuffed the cross into the knife pocket, moving as stealth-fully as I could. As I came upon the clearing I hid behind a large oak, catching my breath, holding the knife tightly in my hand, I peered into the clearing. A large Native American man stood over a lifeless, bloody, scalped body, holding a large knife, and what I presumed to be a scalp. I gasped, and the man turned around quickly, I sized up my knife to his and as he silently crept around I prayed to God I was doing the right thing.

I caught the man by surprise, his back was turned to me and I was able to sink a good portion of my blade into the back of the arm holding his knife. He collapsed and grabbed his arm; he let out a twisted, blood curdling shriek. Then he turned towards me and fixed me with a Bilious, crude, almost predatory gaze. He tackled me easily, but I had the upper hand, I still had my knife. I jabbed it into his side, again he shrieked in pain, but he still would not relinquish his grip on me. It was starting to become hard to breath, he was crushing me. I viciously stabbed at his unprotected back, nothing changed. Then someone leaped from a tree and pulled the man off of me.

Yet another and another suddenly there were near ten Cherokee all surrounding the man. He was bleeding from multiple small, skin deep wounds on his back, a larger, more gruesome slice bled balefully from just above his pelvis. He picked up his knife and stood his ground, an eleventh man came over to me and helped me up. James suddenly rushed into the crowded clearing, terror filled his eyes, and he ran away. A young Cherokee woman went after him, and then a loud, distressed shriek came from behind me. A pregnant woman stood over the dead man, she wept feverishly over his body. She fell to her knee’s sobbing, yet another Cherokee man came over and helped her up and walked her intentionally by the man who I had attacked. I then became aware of a crowd forming on the edges of the forest, people whispering, fantasizing, and guessing. I walked by a couple of large Cherokee men, my direction was right towards the killer, he was a criminal, I’d seen it in his eyes, he was an animal who needed to be stopped and put down. As I barreled towards him a large, strong, hand caught me by my arm and lifted me into the air. I was jerked back, like someone suddenly slamming the brakes and being caught by the seatbelt. The large Cherokee man who had helped the pregnant widow up was holding my arm with a firm grip. He fixed me with a paralyzing stare, he didn’t blink, he just spoke in a deep rough tone, and sorrow dwelled in every word he spoke.

"Are you with, or against my brother?"

"Your brother?"

"The dead man! Did you help kill him, or try to stop it?!" the burly man was on the verge of tears

I shakily responded

"I saw he was in trouble so I came to help him, but when I got here it was too late, I’m sorry"

"Thank you for trying, and I respect your courage, but if we had not showed up when we did, you would have been killed"

I was trying not to think about that, then again maybe that’s how I could get home. I forbid my mind from dwelling on the morbid thought of me dying, the tall man, still fixing me with his powerful eyes, had an entire conversation in one look. He took the bloodied knife from my hand, I did not try and stop him, I turned my head and walked down to the crowd of people, to quell the rumors and tell the truth. As the mob of people surrounded me for answers a terrifying scream skipped across the Great Smokies, and justice was served. I walked back up the bank, the only one brave enough to venture up, I found three things, a motionless body, my knife stuck in a tree trunk and a hand stitched headband hanging above it. I pulled the knife out, grabbed the head band and asked for strong stomached and strong bodied men to come up and assist me with something. I motioned to the dead man and told them to dig a grave; after he was buried I place two semi-square stone at the head and foot of the grave.

As we walked into town you could feel an atmosphere of respect and idolism, as well as envy and hatred, directed towards me. I didn’t care I had learned all about the unmarked burial grave, I only had one more thing to take care of. I walked into the Russell house, as I stepped over the threshold, the house went dead silent, ironic I thought. James walked over to me, Mrs. Russell’s hand on his shoulder, Mr. Russell standing with his hands in his pockets; a smoking wooden pipe protruded from his lips. James then spoke in a disturbed voice.

"Your name really is Will isn’t it? And you’re not from here are you?"

"No James sadly I am not, but I wish I was, this is a beautiful house, you have a loving mother and a strong willed father."

"I know, can you tell me just one more thing, when is Todd coming back?"

It was then I said something I had no knowledge of, "When you all wake up tomorrow, I will be gone and Todd will return from the west, carrying squirrels. He will have no recollection of what has happened, only tell him of a brave boy, similar to him coming and saving the town from a murderer. And should anyone ask, I was your cousin, not a hero."

They all stood in silence, not able to say anything; they all went off to bed. I walked into James’s room; fast asleep I left the metal cross necklace I had made while in the Ball Park on his bedside table. As I walked out of the front door I mumbled to myself, "I’m sorry; I wish I could warn you. May God protect you."

I walked westward into the moonlight; I was flooded over with the same feeling as when I arrived. Next thing I knew I was laying down on the bench at the cemetery. The rest of the day became very fuzzy, I was deciding whether what I had just lived was real of not. As we passed a falling chimney I saw Mr. and Mrs. Russell standing at what would have been the door. Then they disappeared, as we passed the burial grave I looked at the tree where I had found the knife, surely enough, just a couple inches from where the knife had been in 1920 there was a deep gash in the tree bark. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the head band, the colored beads glittered in the sunlight. Finally as we boarded the boat and headed back to one of the Fontana docks I sat down and laid back my head. That’s when I heard a familiar voice, one that scared me in the most pleasant way. It was James and he cheerfully exclaimed, "Bye Will!"

And right before my eyes he went from the eight year old I had left behind, to a twenty five year old man, he winked then dived into the icy waters of Fontana. When I returned home later that day I did some research on James E. Russell, I remarkably found a record saying he drown in the lake, saving what he exclaimed to be his good luck charm, a twisted piece of metal on string, the piece of metal was described to be in the shape of a cross. The one I had put on his bedside table before I left, my first reaction was that I had killed him, but then I remembered, I had saved him from being murdered at the ball park when he was eight. He had one daughter and a beautiful wife, which would never have happened had I not gone back, that night I slept soundly, knowing I had done a good deed.


I hope you enjoyed Will's story as much as I did! Wow does he have an imagination or what-leave him a comment and I'll make sure he reads it!



