I grew up in Knoxville, not far from where our properties lie. I spent my childhood hiking, camping, fishing and hunting all over the East Tennessee foothills. I learned to fish just off of Harrison Island, in the rushing waters of what was then the Little Tennessee River, just around the corner from the Lakewood house; both there, and just dropping in a hook and a line off of the boulders alongside Chilhowee Dam. My brother and I canoed on Calderwood Lake, the next lake up the Little Tennessee chain. As a young man, I hiked many of the trails in the area, including portions of the Appalachian Trail. I’ve floated, canoed and/or kayaked most of the great rivers in the area.
In 1992, we were introduced to what we now call “Barewood” through its original owners, Howard and Mary Williams. Howard’s family had lived in these hills dating back to the early to mid-1800s. You can still see their family's old cabin site (see above), and what is left of their tobacco barn, near where Barewood Cabin stands today. The Williamses raised 9 children on that property and they left a passel of grand-kids, great grand-kids, and probably some great-great’s too, many of whom still live in the area.
When we came across the land, the Williamses were still farming the field near our cabin. They had timbered the land for many years. We can still see where one of their sawmills stood, down by the “Black Oak Corner.” Eventually, Howard and Mary moved into town, broke apart their land, and sold off some large parcels. We bought 247 acres from them in 1993, and built “Barewood Cabin” there a few years later. Barewood takes its name from the unfinished bare white pine lumber that we used to build it, trucked in from a mill in Boone, North Carolina.
Over the years, we were able to reassemble some of the surrounding acreage that the Williamses had sold off. In the mid-1980s, Howard and Mary had sold what we now call “Hemlock Grove” to a family from Miami who had moved to the area to raise tropical birds there. They raised hundreds of cockatiels at a time, and they kept a flock of 14 ostriches in the pen next to what is now the “Bunkhouse.” In 2001, we bought from those neighbors the Bunkhouse and 65 acres of the land which they had purchased from the Williamses. A few years later, when our neighbors relocated out of the country, we acquired the house and remaining acre where their house stood. After substantial renovations, the house became “The Cottage at Hemlock Grove.”
After buying “the Cottage,” we renovated it from top to bottom. Gleaming new bamboo flooring was installed, with ceramic tile in the kitchen and baths. We installed a new roof, new siding. a beautiful new deck, updated appliances, and new paint, inside and out. We put in new cabinets and vanities, new tubs and tub surrounds, an outdoor shower, and a hot tub, along with the new convenience of satellite TV. We furnished it with beautiful antiques and work hard to keep it well-equipped for our guests. We did the same with the Bunkhouse next door.
Before the Williamses, some or all of the Hemlock Grove property was owned by the Crowder family, who first moved to the area in the early 1800’s. Just above the Cottage still sits Crowder Cemetery, where some of the earliest settlers in the area were buried. This included Atlas Crowder, who, as an herbalist and natural healer, was reportedly one of the area’s first “doctors.” Take a stroll up the “high road” between the Cottage and Barewood Cabin, and you’ll see the old headstones down off to your left; some of them just field stones and pieces of slate. We are told that there used to be a church somewhere up on that knoll too, but it’s been gone for many years. Every now and then some Crowders show up for a walk in our woods, and to pay respects to Atlas and his family.
Our neighbors from Miami had sold more of their acreage to a real estate company, sometime in the 1990’s. We bought back 5 of those acres, just across from our gate. And a few years later, we bought from some of the Williams kin another 2 acres or so where the caramel colored “Boxwood” house is located, at the entrance to Hemlock Grove. Eventually, we came to own about 320 contiguous acres.
A few years later, one of our neighbors, John Summey, who had a cute little house down by the lake, sadly passed away. Mr. Summey’s house was always the cleanest and tidiest in the neighborhood. It had a spectacular view out over the fields along Tellico Lake and toward the mountains. I fondly remember that he had a pair of concrete deer in his front yard, that he always kept well-painted. On more than one occasion, while passing by, I thought there were actually deer grazing in his yard (and sometimes there actually were).
