Monday, December 19, 2016

Remembrance of Things Past: Gatlinburg #6

GSMNP Archives

The cabin in the above photo no longer exists. Like so many other mountaineer homes inside the national park, it was allowed to gently return to nature almost 90 years ago.

Homer & Pearl at homesite with
bedroom ell and Edith in background,
circa 1926.
Bales family archive

This is the hidden homestead of Homer Daniel Bales and Pearl Mae Ogle Bales, my grandparents. Homer and Pearl were married on October 5, 1918. They birthed four children in this cabin. No doctor, no nurse, no running water, heat from a fireplace, probably a midwife as was the custom of the day. 

Maferd died the day he was born, November 22, 1923. The stillborn son is buried at the Bales Cemetery on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Three lived to adulthood: Mintha Edith Webb (March 26, 1921-June 19, 1990), Rubin Odos Bales (March 18, 1827) and Russell Homer Bales (December 4, 1928-September 9, 2007). Uncle Rubin is still living in Florida, Russell was my father.

Homer brings home supper:
 opossums. © Bales family archive

Life was hard. Initially, money scarce. You grew your own food or hunter-gathered it. The ruins of the home are located off trail, very off trail, at the fountainhead of Baskins Creek inside the national park. There is no longer a trodden path in, you just have to know where to go. I do, but few others know the way. That's why I offer it here as a remembrance.
Their log cabin was a basic saddlebag layout, single chimney in the middle with two fireplaces that face into the opposite rooms. An additional framed "modern" bedroom ell was added as the family grew.

Homer and Pearl sold their property in May 1929 to become part of the new national park. They packed everything they owned and galumphed away from the hardship down the wagon road to Gatlinburg. The inventory of the sale lists 127.8 acres: 40 cultivated and cleared, 87.8 timbered, 150 apple trees, unimproved road and wire fence, house with three rooms, six pen barn, spring house and corn crib. The asking price was $2500. They were paid $2,250.

Once asked "Were you bitter about having to sell your property?" Grandma Pearl laughed, she always laughed she enjoyed life. "Goodness no!" She replied, "We never thought we'd have $2,000 in our entire life." In the parlance of today, they "took the money and run" moving downstream.

Pi Beta Phi Settlement School was founded in Gatlinburg on February 20, 1912 in an abandoned schoolhouse at the confluence of Baskins Creek and the Little Pigeon River. Grandma Pearl, or as in the custom of my region, Mamaw Pearl had become loyal to the women of Pi Beta Phi the international Fraternity for Women, founded in 1867, so Pearl and Homer bought a parcel of open land between Bishop and Newton Lanes near Arrowmont and the school.

Pearl & Homer with Edith and Rubin, barn in 
background. circa 1927. Bales family archive

Today, all that is left to mark where the young family began at the head of Baskins is a pile of cobblestones, the stoic remains of their chimney. A gray ghost. Like most of the homes that were located within the national park’s boundaries, the homesite was left to wither away, dust to dust.

Memories fade. But their lives were much like the lives of their neighbors. They worked hard and dealt with their surroundings not knowing that someday it would become so special to so many.

Although the area is still closed and again we have to rely on the interactive map provided by the national park and Sevier County officials, it appears that the Homer Bales homesite did not burn during the firestorms that swept through the national park and Gatlinburg on Monday, November 28.

Time will tell. I'll hike back in as soon as I can.

© 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

Russell Bales at his birthplace, 1979

 For links to other Gatlinburg history posts click:

Baskins Creek Falls/P.C. Ogle

Alfred Reagan

Ephraim Bales

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