Stokers, were married in 1861 , and the following year she gave birth to Horace Gephardt. Gephardt would later reflect that his special passion for the mountains may have been inherited from Swiss ancestors, who were among the earliest settlers west of the Susquehanna River. L Soon young Gephardt would find himself on an Iowa farm, only to discover that passion later in life. While living on the farm, the young Gephardt established his sense of adventure that would be the foundation for the rest of his life. He soon became content on being alone in his adventures around the farm land.After is mother taught him how to read, she gave him the book, Robinson Crusoe.
He literally acted out the life of Crusoe by dressing like him, making a hatchet and knife and even stocking a small cave he built with possessions that would warrant his survival. The book stayed with Gephardt all of his life. His love for reading and books led him to be a librarian. He also studied history and political science. After his formal education he married Laura White Mack and together they had two sons and four daughters. He was a father who wanted to spend time with his children but on his terms.While living in SST.
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Louis, he would take his family to the rifle range and teach them to shoot. He would also bring home Native American artifacts that were part of the Mercantile Library where Gephardt worked. Once he found his son George playing with ancient bow and arrows; but instead of scolding the boy he patiently explained the historic value of the pieces. 2 Gephardt would spend his time studying maps of the frontier and take camping trips alone experimenting with equipment. His wife, Laura, was not pleased with this, and the children were tiring of his consistent outdoor epistyle.The responsibilities of raising a family and being stuck in a house and library proved to be too much for Gephardt. He had developed a drinking problem and along with a traumatic experience in a vicious storm his life began to crumble.
He had outcast himself from many significant people including his superiors at the library and more importantly his family. He resigned his position, and when his family was out of money Laura took the kids to her family’s home in Ithaca, New York. Gephardt soon had a complete nervous breakdown, and his father took him back to his home in Dayton,Ohio. During his recovery, he desired 3 objectives: to live in a wilderness setting, to continue his literary career, and to contribute to periodicals and the technicalities of librarianship. With the support and understanding of his wife and children, he left for Asheville, North Carolina, in late July or early August 1904. Gephardt was in poor health and wanted to rehabilitate himself in the mountains. After consulting with a local doctor he made his first camp near Dick’s Creek close to the Tuskegee River.
He lived in a small tent from August 7th till October 30th.He immediately started recording details of the forest, mountains, wildlife and the way of life of the inhabitants of the area. The process of making buttermilk, cider and sorghum intrigued him as well as the Indian reservation, trout fishing and the plants of the mountains. One of the most significant observations that Gephardt made was the language and speech used throughout the mountains of North Carolina. Horace Asphalt’s contributions to the understanding of Appalachian speech consisted of two published works and a considerable body of notes-3 The more significant of the two is mound in Asphalt’s masterpiece, Our Southern Highlanders.Asphalt’s Our Southern Highlanders is widely known as the standard for which other books on Appalachia are judged. Not only is it historical, it also gives the reader a realistic description of how the mountain dwellers of the time lived under primitive conditions and includes an examination of the culture found in the Appalachian Mountains.
Gephardt dedicates one chapter to the dialect of the mountains. It was the first serious effort from any of the local color writers of that era.Asphalt’s observations in the field and his prior writing experience separated him from he other local colorist. His detailed notes, which can be found at the Hunter Library at Western Carolina university, are a testimony to his commitment to preserving the language and culture of the mountains. The Scotch-Irish spoke a dialect in the eighteenth century that was then a version of a dialect “already old by the time of Elizabeth. ” 4 His fascination with relic forms (betwixt “between”; ferment “near to”) helped to promote the erroneous notion that mountain speech was largely Elizabethan. Asphalt’s initiative to learn the terms used in the dialect was beneficial to his understanding of the culture in the mountains, thus it allowed him to write an autobiographical account of his life during the time he spent in the Great Smoky Mountains.
His devotion to “The Mountain Dialect” is a clear indication of his significance in the study of Appalachian culture. The use of the dialect can be found throughout Our Southern Highlanders. Our Southern Highlanders, first published in 1913, is a detailed description of the mountains and their people.It offers a social and cultural description Of the people as well as a historical and geographical offering of the Appalachian Mountains. Gephardt writes of the immense vegetation found throughout the mountains in the form of flora and fauna as well as the elevations and significant peaks of the region. While many local color writers and publications would stereotype the mountain dwellers, Gephardt was determined to give an accurate description of the people that fascinated him. He finds the mountain people to be self-sufficient and capable of living without the modern technology that was being used in the cities.
He found a “yeoman’s mentality’ being preserved in the hollows and communities of the mountains that he had longed for in his own life. Gephardt relished the “manliness” of his neighbors in the North Carolina Mountains even when their conception of manhood precipitated violent behavior. 6 The feuds with other neighbors and the resistance to change could instigate that violence. His descriptions were of a lean, self-reliant man, completely loyal to his family, who possessed intelligence and energy, yet not found in the inhabitants of the cities.Gephardt also describes the way of life for the mountaineer in the form of a bear hunt, the tub mill and one of asphalt’s favorite subjects, the moonshine still. The stereotype presented in many of the local color publications were not accurate, but through detailed, written imagery and careful note-taking, Gephardt managed to write one of the most important nonfiction books about Appalachian culture. His passion for the mountain culture is preserved in Our Southern Highlanders as well as his conviction for the protection of the Great Smoky Mountains in the form of a national park.
