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Archive for January, 2010

It was Scottish tradition that when the patriarch died in an Scottish family, the oldest son inherited all the land and the others received nothing. And, as luck would have it, my Scottish ancestor was not the oldest. My great-great-grandfather left Virginia and moved to the Appalachian mountains with his family. The mountains of Tennessee reminded the Scottish people of their native land. They set up their homesteads despite the rugged terrain of the land.

Campbell Mountain

My great-great-grandfather was given a land grant in 1830 of 250 acres and my great-grandfather was given a total of 1200 acres, perhaps for in return for their Revolutionary War service. This area is known  as Campbell Mountain.

1830 is right after the treaty with the Cherokee to move them to Oklahoma, and 10 years after Daniel Boone roamed the area. Davy Crockett moved from Tennessee in 1834, after being defeated in his seat for the US representatives. He disagreed with President Andrew Jackson about the Indian Removal Act and angrily left for Texas. Jamestown, Tennessee, a mountain town, was established in 1828.

Timothy's birthplace

My grandfather Timothy grew up in a house in a valley next to Campbell Mountain close to a mountain spring. Farming was his family’s livelihood. He stayed on the mountain after he grew up and became a vital part of the community. My grandfather helped with the family farm, but also was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse.  He stayed there until he and his brother lost the land during the depression. (See: Living on the Edge ) He started a grocery store in a building next to their house. Timothy worked as the Justice of the Peace — he had trials and received no salary.   He was able to keep a percentage of the commission from  the fines and fees collected.

Justice of the Peace Decree

My mother grew up on this Campbell Mountain in eastern Tennessee. It was Appalachia, not only in geographic location, but in extreme poverty and way of life.  Not one thing was easy for my mother living in this part of the country. We heard as children about walking to school in the snow barefoot. But it wasn’t until we returned to the area with her that we realized that this was exactly how she got around the mountain and traveled to school. It was not exagerated. We had more respect for her when we realized that it was also uphill all the way.

Because my grandmother left her family (See: Archiving Photos and Videos AND Telling the Story ), my mother was in charge of the household and did the family laundry in the nearby spring, cooked dinner over the wood stove, and read at night by kerosene. My uncles who were older than my mother, ran moonshine through the mountains during prohibition. They knew the mountains better than the revenuers and were able to outwit them. This area of Tennessee didn’t have electricity or running water until after World War II in the late 1940s.

My mother left this area for college, but returned  after graduating from Martin Teacher’s college in 1941. She taught at a nearby school in  a mining community called Stockton, teaching all 8 grades and 72 kids in a one-room schoolhouse.   Many of the students were older than she was and disobedient.  She stayed there 2 months.   Her brother had taught there and had carried a gun back and forth to school with him after being by a parent there.

Her father lived 3 miles  out-of-town, and was  teaching at neighboring Round Mountain, at the same time my mother taught in Stockton 8 miles away.  There was a corduroy road in between the two towns and the logs broke in the road and the car fell in. During the war, tires were scarce and my mother drove down the mountain on the rims. The stick shift came off into her hand while she was driving down the mountain and panicked about how continue her travels. It was treacherous traveling around the mountains.

It was also treacherous living there. In 1955, my grandfather died at the age of 68. He returned to his homeplace on the foothills of Campbell Mountain in the Campbell family cemetery. Buried next to him is my mother’s sister-in-law – her best  friend – who died in childbirth delivering her 7th child at home on Mother’s Day 1953. Her baby girl also died and lays at her side. And next to her is her husband – my mother’s brother – who when burdened with the remaining 6 children and a problem with alcohol, died of a broken heart one year later.

For those who are born in the  mountains, the struggle can never end until their lives end.  For the ones who manage to survive, a feisty zest for life remains after the lesser parts are scraped away.

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