- [S104] Cocke County, Tennessee, and its People, Cocke County Heritage Book Committee, (Walsworth Publishing, 1992), 208.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 24 Oct 2010.
Upland Chronicles: Alfred Reagan was no ‘average’ mountain man
by THERESA WILLIAMS The Mountain Press
10.24.10 - 12:01 am
Alfred Reagan and his wife, Martha Bales Reagan.
Reagan’s house before restoration by the National Park Service.
Reagan’s tub mill located along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, pictured before it was restored.
He was around 8 years old when his father, David L. Reagan, died in the Union Army at Gallatin, Tenn. Raised by his mother, Jane “Jennie” Ogle Reagan, he aspired to be an extraordinary mountain man.
Alfred Reagan was born Nov. 6, 1856 in Sevier County. His mother applied for a widow’s pension to help support Alfred and his siblings. Although the money she received was very limited, she was able to raise her children to become fine citizens.
Remarks have been made about Alfred that describe him as being just “… average in ability for his time and place.” Let’s examine this “average” mountain man.
Alfred married Martha Bales on April 16, 1879 in Sevier County. They had seven children: Giles, Luther, Wesley, Mertie, Delilah, Mae, and Louise.
Alfred purchased 90 acres of land from N.E. King in 1892. In later years, he bought two adjoining tracts of land. His home was located in the head waters of Roaring Fork Creek beneath Mount LeConte, and totaled 134.5 total acres when he sold his property to the National Park Service to form part of what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The house he lived in was built by T.R. Myers and is preserved by the National Park Service. Approximately 35 acres were cleared for farming. The rest of his land was steep, rock-strewn land that was only fit for pasture or woodland.
This land was so fertile that corn seed was dropped between the rocks and covered with just a handful of soil, yet it produced abundant crops.
The road that leads to Gatlinburg went down the middle of Roaring Fork Creek and along the banks. Wagons could not use this route for transportation. To take corn to the mill one had to walk or go by horseback, carrying bags of corn.
Alfred found a solution: He built his own mill. His mill was a turbine or “tub” mill. Water was channeled to strike a horizontal wooden wheel, which turned to provide direct power to the mill stones.
This mill had a hand-powered, homemade bolting machine that was used to grind wheat. (A bolting machine removed the chaff from the wheat, and separated the ground wheat into different grades.) This was an unusual feature for a mill located in the mountains.
Alfred’s mill was so well constructed that it could be operated when other mills were shut down due to lack of water which occurred in the heat of the summer months.
Not only could Alfred grind his own meal, he could charge a fee or a “toll” for grinding neighbors’ corn. His toll was one gallon of corn out of each bushel. This tub mill has been preserved along with Alfred’s house located on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
Alfred was an excellent blacksmith. He provided his services to his neighbors on Roaring Fork.
Because so little custom work was done, he could not make a living as a smithy. He did make a rifle for his son Wesley by welding together two sections from two older gun barrels.
He also had a small store located in a building between his house and the mill. The convenience of this store saved a long walk to Gatlinburg when someone ran short on just one item.
He is credited with shooting the first bear on Roaring Fork.
Alfred made all of his own furniture, and made additions to his house to make his home more comfortable for his family.
Alfred Reagan was a miller, blacksmith, storekeeper, gunsmith, farmer, carpenter, and, for a short time, a lay preacher. If this describes a common, everyday fellow, then our Sevier County men are quite extraordinary.
— 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 e-mail to email@example.com.
- [S94] Sevier County, Tennessee Census, 454b, 3 Jul 1870.
- [S34] In the Shadow of the Smokies, Smoky Mountain Historical Society, (1993), 686.
SMHS lists birth as 6 November 1866.