This is the story, from the people, about the Creation of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Swain County North Carolina. It is one that should never be forgotten because it tells what Swain County lost and how our citizens lost faith in our own Federal Government. I have listened to many Swain County Citizens tell how their own Dad and Mom went to their grave saying our Government will not lie to us and they will keep their promises and contract they have made to us.

I have walked the land in the footsteps of my Father, back in time where the first one walked. I have bent down and touched the Earth where my Mother and Father lived and called home. I have walked the old paths and look back with pride of my heritage. I have seen yesterday, and wept for today. We need to remember the people who were hurt the most were the people with the least voice.

In the mid 1750's the first white setters came to what is now Swain County through what is now Soco Gap and settled in Swain County. Many of the early settlers built cabins, cleared land and received land grants after the Revolutionary war for their services. This occurred after the treaties with the Cherokee and after the Cherokee land had been taken by the Federal Government. The Federal Government tried for years to take the Cherokee's language, culture, spiritual belief. The Cherokee's did lose most of their land, and they lost thousands of lives.

In 1830, the trade trails came across the mountain from Tennessee and over the mountain to what is now Eagle Creek. As more setters came they moved throughout most of Swain County, early setters, mostly English, Scottish, Dutch and Irish came to the mountain to live. Here the area was rich in resources, timber for building homes, land for farming, and water in almost every hollow for drinking. Everything needed was here to live, so people started to move here from all over. There were jobs in timber, copper mining, even gold. Life was hard but good, a man could live, work and provide for his family and provide timber and copper for our nation. In the early 1900's railway and roads came in a big way because of people like Joshua Calhoun. He knew that roads were the way to the future of Swain County. The roads were built because they were needed to move people, timber, and copper. People also needed the resources to live, during that time jobs were plentiful and then the great depression hit.

Times were hard on everyone but families pulled together and pulled through trouble times. Again timber was a resource our nation needed and jobs came back. During this time a man's word was his bond and a hand shake a contract. People trusted each other and that was the way mountain folks were.

Then it was decided that a National Park was needed. The earliest suggestion for the creation of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park came around 1880. This idea was credited to the Reverend C.D. Smith. People were told that you live in a beautiful place, rich with resources, some land should be saved not logged, and it should be kept as it is.

Men like Horace Kephart a writer, a man with many words, a man who lived off others and convinced them to give or sale their land and give up their heritage. In 1926 Congress began to consider the possibility of a National Park. It took almost 14 years for this to become a reality. The first Park land was bought by the Federal Government. Swain County Citizens also help purchase land. Some land was donated for the Park and even our school children raised money to help pay for land so we could have a National Park.

Schools in Swain County
In 1926 when the first National Park started, school children contributed money for the Great Smoky Mountain National Park as follows - 36 schools - their names and contribution were:
Epps Springs .91
Bushnell $5.OO
Noland .3
Laurel Branch $1.15
White Oak $4.33
Judson $2.00
Almond $5.42
Smokemont $5.50
High Tower $1.45
Whittier $3.80
Maple Springs $0.50
Brush Creek $2.00
Silver Mine $0.75
Round Hill $0.38
Lands Creek $0.33
Ela $5.00
Proctor at Hazel Creek $2.25
Jackson Line $l.00
Indian Creek $1.00
Cold Springs $0.45
Mill Creek $1.00
Bryson City $20.67
Medlin $5.00
Kirkland Creek $0.50
Forney Creek $2.00
Bryson City Colored $2.00
Parish Chapel $0.50
Fair Fax $1.25
Wesser Creek $1.00
Birdtown Indian School $2.32
Deep Gap $0.38
Cochran $0.85
Conley Creek $0.42
Ravensford $1.05
Hewitts $2.25

For a grand total of $ 84.69 cents.

In a letter from the Swain County Board of Education to Dr. Bryson said:

Dear Sir:
I wish to make the following report to you on contributions from Swain County Public School to the proposed National Park. The school gave 100% strong, that is every child in school gave something toward the Park.

Most of Swain County citizens were proud their land was chosen to be used to create a National Park. With the first National Park Swain County lost about 3,000 people. Some had to leave our county just to find jobs because with the loss of that much land there were not enough jobs in Swain County. Some people when they moved because of the Park just moved down closer to the river and lived there. You should know that Swain County lost with the first National Park about Y4 of our tax base and about ~of our jobs. We lost cemeteries, settlement, churches, post offices, boarding houses, commissaries, schools, hunting lodges, black smith shop, grist mills, and saw mills.

When President Roosevelt came to Swain County to dedicate the first Park the late 1930s a statement was made by President Roosevelt that Swain County and North Carolina has given enough to the Park and no more shall be added to the Park. This statement was heard by Preacher Clyde Johnson, George Monteith and many other people at the dedication, who walked over 15 miles to hear President Roosevelt speak.

