- [S106] The Mountain Press, 22 Oct 2012.
Upland Chronicles: 1940 Census for Sevier County an interesting document
by THERESA WILLIAMS
The 1940 Federal Census records at the King Family Library History Center have finally been alphabetized.
When they first came out, a look at the Sevier County records was overwhelming. One had to know not only the county but also the district in which relatives lived to find them.
Knowing the Gatlinburg area was in the 11th District, I searched 20-something pages for my parents but was disappointed when I didn’t find them on my first attempt. However, I later realized there was a National Park Census that consisted of only four pages. Browsing through them, I found my parents.
According to the census records, there were a total of 34 households still living within the park in 1940. Six of those households were involved in the apple orchard business. Eleven households were farming.
They were involved in lodging operations and four contained weavers, woodworkers, or chair makers. Also, young men who worked for the CCC resided in 3 households and three contained the national park service employees, one of whom was a fire tower watchman. Another man who resided with his mother was a school teacher.
Behind those numbers are some very enlightening human interest stories.
The 1940 U.S. Federal Census for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was taken by Harold O. Edwards. He was born in Montana and lived with his wife Violet, who was born in North Dakota. They were living outside the national park in Gatlinburg. They had a son, by the name of Harold, who was born in Tennessee.
Sisters Ruby Ownby Williams and Gladys Ownby Throop spoke of living at Cherokee Orchard in the 1940s. Their parents were Thomas Brazelton “Braz” and Mary Lydia Ogle Ownby. They had fond memories of a carefree, but busy life filled with chores, and visits from strangers who came to the orchard to buy apples.
When asked about why their father decided to leave the national park, they became sad.
“Dad had a farm on Dudley Creek that he wanted to move back to,” said Gladys, “We needed fire wood for heating the house and for cooking. The park would only let us use the trees that had fallen for wood. Dad had to go further and further away from the house to find the wood he could use. One day Ruby and I decide to go find Dad who had gone far away from the house to chop wood. We could hear him sawing wood, so we followed the sound. When we reached his location he asked if Mom knew where we were. When we told him no he immediately brought us back to the house. He and Mom gave us a lecture on being lost.” Ruby Williams added, “The wild animals seemed to know they were protected by the park. They came in and killed all our chickens in their coop. A bear broke into the barn and tried to kill our cow. The poor cow had big claw marks on its back. Mom poured Watkins Liniment in the cuts. The poor thing mooed so pitiful.”
Another individual, Henry A. Ebnother, who was born Dec. 28, 1865, in Wagitau, Swiss Capton, Switzerland, was recorded as living in the park. Heinrich is listed in the 1930 U. S. Federal Census as a resident of Knoxville, along with his wife Anna, and their daughter Lucy. A retired real estate agent, he was a widower living alone in the national park in 1940.
Stephen W. “Steve” Cole and his wife Karetza “Kay” Reagan Cole did not sell their land to the national park. They chose to remain on their property through a life-lessee agreement. They lived in a section of the park known as the Sugarlands. Steve purchased his farm from his father-in-law Richard Reason Reagan.
The home place had been in the Reagan family for many years. He did not live in a log cabin. The exterior of his home was covered in clap board. He kept bees and sold honey to supplement his income. On April 13, 1941, Steve died and his wife Kay soon moved in with their daughter Ruth Ogle in the Glades Community, where she lived the rest of her life, according to Shelia Gilbert.
Residing in the Elkmont area in 1940 was a bachelor named Sherwood C. Bain, who lived with his mother Evelyn. His occupation was listed as school teacher. Further investigating reveals that in 1910 Mr. Bain and his five brothers were living in the household of their parents in Knoxville.
In the World War I draft registration he was recorded as a university student. The 1930 Federal Census listed him as a 40-year-old single male residing at the YMCA on Clinch Avenue in Knoxville. He enlisted in the army at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., on Aug. 14, 1942, and listed his civilian occupation as teacher of secondary schools and principal.
Shannon Otis “Ode” Williams left his home at the Forks-of-the-River Community when he was drafted into military service. As he was leaving home relatives and friends heard him singing, “I’ll be back in a year little darling” as he walked down the narrow dirt road. Ode left behind his widowed mother Elzora Williams, four brothers and little sister, Mable.
While in service, World War II was declared. The song he sang as he left home became known as “I’ll get back when I get back little darling.” When Ode returned home after being away four years his family had moved outside the park. With the money he had saved while in service, he was able to put a down payment on a home, and lived out his life in the 11th District.
Yes, indeed, the 1940 Census contains lots of interesting stories. Anyone interested should visit the Rell and Wilma Maples History Center at the King Family Library.
— Theresa Williams is a genealogist for the Sevier County Library System. The Upland Chronicles series celebrates the heritage and past of Sevier County. If you have suggestions for future topics, would like to submit a story or have comments, please contact Carroll McMahan at 453-6411or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or Ron Rader at 604-9161 or email to email@example.com.
- [S94] Sevier County, Tennessee Census, 450b, 1 Jul 1870.
- [S94] Sevier County, Tennessee Census, 455, 1880.
- [S112] Census, 1930.
name: Stephen W Cole
event date: 1930
event place: District 11, Sevier, Tennessee
marital status: Married
estimated birth year: 1870
relationship to head of household: Head
father's birthplace: Tennessee
mother's birthplace: Tennessee
enumeration district number: 0013
family number: 163
sheet number and letter: 9B
line number: 66
nara publication: T626, roll 2271
film number: 2342005
digital folder number: 4547919
image number: 00875
Household Gender Age Birthplace
head Stephen W Cole M 60 Tennessee
wife Charetza Cole F 56 Tennessee
- [S77] Rawlings Funeral Home Records 1911-1995, Larry D. Fox, (Smoky Mountain Historical Society), 13 Apr 1941.
Cole, S W 71 Apr 13, 1941 Gat R T Cole
- [S34] In the Shadow of the Smokies, Smoky Mountain Historical Society, (1993), 550.