Appalachia Through My Eyes - A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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The Blind Pig Family Goes To Hazel Creek

The blind pig family goes to hazel creek, nc 
Last Sunday, The Blind Pig Family went to Hazel Creek. During the summer months The North Shore Cemetery Association organizes Decorations for each of the cemeteries along the North Shore of Fontana Lake. (to find out more about their great organization-click on their name)

Beautiful sunrise in andrews nc 
As we headed towards Andrews early that morning-there was a beautiful sunrise.

Ferry ride to hazel creek 
Since Hazel Creek is most easily accessible by boat-there were boat rides to enjoy.

Decoration day at hazel creek 
There was a simple service. Singing hymns in a cemetery is always a moving experience if you ask me.

Tipper Pressley and Mildred Johnson 
There was time spent with my good friend Mildred Johnson.

Going to decoration day at proctor 

And just like the Decorations of my youth-there was a table loaded down with delicious food. 

We visited the Higdon Cemetery and the McCampbell Gap Cemetary (also referred to as the Wilson Family). Both were smaller than the other cemeteries I've been to on Hazel Creek. The first time I ever visited a cemetary on Hazel Creek-I wondered at the new headstones that had been placed in front of some of the old rock ones. (I wrote about the first time I ever visited Hazel Creek here)

Not long after that first trip, I was told the reason for the new headstones. Every year the number of people who actually lived on Hazel Creek is becoming smaller and smaller. It's very important to them-that the graves are marked so future generations will know who has been lain to rest where. Who buys the stones and places them? The North Shore Cemetery Association-and they do it by donations. Donations of money to buy the stones-donations of time from a person who's willing to take them over and set them.

Tom and Minnie Wilson Graves, hazel creek nc 

A few things I especially enjoyed about the trip: At the Higdon Cemetery I discovered 3 Wilson graves all in a row-Tom, Minnie, and an Infant. Are they related to Pap? I don't know.

There was a boxwood at the head of the infant grave-kinda spindly and tall but still quite healthy looking. I wondered if it was planted for the baby? I wondered if it was planted by Tom or Minnie?

A black man buried at hazel creek 
At the same cemetery there was one grave off to the side by itself. You can see it above-the stone simply says "A Black Man". I don't know if I was being overly emotional on Sunday or what-but as soon as I saw the marker tears sprang from my eyes. I felt sadness for a man who was buried without anyone recording his name. I felt gratitude towards the North Shore Folks for giving him a marker too.

I don't have any photos of the McCampbell Gap Cemetery. My camera doesn't do well in low light areas-like woods. But even if I had a better camera-I'm almost positive I couldn't have captured the feel of the cemetery. Most all old cemeteries in the area are on ridge tops. Even though the folks doing the burying were heartbroken with loss-their common sense urged them to save the bottom land for crops.

There were only a few graves in the cemetery. The folks who've been before-and are quite knowledgeable about the area-couldn't recall for sure how many there should have been-the numbers thrown around were between 4 and 8 (there were no new markers). The walk up was steep-steep enough to weed out most of the folks from the first cemetery we visited. On the way up we passed an obvious house place-the chimney and foundation partially still intact but mostly fell to the side.

As we walked up the final stretch-I was surprised to see how small-how narrow-how tightly perched on the ridge the cemetery was. But my surprise was soon replaced by a feeling of home. Oh I have no relatives who were buried there-no loved ones who had to leave their homeland for the better good of society. As far as I know I have no family members who were even remotely connected to Hazel Creek.

Yet I know beyond a shadow of a doubt-those were my people. They were the kind of people who said "come go home with me" or "don't rush off you ought to just spend the night."

The language of those people still springs forth from my lips and I hope it will also spring forth from the lips of my children and my grandchildren. The echoes of the lives they made with their own hands still rings in my ears.


If you'd like to see the Decoration schedule or information about donating money for a marker go here: Fontana North Shore Historical & Cemetery Association


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1918 Flu In Southern Appalachia

1918 flu in western nc 
The Blind Pig family has been lucky this winter-none of us have been sick much-I feel like I should say knock on wood-and actually knock-that's what Granny would do. My niece and I shared a lovely stomach bug on Thanksgiving night-I may never want to eat Turkey again-but other than that we've mostly been well.

Some of you may remember-in the winter of 2009 I had the worst case of flu I've ever had-well I've only had the real flu twice-so maybe I should say-I was sicker than I've ever been in my life. I couldn't even let my Blind Pig readers know-I finally had The Deer Hunter let everyone know-I hadn't died although I felt like I might. If you missed the posts you can read about it here:

Indian Creek Styles Cemetary 

I remember learning about the 1918 Flu Epidemic in school-seems like it was in Elementary School. I'm sure I thought it was interesting and sad-but 2 things made the stark reality of the Epidemic come alive for me. One was my bout of the flu in 09-I truly did think I was near death's door more than once-and the other was when I first visited one of the old cemeteries that are scattered through out the Smoky Mountain National Park.

Proctor Graveyard 

Proctor was the first cemetery I visited along with the kids from TLC! I was so busy snapping photos I didn't take time to really read the info on the stones-until one of the students pointed out several from the same family who died within days of each other. Right away I thought of the flu of 1918.

While it was obvious some of the stones in the Proctor Cemetary were from the era of the Great Flu-we soon noticed other mass casualties from the same family occurred in different time frames. Although it had been months since I had the flu-as I looked and thought about the heartache those families endured by loosing more than one beloved to the 1918 Flu or to some other spreading illness-it made me so thankful to live in the days of modern medicine with fever reducers in my medicine cabinet.

In 1918 The NC Board of Health offered the following advice about the Flu Epidemic:

"Influenza and What You Should Know About It," Bulletin of the North Carolina Board of Health, 33:5 (1918), pp. 38–39.


How and Where Influenza is Spread

  1. By careless spitting, coughing, sneezing, and using the same drinking vessel or towel others have used. The disease germs are carried in the spittle and in the little drops of secretion from the nose and throat.
  2. In crowds and public gatherings, churches, schools, picture shows, business houses, fairs, circuses, trains, or in any other places where people congregate. Soda fountains are especially dangerous if they do not supply individual sanitary cups and sterilized spoons.

