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FRANCES BROWN - CADES COVE DAYS
By Marshall McClung
Frances Brown who recently turned ninety, still has fond memories of living in Cades Cove which is now part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Frances was born in Cades Cove in 1904 and spent the first twenty years of her life there. Her parents were Taylor Whitehead and Mary Jane Gregory Whitehead. Her mother was related to the Gregorys for which Gregory Bald was named, a peak southwest of Cades Cove on the Swain County line. Gregory Bald which reaches almost 5,000 feet in elevation had a lot of good grass for cattle. A relative, Russell Gregory lived on Gregory Bald during the Civil War.
As a little girl, Frances can remember riding a pack horse from Cades Cove to Gregory Bald. Along the way, they would come upon huge trees that had fallen across the trail. Rather than try to saw the trees out, they would just route the trail around the fallen trees. The Gregory's raised cattle, hogs, and crops on Gregory Bald. Frances remembers packing the vegetables by horse down to "the cove" as they referred to Cades Cove. Other areas she remembers being around include Moore Spring, Flat Gap, and Rye Patch. The house on Gregory Bald burned down when she was a young girl.
Frances remembers hearing her elders speak of seeing the Cherokees returning from the Trail of Tears. She said people in Cades Cove feared strangers and were distrustful and suspicious of anyone they did not know.
Russ Whitehead a brother of Frances's would serve as a lookout watching for forest fires during periods of dry weather. He would go up to a high point and watch over Cades Cove for signs of a fire. Frances walked from Happy valley located along what is now the Foothills Parkway to see him. The purpose of her trip was to borrow $20 to buy a cow. She spent the night in the high country with him. The next morning she looked through his binoculars down into Cades Cove and watched the people making sorghum.
Frances attended a one room school about two miles from where she lived. She considered it an opportunity to attend school, and found it uplifting. She said the students all took a part and seemed to have a lot more feelings for one another than they do now. She feels there was much less division in the schools then as compared to today. Since school was available only part of the year in Cades Cove, Frances also attended another school located in Sam Houston Inn from age 13-18. She worked for her board there doing household chores.
Frances married Carl Brown when she was 18. Carl had run away from home at the age of twelve and went to live with his grandmother on Forney's Creek. Carl was noted for his "buck
dancing". During the course of their marriage, they lived in seven different states. They had seven children which were born in five different states. One of the children died at age thirteen from rheumatic fever.
A lot of logging jobs began opening up in the area. A lot of men walked for miles through the woods to get to these logging jobs. No one thought anything about making such trips as down Eagle Creek to Fontana.
Carl and Frances lived a lot of different places over the next several years. They lived at Judson which was a logging town between Alarka Creek and Greasy Branch. It is now under the waters of Fontana Lake. Frances remembers riding the log train and getting cinders down her neck. It took the train half a day to come up the river on log hauling trips. The Browns lived in Arkansas for five years during the Depression on a forty acre homestead. They moved back to Graham County and lived on Panther Creek for five years where they cleared and fenced their property and built a log cabin.
Frances loved the woods and felt at home in them whether she was cutting firewood or hunting. She became a crack shot and could clip apples from a tree with a .22 caliber rifle without harming the apple. She also used a 16 gauge and 410 gauge shotgun to hunt with. Once while on her way to church, she saw two grouse beside the road. She had a rifle in the back seat of the vehicle. "There I was all "Sundayed" up in my church clothes with a rifle", Frances recalled. She eased the rifle out of the vehicle, took a rest over the hood and got both birds.
Frances recalled an incident she had with a bear at their home near Tsali where they operated a store for several years. Frances thought the bear was a stray dog and grabbed the .410 shotgun to scare it off. She could see it in the moonlight about thirty feet away. During this encounter with the bear, she kept trying to get a shell in the shotgun and found she was trying to put a tube of lipstick in the chamber.
Frances recalled the tornado that hit Graham County in 1974 killing two people. It tore her porch off and dropped it onto their new car. She said the tornado sounded like a big jet plane coming. She looked out and it looked like it was literally snowing roofing shingles. The air was filled with them and other debris. The suction was jerking the doors to the house open. Large trees were breaking and crashing to the ground including sturdy oaks. Frances said to herself "This is it." The storm tore part of the roof from the house. Then suddenly it was over. They moved furniture from the damaged part of the house to a portion that still had the roof on and covered the damaged area with plastic. The room where the roof had been torn off had several inches of rainwater in it. The Browns referred to this as their "pool" room. Large hailstones some of them stuck together with jagged edges covered the ground.
Frances has always loved Graham County and the mountains. "I always liked to be outdoors, it didn't matter if I was cutting wood, hunting with the dogs, or just out walking around" she said. One of her favorite possessions is a dog carved from black walnut that she refers to as her "black and tan."
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This page is maintained by Tom Livingston, Robbinsville, North Carolina