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Our Southern Highlanders

Horace Kephart

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .La-a-ay down, boys,
Le’s take a nap:
Thar’s goin’ to be trouble
In the Cumberland Gap—

 

Our ears were stunned by one sudden thundering crash. The roof rose visibly, as though pushed upward from within. In an instant we were blinded by moss and dried mud—the chinking blown from between the logs of our shabby cabin. Dred and Coaly cowered as though whipped, while “Doc’s” little hound slunk away in the keen misery of fear. We men[Pg 83] looked at each other with lowered eyelids and the grim smile that denotes readiness, though no special eagerness, for dissolution. Beyond the “gant-lot” we could hear trees and limbs popping like skirmishers in action.

Then that tidal wave of air swept by. The roof settled again with only a few shingles missing. We went to “redding up.” Squalls broke against the mountainside, hither and yon, like the hammer of Thor testin. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is my favorite place on Earth and, as I learned in Ken Burns' National Parks, I owe its existence to Horace Kephart. Kephart was an alcoholic librarian in turn-of-the-century St. Louis who abandoned the life of an urban information professional to hunt and fish...more

Interesting to me because I am a descendant. His portrayal of the Southern people come from his superior attitude of himself. Interesting none the less. It brings images of another time and place.

Not to be read through once and put away, I find new things to learn and enjoy each time I look at it. I finally decided to put it on my list today as we are returning to the mountains and a quick review brought newfound interest in finding the places and picturing the stories found here.

This one has been on the "To Read" stack a long time. Written in 1913 and considered a "classic", the book is a social history of the mountain folk of the Great Smoky Mountains. The chapters on moonshining and dialect were my favorites. The author lived among the Highlanders near Bryson City NC a...more

Forget Hillbilly Elegy, if you want to read about the people and culture of southern Appalachia, this book is for you. Kephart moved to the Smokey Mountains in the early 20th century and was the first outsider to live among and write about the mountain people. Through a series of vignettes and an...more

Worthwhile read if you're interested in Appalachia, great exploration of this region and its culture. Kephart's writing is pretty punchy, although it dragged a bit at the end - hard to believe it's over 100 years old.

Powerful truth then and now

This work is plum full of powerful truth that still rings true in modern times. I spoke with my grandfather before he passed about questions I had about our mountain ancestors. He answered honestly and bluntly. He told about how our family either proudly supported the u...more

Horace Kephart and the Back of Beyond

In the second chapter of his work, "Our Southern Highlanders: a Narrative of Adventure in the Southern Appalachians and a Study of Life among the Mountaineers" (1913, 1922), Horace Kephart wrote of some of the forces which had impelled him to leave his materia...more

This is a surprisingly funny and touching book in which Horace Kephart details his experiences with the people of Appalachia -the mountain regions of Kentucky, Tennessee, northern Georgia, and North Carolina. His writing is never condescending or judgemental, which I appreciate. Equally interesti...more

Our Southern Highlanders, now over a hundred years old, is the first real examination and narrative of the people of the southern Appalachians, and Smoky mountains. The fascinating thing from the standpoint of a century away, is how Kephart writes of the land and people and history, while fully r...more

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