Making New Friends, Family & the Museum of Appalachia

Raccoon Valley RV Park hosts an ice cream social every Sunday afternoon. It’s a good opportunity for all the park campers to gather inside the clubhouse, chat, & get to know each other. This is how we came to meet Sonny & Honey (Susan) Sonefelt who call themselves Professional Bums. Sonny & Honey have been full time rvers for 12 years but are new to the Escapee Club & hugs. Don & I found them to be very interesting people &  took a liking to the couple right away. They too have plans to be in Alabama & Florida this Fall & Winter same as us . We’re hoping to reconnect with them in one or both states.


Don with his favorite aunt, Beverly

Don with his favorite aunt, Beverly

Don has family here in Eastern Tennessee. His favorite aunt Beverly & his cousins Terry & Tracie. We met up with them at the Old Mill Restaurant in Pigeon Forge for dinner. Unfortunately Terry was unable to make it as he had to work that evening. It was nice to see Bev & Tracie, & meet Bev’s husband Jim. Food was good but the conversation was even better. We sat & reminisced about days past when we worked together at Detroit Diesel Allison’s’ PDC in Wayne, Michigan long after we’d finished eating. Bev & I were friends & coworkers before Don & I ever started dating. Too soon we had to go, with hugs all around & promises to get together again in the future, we said our goodbyes.  It really was good to see Beverly again. It had been way too many years apart.

Don, cousin Tracie, Jim, aunt Bev & me

Don, cousin Tracie, Jim, aunt Bev & me


It was so early the sun hadn't burned off the morning fog yet.

It was so early the sun hadn’t burned off the morning fog yet.


Up early to be at the Museum of Appalachia before the heat of the day kicked in. The museum tells the story of the mountain folk through their own words, artifacts & a collection of pioneer buildings.

“What better way is there to know a people than to study the everyday things they made,

used, mended, and cherished…and cared for with loving hands.”     – John Rice Irwin

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The museum is laid out in the form of a mountain village & includes all types of buildings one might find there or on an old family homestead. It is accessed by a self guided walking tour. The entrance building contains a small cafe that serves food from local farms &/or is grown/raised on site. A gift shop is also housed here & many of the items for sale are made by local artisans. Before our actual walking tour begins it is suggested we visit the Appalachian Hall of Fame first to familiarize ourselves with the people of these mountains, their stories & family histories.

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We spent a majority of our time inside the Hall of Fame as Don & I were both intrigued by many of the tales told. Most were about ordinary folk but there were a few famous sons & daughters too. These mountain folk truly were a hardy people.

Mark Twain Family Cabin

Mark Twain Family Cabin

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The Mark Twain (Samuel Clemons) family cabin was moved from ‘Possum Trot, TN to the museum grounds. It once served as the home of Mark Twain’s parents & some of his siblings. The writer was born some 5 months after his parents had left Tennessee in 1835.

Don in his mountain man pose in front of the Tom Cassidy House.

Don in his mountain man pose in front of the Tom Cassidy House.

This tiny dwelling was home to an old bachelor who said, “I’ve got that little cot in there, a chair, a stove for heat and cooking, a frying pan, a bean pot, an old dresser, my fiddle (made by his grandfather), and my pistol; what more does a man need?”

IMG_9467 A typical mountain mercantile. IMG_9468

The McClung House

The McClung House

It is thought that this house was built in the 1790’s by the McClungs who later became one of Eastern Tennessee’s prominent families. It is said this house was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers during the War of Northern Aggression (Civil War).

This display was housed in the People's Building & is a tribute to Christy.

This display was housed in the People’s Building & is a tribute to Christy.

When I learned there was a tribute display on site for Christy Huddleston, I was anxious to see it. I had read the book Christy when I was a child of 12. It is the true story of a 19 year old woman in 1912, who with adventure in her heart, leaves her comfortable family home to teach school in Cutter Gap,  a small rural village of the Appalachians. Christy faced many hardships & questioned her ability to reach the backwoods mountain people.  Eventually, she comes to know, understand,  & embrace the children & their families. I loved this book so much that I named our oldest daughter after Christy, only changing the spelling of her name. I will admit that I was greatly disappointed in the display as I thought the museum could have done a better job.

Big Tater Valley Schoolhouse

Big Tater Valley Schoolhouse

I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for children to sit still on these hard seats in the stifling heat or bone chilling cold & actually learn anything.


Irwin's Chapel

Irwin’s Chapel

This log church , or meeting house as it was often called, was built around 1840. The log pulpit & benches are reputedly from the original church.

Don was trying to be humorous but with those sunglasses on, he reminded me of the Rev. Jim Jones.

Don was trying to be humorous but with those sunglasses on, he reminded me of the Rev. Jim Jones.

  The Privy A two- holer

The Privy
A two- holer

One of the most rapidly disappearing structures on the American landscape. This privy is also known as John’s john. (A little potty humor for you).

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Whiskey Still

Whiskey Still

A history of the Appalachians & their people wouldn’t be complete without a moonshine still. This is a typical still found throughout the mountains.  This one was built by the notorious “Popcorn” Sutton, a lifelong moonshiner. (Leslie, I thought of you & Park side of your family when I saw this.)

Hacker Martin Gristmill

Hacker Martin Gristmill

Originally located in the community of Boone’s Creek. This once was a water-powered mill used to grind corn & wheat.

If in this region, Don & I recommend a visit to this museum as a way to better understand the locals & their deep roots to this area. I would suggest however that you allow plenty of time to spend inside the Hall of Fame exhibit. The stories it holds are too numerous for just a quick walk-thru.

Do you know what this nasty little critter is?TRSQ3RQQ3R0QORQQH07QDRP0Z0W0K0QQFRW0FRE0L0IQJRMQCR0Q9RHQNR80AR80NR80K080CQYKJQ

It’s a “STINK BUG”! And we are being inundated with them. I sure hope they don’t tag along with us on our drive south.

Here’s lookin’ at you kid……………………

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One thought on “Making New Friends, Family & the Museum of Appalachia

  1. What a wonderful way to learn history and enjoy the day. I love it!

    It is fun catching up with family and friends…the time does fly by.

    Yes, those stink bugs got in out RV when we were in Pennsylvania a couple of years ago…when we finally traded it a year later, they were still crawling out from the crevices…

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