If Fodderstack Could Speak: Walker Valley Lore

Written by Jeremy Lloyd, Manager of Field Programs and Collegiate Studies and author of A Home in Walker Valley: The Story of Tremont

This occasional series is named for the mountain overlooking the Walker Valley campus of Tremont Institute in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If Fodderstack Mountain could speak, these are a few things it might reveal.

Hobson “Hobbie” Stinnett by all accounts possessed a mean streak, which he kept going all his life. Born one of many sons of Will Walker in 1898, he died an untimely death less than fifty years later. We’ll never know what good things Hobbie may have done in life — what’s clear is that Hobbie’s mean streak led to him murdering and, ultimately, getting murdered himself. 

George and Birdie Turner had a son who Hobbie is said to have killed when he hit the young boy in the stomach. It was common back then to take photographs of deceased people, and the boy is dressed in a boy’s dress and lying in the coffin. Hobbie’s age at the time is not known.

Isaac Ownby (died 1928), Melvin Ownby’s grandfather, lived in the Meigs Mountain community. One winter, he discovered that one of his beehives was missing. He followed a man’s tracks through the snow and came to Spruce Flats Branch. He was pretty sure Hobbie was the thief, but when Hobbie learned that Isaac had accused him, he said he would kill Isaac. Thereafter, Isaac took to sleeping with his gun. Sherman Stinnett, Hobbie’s brother, played the peacemaker, walking from Walker Valley to the Ownby place on Meigs Mountain to pay $5 for the stolen hive. Fear in the community about a murder taking place over a beehive subsided after that. 

Before this incident, Hobbie is said to have shot Tom Myers in the back at Wild Cat over a moonshine still. Fearing that this scene wouldn’t look good to the law, Hobbie turned Tom’s dead body over and shot him in the forehead. Hobbie went to prison for this and other crimes he committed yet went on to work for Little River Lumber Company. 

He was killed by Arthur “Link” Rudd in 1948 while playing cards in an old shed in Gilbert Holler, near the property once occupied by the Lee Robeson Gallery in Wear Valley. It’s possible that a moonshine still was lost in a bet. Hobbie is buried in the Walker Family Cemetery. 

At a different place and time, Alex Stinnett, Hobbie’s brother, also died from gunshot wounds, either while drinking at a party in Wears Valley or, like his brother, over an argument over a moonshine still.