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A Literary Tour of Bryson City’s Hillside Cemetery

Thomas Wolfe angel

While the author never said, many scholars believe that the statue described in Thomas Wolfe’s “Look Homeward Angel” is the gravestone of Fanny Everett Clancy in the Bryson City hillside cemetery (above). Others believe Wolfe’s “angel” was a composite of two statues, the one in Bryson City and another in Hendersonville, NC. Both were imported from Carrara, Italy and sold at the Asheville tombstone shop owned by Thomas Wolfe’s father in the early 1900s. The Hendersonville angel has the smile and the foot of the angel described in the novel, while the Bryson City angel holds the lily that Wolfe described.

While at the Bryson City cemetery, also look for the large boulder marking the grave of Horace Kephart (1862-1931). The plaque reads “Scholar, Author, Outoorsman. He loved his neighbors and pictured them in “Our Southern Highlanders”. His vision helped to create The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.” Kephart also penned “Camping and Woodcraft” based on a series articles he wrote for Field and Stream.


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Legendary Outdoorsman Lived and Worked in Bryson City

Much has been written about Horace Kephart’s camps in the wilds of Deep Creek and Hazel Creek, but relatively little is mentioned about his time in Bryson City. Yet it was in his Everett Street office that he completed his novel “Smoky Mountain Magic” in 1929, two years before his tragic death. Kephart’s manuscript was preserved by his heirs and finally published — just last year — by Great Smoky Mountains Association. Fittingly, the book’s proceeds benefit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which Kephart helped to create.

Although written eighty years ago, “Smoky Mountain Magic” has received positive reviews. In Smoky Mountain News, Gary Carden wrote “Is Kephart’s novel entertaining? Yes, it is. … What better topic than a journey into a forbidden realm, complete with witches, robber barons, noble savages and a winsome lady, all wrapped in a cloak of mystery and myth?”

Great Smoky Mountains Association has produced an excellent video about Kephart (below) and how his love of Deep Creek comes to life in the pages of “Smoky Mountain Magic”. The five-minute film is partly narrated by Libby Kephart Hargrave, the author’s great-granddaughter.

Kephart’s Bryson City office — he called it ‘”my den” — was on the second floor of the Waldroup Building (above) overlooking the Tuckaseigee River, with a view of his beloved Smoky Mountains. In 1929, the smaller barber shop building had not yet been added, and a flight of outside stairs led to the second floor balcony. Part of that balcony — Kephart’s porch — still remains behind the barber shop and can be seen from the bridge.

Horace Kephart Days, April 30 — May 2
Next weekend marks the second annual celebration of Horace Kephart Days with special events, hikes, music, speakers and storytelling in various locations around Bryson City and Deep Creek. You can find more information at HoraceKephart.com.

Previous Postcards devoted to Horace Kephart: January 2009 and January 2010.

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Millstone Marks Horace Kephart’s Favorite Smoky Mountain Refuge

Shortly after Horace Kephart’s death in 1931, the newly-formed Horace Kephart Troop, Boy Scouts of America, placed a millstone marker on the site of the writer’s last permanent campsite in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park above Bryson City. The plaque reads —

On this spot Horace Kephart – Dean of American Campers and one of the Principal Founders of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – pitched his last permanent camp.

In his book, Mountain Passages: Natural and Cultural History of Western North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains, Bryson City author George Ellison wrote “… Kephart found refuge from summer visitors seeking him out by camping at the old Bryson Place, now a designated camping area in the national park, situated about 10 miles north of Bryson City alongside Deep Creek. He would sometimes go there for an entire summer, hauling in by wagon or on horseback the supplies and equipment he required, which included a small folding desk and writing materials.”

The marker’s location is generally described as “Campsite 57, at Bryson Place”, yet many hikers have tried unsuccessfully to locate the marker. But with a GPS it can be found at 35° 31.197′ N, 83° 25.182′.

On the Historical Marker Database website, W. Frank March of Sevierville, TN added the following assistance — “The memorial is located approximately 322′ SW (bearing 220 degrees) from the Martins Gap Trail sign. From the trail sign, go back down the trail toward Deep Creek campground approximately 150′, then go off the trail at an angle, to the right. The marker is below the trail, on the right.”

Horace Kephart is buried in the Bryson City Cemetery.

Photo by Sharon McCarthy, Smoky Scout

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