How to Keep Away From Taking Influenza

  1. Keep away from crowds, especially indoor gatherings.
  2. Avoid people who cough, sneeze and spit without holding a handkerchief over the nose and mouth.
  3. Do not use common drinking cups or towels, and keep away from the soda fountain that does not supply individual cups and sterilized spoons.
  4. Keep the bowels open. Snuff Vaseline up the nose three times a day. Gargle mouth and throat and rinse out nose with warm salt water, using a level teaspoonful of salt to a glass of warm water. Sleep and eat regularly. These are very important.
  5. Keep in the open air and sunshine as much as practicable and have good ventilation in the home and office. Sleep with your windows open.
  6. Wash your hands before eating and never put your unwashed hands in your mouth.
  7. Do not give the disease to others—when you sneeze or cough always bow the head and cover both the nose and mouth with handkerchief.

Symptoms of Influenza and What to Do if You Take It

  1. In most cases a person taken with influenza feels sick rather suddenly. He feels weak, has pains in the eyes, ears, head or back, and may be sore all over. Many patients feel dizzy, some vomit. Most of the patients complain of feeling chilly, and with this comes a fever in which the temperature rises to 100 degrees to 104 degrees. In most cases the pulse remains relatively slow.

    In appearance one is struck by the fact that the patient looks sick. His eyes and the inner side of his eyelids may be slightly bloodshot or congested. There may be running from the nose, and there may be some cough. These signs of a cold may not be marked; nevertheless the patient looks and feels very sick.

  2. If you have any of the above symptoms, go to bed at once and send for a doctor and follow his directions explicitly.
  3. If you cannot obtain a doctor at once, stay in bed with plenty of cover to keep you warm, open all the windows and keep them open, take medicine to open the bowels freely, and take nourishing food, as milk, eggs, and broth, every four hours.
  4. Allow no one else to sleep in the same room. Protect others by sneezing and coughing into cloths which can be boiled or burned.
  5. Stay in bed until a doctor tells you it is safe to get up; or, until you have been without a fever for at least four days.

What To Do After Recovering From an Attack of Influenza

  1. Influenza is a treacherous disease. If one is fortunate enough to escape pneumonia during or immediately following the attack, the lungs and respiratory system are frequently so inflamed that tuberculosis develops. The heart is overworked and needs rest. Therefore, do not return to work or leave home until you have regained your strength, whether it is a week or a month.
  2. If complete recovery does not take place within two weeks, have your family physician carefully and thoroughly examine every vital organ and function of the body. Follow instructions the doctor may give you after such an examination.

Taken from NC Digital Collection.


Much of the advice given by the NC Board of Health in 1918 would still be good advice today-I'm not so sure about the sniffing of Vaseline though. It is true sickness can hit you quickly. When the girls were little and a stomach virus infiltrated our home-it would show it's ugly head in both girls within a matter of hours.

Unless folks lived in cities or towns I doubt they would have even heard about the NC Board of Health's advice-much less read it. Families who lived in rural areas of Western NC and beyond-probably relied on oldtimey Medicninal Remedies and a good deal of faith to get through the sicknesses that sometimes blindsided their homes.

Before the Flu Epidemic of 1918 was over-it killed millions of people across the world. On the video above-he infers the flu making itself known in the mountains of TN was proof the outside world had reached one of the most isolated regions in the US. Kinda makes me think about smallpox and other sicknesses that were hand delivered to the Native Americans.

Click here to see some photos from the Epidemic of 1918-none from Appalachia-but still fascinating.


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Ghost At Hazel Creek

Today's post concludes a series of essays about people who were displaced by the building of Fontana Dam, all written by 8th graders at The Learning Center!.

Going to hazel creek

Ghost At Hazel Creek

Written by Chitter Pressley

It was a pretty day and I was already planning to get out and do something. First I had to go get my dry cleaning. It was only four blocks away so I got creative and dangerous and rode my bicycle to get it. I was riding along when I saw this cute little dog. It stopped in front of my bicycle and barked really loudly but I don’t know why. I went to the Dry Wash Inn and got my clothes. The lady behind the counter looked familiar. I then realized who she was I said "hey your Pamela Branch the channel one weather reporter". I asked what happened she said she lost her job and had to work here. She didn’t want anyone to recognize her and she had to find work. I took my clothes, got on the bicycle, and pedaled away. In the same spot, on the way back that the dog stopped and barked, I saw a big capital J in red. I didn’t think much of it. I thought it was just some kind of graffiti and I went on with my day.

So my friend told me about a place called Hazel Creek. It sounded like a great place to go and visit on a cool fall day. I went to the internet to get more information. So that was it, I was going to Hazel Creek by myself on this fall day. No one else could go, they had to work or were busy. I made the drive to Hazel Creek a little over an hour and was finally there.

Bridge at hazel creek

 I walked into the place and told them I was here to get on a boat to go over to the displaced community. They got some other people and me right on the boat and headed that way. The lake was beautiful, the leaves were gently laid on the water's surface and they were falling off the trees everywhere. We even saw a big black bear on the way over to the displaced community. We road over to where you got off to hike and said good bye to civilization. The man said he would pick us up around one thirty. I walked a way down the trail slowly and saw some other hikers. The other people who had been on the boat with me had already passed me up. I came to a big, long bridge and had a great view of the fast moving water below.

 I was half way across the bridge when I heard what sounded like someone behind me. I turned around ready to say "hey" or "how are you" but no one was there. I kept walking and I heard it again. That time I was sure there was another person there besides me, though I couldn’t see them. I had that feeling of being watched and I didn’t like the feeling at all. The sound of crinkling leaves got louder and faster. Then and there I saw it, a fast moving object was running through the woods right in front of me. The object more than scared me and gave me cold unfriendly chills up my spine. The thought of "what if this is it" came to my mind. That's when I felt it a hand on my back.

I whipped around and saw the object. This object was a young man in what looked like a service uniform from the era of the Civil War. I asked what was going on and if he was a ghost. He responded, "Yes, I am. I was killed in a tragic train accident. The train hit me and broke me in two. Now I am here to show you this place and terrify the little munchkins on Halloween." He continued, "But seriously, I am the afterlife of Jacob Fonslow Hall. I served in the Confederate State's Army in the Civil War."

