- [S75] Atchley Funeral Home Records, Volume II, 1955-1973, Larry D. Fox, (Smoky Mountain Historical Society), 26 Oct 1971.
Mrs. Maude J. Montgomery obitaury
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 5 Feb 2012.
Upland Chronicles: Park headquarters building has colorful history
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Headquarters Administration Building is shown in 1940 before landscaping was completed.
The flagstone walks were made of stone quarried by the CCC in Ravensford, N.C.
By CARROLL McMAHAN
Regarded at the time of its construction to be the finest of all administration buildings in the entire National Park system, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park headquarters and administration building has become a familiar fixture to local residents and millions of annual visitors.
The Colonial Revival-style building was designed by Charles I. Barber, a Knoxville architect and principal of the notable architectural firm of Barber & McMurray.
Before the national park was established, Charles Barber and his family frequently visited the Smoky Mountains. He and his brother George and their cousins, West and Guy Barber, were charter members of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club.Barber studied architure at the University of Pennsylvania under Paul Cret, a French-born architect widely credited with spreading the Beaux-Arts philosophy throughout the United States.
Prior to donating his services free of charge toward preparing the preliminary sketches and criticism of the drawings, Charles Barber and his cousin, Benjamin F. McMurray designed several elaborate mansions in the Sequoyah Hills vicinity in West Knoxville before expanding to non-domestic projects such as Holston Hills Country Club, Church Street United Methodist Church and the University of Tennessee’s Hoskins Library.
The Barber & McMurray Firm also designed Trinity Episcopal Church and the First United Methodist Church in Gatlinburg.
In October 1938, the Works Progress Administration, one of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal agencies created to provide employment during and after the Great Depression, was allotted funds for the construction of the building along with the Oconaluftee ranger station and the garage behind the administration building.
Both the WPA and the Civilian Conservation Corps contributed labor forces in the construction, however, the major structural and finishing work was contracted out to Southeastern Construction Company of Charlotte, N.C.
Construction of the building began in January 1939 and was completed in February 1940. The exterior is constructed of hewn limestone, which was quarried by the CCC from Ravensford quarry in North Carolina on the south side of the park boundary. Interestingly, most of the masons on the contract job were men who had been trained in stone work by the Park Service while in the CCC.
The stone is metamorphosed sedimentary conglomerate, sedimentary sandstone which has been subjected to great change by heat, pressure and water. The flagstone terrace and walkways to the building are of the same stone except that the seamed surface is exposed.
Supported by a system of steel rafters, the roof of the building is covered with slate quarried near Avonia, Va., by Buckingham-Virginia Slate Co.
The interior flagstone floor in the lobby is Tennessee Crab Orchard sandstone which was filled and treated with wax to give it a wearing surface. The facing and lining of the fireplace is alberane soapstone from Fork Union, Va.
Reputedly influenced by the parlor of Blount Mansion in Knoxville, the lobby walls are finished with horizontal wormy chestnut boards.
Parts of the lighting fixtures hanging in the lobby were made from an old skidder that was once used by the Little River Lumber Co. They were crafted by Frank Headrick of Wears Valley from designs prepared by the park staff as were the exterior fixtures which were made by Scott Electric Co. of Knoxville.
Before an open house for the 75th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2009, the lobby was renovated to its original appearance with the help of Dollywood blacksmith John Fuller, who volunteered to re-create the wrought iron chandeliers to replace two of the original six fixtures that were no longer serviceable.
The floor plan of the building was designed so that the superintendent’s office would be in the middle of the building with the clerical staff in one end and the technical staff in the other. Since the building was to also be used as an information center, the offices of the rangers and the naturalist were located in the front where they would be accessible to the public.
Compared to the two rented rooms at the Mountain View Hotel in Gatlinburg which had housed the park offices since its establishment in 1934, the beautiful new building was a welcomed luxury.
The administration building doubled as a visitor center until 1960 when the new Sugarlands Visitors Center opened. During those two decades, numerous stories abound regarding communication between the park staff and visitors.
In his book titled “The Mirth of a National Park,” Ranger John O. Morrell recalled one such anecdote about a young lady who asked innumerable questions about the park’s flora, fauna and points of interest, concluding her questioning by saying: “And do you have a water ouzel?” “Yes, indeed,” he replied, “third door on the left, right down the hall.”
Morrell was red-faced when he realized the questioner was inquiring about a bird commonly called a “dipper” and not asking for directions to the water fountain.
The second level of the Administration Building was left unfinished originally due to lack of funds and was used for storage and natural history exhibits. While the grounds to the Administration Building were being landscaped and replanted, a one-and-a-half story, 10-bay garage was built behind the building. With WPA funding and CCC labor, the garage was completed 20 months after the completion of the building. With architectural elements similar to the Administration Building, the garage is a rectangular, limestone structure that includes a slate roof and shed dormers.
Along with the restored historical structures representing life before the establishment of the park, the Administration Building has become a treasured symbol of the heritage of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
— Carroll McMahan is the Special Projects Facilitator for the Sevierville Chamber of CommerceThe 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
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 6 May 2012.
