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Smoky Mountain Settlers

Reaford McCarter

Reaford McCarter was born in the Sugarlands area of what is now Great Smoky Mountains National Park. McCarter told ghost stories and stories about his life in Sugarlands. The following is a transcript from an interview with McCarter taken by Paul Gordon, Park Historian, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on December 18, 1983. The interview was transcribed and edited by Jeaneane Payne, Image Builders, in September 1991.

Reaford McCarter Story

I was born about a mile and a half or two miles below Gatlinburg. That's what is known as Huskey's Grove Branch now. That's where I go to church at, Huskey's Grove, but I was raised in and around Gatlinburg. I used to live in the Sugarlands before the park service ever was started. I have been with the park service ever since 1947. I came to work for the park service when I came back out of the service in 1947; September 29th. I was 23 years old.

I helped build what was known as the New Gatlinburg Motor Lodge in Gatlinburg when I lived on the farm with my father who was a sharecropper, as they call it, where you raised vegetables in the summer time. In the winter time he worked for the Pi Phi school. He made what is known as a split basket, and that's the way we used to make our income in the winter time. He did that for years. There's some of his work still in Gatlinburg, and the Pi Phi school still has some of his work. I have a few items that he had made during his life.

The McCarter family originated from three brothers who moved to Gatlinburg when it was first being set up, I guess you'd call it, from South Carolina. They originally came from Scotland and Ireland.

My great grandfather was one of the three brothers that moved in here. We have the family tree traced back to South Carolina in 1735, I believe it is. Some of the Huskeys have the book, and some of the McCarters have it. My grandfather was a soldier in the Civil War. We have his history in his old trunk at home. It refers to those days.

He was a Union soldier. Most of the people who volunteered for the Civil War were Unions from around and near Gatlinburg. They were with the Union people. That's how the McCarters came to be here. They are one of the families who were the original settlers of Gatlinburg.

The people who lived in and around Gatlinburg would, for pasttime during the winter time, do nothing except to visit one another. They would sit around and, to have pasttime, they would make up riddles for each other or, as they say, unriddle; to make the answer to it. Some of those things I remember by memory that my mother taught me.

We had a game that we called "Fox and Geese." It's kinda' like checkers except you have two grains of yellow corn, and all the rest of 'em were white. The secret of the thing was the yellow corn. The two grains of yellow corn could jump the white ones, and they'd take them off the board, but if the white ones could hem the yellow ones and they couldn't move no place, that won the game. So it was really: The yellow was the fox.

It is really an interesting game. It's more interesting than checkers, and it takes more skill than checkers. But this is one of the pasttimes they had then.

We used to (when I lived below Gatlinburg) -- we lived up on what they call Norton Creek. They had one automobile that ran from Gatlinburg to Sevierville to make connections with the taxis that went on to Knoxville. The first time that I remember of going to Knoxville was when I went in a wagon that my grandfather and my dad had. They would peddle to Knoxville to what they call Market Square at the present. We'd stay over in what they call Bays Mountain. Now it's where the separation of Knox County and Sevier County line was. That was the experience of some of those stories.

I remember just portions of different stories that my father and my mother and my grandfather used to tell about some of the encounters that they had with life here in the mountains, especially the one about my grandfather.

He was a United Brethren preacher. This is one of the incidents that happened to one of my uncles who was older than my father. He was the youngest one of thirteen children. My older brother, John McCarter, got married. Rather, my oldest uncle, John McCarter, got married. He had been married just a short time, and my father (he was a young boy) wanted to go to spend the night with them. So he went down to spend the night. In the meantime, they lived in a one room log cabin like most people lived around here.

My aunt was sick the next morning, and she couldn't get out of bed. She just felt terrible. He wanted her to get up and get his breakfast, so he kinda took one of his, you might say, "McCarter spells," and he pulled his young wife out of bed. He thrashed her good and sorta beat her up. Her eyes were all black and blue. It scared my father to death, and he ran home which was abaout a mile or a mile and a quarter from where my uncle lived. He went up and told his father and his mother about the incident that happened.

My grandfather, being a preacher, went down to this wife. He used to refer to her as "mate." He would never call her by name or anything. He just called her mate of a woman. He said that he'd better go down and check and see waht the boy had done to the girl. So, on the way down he cut him a sycamore sprout about four feet long. He walked up to the house, and he set the sprout down on the side of the door on the little porch. He walked on in, and my uncle was setting in front of the little fire that he had built, and my aunt was in the bed. She was crying.

My grandfather walked back to my aunt and asked her what was wrong, and he walked back up to the fireplace. He told his son, he looked at him and said, "You're a grown man. You can do whatever you want to, but you don't whip a woman like that. I'm a gonna whup you." In the meantime, he went to the door, and he got his hickory. He brought it in and said, "Are you going to stand up and take it like a man or are you gonna do something about it?" So my uncle just stood up and took the whipping. My uncle has told me personally several times that was the hardest whipping that he ever got in his life.

Some of the people in this day and time don't believe that parents whipped their children after they goto grown back in those days. We were taught to respect elderly people. We were to refer to them as aunt or uncle if they were old. We'd have to show the respect. If we didn't we would get our bottom tanned.


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