What happened to Aunt Winchester?


Aunt WinchesterAt the Blue Ridge Bookfest on Saturday, I met Renea Winchester. She was one of the exhibiting authors and the author of In the Garden with Billy. She’s also the great great granddaughter of Mary Ridley Winchester.

If you remember the old Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there was a large portrait of an old woman, Mary Winchester (1848-1942), commonly known as Aunt Winchester.

The picture above is the only picture I could find.

Aunt Winchester lived in the area and was painted by Rudolph Ingerle, a famous artist who loved the Smokies. The portrait hung over the fireplace. Every once in a while, a visitor would ask about the portrait.

When the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center opened, the old Visitor Center became a training center for employees. The public no longer has access to the building. Aunt Winchester still hangs over the fireplace, much to Renea’s unhappiness.

She claims that the family bought the portrait from the artist and gave it to the Park. She says that the family expected the portrait to always be available to the public.  According to Renea, the Park’s answer is that the portrait has had a good run and it’s going to stay where it is.

Though she lives in Atlanta, Renea is taking this on as a crusade. Sometimes local people forget that the Smokies is a National Park.

By the way, the Blue Ridge Bookfest in Flat Rock was a great success. I gave a talk about the great hiking around here, I networked with other authors, I talked to readers and I sold a few books.

Plan to come out next year!


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