Establishing a national park on the eastern side of the United States proved to be challenging for advocates and the government. The land in the western part of the country for already owned by the federal government, but the Great Smoky Mountains were made up of 6600 privately owned tracts held by lumber companies and local residents. In the cuss, Gephardt began his campaign to preserve the Great Smoky Mountains as a national park. Along with fellow hiker, George Mamas, who was a famous photographer, Gephardt wrote articles, letters, and a booklet that led the cause accompanied by Mama’s photographs of the area.He revealed the damaged being done by the logging operations and expressed the urgent need to preserve the beauty of the Smokiest. While Gephardt and Mamas fought to establish a park, local community leaders impede on board believing that a park would help the local economies and build roads. This was not the crusade the Gephardt was fighting for, but rather a park that did not have the tourism that had already corrupted natural wonders like Niagara Falls which prevented it from becoming a national park.
There was also the issue of the lumber companies wanting to make the land a national forest, which would allow the continued harvesting of the trees. Gephardt responded to this on July 9th, 1 925, with an article in the Asheville Times. His response was: I have the best of good will for the Forest Service and all that it stands for. The waste land left by former lumbering must be reforested, of course, and the federal government is the proper agency to effect it.But if the Smoky Mountain region were turned into a national forest instead of a national park, the 50,000 to 60,000 acres of original forests that we have left, would be robbed of their big trees. They would be the first to go. Why should this last stand of splendid, irreplaceable trees be sacrificed to the greedy maw of the sawmill? Why should future generations be robbed of all to see with their own eyes what a real forest, a real wildfowl, a real unimproved work of God, is like The race was on by both Tennessee and North Carolina to raise the money needed to acquire the land for the park.
Gephardt participated by preparing articles about the mountains and in publicity to generate funds. He also wrote the promotional booklet titled, A National Park in the Great Smoky Mountains. Some of his writings proved to be the most important during the advocacy and establishment of the national park. Without his commitment to the project, the park might not have been a reality. He was adamant in explaining why the region should be preserved, and with the help of George Mama’s photography to back up Asphalt’s claims, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park became a reality. Gephardt also participated in another project, The Appalachian Trail.Benton McKay, creator of the trail, would eventually begin at Springer Mountain in Georgia and end on Mount Katydid in Maine.
Gephardt was instrumental in plotting the route the trail followed through the Smokiest and on into North Georgia. 8 Gephardt mapped the trail to follow as much of the crest of the Smokiest as possible. A hiker would be able to hike directly on the state line that divided Tennessee and North Carolina. For Asphalt’s advocacy and commitment to the development of the park and the Appalachian Trail, the United States Geographic Board honored Gephardt by naming a peak eight miles northeast of Clansman’s Dome.There is also a trail named in his honor eight miles south of Newfound Gap. At the end of the two mile trail, the Gephardt Prong shelter awaits for the wary hiker. Gephardt died at the age of 68 on April 2, 1 931 , in a car accident near Bryon City, North Carolina.
Gephardt and his friend, Fishwife Trenton, who was a writer from Georgia, had hired a taxi to take them to a local bootlegger. On he way back, the driver of the taxi lost control of the car. With his wife and two sons in attendance, Gephardt was buried in Bryon City on April 5. His grave is marked with a large boulder and plaque which reads: Scholar, Author, Outdoors.He loved his neighbors and pictured them in “Our Southern Highlanders. ” His vision helped to create the Great Smoky National Park. Further research into the life Of Horace Gephardt can begin in several places, but to get an understanding of why he was so passionate about the Smokiest, the Deep Creek and the Hazel Creek areas outside of Bryon City are a good place to start.
Along the Deep Creek trail at campsite #57, Asphalt’s last permanent campsite is marked with a millstone. For the more adventurous historian, the Hazel Creek area is a longer journey and can be reached by boat or by an overnight backpacking excursion.The buildings and cabins of the community are long gone, but with proper guidance or research the clearings that once were occupied by Asphalt’s neighbors are marked with roses. The Sugar Fork trail leaves this area and follows an old road that leads to the Everett Mines. Along the Little Fork River, on a level area, is where Asphalt’s cabin once stood. Visiting this area can give a historian a hands-on, realistic view of the terrain and remoteness of a mountaineers homestead. A historian can realize the difficulty of farming the land to support its family and the hardships that they endured due to the remoteness.
This is the area that Gephardt had been dreaming of to distance him from the civilization of the 20th century so that he could live out his frontier desideratum. This is also where he found the dialect used by the mountaineers that he wrote about in Our Southern Highlanders. This Was a paradise for Gephardt and the perfect place for him to rite about the wilderness and its occupants. In 2012, there will be guided hikes to Asphalt’s cabin site as part of the 1st annual Horace Gephardt Days Celebration in Bryon City. Many of these writings can be found at the North Carolina Room in the Pack Memorial Library in Asheville, North Carolina.The collection includes many boxes containing notebooks, personal items, original transcripts of his writings and letters from his wife. The largest collection of Gephardt artifacts are in the Special Collections center at the Hunter Library at Western Carolina university.
This collection includes hundreds of Asphalt’s personal letters, went-seven of Gephardt journals, photographs, his hand drawn maps of the Hazel Creek area that he made in 1905, personal belongings at the time of his death and his personal library.These were once housed at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Headquarters near Gatlinburg. Even though Septets life was shortened by the tragic car accident in 1931 , his legacy remains with the establishment of the Great Smoky National Park and Our Southern Highlanders. Without these significant accomplishments, we would not have a passport into a land of primeval forest and the people who inhabited it.