Category Archives: Reviews

Cemeteries of the Smokies

Cemeteries of the Smokies

Ever since I got really involved in hiking and supporting Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its park partners, I’ve heard of “the cemetery book.”

When I joined the board of the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA), Steve Kemp, editor and publisher for GSMA, now retired, said that the book was “coming along”.

Now Cemeteries of the Smokies by Gail Palmer is here!

Flipping through its 704 pages – yes, 704 pages – I can understand why it took Dr. Gail Palmer two decades to finish it.

If you’ve walked almost anywhere in the Smokies, you’ve encountered cemeteries – the Woody cemetery in Deep Creek, the cemetery outside the Little Cataloochee Baptist church, the ones on the Cades Cove drive.

But Palmer found 152 cemeteries. For each site, she provides in-depth histories alongside a complete listing of burials and dates, kinship links and epitaphs.  The author has collected this infomation in one place, displayed with color photographs, detailed lists, charts and an index of local family names.

Dr. Gail Palmer has a doctorate in cultural studies from the University of Tennessee. She’s written novels set in the Smokies and understands mountain life. Members of her mother’s family has lived and died in areas that are now in the national park.

Wiggins Graves

“While finishing my doctoral degree in cultural studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, I decided I wanted to write a book about the Smokies,” Palmer said.

‘“I knew many of the cemeteries were hidden away from view in beautiful locations, sometimes only a few steps from a roadway or well-traveled trail.” She received help from many people and spent hours searching archival material and locating cemeteries.

As a hiker, I want to know that the trail directions are clear and correct. I tested them on the Hoyle cemetery, a four-grave cemetery that I found only with the help of my companions at a Decoration Day years ago. The directions in the book were spot on. Maybe I’ll create a new hiking challenge – find all the cemeteries in the Smokies, as described by this book.

Buy this book from the Great Smoky Mountains Association, a park partner that donates money to the park.
See

The Details
Cemeteries of the Smokies by Dr. Gail Palmer, published by the Great Smoky Mountains Association, 2017. ISBN 978-0-937207-92-5. Price $29.95.

Illustrated Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Book review

What can you say that’s new about the most visited park in the country, Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Maybe not much, but you can surely present it in a different, novel way.

Illustrated Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park by Daniel S. Pierce, Joel Anderson and Nathan Anderson is a beautiful coffee table which tells of the wonder, beauty of the park without forsaking its history. In less than 130 pages, the book depicts each section of the park along with a full-page poster-like painting.

The introduction shows a timeline of human activity in the Smokies area.

In 1000 CE, the first settlement of Kituah became the Mother Town of the Cherokee. European settlers moved into the Oconaluftee section of the park in 1802. The book is as recent as the devastating fires during in the fall of 2016.

At LeConte Lodge

After reading the introduction, I turned to the pages on LeConte Lodge, the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States, to read about its origins. In my experience, it’s the most deluxe high-mountain lodge – ever. You can stay at 6,360 feet and not have to carry a sleeping bag. That’s luxury!

Dan Pierce is now Professor of History and National Endowment of the Humanities Distinguished Professor at UNCA and former chair of the history department.

When I came to Asheville in 2001, I enrolled in a course Intro to the Southern Appalachians at the College for Seniors in Asheville. Dan was the instructor. His first book, The Great Smokies: From Natural Habitat to National Park had just come out. I read it eagerly and recommended it to other as THE book on the park. So, he is the certainly the right person to write the copy for this illustrated guide to the Smokies.

You can’t discuss this book without mentioning the Anderson Design Group. They created the drawings of waterfalls, cabins, views and picnic areas in the classic poster art styles from the 1920s to 1940s. The back page of the book shows posters of the 59 national parks, which they gathered into a book. I counted all the national parks that I’ve been to – 40 over the years.
The details
You can buy the paperback book on the Great Smoky Mountains Association website  for $24.95.

A hardback copy is available at the Anderson Design Group website,  for $39.99.

Think Christmas – Your shopping all done

Book Launch
The three authors will be speaking about the book on October 5 at 6:30pm in the University of North Carolina – Asheville Humanities Lecture Hall. After the presentation, they’ll move to the Ramsey Library’s Blowers Gallery for a reception to open the exhibit of art work from the book. The exhibit will be up until the end of November.

Nantahala National Forest – A Review

Nantahala National Forest: A History by Marci Spencer
Published by The History Press, $21.99

Marci Spencer was the speaker at a Carolina Mountain Club dinner a couple of years ago. She gave a spirited talk about her book on Pisgah National Forest.

Marci knows how to write a lively history of our public lands. She did it for Pisgah and now Nantahala National Forest, the more remote of the two in Western North Carolina.

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail winds its way through the forest, though it is difficult to know when it leaves Nantahala and goes into Pisgah – you have to really keep your eyes open for signs.

But you’ll recognize other places that you may never have associated with Nantahala National Forest.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, with the “big trees”, is in the Cheoah Ranger District. I have a sweet spot for Joyce Kilmer, the poet as well as the forest, since he came from New Brunswick, in Central New Jersey, where I used to live. He never visited Western North Carolina but is mostly remembered for one poem,

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

You’ll have to read Marci’s book to find out how and why the forest was named after the New Jersey poet and journalist.

The book is a delightful mixture of hard facts, stories that others have told her and that she’s dug up from her many sources.

And those photographs… The History Press is well known for its beautiful color pictures and this book is full of photographs from many people.

If you’re a hiker, historian or just interested in how the public got all this land, read Nantahala National Forest: A History. I wonder where Marci will go next.