In 1943 another 44,170 acres was added to the National Park. An average of $7.00 was paid for a acres of land unless you owed back taxes. Then money was used to pay your taxes. If your land was condemned your money was deposited in the bank. Some family received nothing for their land and home. Jim Kirkland was one of many family that received nothing for his land and he owned around 120 acres on Kirkland Branch with a 20 acre apple orchard on it. Most families did not get enough money for their land to buy a home where they moved. THIS IS HISTORICAL GRIEF AND TRAUMA. On November 15, 1949 President H.S. Truman approved the transfer of another 44,170 acres. This was in keeping with an agreement between T.V.A., State of North Carolina, Swain County, and the Interior Department dated July 30, 1943.


65% to the National Park T.V.A. Or Tennessee Valley Authority - 7,337 acres of Swain County land
2% U.S. Forest Service - 22,296 acres 6.5% of Swain County Land.
Total Government land in Swain County over 87%. This was the Swain County tax base.

SO WHY ARE SWAIN COUNTY PEOPLE ANGRY, HURT, and DISTRUSTFUL of the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT? Now you know why we say Historical Grief and Trauma.

Why was the 44,170 acres taken? During World War II, T.V.A. Needed more power to make electricity in Oak Ridge Tennessee, T.V.A. (people) told citizens of Swain County that we need a total of 11,000 acres of land to build Fontana Lake and Fontana Dam, so Tennessee can produce more power. Power is needed to create an atomic bomb and more aluminum for Planes for World War II, this will help end the war. Swain County Citizens were and are very PATRIOTIC so they gave up there land in Swain County for the War effort to build Fontana Dam. Construction started on Fontana Dam on December 17, 1940. It was completed November 7, 1944 and power was generated January 20, 1945. You see many of the sons and husband of these people who lived on the North Shore of the Tuckasegee and the Little Tennessee river where T.V.A built Fontana Dam were off fighting the war. People knew that access to their homes would be cut off with the construction of Fontana Dam and some were told that as soon as the War is over that another road would be built down the north side of the lake back to their homes. (This is part of the story that the government denies, healing can only come when the truth is told.) Why else would the people of the North Shore leave part of their belongings, including furniture, cars, and homes. Some people were told they can move back after the war while others were told they could not, this is final. T.V.A. men done what it took to get people to move, we are told this today by T.V.A. People.

Then we have the National Park entering the story again. T.V.A knew they did not have the money to rebuild back Old North Carolina Highway 288. Most of that road was flooded by Fontana Lake, so the Park Service bought or took by condemnation the remaining 44,000 acres of land left on the North Shore of the river. At that time the National Park Service agreed that as soon as the War was over and money was approved by Congress that they the ( National Park) would rebuild N.C Highway 288 from Bryson City to Deal Gap Tennessee. This road would provide people access back to their Heritage their Cemeteries their home land in a letter from TVA dated July 31, 1943. In a district court decision, Federal Judge Yates Webb held that TVA has no legal authority to condemn land for the TVA addition to the park. Also, that it is illegal for one branch of the Federal Government to condemn land and give to another branch of the Federal government. The people of the North Shore and their descendants are still hoping for the healing that can come when the Federal Government honors their word and Contract. Without this honesty Historical Grief and Trauma stills exist.

Some of what Swain County and the People of the North Shore lost because of the two National Parks, which became the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We have lost faith in our Federal Government, we feel the National Park has tried to erase our Heritage by denying what was on the North Shore. Of the more than 600 homes that once existed only two have been designated historical. These homes are in need ofwant to repair but no money has been appropriated by the Park Service for repair. We feel the National Park Service has tried to erase the heritage by denying what was on the North Shore of Fontana Lake. The homes and building of the North Shore were burned, contents kept by the National Park. Over 6000 people once lived on the North Shore of the river comprising over half of Swain Countie's tax base and jobs. This is Historical Trauma to the people who once lived there and their descendants. Over 600 miles of old roads still exist on the North Carolina side of the Smoky Mountain National Park today.

Swain County - lost communities and settlement:
Rhymers Ferry Fontana
Eagle Creek-500 people and the Copper Mines
Hazel Creek-1500 people, also copper mine and three sawmills also the town of Proctor
Cable Branch Fairview
West Pace Branch-Calhoun Branch or Way Side
Jim Mitchell Branch
Harrison Herron Branch-Pilkey Creek
Sutton Branch or Water Tank Branch
Kirkland Branch
Chamber Creek
Buck Eye Branch
Mandy Welch
Branch-Bushnell 1500 people
Frog Town
Hoot Owl Hollow
Monteith Branch
Gunter Branch
Ginny Branch
Forney Creek - 1500 people two saw mills
John Cole Branch
Gold Mine Branch
Noland Creek - 500 people two saw mills
Hickory Flats
Cane Break or Epps Springs
Peach Tree Creek
Lands Creek
Smoky Mount 1500 people two saw mills
Judson 1000 people - saw mill
Almond 500 people

Most of these names have been lost, the National Park has renamed some, or just forgotten about them.

