GSMA announces release of updated “Our Southern Highlanders”

Our Southern Highlanders book coverGREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS (press release)—Great Smoky Mountains Association has announced the release of a new edition of “Our Southern Highlanders,” the classic collection of essays on mountain life and lore by author Horace Kephart, who lived in the Hazel Creek and Bryson City, N.C. areas from 1904 to 1931 and advocated for the creation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Mt. Kephart, Kephart Prong, Kephart Prong Trail and Kephart Shelter are all park features named for him.

“This expanded third edition includes eight articles written by Kephart that were not included in any of the earlier editions,” said Steve Kemp, GSMA’s interpretive products and services director. “Newly included are stories featuring rifle making, moonshiners and revenuers, mountain culture and Kephart’s feelings regarding a proposed new national park in the Smokies.”

“From the high divide that marks the state line between North Carolina and Tennessee I heard the snort of a locomotive, one of those cog-wheel affairs that are specially built for mountain climbing,” Kephart wrote. “With a steam-loader and three camps of a hundred men each, it was despoiling the Tennessee forest. Slowly, but inexorably, a leviathan was crawling into the wilderness and was soon to consume it.”

The entire book has been electronically typeset for the first time, said Kemp, making it much more readable than previous printings. Additionally, Bryson City author George Ellison has written an entirely new introduction for this edition, highlighting the fruits of recent research on Kephart and his work. Ellison will sign copies of “Our Southern Highlanders” at the Swain County Visitor Center on Friday, Nov. 28 (Black Friday) from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mr. Ellison will be signing copies of his many other books as well.

With the publication of this latest Kephart book, GSMA now offers a complete series of Kephart books that feature Elizabeth Ellison’s watercolor art on their covers, including “The Cherokees of the Smoky Mountains,” “Camping and Woodcraft,” “Smoky Mountain Magic” and “Our Southern Highlanders.” A biography of Horace Kephart by George Ellison and Janet McCue is also in the works.

“For over 100 years ‘Our Southern Highlanders’ has been mostly praised but also criticized,” Ellison wrote in his introduction. “Kephart was understandably pleased by the book’s wide acceptance. He was especially pleased when the mountain people themselves responded positively to his account of their land and life… In June of 1919, Paul Fink, the author of “Backpacking Was the Only Way” (1975)… spent the night in a warden’s cabin at the junction of Alum Cave Creek and the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River on the Tennessee side of the Smokies. The warden there was a native mountaineer, Davis Bracken, the ‘Jasper Finn’ of Chapter 10 of ‘Our Southern Highlanders.’ During the course of the evening Fink chanced to mention Kephart’s book.

“Davis said, ‘I’ve read it. A woman at the school down in the settlement let me have it.’ After a little more talk, I [Fink] asked what he thought of it as a true delineation of mountain people and mountain ways. After a little more thought, he answered, ‘I don’t guess anybody could’a written it better.’”

For the first time the book includes a comprehensive index and new photos by George Masa and others, as well as a specially-commissioned cover painting by Bryson City watercolor painter Elizabeth Ellison, wife of author Ellison.

“With a special retail price of $14.95, the book is actually less expensive than it has been in decades,” Lisa Duff, GSMA’s marketing and membership director, said. “Including the introduction, this edition contains over 100 pages of new material. And all proceeds from the sale of the book go to support Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

“There’s a reason this book has been in print for more than 100 years,” said Kemp. “It is one of a handful of landmark works on southern Appalachian culture, written by someone who knew and respected the people and had the patience and skills to tell their story accurately and in great detail.”

Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has given more than $32 million to support the ongoing educational, scientific and preservation efforts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Support for the non-profit association is derived primarily from online and visitor center sales of educational products and membership dues. Those who wish to strengthen their Smokies experience are encouraged to join GSMA.

For more information about GSMA, visit; or call toll-free 888.898.9102, Ext. 226.


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