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Picture of the Day - October 6, 2009

"Door to the past"

Photo of a doorway leading to a simpler time and place.
Photo and narrative by Gordon Brugman.                   (Click on the photo for a larger view)

This HDR image gives you a glimpse into life for the early residents of what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You duck into the Walker Sisters' cabin through the low doorway (they were built that way not because people were shorter, but because it would let less heat escape when opened in the winter.)

Here's some info on the remarkable lives of the sisters Walker, gleaned from online sources. A visit to their cabin is truly a voyage to an earlier time...

Deep in the woods of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park lies the farm of the Walker Sisters. The sisters' cabin stands as a monument of Smoky Mountain heritage from the despair days of the Depression. The sisters were from a family of 11 children, four boys and seven girls. The boys and one sister, Sarah Caroline, moved away to different parts of the country. This left the farm to six of the sisters, Hettie Rebecca, Margaret Jane, Polly, Louisa Susan, Martha Ann and Nancy Melinda.

They believed in self-sufficiency and were known to say that their land produced everything they needed except sugar, soda, coffee and salt. The farm contained a grape arbor, an orchard, an herb and vegetable garden, sheep, hogs, fowl and milk cows, according to the National Park Services "At Home in the Smokies Handbook #125."

The walls of their home were decorated with newspaper where dried food, seed bags and spice racks dotted the walls. Their cabin represented the way of life of the mountains. As the government purchased land throughout the Smokies to build the national park, the sisters refused to leave their way of life. They would not sell their land. In January of 1941, however, the sisters succumbed to the national park and sold their 123 acres to the government for $4,750. This sale included a lifetime lease to the sisters.

The Saturday Evening Post wrote an article on the sisters in 1946. As a result, their farm became a tourism hot spot. The sisters accepted the tourism and sold mountain souvenirs to tourists. A sign was placed on Highway 73 to indicate the location of the farm. As the years passed away, so did the sisters. By 1953, there were just two sisters left, Margaret Jane and Louisa. At the ages of 80 and 72, they asked the park superintendent to help them with the farm and take down the Highway 73 sign. The park complied and helped the Walker farm until the last sister, Louisa, passed away in 1964.

Today, the small cabin of the Walker sisters still rests deep within the woods of the Smoky Mountains. A constant reminder of the six determined sisters and the pride of their mountain heritage.

The camera and settings used to capture this image:
    Camera: Nikon D40
    Focal length: 35mm
    Shutter speed: .62 seconds
    Aperture: f/18
    ISO: 200

Visitor Comments...
    Name: Rick Rouse
    Town: Abingdon, VA

    An outstanding image and a very compelling history lesson. Thanks a bunch for both Gordon.
    Name: Ron Trees
    Town: Spokane, WA

    Excellent photo Gordon and I also really enjoyed what you had to write about the Walker sisters. It was very interesting!! I have been watching the series on PBS about out National Parks. I have not seen anything about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, although I am sure there has been something there. I might have missed some of it, but it has been very interesting to watch and learn all of the stories behind the parks. I really enjoy some of these old places that you photograph and your use of HDR is spot on here. There is just so much detail that you are able to pull out of the photo with it's use. Great work!!
    Name: Ed Morrison
    Town: Dunwoody, GA

    Exceptionally well done!!!!
    Name: Gordon Brugman
    Town: Gatlinburg, TN

    Thank you all for your kind comments. I think I should clarify the “history lesson” about the Walkers sisters is not my own writing. As I noted it was gleaned from online information which I found on this page, which is part of the very informative site of the Smoky Mountains Convention and Visitors Bureau. Credit given where credit is due!
    Name: Rick Rouse
    Town: Abingdon, VA

    Thanks for the clarification Gordon. Still a mighty fine photo and very interesting read!
    Name: Robert Schwarztrauber
    Town: Buffalo, NY

    That's a great cabin shot Gordon. Very well done HDR. In fact, I missed that the first time through and only caught it in Ron Tree's comment. The mark of the master is that you can't tell anything was done - and you certainly achieved that here. Great photo, great story as well. Thanks for sharing that.

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