After Mr. Summey passed away, one of his sons came to own his house. As soon as we saw the “For Sale” sign go up, we approached him about buying his dad’s house. We closed in 2003, and “Lakewood” was born. It’s a pretty little house with a beautiful view, and is a bit closer to the lakes and to town than the Barewood or Hemlock Grove tracts. Decades ago, before the Summeys lived there, Lakewood was the site of a lodge where people stayed when dam-building and timbering in the area were in their hay day. You can still see part of the old foundation near the Lakewood house.
As with the Cottage, we fully renovated Lakewood after we bought it. We enclosed the garage, which was previously just a breezeway. We added a hallway, laundry area and second bath. The house got a new roof, fresh paint, a beautiful deck and an outdoor shower. It is also well-furnished and well-equipped. Just recently, we added WiFi and central heat & air.
When we originally purchased Howard and Mary Williams’ land, it was mostly overgrown with trees and mountain laurel. Even the field which their kids then still farmed was mostly abandoned, leaving just a few rows of potatoes, cucumbers and the like. But, there were miles and miles of old logging roads just waiting to be reopened. For the first few years, we did nothing but open and clear trails; hard work, especially for the “city folk” we had become. We opened up the field next to the cabin. We built a small pond, just down the hill, and for awhile even managed to keep it stocked with catfish, blue gill and grass carp. That was true at least until some happy (and, eventually, pretty fat) otters found their way to it. They check back in from time to time to see if we have restocked.
The Lakewood property was already well-cleared and maintained when we bought it, so there wasn’t much we had to do with the grounds. We planted some new trees. We added a new spring box which, when the water is flowing, supplements the existing well system on the property.
The Barewood and Hemlock properties boast abundant wildlife. Just take a seat in the woods and rest quietly for a spell. In addition to (fat) otters, you might see white tailed deer, wild boar, turkey, raccoon, fox, rabbits, bobcats, ground hogs, and lots of squirrels and the like. We swear we saw a full-grown wolf in the woods once (not a coyote!), though the forest service scoffed at us. There are lots of birds, including hawks, owls, buzzards, wrens, finches, tits and jays. At dusk in warm weather, bats fill the air looking for insects.
At Lakewood, closer to the lakes, the bird life is phenomenal. It’s nice to sit on the deck and, especially at dawn and dusk, listen to the song birds who especially like to roost in the big cedar trees behind the house. We’ve seen deer there, turkey, and a ground hog or two. Neighbors keep horses nearby, who always welcome a fresh apple. Recently, a family of guests reported seeing a young bear playing in the yard.
Our forests are mainly southern pine, white pine, poplar, oak, and hemlock, with about every species of hardwoods and fruit trees thrown in. There are groves of beautiful rhododendrons and mountain laurel. The colorful dogwoods and wild azaleas are spectacular in the spring. The fall foliage is really beautiful.
The Cottage and Barewood Cabin are in a kind of valley, called Polly Ann Hollow, at the base of a ridge called “Bald Hill Lead.” The land south of Bald Hill Lead formerly belonged to Tapoco, a land-holding subsidiary of Alcoa Aluminum, which timbered that property for years. A few years ago, the Nature Conservancy acquired several thousand acres of that land. We hear that they put conservation easements on it, and then transferred it back to the U.S. Forest Service. So, now, the Cottage and Cabin tracts back up directly to the Cherokee National Forest. The view from the ridge behind Barewood Cabin into the Cherokee National Forest is spectacular. All of our properties themselves are also in or border the Cherokee National Wildlife Management Area.
In the valley beyond our ridge, is, or was, "Scona Lodge." The valley goes all the way down to Chilhowee Lake. Where the valley meets the lake, there used to be a golf course and country club there, dating back to the 1920s. This was a private reserve for Alcoa aluminum company executives and political dignitaries, accessed by ferry from across the lake. The buildings were torn down years ago and the golf course has grown over. But, you can still see the rock-lined harbor where the lodge sat, as you boat up Chilhowee Lake. The hike down through the valley and back, through what is now National Forest, is breathtaking (literally).
