Genealogy and History
Contributed by Sam Maner
Source: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Sunday, August
29, 1965 Page F
Early Days Recalled
Elkmont, Rooted in Smoky Park History, Is Proud of Tradition
By WILLARD YARBROUGH
Levi Trentham and Ben Parton struck off up Jake's Creek.
They carried heavy powder rifles, and long hunting knives for skinning. Their quarry was a Smoky Mountain bear.
Now, the bearded Trentham and his cabin-dwelling neighbor Parton had hunted bear in the Elkmont Country since they
were big enough to tote their weapons. They grew up long before the turn of the 20th Century in Elkmont and had
heard bear tales about Davy Crockett who had hunted in their mountain fastness.
Trentham and Parton found their cave. Parton elected to flush the bear and crawled on his stomach into the den.
The wizened Uncle Levi - who wasn't called the Sage of the Smokies for nothing - waited at the mouth of the cave.
Suddenly from within the cave came a thunderous roar, one that would have drowned out the loudest thunderclap over
the highest Smoky peak. Parton had found his bear and the fight was on.
Human screams were louder than those of the beast. Thirty minutes later, a bleeding mountain man inched his way
to daylight, dragging his quarry behind him.
Paying scant attention to Parton's ripped flesh and tattered clothing, Uncle Levi stroked his beard in contemplation.
Then Uncle Levi casually asked his friend: 'You-a-gettin' my bear'' Parton fairly screamed his answer: 'Yore bear,
hell. Go in and get yore own damn bear!'
WAS IT NAMED FOR ELKS'
The Trenthams, Partons and Ownbys were refreshing mountaineers who inhabited Elkmont Country in the 19th Century,
long before the coming of the Elkmonters from Knoxville who founded the Appalachian Club in 1907, erected a rustic
clubhouse-hotel and their own log cottages.
Appalachian members and the natives learned to get on famously, and each side has left its legends deep in Smoky
How did Elkmont get its name' There are several versions. The most consistent, however, as recalled by Mrs. Maidee
Deloach Adams and Earnest Trentham, is that it was named for the Knoxville Elks Club.
Elks Club members hunted and fished in the area around 1900, before the Little River Railroad came.
And as for Jake's Creek, whose babbling waters lull cottagers to sleep, 'tis said it was named for Jake Parton.
Elkmonters, now in their fourth generation, continue to abide in their cabins deep within the Great Smoky Mountains
National Park. Thirty-one of the 47 cottages are occupied either by their 'originals' ' or by their children and
grandchildren who spent the summers of their formative years fishing for trout or swimming in Jake's Creek and
the East Prong of Little River, hiking Elkmont trails, and learning about nature and mountain folk simply by living
REAL BEGINNING WAS IN 1901
This is the story of Elkmont, from the beginning till now, about the people there and the role its Knoxville
founders played in realization of their grandest dream: Creation of the Smoky Park itself.
Their names remain prominent today in the business, professional, social and civic life of Knoxville and East
Tennessee. Examine the ABCs: Andrews, Anderson, Ashe, Arnett, Baumann, Brandau, Brownlee, Brownlow, Broughton,
Burns, Boyd, Briscoe, Byers, Cochran, Cook, Carringer, Deaver, Dulin, Evans, Gaines, Galyon, Gilliland, House,
Ijams, Knaffl, Kennerly, Kennedy, Keener, Lindsay, Littlefield, Luttrell, Mann, Matthews, Mebane, Mayo, Murphy,
Morton, Newman, Poore, Read, Roehl, Keller Smith, Spence, Swan and Swann, Thomas, Townsend and Young.
The real beginning of the private Appalachian Club and its neighbor, the publicly-open Wonderland Park Hotel and
Club nearby, goes back to Knoxville and 1901.
Mrs. Joseph P. Murphy remembers the beginning. Her cottage is on the banks of the Little River's East Prong, up
River Rd., which Elkmonters jokingly call 'Millionaire's Row'.
'Three Pennsylvanians seeking giant timber growth came South,' said Mrs. Murphy. 'They were Col. W. B. Townsend
and J. W. Wrigley of Clearfield, and F. H. McCormick of Williamsport.'
'Col. Townsend knew Joseph Patrick Murphy, who was to become my husband, but then of Pennsylvania, and talked him
into joining the enterprise, realizing that most officials were advancing in age.'