Calhoun house near proctor

 He then led me to the house that lay ahead. We walked down an old road, stopped, and proceeded to go in the house. He told me what the house used to look like inside, that it had beautiful fire places and nice, soft couches, with lovely, nice dishes in the cabinets. "Basically, nothing like it is now," I said.

He replied in a serious voice, "Yes."

 "Would you like to show me the rest?" I asked and he agreed.

 We walked up an old road that winded in and out. We finally cut up a trail and came to a cemetery. We walked over to a head stone and he said, "This is my grave, that section over there has some of my family in it. So does that one,” he pointed.

 He told me stories of what his family was like; the time his sister got in trouble for climbing a cherry tree because she didn't want a whipping. He told me that his dad was a great man and worked in the saw mill, while his mom kept the house and cooked some good food. He also shared that his dad would take him hunting in the woods sometimes all day. All the stories were great and we soon left the cemetery.

Old home place at hazel creek

On the way back down, he showed me a chimney that was left from a house where he and his family lived. While he was talking, he looked happy because he was remembering all the good times they had. I was very glad because when I first ran into him he looked sad and very serious. "The place was nice, close to the river for water, and in the dry seasons, slow enough to swim in it. All was great at that time," he said.

We went back by the house and out the road. We came to the remains of a sawmill after what seemed like a very long walk in silence. He told me his father used to work there and showed me the remains of a cellar, but said he didn't remember much about it. We went back down the hill and into the remains of the saw mill. He showed me what he could remember of where every thing was located. "Since I was little," said the ghost again, "I don't remember much about it but more than the cellar. I remember that there was always a stack of logs here. My dad worked on the saw that was always standing here. He sent the boards through and cut them. One of my dad's friends, Bobby Joe Ford, worked on checking the machines and fixing them if they broke down."

Railroad at hazel creek

On the way back from the saw mill, he showed me the old pieces of what used to be the little trans cart. The cart rode on the tracks. He told me after he got back from the war, he worked on the little cart. He made sure the tracks were okay, not gone or rusted.

While we walked around, I saw a lot of leaves on the ground in all sorts of colors. Red, brown, yellow, and even a peach color. It was all so pretty, I felt terrible that all these people just had to load up and move away from their homes; where they had lived all along.

We went back to get on the boat and rode back to civilization. Everyone looked very tired or sleepy. I wasn’t all that tired, actually just surprised at what I had seen. When we got back to shore, I got in my car after going to the restroom and made the drive home. When I got home, the big, red "J" wasn’t there any more. I couldn’t think of anything else but Jacob Fonslow Hall, the transparent man, I had seen that day. What he had told me and all the things I experienced at Hazel Creek will remain in my memory forever.

written by Chitter Pressley

Hope you enjoyed Chitter's essay, leave her a comment and I'll make sure she reads it.

I like to send a big THANK YOU out to each of you who took the time  to comment throughout this series of essays-each comment has made a huge impression on these young Appalachian Writers.


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Meet a Ghost from Hazel Creek and They can share their Story

The series of essay's written by 8th graders at The Learning Center! are winding down-only one left after today's post. Hope you enjoy today's essay and thank you again for taking time to encourage these young Appalachian Writers with your comments.

Ghosts of hazel creek

A Hazel C reek Story

By Whitney Roberts

Meet a ghost from Hazel Creek and they can share their story.

The thought of rundown houses, underwater towns, and old worn out belongings of people they use to be always made me think of old horror books or movies. That was my favorite type of genre for a book or movie since I was younger, total gruesomeness. Still to this day, I hadn’t grown out of my habit of going down to the basement of my house and reading Stephen King books or anything in that category.

Tomorrow I was set out, with two of my friends from my school, Tripp and Lacey, to an abandoned community near Fontana Lake, North Carolina. My blood was pumping at the idea of going to a place that was filled with, bats, nasty bugs, wet buildings that have been half-way torn down, and most importantly…natural beings of the paranormal. I know we had a paper due on Hazel Creek Community, so I suggested that we really got some good information about what it looked like.

    Dude, I don’t think this is such a good idea of a trip.” Tripp scared me half to death, appearing out of thin air, while Lacey and I were walking to our vehicles one afternoon once school was over. It was raining and hard too. At that, we all three had the hoods of our jackets over our heads, shielding our hair and my glasses.

    “Dude, I’m not a dude.” I said to him instantly. I smiled at him then said, “Man I just wanna go and see supernatural…ness.” Lacey giggled as I added the “ness” at the end. Tripp still wasn’t convinced. Instead, he had wrapped his arms around his upper torso, with his hands under his armpits

    “Whitney, you know how I hate the idea of scariness and who knows what else in that category.” I could hear poor Tripp’s teeth chattering while he talked. Ever since he was a brat of a 6-year-old, he had never liked the idea of horror like I did, he had a hard past life. So I considered not fully forcing him to go. Just when I did consider it, Lacey jumped in and basically yelled at Tripp.

    “Hey! We have a paper due on Hazel Creek Community next week. You’re going whether you like it or not, mister I-don’t-like-horror.” Lacey always had a deep natural voice to her, but it had always sounded like a girl to me. She hit puberty big time at an early age. This time her voice got real high-pitched when she yelled at Tripp, I could see a vein popping out of her neck as she strained her voice. Tripp had lost the battle against Lacey and I, his green eyes practically yelled it at me that he didn’t want to go at all, it was the way he looked at me.

    Lacey’s platinum blonde hair had almost turned a light brown because of the rain, and Tripp’s messy brown hair had almost slicked back all the way when he ran his hand through it to get it out of his face. My dark brown hair had clung to my neck.

    Because of the rain, it had gotten absurdly cold. I had to get out my big fur jacket that I rarely use. Lacey had agreed to ride with me to my house while it was raining, she didn’t like the thought of driving alone while it was raining. I drove my dad’s old truck from when he had a mullet, which I don’t know when, maybe the seventies. The rain was coming down heavily as we arrived at my house. Once Lacey and I hurried into the house, my dad had left a note on the fridge, it was so easy to tell his chicken-scratch. The note said:

Gone out of town, trusting you to behave on at home and on the fieldtrip for your report. Love you, mom and dad.

It was funny because my parents didn’t know I was going alone with Tripp and Lacey. It was just us, exploring a supposedly “haunted” community.