Payne-Cable # I
Bone VaIIey
Hall-Cable #2
Scott Anthony
Woody-Hoyle-Conner and Styles
Noland #1
Noland #2
More than 1200 visited Graves Still Remain

Over 1,047 Graves were removed when the second park was established, and the Lake was built Over 1000 back country Graves still remain in the National Park.. There are Thousands of Native American or Cherokee Graves and over 100 African American Graves still remaining in the Park.

What about: Jobs
Churches over 20
10 sawmills
10 Post Offices
7 Boarding Houses
20 Grocery Stores
Over 20 Schools on North Shore alone
7 Train Depots
15 Side Tracts
4 Ferries
Hunting Lodges
Doctors and Mid Wifes - 15
Black Smiths Shops
Fruit Orchards
Grist Mills
Gas Stations - 2
Copper Mines, with enough gold to pay for operations of mine.


There were many large towns and settlements at the time on the North Shore of the river before the National Park was established the largest being Hazel Creek, Bushnell, Forney Creek and Judson. One small community was Epps Springs or Cane Break on the north shore of the Tuckasegee River about 5 miles below Bryson City. Today if one did not know where it was one would over look all the history of the area. Epps Springs N.C was named for Epaphorditus Everett. Since only his mother could pronounce his name he was commonly call Epps. He was the first Sheriff of Swain County, in 1871 and the First Mayor of Bryson City in 1880. Born April 4, 1830, Everett served in the Confederate Army as a Lieutenant 3th Mounted Infantry. A justice of the Peace 1875-1903 he was known as the marrying man. At Epps Springs there were two general stores, a hotel, railroad station, two grist mills, two schools one white and one colored, two churchs - one for white and one for colored. The DeHart Colored School was founded December S, 1887 by former slave Ruffin DeHart and his wife Susan. This colored cchool and church was the only one in what is now the National Park. At the church a cemetery with 39 Graves now unmarked and is now overgrown and still remains in the National Park. The first passenger train arrived at Epps Springs in 1886 the Richmond & Danville later became the Southern Railway on July 1, 1894. Guests would arrive by passenger train until 1924 until highway N.C 288 was built. Epp's son J ,H, Everett advertised in the Asheville Citizen on January 23, 1907: "Rates $1 and $1.50 per day. Medical water of these springs are splendid for stomach and kidney diseases. A cemetery with 21 graves south of the hotel still remains in the Park unattended.
There was an indian town and over 100 buried at Epps Springs. A swinging bridge at Epps Springs permitted kids from the south side of the river to attend School. It seems to me this story has something we all need today a closeness to GOD, and trust in each other.

But on February 5, 2010 trust and honesty stopped forever, when Swain County Commissioners gave up any hope for the healing to occur when by a four to one vote, the Commissioners gave up the 1943 Agreement. Swain County Commissioner Glen Jones, Steve Moon, Philip Carson and Genevieve Lindsay gave Swain County side of the park away for every. Commissioner David Monteith was the only Commissioner that stood with the citizens of Swain County when he voted against the give away of the 1943 agreement. Monteith ask the other Commissioners to let the people of Swain County have a non-binding vote on this issue. He was denied this motion by the other Commissioners, Monteith ask the other Commissioners with a motion again, to let the people at the meeting have a say at the meeting but the motion failed to get a second. Monteith made several other motions to let the citizens have a voice in the process and these motions were also denied. Commissioner Monteith accused the other commissioners that they already knew the outcome of the vote and it was already decided in Washington by Congressman Shuler, the Department of Interior director Salazar, and a TVA representative. and Governor Perdue of North Carolina. that the votes were there as early as late January as a celebration was announced to the commissioners one week early, from Congressman Shuler office.

In 1943, the citizens of Swain County did not have a say when TVA, North Carolina Department of Interior and Swain County Commissioners voted to give away over 50,000 acres and over 3,000 homes, schools, churches, and 33 cemeteries. It seems to me that history did repeat itself in 2010.

The former citizens of the North Shore and the citizens of Swain County need HISTORICAL GRIEF and TRAUMA HEALED. This can only come when TRUST and HONESTY OCCURS. DID IT?

In my opinion Swain County and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park will suffer Wilderness Designation and Restricted Zone in the near future, this was planed as early as the 1960's.

by David Monteith

This is dedicated to the former citizens of the North Shore.