'There followed the Little River Railroad, with Murphy as superintendent, and the Little River Lumber Co., which
acquired some 80,000 acres of land from mountain owners.'
TOWNSEND NAMED FOR LUMBERMAN
'Headquarters was in Townsend, named for the firms' President. And from Townsend, the company carved out a railroad
line that reached 18 miles into Elkmont, and beyond.'
Adventurous Knoxvillians caught on quickly. They boarded the Southern Railway's Knoxville and Augusta Railroad
affiliate and rode to Walland and Townsend, then transferring to the Little River Railroad's logging train.
At first, these Knoxvillians rode the 'dog car' or caboose, got off at Elkmont and the train continued up to Jake's
Creek to the logging camps. This weekend trip became so popular that the wives became curious.
'So in 1907 the wives and husbands hunted and fished together in Elkmont,' Mrs. Murphy said. 'The first big summer
for both was in 1908, when the Appalachian Clubhouse was built. Col. Townsend, who let the club have acreage for
its site and for the log cottages, added an observation car on the logging train, later passenger coaches.'
Wonderland Club flourished in its day too, being opened and well advertised as the ideal summer resort in the Great
Vacationers and excursioners came over the same railroad route ' a torturous 2-1/2 to 4 hour trip ' from Knoxville.
Wonderland Station was a platform, where weekenders and others stepped off the coaches. There were rooms and cabins,
and lots were offered for sale for '$25.00 up'
Today, Wonderland operates after a fashion. Some of the many Elkmont Campground visitors find dining there to their
liking, the surroundings much as those at Appalachian Clubhouse.
The Appalachian Club became perhaps the most exclusive club in East Tennessee. Outsiders, unless one were a popular
Southern belle couldn't dine at the clubhouse. Prof. R. C. Matthews, an Elkmont veteran of more than 40 years,
still winces without smiling when he tells the story.
'I caught the train in Knoxville, transferred at Townsend and came the 18 Little River miles from there on the
logging train,' the retired UT engineering professor and first UT cheerleader said.
'Man! Was I hungry' My friend was a member of the club, but when I went in to eat lunch I was told that I couldn't
dine because I wasn't a member.'
'So I had to go down to the commissary and forage. I found sardines, cheese and crackers. You know, the club has
never apologized for that slight.'
RED MAY GET APOLOGY YET
That 'slight' of 1910 may just get official attention when the Appalachian club Board of Directors sits today at
the clubhouse to elect officers and transact annual business to close out the official season. President William
S. (Bill) Arnett, an Oak Ridge business executive, who lives at 710 Blows Ferry Rd., Knoxville, is considering
a suggestion that an official apology be extended Red Matthews, now a full-fledged Appalachian member himself.
Mrs. Matthews, even before her marriage to Prof. Matthews, was always welcome at 'the club'. She was a popular
belle then, as now, and her beauty overcomes her years. The peppery Red is 81.
Elkmont's 'golden years' have never been officially recorded. The epoch is filled with adventure, romance, difficulties,
and yet always encased in close family and friendly ties.
Attorney Forrest Andrews of Knoxville, another original, was found in his log cottage on Jake's Creek, surrounded
by wife and family.
Mr. Andrews, who drafted the charter for the eight original members of the Smoky Mountain Conservation Association,
recalled an incident connected with creation of the Park.
The backers needed Tennessee state funds to help acquire park land, and it was Mr. Andrews' role to drive part
of a 50-member state legislative delegation into the Smokies.
'We were driving back to Knoxville from Townsend in my Franklin touring car in 1927,' he said. 'We had parked the
car at Townsend and taken the train into Elkmont, and back to Townsend the same way.
'Someone in my car warned me about the local sheriff being on the outlook for speeders. Maximum speed was 30 mph.
But we were feeling fine and I had a good car, so I passed one up front which someone thought could be the local
sheriff. We were a little adventuresome, sure. Some in the car had taken a few drinks.
'When we reached Alcoa, a big fellow came over to the car. He got up real close, and asked this pointed question:
'Are you full''
'I shot back: 'Full' Hell, no, what makes you think we're full''
' 'Oh, the man replied, 'I just thought you might have room to take this fellow here with you to Knoxville, if
you're not full.' '
That proved, Mr. Andrews mused, 'that conscience makes cowards of us all.'
More than one person believes he possesses the oldest cottage in Elkmont. Certainly the Andrews, Matthews and Roehl
cottages are among the oldest in Elkmont.