“Well, my parents are doing the same with me. Mind if I spent the night with you, Whit?” Lacey asked me flatly as she read the note over my shoulder. I nodded and set out a place for her to sleep on the air-mattress in my bedroom.

It was midnight before we knew it, I wasn’t sleepy, and neither was Lacey. I could hear Lacey shifting her weight on the air-mattress, making air slowly ease in and out of the air-seal. “I can’t sleep.” Was all she said after making herself comfortable. I chuckled.

“Nervous about the trip tomorrow? You don’t have to go if you don’t want to. Heck, I’ll go by myself if I have to.” I said the last part with courage, hiding the true fact that I really am a little nervous…and scared.

“Nah, it’s fine. I’ll go.” Lacey said, sleep in her voice. After that, I stared at the ceiling, making tiny imaginary shapes in the wood. Lacey was asleep and I was wide-awake, thinking about what might happen tomorrow. What if a ghost was haunting the cemetery? What if there were wolves that ate anyone who visited the community? What if? Just what if. I have a lot of “what if” questions about Hazel Creek on my mind right now.


I woke to the sound of the door being slammed shut. I jerked straight up in bed, jarring my head. I groaned and rolled out of bed, hurdling myself towards the door. I opened it and ran down the stairs, half-asleep at that. I was knocking myself into the banister of the stairs and the wall, shaking the family portraits hanging from nails.

“Sorry I woke you, Whitney. I really have to pee.” Lacey said to be, anxiety was in her shaken voice. I opened my eyes wide enough to see her disappear into the bathroom. So, I just went downstairs and made myself some cereal and hot chocolate.

Once done with my cereal and scorching my tongue and the roof of my mouth several times from the coffee I made, Tripp called from his cell and told us to get ready, he was on his way right now to my house. I yelled towards the bathroom, about what Tripp said, to Lacey through the door. She yelled back saying, “OK!”. She was the first one to get ready so I went ahead and changed in my bedroom. I brushed my teeth at the kitchen sink also.

I jumped, startled at the noise of Tripp’s truck’s horn honking. Lacey and I were sitting on the sofa watching the news on a few teens getting busted for drinking and driving near here. My two luggage bags were at the door, so I grabbed them both as Lacey had hers in her hands before I had mine. Tripp honked his truck horn again, I was getting annoyed. Why did I have such a short fuse? I don’t know, I’ve been around Tripp for as long as I could take it.

I jumped in Tripp’s truck first, sitting between Lacey and him. It was still raining so, Tripp had always been a bad driver while it was raining. He had both of his hands clenched around the stirring wheel until his knuckles were white. His face was practically pressed up against the wind-shield. It was a grey day, the sky was bright and I could barely see out the wind-shield it was raining so hard.

“It’ll take at least twenty minutes to get to Hazel Creek.” Lacey said through her teeth. It was especially cold today. I wrapped my arms around my torso and had my head down, my chin pressed against a little lower than my collarbone. The road to Hazel Wood was a little bumpy, considering the limbs and branches that had gotten blown off of the trees and onto the road. The road was concrete, but it was broken in a few places along the sides, there were also cracks in the road that were slightly bumpy going over them.

I remember that we had to take a boat to Hazel Wood. My nerves changed right then, my heart had accelerated at the thought. I was not ready to do that, but I had no choice. I was now truly scared for my life. I never liked the idea of swimming or even being in water, because I never learned how to swim. I know I liked horror movies that had to deal with water, but I never wanted to go through with it in real life.

“We’re here.” Lacey said in a small voice, she was pointing at a sign that looked like it was at least over one-hundred years old. It said: WELCOME TO HAZEL WOOD COMMUNITY

Boat ride on fontana lake

There was a little motorboat that looked like it hasn’t been used in years floating along the gray-blue waters. The concrete road had ended violently and abruptly, with a jerk of the wheels going over the edge of the road that was a few inches down. We were on a, what looked like, a dirt parking lot. Once the truck had stopped, Lacey had already opened the door and was out before Tripp was. I sighed and scooted myself along the seat, hoping out of the Truck. Tripp and I had met around to the front of the truck, our shoulders brushed for the shortest second. He was shaking, and that made me want to take him home right then. I shouldn’t have made him go, but I wanted him to make a good grade on his paper. The other side of the lake had an eerie vibe to it. It looked like a graveyard, with all the mist covering the abandoned community like a blanket. The waters were moving easily over the large rocks, which didn’t look like rocks, it looked like peoples’ belongings from years and years ago.

Lacey was already in the uneasy-looking boat before Tripp and I had time to blink twice. “C’mon, people! Let’s get a move on. I don’t want the police come here after us.” Acid sarcasm dripped in her voice heavily. I glared at her as I patted Tripp’s shoulder, leading him towards the boat slowly. Tripp got into the boat before I did, I had a solid grip on his hand, so at that, I got into the boat about the same time he did. The boat gently rocked and creaked as we planted out feet on the old wood. I was worried that the wood might cave in or break, making my foot slip and fall through and breaking my ankle instantly.

I shook my head, getting out of my wonderland of horror. Lacey had started the motor of the boat with a jerk of her arm with the cranking string in her hand. The boat was moving before I had time to protest. When the boat jerked forward, Tripp had jumped and almost landed in my lap. I laughed and patted his knee. Lacey smiled slyly at Tripp. I looked down at the water below the moving boat, it looked like there was something moving beneath the water. Hopefully it was a fish or something. At that, I scooted away from the edge of the boat, which I was blocked by Tripp in my way. So I just kept my eyes on what was ahead of us.

Before we knew it, we were at the other side of the water. Lacey had jumped out of the boat like a professional. It was like she had done this before, knowing her, she might have done it several times. Tripp and I got out at the same time. Poor Tripp. He was trying so hard not to make a big deal out of this, he always liked trying to impress people.

Graveyard near fontana lake

“Wow, look at that.” Lacey said, pointing to a cemetery. Before I had time to look, she had already ran over to the place she had pointed at.

“Lacey!” I whispered fiercely, beginning to run in her direction. I was half-way to her when Tripp had begun to run with me, not wanting to be alone in this place. When I had gotten to Lacey, she was standing on one of the graves that looked like it was going to cave in at any moment.