Lakewood, while not directly on either of the nearby lakes, is on a bluff which looks out over Tellico Lake. Most of the lakeside land in the area actually belongs to TVA, and is leased out to farmers. The field below Lakewood is regularly mowed for hay. The smell of freshly mowed hay is intoxicating. Looking west from Lakewood, you see “Buzzard’s Roost,” which is the southern tip of Chilhowee Mountain, in the western-most foothills of the Smokies. Looking east, you look into the Chilhowee Lake area, and into the Smokies themselves. “Gregory’s Bald” is one of the higher southernmost peaks of the Smokies, and is just across the lake. You can see it clearly from the ridge behind Barewood Cabin, at least when the leaves are off the trees.
Tellico Lake is a huge lake which connects directly to the Tennessee River system. You can put your boat in at the ramp a mile west of Lakewood and motor up to Knoxville... or all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico through locks on the Tennessee River and Tombigbee Waterway. There are lots of marinas and beautiful homes up and down the lake. Tellico Lake is known for some major bass fishing tournaments. It’s also a boater’s mecca, with SeaRay boats manufactured and tested on down the lake near Vonore.
East of Lakewood, on your way to the Cottage, is Chilhowee Lake, a pristine mountain lake that borders the Smoky Mountains National Park. You can boat up to the next dam, Calderwood. Or, my favorite, you can motor or canoe up Abrams Creek, which eventually goes all the way to Abrams Falls in the Cades Cove area of the Park. What a pretty, pretty river! It’s great for fishing too. There are no marinas on Chilhoweek Lake, by the way, and essentially no development; so, make sure you gas up your boat first, or bring some paddles.
Further east, along the same river chain, are Calderwood, Cheoah, Santeelah, and Fontana Lakes. You will not find a prettier drive than Highway 129, the “Tail of the Dragon,” just across the water, which runs along each of those lakes. It is a favorite of motorcyclists and sports car lovers, because of its many twists and turns.
As you turn onto our road, Mt. Pleasant Road, you cross Citico Creek. “Creek” is a misnomer, as this is really a very healthy little river. It flows out of nearby Indian Boundary Lake, several miles further east. Come in the spring and witness the “Running of the Buffalo.” There are huge fish, a species of carp, called “Buffalo Fish,” which spawn in the river in the spring, like salmon do in the northwest. The Buffalo Fish fill the river on just 2 or 3 days a year, so thickly that you could walk across the river from fish to fish. They say that the Cherokee survived harsh winters by being able eat Buffalo Fish in the spring before their fields could be planted and harvested.
The road between “Citico” and Indian Boundary is one of the prettiest drives around, bordering the sometimes-white water of Citico Creek most of the way. When you come to the end of Citico Road, on the other side of Indian Boundary, you hit the new Cherohala Skyway, a roadway with magnificent views out over the mountains. “Cherohala” is taken from the “Cherokee” (TN) and “Nantahala” (NC) National Forests through which it runs.
From the top of the ridge behind Barewood Cabin, you can also see into the Joyce Kilmer National Forest, a little bit further south in North Carolina. Parts of Joyce Kilmer contain some of the last old growth forests in the country, boasting some very huge and very old Hemlock trees.
The whole area around our properties was originally settled long, long ago by the Cherokee native Americans tribe(s). The area lakes were formed by damming what used to be the Little Tennessee River, which begins in North Carolina. Many of the original villages of the Cherokee were born along that river. Those on “our” side of the mountains were called the “Overhill Cherokee.” Just a few miles west of Lakewood is the Chota Memorial, a park which honors and commemorates the rich Cherokee heritage of the area. Closer to town (Vonore) is the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, which is a wonderful place to learn more about the Cherokee people and their lore.
We rent out our houses, so much more out of our love for the area than for money. The rents we collect really only defray some, but certainly not all, of our expenses. Our joy is in providing comfortable places where people can experience the tremendous beauty and rich heritage of the area. We consider our guests as newly-met friends, more than renters.
We love our land and properties. We know that you will too. Please come join us and experience what we’ve been so privileged to experience for more than 20 years. We look forward to meeting you and to sharing our space with you, your family, and your friends.