BIRDELL, a one act monologue play will be presented September 17 at the Smoky Mountain Theater, Bryson City. This play tells the story of Birdell Tolly, a composite BIRDELL character in the role of a defiant mountain woman who grew up in the paradise of Hazel Creek, the family’s battle with the federal government and the forced removal from the land by the rising waters of Fontana Lake. The play is filled with vignettes and metaphor about life in the mountains from the early 1900’s and the forced removal of families by the TVA in the 1940’s from what is now the Northshore of Fontana Lake. Kay Sharpe will be playing the role of Birdell and previously played the role in 2002 and 2003. She is making a return to the stage but has performed in other Smoky Mountain Theater productions including the character of Ms. Malloy in Hello Dolly, in Driving Miss Daisy, and in Fox Fire. She is also a member of the Smoky Mountain Theater Board.
Also at the production, Gary Carden, the play write and award winning author will talk about the development of the character Birdell and the play, as well as the history around the play. Gary, a native and resident of Jackson County has written and published many other plays and books, several of which have become movies. Gary’s CD’s and books will be available for purchase at the performance.
Please plan to join us for a great theatrical presentation. Smoky Mountain Theater is located at 138 Main Street, Bryson City. The curtain goes up at 7:30 PM. Tickets may be purchased at the theater for $10. This is a fund raiser to benefit the Swain County Genealogical and Historical Society and the Smoky Mountain Theater.
September 18, 2016, marks the 41th Reunion of the Former Residents of Hazel Creek and the Fontana Lake area. These former residents and their descendants will gather at the Deep Creek Shelter for a “homecoming” between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM that day. It’s a time to catch up and become reacquainted with distant relatives and relatives that were not known to you. There will be “swapping” of stories about life on the creeks and in the “hollars” and hunting and fishing tales about those from the past. Some will bring pictures that are family treasures so all can see what their relatives looked like. There will be mountain music and singing led by those who are the most senior members. And of course, as with any gathering, a sharing of wonderful food. Participants need to bring a covered dish and desert for all to share. If you are musically inclined, bring your instrument and plan to join in.
This reunion or “homecoming” is the climax of the North Shore Cemetery Association’s (NSCA) season of cemetery visitations. Beginning in May of each year and going into October, the NSCA schedules trips to visit and decorate the graves in each of the 26 cemeteries on the North Shore of the lake. The cemetery visitations are a time for the North Shore born and their descendants to return “home” to see the old home site and to walk on the ground where their ancestors lived. It’s a chance to see places and landmarks from their childhood or that they been told stories about. The highlight of each trip is the visit to the graves of their ancestors. Since not everyone goes to each cemetery, the reunion provides a venue for descendants to see one another and to get acquainted with those relatives and cousins who lived on the creeks and in the “hollars” of Hazel Creek, Chambers Creek, Noland Creek, Forney Creek, Eagle Creek, Bone Valley, Proctor, Bushnell, and the other communities that no longer exist. The area now under the lake and surrounding the lake was the location of the homes of many of the earliest settlers in this part of the mountains. On the creeks that ran into the Little Tennessee River, those ancestors hewed out logs, built homes, churches, schools, and towns and raised families for more than 100 years before the forced removal by the TVA in the 1940’s. Among the most common family surnames of the people forced from their homes were Cable, Welch, Monteith, Kirkland, Dorsey, Calhoun, Crisp, Bradshaw, Laney, Payne, Orr, Sawyer, Woody, Pilkey, Pilkington, Posey, Walker, Jones, Buchanan, Conner, Higdon, and Wiggins, and many others that it was not possible list. It may be said that the majority of most persons native to Swain County probably have some roots or ties to the families that were displaced. After the removal, those families were scattered across the south and the country. The reunion is a “homecoming” and a return visit to the past for these descendants and an opportunity for the youngest generation to learn their family history.
The officers of the NSCA are Helen Cable Vance, Mildred Cable Johnson, and Lee Vance Woods. Members of the NSCA over the years have met with the Department of the Interior, testified in Senate Hearings in Washington, and worked with the National Park Service to make the organization and cemetery visitations possible. Many graves of those buried on the North Shore now have markers because of the efforts of the NSCA. More information may be found online at the website northshorecemeteries.com.
In conjunction with the reunion, the night before, Saturday, September 17, BIRDELL, a one act monologue play will be presented at the Smoky Mountain Theater. This play tells the story of Birdell Tolly, who grew up on Hazel Creek in the early 1900’s. Birdell describes life in the mountains, how her family had to fight with the federal government, and then were still forced off their land in the 1940’s by the TVA and the rising waters of Fontana Lake. Swain County’s own Kay Sharpe will be playing the role of Birdell. Also at the production, Gary Carden, the playwrite and award winning author will talk about the development of the character Birdell and the play, as well as the history around the play. Gary’s CD’s and books will be available for purchase at the performance. The performance is at 7:30 PM at the Smoky Mountain Theater, 138 Main Street, Bryson City, 2871. Tickets may be purchased at the theater for $10. The play is a fund raiser to benefit the Swain County Genealogical and Historical Society and the Smoky Mountain Theater.
Please join us for this weekend of reunion and celebration of life in the mountains. See the history of the North Shore and Fontana Lake area and what mountain life was like by attending Birdell on Saturday night, September 17 at 7:30 PM. Bring a covered dish and see relatives, friends and cousins you didn’t know you had at the 40th Reunion of the Former Residents of Hazel Creek and the Fontana Lake area on Sunday, September 18 at the Deep Creek Shelter from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Hope to see you at both events.
Located on the north shore of Fontana Lake in Swain County, NC. Now part of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park
North Shore Cemeteries
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The North Shore Cemetery Association and North Shore Historical Society