My full legal name is Jessica Katherine Creekmore Dickinson Goodman. Each of those names is very important to me, but “Creekmore” is the one which attaches me to the South. It was my grandmother’s maiden name, and the name of my family in Tennessee. Recently some family moved back to Knoxville, and over Spring Break my Freshman year I went down to visit them (I just found where I put the photos I took there).
While visiting, we went up to visit Elkmont in the Appalachian mountains. Elkmont was a summer community in the Appalachian mountains in Tennessee, where my grandmother and mother spent their summers as girls. All of the cabins they stayed in have been left to rot by the U.S. National Part Service* (the Sierra Club did its part in ensuring that traces of this community were destroyed). Visiting Elkmont hurt: all that is left of that community is slowly being let to rot while the U.S. National Park Service decides whether to preserve it.
The picture on the right shows the decaying front of my family’s old cabin. I grew up on stories about Elkmont–the songs J.T. sang, the spiders come upon suddenly in the sink, the intense games of charades. In high school, I became a lot more familiar with the history of Elkmont as my family helped Eleanor Dickinson, my grandmother, write a book on Elkmont (publication coming soon).
The creek is there, a nasty sign from the U.S. National Park Service (calling the cabins “chateaus” and speaking ill of the families who lived there in the summers) is still there, much of the Creekmore family cabin is still there. Wanting to feel what my mother and grandmother had felt before me at Elkmont, I took off my shoes, rolled up my jeans, and waded into Jake’s creek. I felt ageless: I was doing what Creekmores had done for more than 50 years.
Though I lived in California my whole life, I felt connected to Elkmont through those stories and the book. As I slipped on smooth, old stones which layered the creek bed, I felt those virtual roots take hold. Even when all of the cabins are rotted away, I will have a connection to that land; because I am a Creekmore.
“The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”–De Tocqueville
*I am usually a huge fan of the National Park Service–I go camping every year if I can manage it, and take as many friends along as possible. I also am usually a fan of the Sierra Club. The Elkmont controversy seems to bring out both of those organizations’ preference for history-from-before-1900 and ecological preservation over historical preservation and local history-from-after-1900.