Sunday, December 11, 2016

Remembrance of Things Past: Gatlinburg #3

Photo from Wiki Media commons

The Roaring Fork area is still closed, but again relying on the interactive map provided by the national park and Sevier County officials, the Alfred Reagan Homesite with tub mill appears to be intact after the firestorms that swept through the park and Gatlinburg on Monday, November 28.

Alfred Reagan was born November 6, 1856 and married Martha Ann Bales on April 6, 1879. Martha was the older sister of Ephraim and James Wesley Bales. This would make Alfred my great great granduncle-in-law if there is such a distinction.

Although it appears to be a frame house, a closer inspection reveals a hidden secret. It is actually a saddlebag style log cabin: two rooms or pens with a chimney in the center and an open fireplace on each side. The park service states that the initial log cabin was probably built by the original owner T. R. Myers between 1886 and 1894. 

Reagan tub grist mill. wiki
Reagan himself was a jack-of-all-trades. It is also reported by the park service that he was a "farmer, miller, storekeeper, blacksmith, gunsmith and carpenter" which may indicate he knew how to make at least some money. He was also a one-time lay preacher and operated a tub grist mill to grind neighbor's corn to meal for a price. This ability to make money is probably why he was able to remodel the original log cabin with milled board paneling—inside and out—making it warmer and less drafty. At some point the front porch was added and a kitchen ell was built onto the back (since removed). Plus there's the addition of a third door in the middle of the front porch that led to a new upstairs loft and two additional rooms making the turn of the century home a Walton-ish sort of place with ample room for a big family. Alfred and Martha Ann had seven children that survived until adulthood and four that did not.
Finally, the home received a coat of festive paint: white, yellow and turquoise, making it a bit of a showplace, as it still is. There is a legend that he used those three colors because it was the only ones offered by Sears & Roebuck at the time. This makes a good story but is it true? One online source indicates that both the 1897 and 1900 Sears & Roebuck catalogs offered more exterior paint choices than just those. There were seven shades of green alone.

Reagan was also a good neighbor. It is reported in several places that whenever someone died in the area, he made a custom fit wooden coffin lined with whatever the bereaved family desired for no cost, a magnanimous gesture of civility and generosity. Alfred himself died in 1928 and is buried at the Bales Cemetery across the creek from the Jim Bales Homesite. His tombstone is pictured to the right. 

When I lead a heritage tour the Reagan home is always one place that we visit.

© 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:

Ephraim Bales

In 2015, I led a Heritage Tour of Roaring Fork for the
Great Smoky Mountain Association.

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