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.
I’m so glad you are proud of being a Creekmore – and connecting to your – and our past! The Elkmont cabin has always been a point of connection for all of us, whatever squabbles we may have or where ever we move we always come back home there. We may speak of this room or that as ‘ours’ but all shift around as needed: I’ve slept on every flat surface there in the cabin or porch, in hammock, sleeping bag or made-up bed under quilts made by my grandmother. She and my grandfather bought the cabin first about 1910 and moved down from one higher up the road; they added two small rooms in back, fixed up the bathroom (note the Arts and Crafts glass windows in the bathroom made by grandfather) and extended the front porch a bit. Dink (my grandfather) had gone hunting and fishing with his father up there in the 1890’s and came to love it. He was one of the original members of the Elkmont ‘club’ of friends that bought land up there from “Uncle” Levi and all agreed to build or remodel some old hunting shacks that were there. Read the book “Elkmont” for lots more details. Although I’m very sad that the Park Service and the Sierra Club have fought for so long to tear everything down, at least some of it will stay – perhaps be used to house historical data from the past? And I’m proud that nothing would have been saved if I hadn’t applied for National Historical Site status on Jan. 30, 1993, and goosed the Park Service into also applying for this status (the two applications were merged for the final listing.) Anyway, I hope that Paul and all your cousins will also visit there and enjoy it as you have! Love, Baba
Nice piece about Elkmont. I loved spending the summers there. I’m so glad that you enjoyed your trip to see your Tennessee relatives and that you got to see the places where your grandmother grew up. Our family has always loved the mountains, as far back as our ancestors who came over from Switz. The original Creekmores came over from England in the mid 1600’s and settled near Norfolk, VA. The area there is beautiful too. Some immigrated across the mountains in the early 1800’s to settle in SE Kentucky. Every August, there is a Creekmore get-together and picnic there to share stories and look over geneology records. We went one year and the people were amazed that my last name really was Creekmore. They were related to each other as cousins but few had retained the last name. I appreciate being born and raised in the South but am glad that I spent most of my life in San Francisco. love, Aunt Lou