“Lacey, get off of that grave you’re on!” I yelled at her viciously. But I was too late, the ground started to shake and the dirt and soil was beginning to crumble. Lacey noticed what was going on and staggered back a few steps onto fertile ground behind her. Tripp was hyperventilating next to me, and I just stared in amazement. There was loud groaning filling the misty air and the sound of wood snapping was unreal.

“What’s happening…?” Tripp breathed. I shook my head as the one thing in front of me was absolutely incredible. The sight of a, what looked like over a century old, coffin was standing straight-up right in front of us. The wood snapped at the coffin door sprung open. What was in the coffin was a skeleton, the joints were displaced and every bone looked broken, almost dust. But right before our eyes, the skeleton started to take form of a human. It started to grown long red hair. Muscles were starting to reattached themselves to the bones. Eyes were popping back into it’s head that were a bright green color. Finally, fair pale skin started to cover the muscles slowly.

“Who dares disturb my slumber?” The “skeleton” asked courageously. Lacey had backed away from the skeleton and bumped into me, which I grabbed her shoulders to keep her in place. I thought Tripp had fainted when he grabbed my arm, practically digging his nails into my skin.

“I-I-I’m sorry,” I stuttered in a shaken voice. “We were just visiting the area.” An idea popped into my brain, it felt like a light-bulb turned on above my head. “We have a paper due soon. I was wondering if you could give us some insight on the area. I believe you lived around here, Miss…?” I said, with a stronger voice now. I couldn’t believe I was talking to a ghost! It had gotten darker, the moon started to show in the dusk sky. The ghosts’ hair glowed in the dark, the same color as the moon, just not as bright.

“Patience Rustin Procter. I was the first settler here with my husband, Moses Procter.” Patience said, keeping her chin up. I take it she was going to give us her insight after all. “Us Proctors, which we had briefly settled in Cades Cove, we crossed the crest at Ekaneetlee Gap in 1829 and built a cabin on a hill in Possum Hollow. The cabin was located at what is now Proctor Cemetery.” Patience gestured behind her, making sure we saw the cemetery located where we were standing.

Scary lady

“Us Proctors were always on good terms with the Cherokee, which we lived further up the hollow. But let me tell you more about Hazel Creek.” Patience offered firmly. She sat down on the ground slowly. I thought she would just seep right through the soil, but she didn’t. She looked like just a regular human being. Except for her hair, it was on fire.

Hazel Creek is a tributary stream of the Little Tennessee River in the southwestern Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. The creek's bottomlands were home to several pioneer Appalachian communities and logging towns before its incorporation into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hazel Creek is now a back country campsite and historical area.”

    Tripp had gotten a little more calm as she spoke to us. We all three sat down when Patience did. She began talking again after a moment of silence. Lacey was basically sitting in my lap, she was shaking and so was Tripp. I could feel him shaking against my arm. Me, personally, I was fascinated.

    “In the 1930s, the Aluminum Company of America, which operated a large plant north of Maryville, bought up 15,000 acres (61 km2) above the town of Fontana as part of a plan to build a large dam to provide power to its plants. The operation moved along slowly until the outbreak of World War II, when the demand for aluminum skyrocketed. ALCOA turned its 15,000 acres (61 km2) over to the Tennessee Valley Authority, which quickly completed the dam in 1944. That year, the TVA bought out the remaining North Shore settlements, including those along Hazel Creek. As most of the land along the creek had little financial value, TVA could only offer prices that most of Hazel's residents found absurdly low. Those that refused to sell, however, were forced out via condemnation suits. The last families left Hazel Creek in November 1944, before the rising lake waters inundated the only major road out. The land was turned over to the recently-created Great Smoky Mountains National Park shortly thereafter, effectively extending the park boundary to the shores of Fontana Lake. The Civilian Conservation Corps, which had been operating a camp at Proctor since the late 1930s, repaired bridges, tore down buildings, and improved trails along the creek's watershed.” Patience took in a deep breath. “I’ve been in the ground for a long time, but I still know what’s going on around here.” She said with a small smile.

“Although only a handful of families had settled on Hazel Creek by the 1860s, the Civil War still had a major impact on the valley's history. Like most of the North Carolina side of the Smokies, the small population of Hazel Creek supported the Confederacy. This put them at odds with their cousins on the Tennessee side of the mountains in Cades Cove who were staunchly pro-Union. Union supporters fleeing Confederate North Carolina often fled to Cades Cove via Hazel Creek and Ekaneetlee Gap. Bushwhackers and vigilantes in Cades Cove and Hazel Creek launched raids against one another, usually to steal livestock and crops.” Patience finished off with a sigh and looked at Tripp…Lacey…then me. Her eyes burned a hole right through mine.

    “Is that enough information for you?” Patience asked me gently, hopefully trying not to scare me. When I nodded once, she stood up. Her red hair floated just above her shoulders. She entered her coffin all ghost-like, and turned around towards us.

    “Do not disturb me again, children.” She said, her eyes glowing red now. My heart started to accelerate when that happened. The coffin’s door slammed shut, and the coffin descended into the ground again. The ground started to close in around the coffin when it reached the bottom. It was like Patience had never moved an inch.

    “Did you catch all of that?” Lacey whispered to me. Her voice was uneasy. I nodded, I had a very good memory.

    “Let’s get the heck outta here!” Tripp yelled at me. When we were back in Tripp’s truck, it had gotten completely dark. It would be tricky getting back home.


    Two weeks had went by since that day. Tripp, Lacey and I had all three done our papers, but it was difficult. I had to help them both, they didn’t have a good memory at all.

I was standing in front of my teacher’s desk waiting for my grade on my paper. “Well,” Ms. Christy said. “I’ll let you see your grade for yourself.” She handed me the paper. I glanced at it. I had to do a double-take.

For the rest of the day, I was happy. I had made an “A” on my paper, so did Lacey and Tripp.

“I think the ghost should get the credit on our papers.” Lacey said, smiling.

Written by Whitney Roberts

Hope you enjoyed Whitney's scary story as much I did-leave her a comment and I'll make sure she reads it.


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The Ghost Town of Hazel Creek

Today's post continues the series of essays written by 8th graders at The Learning Center!

