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.

Homeplaces (Part 3) – Mary Ann Moore, Moll Stinnett, The Spicewoods, and White Oak Flats

Few details are known about Will and Nancy Walker’s homeplace other than its location, which was very near to where the Tremont office sits today. Not much is known either about the homes of Will Walker’s “common law” wives. Mary Ann Moore lived near the trailhead to West Prong Trail, close to the present-day location of the pump-house. The only one of Will Walker’s three known spouses to be buried in Walker Valley, Mary Ann Moore was laid to rest not a hundred yards from where she lived for most of her life.

An assumption often made of people who lived in the Smokies during pre-Park days is that they lived, or aimed to live, their entire lives rooted in one place. But this often was not the case. Long before logging companies and then the park commission displaced people, it was common for mountain people to move from place to place.

Moll Stinnett, Will’s third wife, lived downstream in the vicinity of where sewage lagoons were dug in the 1960s during the construction of the Job Corps Center. A pile of stones that once formed her chimney are still visible. After Will Walker died she and several of her children moved to Arkansas. Ashley Moore and his wife Myrtie then lived in Moll’s old homeplace for a time.

What was known as the Stinnett Place belonged to Moll’s parents and was located in the Spicewoods. Later on, for a briefer period, it would become known as the Sam Cook Place. Ben and Millie Stinnett moved there from Little Greenbriar sometime after Will took their daughter Moll as his third wife in the early 1890s. In 1907, Millie died and Ben moved out. Hunting guide Sam Cook moved in and his family lived there until his daughter Vannie’s death in 1910. After they moved out, Newt and Hettie McCarter tore down the original cabin and built a larger one. The next and likely last residents were Bill and Sally Dorsey.

Another home site known as the Hodge Place possibly also resided in the Spicewoods, though its exact location is a mystery. It was a two-room house with a front porch that faced west and a chimney that faced south—a curious feature since most houses back then had chimneys and porches that sat on opposite sides of one another. The hollow where it sat was “pretty closed in” and “narrey” (narrow) according to the Moore brothers, and therefore needed as much sun as it could get. Ora Hodge was one resident who known to have lived there. A washout occurred in 1927 when a nearby creek flooded. Ora’s brother, W.E. Hodge, had a place in the vicinity of the Walker Cemetery; its precise location is also unknown.

Jerry Willis is the great-great-grandson of Ben and Millie Stinnett. His grandparents lived in the Spicewoods and gave their new home in Walland, Tennessee, the same name to remind them of their old homeplace. That area in Walland has since been renamed Fred Jennings Road.

A good distance away from the Spicewoods, and for that matter Walker Fields, sat the White Oak Flats community. White Oak Flats happens to be the original name of the Gatlinburg area in Sevier County. It is also the name of a small drainage just over the ridge from the Middle Prong and empties into the Little River. There’s a lot of conflicting reports about who lived there. Mary Headrick, daughter of Arnold and Louise Thompson, says John Nelson Whaley did. Gladys Burns says Henry Stinnett family lived in this very secluded spot. Possibly the Tom Walker family lived here. Gladys Burns says he lived in a log cabin “near the backside of the hollow near the Meigs Mountain Trail,” and yet that trail isn’t anywhere close by. She says also that Dave and Cora Moore lived there and had a son named Harrison, who married Clara Fay Ogle.

The sands, or rather the leaves of time have covered over most home sites over the decades. In many places little more than a pile of chimney stones remains, in others not even that. But perhaps that’s as it should be. People of European descent were not the first to inhabit Walker Valley, and they likely won’t be the last.