Lost Cove – not easy to find

Mike K. at Lost Cove
Mike K. at Lost Cove

From an urban walk through Asheville on Thursday, I went on a Carolina Mountain Club hike to Lost Cove, one of the most desolate and remote place in Western North Carolina – or is it in Tennessee?

Lost Cove, located along the Nolichucky River in Western North Carolina, took its name from the location near the Tennessee and North Carolina border when surveyors were not sure to which state the community belonged. That’s the quick definition.

It’s not easy to get to Lost Cove; that’s part of the problem. The easiest is probably from Erwin, TN, the big town here.

But we took several unmarked, unofficial trails from a parking area on NC 197. Up and down, up and down, we went. The land is in the Appalachian District of Pisgah National Forest. Some of the land is also owned by the Southern Appalachian Highland Conservancy.

Lost Cove
Lost Cove

We passed remains of chimneys and home sites. Here’s one of our hikers next to the smokehouse. A couple of houses are still standing, but just barely. See the photo above. The cemetery seems well maintained.

When the settlers moved here to get away from the troubles of the Civil War, they were self-sufficient. But by the end of the 19th century, the railroad came in along with logging.

The residents became used to modern conveniences – aren’t we all? They were able to go into town, Poplar, NC for supplies and medical care.

When everything was logged out, it became more and more difficult to live there. Then the railroad stopped running. Residents hoped that the state would build them a road but it was not to be. So people started leaving.

One and only vehicle
One and only vehicle

Some young men left for the Korean War. Isn’t that always the way? Men have a way of getting out of a restricted way of life.  But that immediately brings up a question.

Why couldn’t I find any WW II veterans in the cemetery? Were they so isolated that the Selective Service System never sent them a draft notice? I wondered about this same situation at the Hensley Settlement in Cumberland Gap National Historical Site. And just like the Hensley Settlement, moonshine was a large part of their income.

For more of an indepth look at Lost Cove, you might want to read Christy A. Smith’s MA dissertation entitled Lost Cove, North Carolina: the Life and Death of a Thriving Community (1864-1957). I’d have a hard time accepting the community as thriving but the dissertation does a great job of explaining every day life.

One thought on “Lost Cove – not easy to find

  1. I may have an answer to the veteran issue. First there never were more than about 13 families in Lost Cove. So not a large pool to draw from. I imagine that when some of the young men reached 20 they had to leave their families and move to find a job. But mainly anyone killed in WWII would have been buried overseas or a possibly a military cemetery in the US. Any that survived would not have been buried in Lost Cove because it was deserted by the late 50’s and veterans would have been barely in their 40’s. Veterans from WWI that survived would have only been in their early 70’s if that old

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