Pontoon Boat ride to hazel creek

The Ghost Town of Hazel Creek

By: Sarah Coffey

I was thinking about everything as I rode over by boat to the Hazel Creek Island that was once my home, my memories went back to all the good times that were once here. Going back in my memory of all the things that happened when we had to leave our homes and all the irreplaceable memories that went with them; how they could even do that to us? How could they just decide that we no longer lived there anymore and try to pay off our land and all of the precious memories that could never be replaced with any amount of money? How would they feel if someone came to their land and told them that they no longer lived there and had to leave all their memories? I’m sure they would feel the same way.

 Slowly I pulled the boat up to the land of where my home once was and I imagined all the people who used to live here, play here, and of all their memories a silent tear slid down my cheek. I thought about all the times we had spent there and, all the good people that were here they didn’t deserve to be kicked out.

Hiking the hazel creek area

 At a steady pace, I walked to the places people visited daily and saw the remains of the homes and what was left of the towns, also the people who were once here. Seeing the towns and homes in my head thinking that was all of our memories. I remember Proctor, Cable Branch, Medlin, Bone Valley, Ritter, Bushnell, Wayside, and Fontana. I remember the Calhoun House and what it once was. It was once a beautiful house that people loved to look at and admire, it once had a eye-catching porch decorated with rainbow colors of flowers, and how the house always smelled like fresh air from outside, how it once have crystal clear windows, it had nothing left of the way it used to be. I remember I used to visit them and they would always invite me to stay for dinner. Most of the time I would say thanks but I have to go but, when I stayed it always was a wonderful meal. My memories went back to when we would sit on the porch and listen to nature and we would watch the river and the animals would come and drink the ice cold water. I remember how nice it was to sit with the people that lived there and listen to everything around me. I went back in my memory to how we would sometimes talk until midnight and listen to nature and then I would have to walk to my home to rest.

Porch of the calhoun house hazel creek nc

 The house was now moldy and falling apart. It had an appalling smell that was never there when I spent my evenings. Most of the roof was missing and most of the windows were broken. The house looked as though it could fall down any minute and just be a pile of rubble. In my thoughts I pictured us on the porch talking and listening to everything around us. In my mind I went through the conversations I still remembered. We would talk about the town gossip and we would try to figure out if we thought it was true or not. We would talk about how all the little kids were growing up so fast and how it seemed like yesterday they were just learning to crawl. In my head I went through all the conversations and laughed at how we thought that some of the gossip was true. I thought about how everything seemed like it was just yesterday. But when I looked at the beautiful house it slowly transformed to how it looked now and I knew it had been a lot longer than just yesterday. I decided that I could no longer tolerate to look at the old putrid house any longer and decided to walk to the cemetery.

As I was walking I saw the aged chimney of the house that once stood there. The ashen color was burned into my memory and it had a stunning wraparound porch. It was also a very beautiful house that the people loved to admire but not that many people knew it was there, because it wasn’t a route they took daily. I saw the elderly people who used to sit on the porch and most likely listened to the people passing or thought about their life together. I used to wonder if I knew what was on their minds or if they thought about something entirely poles apart. I figured that they thought about what everyone else thinks about but I never really knew for sure. I remember when they wouldn’t be sitting on the porch and you would see smoke coming from the brick chimney. I always assumed they were sitting by the fire and enjoying the comfortable and cozy house. I slowly, walked away and I saw that the only part of the house that was left, the brick chimney. I started to snivel involuntarily as I thought about those wonderful people and how they wouldn’t hurt a fly, except during the summer when flies were dreadful here, yet they still had to evacuate because they had no other choice. No one who was once here deserved to be removed by the Tennessee Valley Authority, no one deserved to have to leave. They didn’t deserve to have all their recollections torn away from them.

    Slowly, I started to draw nearer to the cemetery the tears were soon wiped away and I was okay for the jiffy. The moment I saw the cemetery of people’s passed loved ones I started to remember the few people who I knew who died. I remember the people who used to visit the cemetery daily to see their deceased loved ones. In my mind I could see them standing by the graves crying and sometimes they would talk to the person who had passed telling them what they felt or what was happening. I used to think that they were crazy for doing that but I now understood why they did this.

Graves at hazel creek

As I stood by the graves that held some of my nearest loved ones I thought about how they might have died or how long ago they had died. I started to blubber quietly. I looked over the graves and saw the people I knew come to life and walk right past me. As I saw three people leave I couldn’t stay any longer, I quickly left so I wouldn’t have to watch anymore.

As I passed by the remaining chimney and the old Calhoun House I stopped weeping from the people leaving the memorial park and once again I was okay. I looked and saw the path that I wanted to take, it lead to the old clubhouse. Walking to the place where everyone hung out on the weekends in my mind I saw three houses that once stood that seemed abandoned. I looked and saw that there wasn’t any sign that there had even possibly been a house. All that was left of the homes was what I remembered. I saw the kids outside playing; saw the wife outside working in the garden or just watching the kids have a good time. Never once saw the husband; I assumed he worked in the day to provide for his family. I passed the homes and wondered where those people were today or if they were even still alive. Wondering, if they ever came to see where there old home once was.

 I kept moving forward to the clubhouse. I didn’t want to linger on the thoughts that might make me tear up; no longer did I want to whimper at everything around me. I stood at what was left of the clubhouse. Seeing the people that loved to party and seemed to always be there. Seeing the full picture in my mind, the people, the building everything, this was the biggest part of my memories. I began to look around seeing that there were only a few remains of the clubhouse. Except for the memories that I had of the people who were once there, there was nothing to indicate they were ever here, except for the few remains that were still standing.

Railroad in hazel creek

After I passed the clubhouse, I decided to visit the old locomotive tracks. As coming upon them I saw that there were very few remains. In my mind going back in time and nothing was missing or out of place. Still hearing the distant whistle of the train as it passed by people. Seeing the train on the tracks, moving at no more than twenty miles an hour. Still seeing the excited children and passengers waving to the people that the train passed. I could still see the driver pulling the whistle to make everyone happy and smile. I could smell the smoke that came from the train. As the memory slowly faded into the distant past so did the train and its blow of its whistle. After that, I decided that I wanted to see what was left of my home.

