Horace Kephart. Smoky Mountain Magic. Gatlinburg, TN: Great Smoky Mountain Association, 2009.

Horace Kephart on the summit of Mount Kephart, courtesy of the National Park Service

Horace Kephart, known as one of the fathers of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, was a prolific writer and naturalist. He is well known for his nonfiction works on camping and the inhabitants of the southern Appalachians, but it was not until 2009 that his great- great-granddaughter and her husband were able to publish his long-lost novel, Smoky Mountain Magic. Originally written in 1929, the novel draws deeply on Kephart’s years of experience living in and wandering through the Smokies.

It’s 1925, and a young man from New York arrives on the outskirts of Kittuwa (Bryson City) in the Smoky Mountains. John Cabarrus has been away for fifteen years, but has finally returned to claim the land that is rightfully his. But his property is still in possession of the wicked W. G. Matlock, the greedy businessman who stole it from Cabarrus’ grandfather, so John must keep his intentions secret. Unfortunately, a local troublemaker sees Cabarrus on the property, possibly panning for gold. Matlock finds out, and goes after the prodigal son with a vengeance.

Marian Wentworth, a young woman visiting relatives in Kittuwa while on holiday from college, is immediately drawn to the mysterious, handsome Cabarrus. She soon discovers his family’s sad tale, and Cabarrus tells her the whole truth- he isn’t searching for gold, but for beryllium, uranium, and other mineral deposits in high demand as science advances. If he can find enough, his career and fortune will be made and he can regain his grandfather’s prized land from the scheming Matlock. Marian is determined to help, so the two young people search the mountains together for this precious treasure. Along the way, they encounter witches, the Little People, gum-chewing teenagers, mythical beasts, ornery dogs, the Cherokee, and magical crystals.

In this fascinating glimpse into the colliding cultures of the Roaring Twenties and the still wild back woods of the Great Smoky Mountains, Horace Kephart has written a masterful portrayal of the mountain folk, the Cherokee, and the land itself. Readers of adventure, natural science, and early twentieth century literature will all be delighted.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill library’s catalog.

1 Comment

Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Kephart, Horace, Mountains, Suspense/Thriller, Swain

One Response to Horace Kephart. Smoky Mountain Magic. Gatlinburg, TN: Great Smoky Mountain Association, 2009.

  1. Kathy Kephart Wright

    Based on genealogy, it appears I and my sister are related to Horace Kephart. I, Kathleen Denise Kephart Wright, was born on April 2, 1951 and 20 years to date after Horace Kephart’s untimely death. I have read “Our Southern Highlanders” and our family records trace us back to Nicholas Kephart in Switzerland (if that is correct). Early records show settlements in a county in Pennsylvania (Clarendon ?) for our family. Our family ended up in Punxsutawney, Pa., where we were all born. I now live near Boone, NC with my husband, George. I wish to get in contact with the great, great grand-daughter of Horace Kephart to try to possibly discover a connection. It’s kind of a spiritual thing for me. We’ve been to the grave site (boulder) in Bryson City years ago, but this is more emotional for me because I always felt being in the mountains was my place and we were avid backpackers in prior years. I am now 62 and want to discover more about Horace Kephart and any possible connection. Incidentally, my older sister is a talented free-lance writer and I was an art major but can hold my own with writing, too. I want to know if all this is just coincidence or could it be factual? Thank you for any assistance in connecting us with offspring of a very talented writer and naturalist who went to our mountains and made such a difference. Incidentally, I had no idea 40 years ago that there even was a Mt. Kephart. The first I heard the Kephart name was when we (my then fiancee) and I climbed Mt. LeConte in TN with friends and stayed in a lean-to at Kephart Prong. My hope is that you forward this to the great, great grand-daughter so she can comment or at least have a recollection of my comments. Kathy Kephart Wright