Thursday, December 8, 2016

Remembrance of Things Past: Gatlinburg #2

Photo by Rex McDaniel

Although the area is still closed, again relying on the interactive map provided by Sevier County officials, the Ephraim Bales homesite with corn crib, barn and hog pen appears to be intact after the firestorms that swept through the national park and Gatlinburg on Monday, November 28.

Caleb & Elizabeth Reagan Bales
married 1861
Born in January 1867, Ephraim was the son of Caleb and Elizabeth Margaret Reagan Bales and the older brother of James Wesley "Jim" Bales who lived nearby. This would make "Eph" my great, great granduncle. He married Nancy Minerva Reagan or "Nervy" (born May 26, 1873) on March 10, 1889. They had nine children that survived until adulthood and four that died much earlier. 

This excellent example of a dog trot style cabin was built by Alfred Reagan, Ephraim's brother-in-law, in 1880. Essentially it is two rooms or “pens” separated by an open breezeway or a place for the dogs to trot from one side to the other. For a time this breezeway was sealed with boards creating a third room. All were covered by a common roof on two levels and the taller room had a loft for storage and even sleeping.

The cabin is built primarily with poplar (tuliptree) logs steadied and somewhat leveled on a rock pier foundation. The sills were oak, the floor joists and floor puncheons were poplar. The gable ends and rafters were chestnut, the roofing made of rived oak. Dovetailed joints fitted the logs together and since nails were in short supply and expensive, wooden pegs secured the rest. The chimneys were cobbled together field stones held in place with mud mortar.  

Ephraim Bales lived here, never leaving the area, for 39 years. He died in 1926 and is remembered as being foul tempered and unpleasant. Perhaps that is why, to my knowledge, no photograph of Ephraim exists today. He probably threw rocks at anyone with a camera. Here's the irony: He was known for chasing people off his property, today thousands visit it every year.

On June 10, 1929, with the coming of the national park, his heirs sold 71.7 acres: 30 cleared and cultivated, 120 apple trees, 41.7 acres timbered with oak, chestnut and poplar for $2000.

© 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

For link to other Roaring Fork homesteads click:

In 2015, Judy Collins and the Great Smoky Mountain Association invited me to lead a Heritage Tour of the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail area.

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