However the consensus is that the Mayo and Thomas cottages ' set up by Col. Townsend himself ' are perhaps the
first to be erected.
DEAVER WAS A BOY MILKMAN
Lester (Danny) Deaver, a bachelor at 63 and a business leader in East Tennessee and North Carolina, remembers his
summer boyhoods in Elkmont as though they were yesterday.
'My father, J. L. (Bud) Deaver, would bring me up for the entire summer. We stayed at the Appalachian Hotel when
it had only 10 rooms. More were added as the membership grew, and finally MacEverson Annex was built.
'My first trip as a boy was in 1908. That's when I begin to learn about business. I got a contract with the Elkmont
residents to deliver them milk. It cost me 8 cents a quart plus freight. I sold it for 12 cents. And I delivered
newspapers and made 25c a week.'
Mr. Deaver's lodge is immaculate on the brink of Jake's Creek. He has roofed the old dog run, and has a full larder
of home-canned foodstuffs.
The Deaver cottage once was the home of Sherwood Bain, a Knoxville teacher whose bachelorhood provided much time
for his inveterate hiking. Many of his library books remain in the cottage even now. Mr. Deaver's kitchen prowess
is exceeded only by his hospitality. As his weekend houseguest fir this story, even the slightest comfort was not
As other present-day Elkmonters, Lester Deaver learned his fishing and hunting, his sense of fair play, and his
respect for natural conservation in sylvan setting.
'It was also here that I learned the pros and cons over whether it would be a Great Smoky Park or a Great Smoky
Forest,' Mr. Deaver said as a country ham simmered on the electric stove.
:Col. David C. Chapman and W. P. Davis of Knoxville favored the park idea. Knoxville Attorney James B. Wright,
a natural-born conservationist, wanted it to become a national forest. Mr. Davis has been credited with first advancing
the idea of making the Smokies into a national park.
FISHING FARTHER AWAY NOW
'Chapman, who did more than any other man to create the Smoky Park, wanted roads and facilities for all Americans
to enjoy. These visitors also would mean money for local businessmen.
'Wright, who had a cabin just down the road wanted the Smoky Park kept uncontaminated by the maddening crowds.
He stood for conservation.
'I'm not sure but that Jim Wright wasn't correct. Elkmont cottages would be safe today, rather than facing extinction
by the Interior Department in 1972, had the Smokies become a forest instead of a park.
'And fishing would be better too. Years ago I could catch big speckled trout, even big rainbows planted by the
Little River Co Appalachian Club hired mountaineers to bring in trout for club dinners.
'They'd come back with a gunnysack full ' 100 speckled, too big for a creel. Now it's too easy to get to a Smoky
stream to fish. Just drive up and start fishing.
'There's no walking far into the forest anymore, and that takes most of the sport out of fishing. The streams are
kept clean, because it's a park. But if the Smokies had been turned into a forest, the logs that spilled from logging
trains would still be in the streams, and the big trout like the speckled would have a place to escape the muskrat
and the weasels. I've seen them do it when the logjams were there.'
Deaver is an uncle of Appalachian President Bill Arnett, who lives a few cottages away on Jake's Creek.
RAIL-CAR WAS A UNIQUE CONTRAPTION
Ivah Cochran Murphy's life actually began in Elkmont. She met the dashing Joseph Murphy, who came calling on weekends
in a car that couldn't have a flat.
Her mother, Mrs. Alva C. Cochran of Knoxville, felt fairly safe with this knowledge. Young Murphy had taken a Model
T Ford, stripped it of it's tires, installed flanged railroad wheels, and set it up on the Little River Railroad
track. It would do 30 mph.
The youngsters were taking a ride toward Townsend when they heard something fall from the chassis, but they kept
right on going. And when Mr. Murphy tried to start again, he found the crank for the engine was missing. Ivah,
named for a Russian princess, never could convince her mother why it took until 2 a.m. to get back to Elkmont.
This rail-car, used by Mr. Murphy to survey the tracks, was the vehicle young Joe and Ivah took off in on their
honeymoon, with Elkmonters waving them good-by. Ford Times carried a story and picture of this unique contraption
back in 1911.
Mr. Cochran, president and owner of the old East Tennessee Brewery in Knoxville, built his Elkmont cottage in 1908.
ELKMONTERS PROUD OF TRADITION
Tradition is no stranger in Elkmont.
