Friday, December 30, 2016

Remembrance of Things Past: Gatlinburg #10

Center of town, Gatlinburg 1920s. Baskins Creek flows over the main road not under it. Ephraim E. Ogle's Store in background. © Arrowmont archives

Dad would have described Gatlinburg in the early 1900s as being merely "a wide place in the road." And it was a muddy, sometimes flooded road at that.

Historians have recorded it in much harsher terms: inaccessible, remote, cut off. And the mountain folk that lived up the headwaters of Baskins Creek and Roaring Fork were even more isolated. They were almost unreachable. As sequestered as an aboriginal tribe hidden in the dense jungle. 

A trip to Knoxville and back could take three days by wagon. And it could be hazardous. Great great grandfather Caleb Bales died in 1914 after he fell out of the back of a wagon. He was visiting family in the vicinity of Gists Creek east of Sevierville and was buried there in an unknown grave. Getting his body back to his home on Roaring Fork would have been too arduous and it was customary to bury the deceased the next day. 

Caleb Bales (1839-1914)
© Bales family archive
During that time, a trip from Sevierville to Gatlinburg was made, "by wagon or buggy, over a road that was little more than a trail running up into the mountains through the Little Pigeon River gorge. There were no bridges; the river and the many creeks had to be forded, often through water so deep that it came almost into the bed of the buggy and sometimes too deep to be crossed," wrote Jeanette Greve in 1931.

Caleb's visit to Gists Creek was perhaps to find solace with him still grieving. He had out survived his wife Elizabeth Margaret Reagan by two years. It's one of the tender mercies when the husband dies first, they do not do well alone, every day in mourning, every day the long hours, the loneliness. Lost to the world. Keeping the fire going for you and you alone. The clock ticking in the silent cabin. Why was it so loud? And what was the point of even winding it? What does time really mean?

Elizabeth Bales (1837-1912)
© Bales family archive
Elizabeth was the daughter of Daniel Wesley Reagan, the first child of European ancestry born in White Oak Flats, today's Gatlinburg. Caleb and Elizabeth had five children that lived to adulthood in the mountains: Martha Ann, Ephraim, Jim, Nancy Ellen and Daniel. And the sadness of it all? They were unable to bury Caleb next to his wife of 51 years. And the irony? He had donated the parcel of now consecrated ground for the Bales Cemetery on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail where Elizabeth lies in everlasting peace.

Not knowing where his grandfather was buried, Homer Bales erected a memorial stone for Caleb beside Elizabeth's grave.

Caleb begot Jim who begot Homer who begot Russell who begot me, with enormous help from Elizabeth, Emma, Pearl and Mary Helen.

Elizabeth, Martha Ann, Ephraim and Daniel are all buried at the Bales Cemetery. The firestorm of Monday, November 28 did not burn over this site.   

© 2016 From the upcoming book, 
"Vintage Gatlinburg: 
The Transformation of a Small Timber Town to a Mountain Resort
 Family Remembrances 1899-1974" 
by University of Tennessee Press author and native son  
Stephen Lyn Bales

Homer Bales with memorial stone he placed in Bales Cemetery 
in honor of his grandfather. 1983
© Bales Family archive
Caleb Bales Memorial stone erected by his grandson Homer.
© Photo by Rex McDaniel. 

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