John Morrell is pictured in his park ranger uniform standing in front of park headquarters building. (Courtesy of Anne Blankenship)
A photograph of John Morrell and Grace Montgomery Morrell. John is naming him superintendent. He was given the honorary title for a day before he retired. (Courtesy of Anne Blankenship)
John Morrell surveying the view from Cliff Top on Mt. LeConte in 1967 (Courtesy of Mary Jenkins)
By CARROLL McMAHAN
In August 1913, John O. Morrell came with his family on the train from their home in Knoxville to Elkmont, to visit the Smoky Mountains. From Elkmont they hiked over to Alex Cole’s Cabin on Little River and spent the night. The next day they continued on toward Mt. Leconte. The trip took seven days to complete. By the time they returned home John had fallen in love with the mountains.
A son of prominent Knoxville attorney Norman Morrell and Mary Ogden Morrell, John Ogden Morrell was born June 4, 1901, in Knoxville. He and his sister, Elise, grew up in the Island Home neighborhood in south Knoxville.
After graduating from the University of Tennessee College of law in 1926, he began practicing law in Sevierville. During that time he lived in the New Central Hotel which was located only a half block from the courthouse.
While working and living in Sevierville, he met Grace Montgomery.
Grace was a daughter of Sevier County Register-of-Deeds W.W. Montgomery and Maude Henderson Montgomery of Pine Grove. At the time they met, she was a school teacher and also worked part- time for her father at the Sevier County courthouse. It was at the courthouse where John met Grace.
When TVA was acquiring property for Norris Dam and its reservoir, John took a job as a title abstractor for the agency and moved to Lafollette.
John and Grace married on April 23, 1934, and moved to Lafollette. By 1936, his assignment with TVA was completed and John was appointed title abstractor for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
By the time John and Grace moved back to Sevier County they were proud parents of a daughter, Mary. Later, a second daughter, Anne, was born.
Due to his expertise in dealing with the landowners, John served a pivotal role with the park service. While most of the mountain people were suspicious of “outsiders,” John possessed unique ability to earn their trust.
His daughter Mary Jenkins of Tempe, Ariz., said. “I think his greatest asset was that he knew the people and knew how to approach them without getting shot.
I remember riding along with him and acting as a witness. Many of the landowners were illiterate and signed the transfer deeds with a X.”
In 1938 he became a park ranger and was appointed assistant park attorney in 1942. George Fry, former park superintendent said that John Morrell was a good lawyer and “he knew how to keep me out of trouble. He knew the park as well as anyone. I think his happiest moments were when he was a ranger.”
John developed a good rapport among mountain people as well as his fellow park staff members. On numerous occasions, he tutored local young men he felt displayed potential despite their limited education, enabling them to pass the required civil service test.
Although he was older than most volunteers, John joined the Army during World War ll. Due to health issues, he served only a few months before returning to his job with the park service and was appointed assistant chief ranger.
According to his daughter Mary, John did not always enjoy entertaining prominent government officials when they visited the park, particularly those he found disagreeable.
His younger daughter Anne Blankenship of Woods Cross, Utah, remembers owning a horse which her father sometimes used to pack trail signs to remote locations in the park.
One time John and a couple of other rangers stopped to spend the night at Spence Field above Cade’s Cove where the horse feasted on the lush grass. But the second night the men camped in a grassless, rocky area.
They awakened the following morning to discover the horse was gone, leaving the rangers with the heavy trail signs to carry. Just as they suspected, the horse had returned to Spence Field where nourishment was plentiful.
John became a district ranger in 1950 and a management assistant in 1959. He retired in 1968.
Realizing he was an excellent raconteur, those who knew John persuaded him to record some of the stories he often repeated. In 1981, John published a book filled with anecdotes about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The book was titled “The Mirth of a Park.” The publication’s sub-title read “with apologies to the shade of Carlos Campbell, author of The Birth of a National Park.”
The volume included chapters about pre-park humor, the park’s beginnings and ranger’s humor. Other chapters were reminiscences of tall stories and bear tales.
One story he told in the book involved Sam Cook of Jake’s Creek: “One autumn morning Sam Cook came down to the Appalachian Club, greatly excited because he had come upon ‘a lot of fresh bear sign.’ One of the ladies asked Sam what ‘bear sign’ was….and Sam told her!”
John’s daughter Anne recalls a gentleman who often attended Trinity Episcopal Church in Gatlinburg where the Morrell family regularly attended services. The man always came in just as the service started and bolted during the benediction hymn.
One day she asked her father if he knew the man and John replied that he did. “Why does he even bother to come to church?” inquired Anne. “I asked him that one time,” said John, “and he told me he was not a very religious man but any church that’s good enough for Johnny Morrell is good enough for me.”
John O. Morrell died May 8, 1982. He is buried in the Shiloh Cemetery in view of his beloved Smoky Mountains. Although others may have been more knowledgeable about the biodiversity and geology of the park, few could match his love of the Smokies and his perception of the people who inhabited them.
— 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.
- [S76] Atchley Funeral Home Records, Volume III, 1974-1986, Larry D. Fox, (Smoky Mountain Historical Society), 8 May 1982.
Morrell, John Ogden 80 b. 6-4-01 TN d. 5-8-82 SCH mgt asst Natl Park f. Norman Blake Morrell m. Mary Ogden WW II Army SSgt Co A Maint Bn 16th Armd Div 11-11-42 Knoxv 3-30-43 Camp Perru OH Shiloh Cem Survivors: wife Grace Montgomery R2 Sev dau Mrs Richard A (Mary) Jenkins Mrs Hall (Anne) Blankenship gc John Jenkins Rebecca Jenkins Daniel Jenkins sis Miss Elise Morrell mem Trinity Episcopal Ch.