A quick introduction by Bill Arnett at the Byers cottage on Jake's Creek brought a roaring snort from Rufus A.
'You're the character who called me a squatter. Hell, I've been in Elkmont for more than 50 years, and a member
of the club that long, too.'
The 81-year old retired Army colonel bespoke the sentiment of some other proud Elkmonters who took offense to a
paragraph in a News-Sentinel story some weeks ago about the Great Smokies.
The reference was to Elkmont, the cottage owners on one hand and the some 1500 campers, among others, looked upon
the cottagers as 'squatters,' living and owning property within a national park.
The conversation led to the first cottagers and formation of the Appalachian Club, whose records were largely destroyed
by a fire in 1933 that destroyed the hotel itself. A name was suggested and quickly set aside. 'Why, he's only
been here 28 years,' was the reply.
The present Appalachian Clubhouse offers no meals and no lodging. It is the scene of two main affairs a season,
plus social functions by youngsters who dance to jukebox music.
The official Appalachian Club season phases out this weekend, with last night's dance and today's board meeting.
The Appalachian Clubhouse hotel of 50 years ago was quite something, however. Mrs. Eleanor Spence Thomas, daughter
of Knoxville's Gen. Cary F. Spence, remembers it well.
There was a boardwalk stretching for a half mile from the hotel up Jake's
Creek,' she said. It kept us out of the mud.'
Unique Car - Joseph P. Murphy, who was the first superintendent of the Little River Railroad, adapted this Model
T Ford to ride the rails for inspections. He even used it for his honeymoon trip. This photo of Murphy and his
car was made about 1911.
Elmont Veterans - Prof. R. C. (Red) Matthews, retired U. T. engineering professor, and Mrs. Matthews enjoy refreshments
at their Elkmont cottage. They have been Elkmont residents for more than 40 years.
'We had taffy pulls, first at the cottages and later at the hotel. Prizes ' cigars for men sewing baskets for women,
and barked baskets made from trees ' were given for the whitest taffy.
'Lem Ownby trapped bears, got up to 30 each year. He'd sell the skins for $7 and sell the meat to the hotel kitchen.
We ate trout and wild rabbits. Vegetables were plentiful, coming in from Gatlinburg by wagon pulled by oxen. Ice,
packed in sawdust, was hauled in by train from Maryville. Country ham was the staple.
'Uncle Lee Higdon caught trout for the dinner table ' and trout then was like serving lobster today.'
Uncle Lee is still on hand. He was an Elkmont resident before coming of the railroad, stayed on as caretaker for
the Appalachian Club. Now 81, he continues his job till this day, along with help from his son J. T and daughter
Faye. They live in the caretaker's cottage on Jake's Creek.
Mrs. Thomas' memory of Uncle Lee and club social affairs are most vivid.
'We danced to three-piece orchestras from Knoxville. The cook would play the piano. I remember once, back in 1927,
when Doyle King of Knoxville played his saxophone in one combo.'
TRAIN WRECK WAS BIGGEST TRAGEDY
Eleanor Thomas remembers other things too, such as lights going off at the club at 10 p.m. after a 15-minute blinker
warning earlier. And those who didn't leave quickly, had to grope along on the boardwalk to find their cottages
Electricity was precious, being used only two hours each day. A wooden flume back of Jim Wright's cabin the necessary
force into the little powerhouse. As the lights came on daily, the women rushed to their ironing but the current
would get so low that the irons wouldn't heat.
Elkmonters remember their biggest tragedy. Back in 1909, 'Old Three Spot' raced down Jake's Creek, loaded with
logs. Daddy Bryson was the train's engineer and Charlie Jenkins was his brakeman.
Others, riding atop the logs and realizing a crash was coming, jumped toward the hillside. Bryson and Jenkins jumped
on the creekside, and both were killed. J. P. Murphy carried the sad news to the victims' families.
HUSBAND SOLD LAND FOR PARK
Mrs. W. B. Townsend, widow of the man who made Elkmont possible, lives in her chateau-styled cottage today on banks
of Little River. Her husband helped create the Smoky Park by agreeing to sell 76,500 mountain acres to the state,
to be given to the government and to give up his lumbering empire.
Just up-road is Lindsay Young's place. The Knoxville attorney long ago tracked the Townsend deed at the Sevierville
court house whereby the Appalachian Club became sole owner of the area property, including the swimming pool formed
by a dam in Little River.
