In the Heart of the Smokies
The photos on this page were taken in the Great Smoky Mountains, which rise on
either side of the Tennessee-North Carolina border.  The range is home to the Great
Smoky Mountains National Park and takes its name from the heavy fog that often
hangs over it.  The park was dedicated in 1940 and is the most visited national park
in America, hosting over nine million visitors a year.  In addition to containing the
largest old growth forest east of the Mississippi River, it boasts the largest black bear
population in the eastern U.S.  The park includes five districts on the National Register
of Historic Places and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The historic
Appalachian Trail runs through the park and the park service maintains nearly a hundred
structures which were part of the Appalachian communities that once dotted the landscape.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the largest protected areas in the eastern U.S.
The Walker Family's Mountain Home
Walker family homestead, built in the mid-1800's.
 After serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, John Walker went home to Tennessee and, in 1866,
married his sweetheart, Margaret King.  The couple had 11 children.  All of the boys and one of the girls
married and moved away.  Eventually, John and Margaret died and the 6 unmarried sisters remained on
the farm, living in the log cabin their father had completed.  By the time the government started acquiring
land in the 1930's, in preparation for establishing the National Park, five of the sisters were still alive and
residing on the old homestead.
 The sisters became the focus of national attention when they, alone among all of their neighbors,
adamantly refused to sell their farm.  Magazines and newspapers did stories on their hold-out.  The
negotiations went on for quite some time, until, finally, they reluctantly agreed to sell - but,
only if they
could remain on the property for the rest of their lives.  By this time, after the publicity the matter had
received - most of it sympathetic to the sisters - the government agents probably would've been happy
to agree to almost anything.
 Louisa (on the left in photo above), put her feelings about the sale on paper in a poem titled, "My
Mountain Home."  Despite having received only a rudimentary education, she was a poet of local renown
(she sometimes sold her poems for as little as 25 cents to visitors who came to meet the sisters who'd
defied the U.S. government for so long).  As it happened, Louisa would be the last surviving sister,
remaining on the farm until her death in 1964.
 In 1976, the National Park service restored the old Walker cabin and outbuildings.  Visitors come from
all over the world to see firsthand how the sturdy and resolute pioneers of the 1800's lived (and, in the
case of the Walkers, into the 1900's, because the sisters believed strongly in self-sufficiency and
disdained "unnecessary luxuries" - modern amenities like electricity or running water).
 I can't help thinking that the sisters would be proud to see their history carefully preserved and shared
with so many.  They always enjoyed receiving visitors and, if they're still hovering around their old home,
I'm guessing they're rocking on the front porch of their cabin in the heart of the Smokies, smiling at their
guests and relishing the company.   -- Nancy

A brief excerpt from a poem by Louisa Walker, "My Mountain Home":

There's an old weather beaten home that stands near a wood,
With an orchard near by it, for a hundred years it's stood.
It was my home in infancy, it sheltered me in youth,
When I tell you I love it, I tell you the truth.

~   ~   ~

                                      Photos on this page are courtesy of  DebCampbell; EarthShots;
FromMyFrontPorch; joecartpath; Brian Stansberry/Creative Commons;
JarekTuszynski/Creative Commons; FabulousNature;
LightningBugLodge; Eric&PattyParker; FireHow; SillyOldBear;
EastTennesseeWildflowers; PictureNinja; RailPictures

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                                                           Music:  Appalachian Spring

                                                       The Past Whispers - Home
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                                                               Friday's Journal
Louisa, Hettie, Martha & Margaret Walker, 1946
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