‘Lost’ for 80 years

Horace Kephart 1929 novel published by Great Smoky Mountains Association

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park managers have announced that the Park’s cooperating partner, Great Smoky Mountains Association, has just published and released its newest book, Smoky Mountain Magic, a novel by Horace Kephart.

Although completed in 1929, two years before the author’s death, the novel was never published until now.

Cathy Cook, Chief of Resource Education and Science at the Smokies, said, “We had no idea that a Kephart novel even existed. The unpublished manuscript for Smoky Mountain Magic was handed down within the Kephart family until it was finally brought to the attention of park superintendent, Dale Ditmanson, by Libby Kephart Hargrave, the author’s great-granddaughter, at one of this year’s 75th Anniversary celebrations.

The typewritten manuscript was complete, having gone through numerous drafts and revisions over the course of the eight years that Horace Kephart labored over it.

Smoky Mountain Magic’s fictional story takes place during the summer of 1925, mostly along the Deep Creek watershed in the Great Smoky Mountains, but also in a thinly-disguised Bryson City (called Kittuwa) and the Cherokee Indian Reservation. Characters include a mysterious stranger (who resembles the author in his youth), a greedy land baron, a cadre of mountain folk ranging in constitution from stalwart to conniving, a beautiful botanist, a Cherokee chief and a witch. The novel fits the adventure story genre of the day with a bit of romance interwoven.

The famed author and outdoorsman first came to the Great Smoky Mountains in 1904 looking for a fresh start in life. He moved into an abandoned cabin on a tributary of Hazel Creek, a remote area even by early 20th century southern Appalachian standards.

There Kephart befriended his independent and self-reliant neighbors and pursued his passions for hiking, camping, fishing, hunting and generally living off the land.

The result of his time in what Kephart described as the “back of beyond” were Our Southern Highlanders, the classic work on the people of the Smokies, and Camping and Woodcraft, the definitive work on enjoying the out-of-doors. Both works are still in print and continue to nurture an enthusiastic following.

During the 1920s, Kephart and his friend and fellow hiker George Masa began a vigorous campaign to have the Great Smoky Mountains protected as a national park. Kephart wrote letters, articles, and a booklet championing the cause, and Masa contributed his breath-taking landscape photographs. Together they raised awareness of the significance and beauty of the Smokies and sounded the alarm over the devastation being caused by unsound, industrial logging operations. Both Kephart and Masa figured prominently in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park segment of a new 12-hour documentary series by Ken Burns entitled “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” which aired on Sept. 27 on PBS.

For their successful effort, both Kephart and Masa have neighboring mountains named for them. A stream, trail and camping shelter in the national park also bear Kephart’s name.

The 248 page Smoky Mountain Magic is now available in both paperback ($12.95) and hard cover ($19.95). All proceeds are being donated to the Horace Kephart Foundation (in support of the annual Horace Kephart Days Celebration in Bryson City), Great Smoky Mountains Association and Friends of the Smokies.

The novel is available at park visitor centers, area bookstores, and by contacting GSMA at www.SmokiesInformation.org or 1-888-898-9102, ext. 226.

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