Kephart-abilia: Horace Kephart Days, The Kephart Glen

Monday, April 25, 2011




I have written, on this blog, of my great grandfather, Horace Kephart, who left a career as one of the nation's great librarians and left a family, too, to live among the private beauties of the Appalachian Mountains and people.  Horace Kephart documented Appalachian ways and campfire know-how.  He was in part responsible for the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  He has been the subject of songs (see Daniel Gore's beautiful song cycle), movies (the recent Ken Burns' documentary), novels, and myths.  He is also, thanks in large part to my cousin Libby Kephart Hargrave and the great historian George Ellison, celebrated in the annual Horace Kephart Days, held each year between April 29 and May 1st in Bryson, City, NC. 

George Kephart, my grandfather, was one of Horace Kephart's two sons.  When his father departed for his Appalachian journey, George moved, with his mother, Laura, and his five total siblings, to Ithaca, New York.  All six Kephart children ultimately attended Cornell University, while Laura took in boarders to try to make ends meet. 

Toward the end of his life, George Kephart made two important decisions:  to leave his own papers to Cornell University and to dedicate a glen in his wife's name within the Cornell Plantations

This weekend I saw those plantations for the first time. With my husband and son, through mist then heavy rain, I searched for the glen.  There was hardly anyone about, and no one to ask, and if I never found the glen itself, if I will have to return with a guide (and I will), I did discover the tremendous beauty of this place—even in rain, even before most any flower has had a chance to bloom.  This is peaceful, water-streaming, well-considered country.  This is ravines and slopes and green, a tumble of hellebores. My grandfather was a quiet man, a forester, a rose gardener, a lover of things alive and growing.  No wonder, I kept thinking as I walked.  No wonder this place was his eternity. 

2 comments:

Alice Elliott Dark said...

Fascinating story, and beautiful photographs. Have you written a biography of him?

Melissa Sarno said...

Oh, that's amazing! I love the Cornell Plantations. I went to school at Cornell. Actually I just wrote a blog post about it because I've been feeling nostalgic for Ithaca. Next time I visit the campus, I will have to wander around to find the Kephart Glen...though maybe I'll need a serious map?? :-)

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