- [S106] The Mountain Press, 30 Apr 2012.
Upland Chronicles: Kilby family operated Sevier County dairy farm
by CARROLL McMAHAN
Troy Kilby standing in the front door of Kilby’s Grocery Store on Old Knoxville Highway.
Troy Kilby and his wife, Oda Hardin Kilby, pictured standing in front of Whitetop Market in Virginia.
Holding school books, the four children of Troy and Oda Kilby are, from left, W.D., Casina, Elizabeth and Chandler.
Although Oda Hardin grew up in Sevier County and attended Murphy College, Hiwassee College and the University of Tennessee, jobs were hard to find in the 1920s and she could not obtain a teaching position with the Sevier County School system when she received a teaching certificate.
Somehow her father W.D. Hardin, who was a prominent Catlettsburg farmer and one of the founding members of the Board of Directors of Sevier County Bank, helped her get a job teaching in a small school in Whitetop, Va.
Whitetop is an unincorporated community in Grayson County. It is named for nearby Whitetop Mountain which is the second tallest mountain in Virginia and has the highest navigable road in the state leading to its 5,520-foot summit.
Leaving behind her parents, William Dallas “W.D.” Hardin and Lillie Thomas Hardin, along with her siblings Elizabeth (Grim), Sanders, Dallas and Ruby (Moore), Oda moved to southwest Virginia. Once settled in her new job, Oda soon met a young grocery store proprietor named Troy Wade Kilby. He was one of eight children of Luther and Flossie Weaver Kilby. Prior to operating Whitetop Market, Troy worked for a while for a railroad company.
Oda Hardin and Troy Kilby married in 1929. The following year their first son was born and although she worked in the grocery store, Oda never again taught school. Their son, William Dallas “W.D.,” was followed by a daughter named Casina.
Due to the economic conditions brought on by the Great Depression, they were forced to close Whitetop Market and move to Sevier County where they lived on a farm owned by Oda’s father. The farm, which contained a small cabin, was in a hollow where Echota Smoky Mountain Resort is currently located.
After moving to Sevier County another son, Chandler, and another daughter, Elizabeth, was born.
Within a few years, W.D. Hardin acquired a 100-plus-acre farm near the confluence of the Little Pigeon and French Broad rivers and persuaded his daughter and son-in-law to operate it. Except for a rickety old swinging bridge, there was no way to cross the river between Catlettsburg and the west side of the Little Pigeon River where the farm was located.
On the vast acreage the Kilby family produced enormous crops of corn and wheat along with hay for cattle and vegetables for the table. They milked cows by hand and sold it to Pet Dairy Co. in huge milk cans.
Casina Huff, widow of Claude Huff Sr. and the only surviving child of Troy and Oda Kilby, recalls helping her mother prepare large noontime meals that they served on a big long table to hired farm hands and neighbors who were always willing to help out. While Casina and her mother were busy cooking, her sister Elizabeth often drove a tractor and her brothers worked in the fields with their father.
Each summer Troy and Oda loaded the four children in the canvas-covered bed of a pickup truck and traveled to southwest Virginia to visit family and friends. While Douglas Dam was under construction, the Tennessee Valley Authority acquired a small portion of the farm to construct railroad tracks that connected with the Sevierville, Knoxville and Eastern Railroad. TVA also built a trestle across the Little Pigeon River.
In the 1940s, Troy purchased a manual concrete block making machine. Located less than a mile from the bridge that connected downtown Sevierville and Chapman Highway, the machine was operated by Troy and his sons who made blocks for a new house. They also sold concrete blocks to the public.
Troy then decided to build a grocery store and made the blocks for it. Situated next to their new home, the store was on Old Knoxville Highway between the river and the road.
When TVA rerouted the river in the 1960s, a small portion of Old Knoxville Highway between Chapman Highway and the new river channel, which included the location of the store, became a dead-end street and was renamed Kilby Street.
During the years the Kilby family operated the grocery store, the business was frequented by residents of the neighboring Jenkins Hill community as well as people living along Old Knoxville Highway all the way to Boyd’s Creek.
Located beside the store was a grease pit, which the public used to change oil or work on cars. Troy continued to make and sell blocks for a number of years.
When they moved to their new home, the Kilbys rented the old farmhouse to tenants. Sadly, the house burned to the ground a year later. Roads such as Boyd’s Creek Highway and Davis Lane, named in honor of a neighbor and legendary White Cap-era Sheriff Tom Davis, now traverse the farm.
The W.C. Henderson Bridge was built on the site of the old TVA railroad trestle and connects the property with Highway 66.
Troy Kilby passed away in 1972 and Oda Hardin Kilby died in 1976. Afterward, the family discovered boxes full of ledgers documenting groceries sold on credit and never paid.
Four decades later, sometimes individuals whose parents were recipients Troy’s benevolence mention to Casina Huff that they do not know how their family would have survived rough times without the kindness of Troy Kilby.
— Carroll McMahan is the special projects facilitator for the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce. The Upland Chronicles series celebrates the heritage and past of Sevier County. If you have suggestions for future topics, would like to submit a column or have comments, please contact Carroll McMahan at 453-6411 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org; or Ron Rader at 604-9161 or email to email@example.com.
- [S73] Rawlings Funeral Home, Book 2, 1 Mar 1976.
Kilby, Oda Sept 11, 1901 Tn March 1, 1976
Spouse: Kilby, Troy W.
Father: Hardin, William D.
Mother: Thomas, Lilly
Sons: Chandler, W.D.
Daughters: Mrs. Elizabeth Martin, Mrs. Casino Huff
Brothers: Dallas, Sanders
Sisters: Mrs. Archie Moore [Ruby], Mrs. Mark Grim [Elizabeth]
- [S34] In the Shadow of the Smokies, Smoky Mountain Historical Society, (1993), 354.