Cabins in the Woods
Back on North River Road, we came across a trail to Donley's cabin. The authentic two-room, 19th century log cabin was the home of Jack Donley (1846-1941), a gold prospector working the creeks that are now a part of Cherokee National forest land. The trail to the cabin begins with a wooden bridge across the creek, winds up the mountain for a mile, then enters a clearing where the cabin sits quiet as if it slumbers.
According to Jack, an old logging road branched off that trail; he and his folks used to ride horses and mules along that old road. Now it is all overgrown with trees and shrubs. Only the trail to the cabin remains.
Back on the road, we headed north and rode underneath the Cherohala Skyway at Stratton Meadows. In the 1830s, the family of John Stratton (1799-1862) settled in this area atop the crest near where the modern Cherohala Skyway crosses the state line. John's father, Absolum, died while visiting his son in 1852 and is buried at Stratton Meadows. John's son, Robert "Bob" Stratton (1825-1864) eventually moved a few miles north of Stratton Meadows to the mountain that now bears his name, Stratton Bald. Stratton lived just west of the mountain's summit in a meadow now known as "Bob Bald" until 1864, when he was ambushed and killed by bushwackers during the Civil War.
Taking the left turn, we left Tennessee and Cherokee National Forest and entered Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina.
The gravel road hugs Santeetlah Creek for many miles east. Soon we came to a beautiful clearing on the right side of the river, a small cabin nestled on the side of the hill and underneath tall pines. This is the historic Stewart Cabin.
The Stewart Cabin is part of a larger log cabin that was originally built about one-half mile downstream and closer to the creek than where it now stands. A flood in July of 1895 changed the course of Big Santeetlah Creek, flooded the log cabin, and destroyed a water-powered corn grinding mill. After the flood, the cabin was dismantled and rebuilt on its present site.
James Stewart (1831-1909) and his wife Catherine Ashe (1833-1 913) were born in central North Carolina. Prior to the 1850 census, they moved to Union County, Georgia, and later to Monroe County, Tennessee. They lived there for four years and moved to Graham County, North Carolina, in 1876 and built their cabin.
After the deaths of James and Catherine Stewart, their children sold the land to a lumber company and moved away. Some time later half the original cabin was torn down. The property was later sold and Tom Patton moved into the cabin where he made whiskey nearby for many years. Today, the cabin is part of the Nantahala National Forest and is on the National Historic Register. Many descendants of James and Catherine Stewart now live in Graham County and elsewhere and hold an annual family reunion at the cabin.
Just down the grassy clearing, on the other side of the split log fence and across the gravel is a wonderful babbling creek.
On the side of the clearing is another wide expanse of green meadow upon which camping sites reside.
One of the things I like most about these forests is the prevalent rhododendrons. Only in Oregon have I seen these grow so thick like they do here.
This little fellow showed up and nicely posed for his photograph.