Walking to my home and considering that there was nothing left. Bearing in mind that there were only the memories that were left of my home. I no longer had my garden full of rainbow colors, or the tire swing that was once in the tree, anything that was once here might as well have never existed. I could only see the memories I had left of my life here. Now it was overgrown with trees and bushes. At last I deciding that I would go see the mill and then leave no longer wanting to shed tears at everything that was there.

I walked to the mill replaying everything I had seen on my trip here. Knowing that deep down I really wanted to see the mill but, then there was part of me that wanted to just leave now and never look back, but still, I kept walking and pictured what the old worn mill would look like now. I began to see the ruins of what was not here of the mill considering that hardly anything was left. My eyes swelled over with snuffle and I knew that I had to get off the island. 

I couldn’t stand to remember anymore. I couldn’t stop crying (sad musicL) at everything I saw. It wasn’t fair they shouldn’t have had the right to come in and just take our homes. How did they even have the courage to do something like that? I was running toward the boat and passing were the pieces of the homes and of the clubhouse; I couldn’t see what it had once been it was like my memory had been fogged over. Only seeing the people and their worried faces when they were told to relinquish and how they always seemed to be preparing to leave. I saw how they must have thought how am I supposed to just leave all my memories and my land? How am I supposed to just leave where my family grew up? I can’t just leave there land so you can do whatever you want to it. I didn’t want to see their worried looks anymore I was running even faster to get to my boat. Finally, I saw the boat and I quickly hopped in and sped away.

 As I left I thought about what I saw today and all the flashbacks that I had had and what it now looked like I thought to myself, I didn’t want to remember anymore I wanted the worried looks of the people to leave my mind, I wanted it to just be erased from my memory, but deep down I knew that was part of my life and I never wanted to forget it.

I didn’t return to Hazel Creek for a long time I just went over and over what I remembered about my visit in my head. I didn’t return until I felt that I had enough strength to not sob my eyes out at everything I saw. It wasn’t easy returning when I did and seeing everything again the way it was left, but each time I went I grew stronger and stronger, eventually it hardly bothered me at all.

I will always remember everything about where I grew up, the people, the animals, the homes, the locomotive, the mill, and the clubhouse, everything. I’m sure I will always remember everything about my home, and will visit as much as I will be able to…

by Sarah Coffey

Hope you enjoyed Sarah's essay as much as I did-she really captured the heartache those folks must have felt when they lost their homes. Leave her a comment and I'll make sure she reads it.


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Friday the 30th at Proctor

We continue the series of essays written by 8thgraders at The Learning Center! with one written by Chatter Pressley

Fontana lake

Friday the 30th at Proctor

It was Friday the 30thand TLC was going to what was left of the town Proctor at Fontana Lake in Robbinsville. It took about an hour to get to the lake. Once we got to the lake, we got on a pontoon boat. The boat was big, tan and it seated a lot of people. As we drove out on the lake, the water was very choppy. I sat at the front of the boat so I got a little water on me but it was cool and refreshing.  When we were about halfway there, we saw a bear cub, small and as black as coal dust. Ten minutes later, we arrived at the shore. Then the boat turned around and drove away.

When we got on the shore, we started walking until we reached a bridge with a sign telling us what remains still existed. As we looked at the sign, we decided we would head up toward the old clubhouse and the lumber mill. On the way up to the clubhouse and the lumber mill we saw what was left of an old foundation. There were big, square, grey, concrete blocks on both sides of the trail.  

Remains of ritter lumber company

When we reached the remains of the lumber mill, a tall, dark-headed, young, beautiful woman approached us and apologized for making us wait she was just running a little late.  From there she talked to us about the mill and told us that it was the town’s biggest industry that kept the town going. Then she took us to the clubhouse and said she remembered that was where she ate often as a child. We thought she was she was only kidding because she couldn’t have possibly lived back then.

From there, she took us to the clubhouse where we found pieces of pottery. On the way down from the clubhouse Katie and I found an old grape vine that was big and long. We asked our mom if we could swing on it and she said yes. Then we swung on it which was very fun. Then we headed toward the only house that was still standing kept up by the forest service. 

Hiking hazel creek

She continued leading us toward the house. Once we reached the house, we went inside from the back porch and entered the kitchen. We saw a stove, a very old sink, and some cabinets on the wall. Then we walked into a pretty big room that might have been the living room. Next we walked into what was the bathroom and behind the door there was a shelf and a mirror. We continued following into many other rooms in the house. After that we went onto the porch and into the last room that could only be accessed by the porch. In that room there was some old furniture and an old table. There were fireplaces all throughout the house because back then that was the only way to keep warm.

Inside the calhoun house

 The beautiful woman told us that Granville Calhoun use to live in that house. She would visit him often when she was little and he would give her candy, but again, we just thought she was only kidding. Then she showed us an old room under the house which was an old food cellar. I guess that explained the shelves I saw.

Then we went and headed toward the Bone Valley cemetery. It was a pretty good way up to the cemetery. About halfway up there, we saw the remains of an old house where just the chimney was left. We looked around the chimney and I found an old jar along with some pottery. When we got back on the trail, we continued walking towards the cemetery. Right before we reached the cemetery, we walked up some stairs.

Graveyard near hazel creek

When we started looking around the cemetery, we thought that the long hike was well worth it. The graveyard was amazing; there were people who were born in the 17 and 18 hundreds. I remember seeing a gravestone marked: born October 20th 1920 died October 20th 1920. There were all kinds of gravestones of confederate soldiers and children, it was so sad but so interesting at the same time.

 After looking at the Bone Valley cemetery, we had to head back toward the house. Then when we just cleared the woods, the beautiful woman told us that she remembered everything about the town. She enjoyed living in the town until the TVA took it over. She said she missed all her friends and family because when the TVA took over Proctor, all of her friends and family were separated.

She then told us this is where the tour ended. She said to all of us that we had have been a good group but she must go. As she slowly walked away, she faded away into thin air. We kept walking until we reached the shore. When we got back on the boat we asked our selves who she was but we all decided that we would never know.

written by Chatter Pressley

I hope you enjoyed Chatter's essay.  Leave her a comment and I'll make sure she reads it.


p.s. I want to thank all of you who have left comments for the kids-it has made each of them feel very special-and I believe motivated them to continue writing.

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