Up Jake's Creek, Mr. And Mrs. Sam Knaffl relaxed in their cottage. They pointed out ripened apples on trees outside
' the remnants of 5000 trees planted at the turn of the century by R. S. Hommel, one of the first presidents of
Here the clan gathers, particularly on weekends. Informality, in dress and by design, reigns. (Joe Wallen drove
up in his Buick, walked barefoot into Andy Morton's cottage where several other Elkmonters had gathered). Cars
with youngsters passed, headed for the Little River swimming hole.
Up River Rd, the atmosphere was quieter. Here live the Townsends, the Murphys, the Youngs, the Shirley Spences,
Paul Parrotts, the Brandaus, and the Loye W. Millers.
The Miller lodge, in the vortex of Elkmont's Y, was built by the Townsends in the design of French chalets with
stables on the ground level and living quarters upstairs. The Millers have occupied the lodge since 1947, but remember
when it was a Townsend horse stable.
Giant maples, birch, elms and poplars, along with firs, hide most of the cottages,
even the clubhouse. Laurel and rhododendron creep in even closer. The Ambrose Gaineses were spotted tossing breadcrumbs
to rainbow trout that played just below their patio overhanging Jake's Creek.
Col. And Mrs. Byers' lodge on Jake's Creek once was the property of the colonel's brother-in-law, Col. Chapman,
given him by the Department of the Interior in grateful acknowledgement of his untiring work and money that led
to creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And nearby is Jim Wright's cottage, now occupied by the
Otto Roehls, which he forsook when the Government decided on a national park, instead of a national forest.
Elkmonters' summer season begins June 1 and ends Labor Day. Yet some of the old timers don't come until July 1,
at the end of the 'black gnat season.' The biting varmints penetrate the finest screens and make a person miserable.
During other seasons, the Elkmont folk who are retired ' such as the Gaineses, the Floyd Craigs, and the Matthews
' live in Florida.
Cool Setting: The Otto Roehls pause among the ferns in front of their cottage, which once was Jim Wright's before
the National Park was developed.
MOST MAY LOSE PROPERTY
Today a heavy shadow hangs over the Elkmont resort that began 58 years ago. In 1952 Appalachian Club negotiated
and agreement with the Department of Interior, which controls national parks. This 20-year pact ends in 1972. It
means that, unless a new understanding is reached, Elkmont as such will be no more and the forest will take over.
This agreement came about after 75% of the Elkmont cottage owners signed a contract with Appalachian Club that
they would abandon their property after 1972. Sen. Estes Kefauver helped work out the arrangement.
However, there is a catch. Some 8 to 10 families, including the C. P. (Chuck) Swans, the Mayos, Thomases and Galyons,
for example, elected to keep their clear-cut titles. This means they could own their properties until children
of the original owners pass on. The estimate is that the youngest will live 50 more years.
Thus these few could stay on after 1972.
The leaseback rights to the cottages were given in consideration of the owners accepting much lower prices for
their property which the Government acquired for the park. These Elkmonters remember this 'patriotic generosity'
when they think of 1972. After all, the U. S. Government paid no money for park lands that make up the Smoky Park,
and without such generosity on the part of the landowners the park itself might never have been created.
So many Appalachian Clubbers and Elkmont cottage owners of today feel they are on solid ground when they talk about
a further extension of their of their existence there.
Those this reporter interviewed would like to see a new agreement with the Government that would permit Elkmont's
survival until all residents leave at the same time.
These Elkmonters have in mind a new departure date, perhaps 2000 A.D. ? or 35 years from now.
There is something to be said in behalf of those who founded Appalachian Club. They largely were the fighters whose
vision, patience and efforts led to the creation of the Great Smoky Park itself.
As for myself , an outsider who doesn't know the entire story or all the persons involved, there is only one conclusion.
That is: Elkmont forever!
In Logging Days - In the early 1900s logging operations were the
main activity. But weekend trips by Knoxvillians aboard the logging train were sowing the seen for a new role for
Quiet scene: The Ambrose Gaineses feed trout playing in Jake's Creek below the overhanging patio at their Elkmont
Early cottage: Mrs. W. B. Townsend, widow of the man who made Elkmont possible and helped create the Smoky Mountains
National Park, still lives in the cottage on the banks of the East Prong of Little River.