Articles by Marshall McClung about Hooper Bald

and Surrounding Areas


N.C. and TN. Battled Over High Country
Hoopers Once Owned Vast Domain
Elk Antler Recalls Bygone Era
Roaming The High Country
Whig Cabin Served As Hunter Camp
Fall The Time To Visit High Country




North Carolina and Tennessee were once engaged in a lengthy court battle as to where the line dividing the two states should be located in some of the rugged high country that today separates the two states.  The dispute eventually went all the way to the United States Supreme Court where it was heard in October, 1914.  Justice McKenna delivered the Court’s opinion on the matter on November 9, 1914.

The portion of the state line that was most disputed was that section that ran through the Slickrock and Tellico basins.  Tennessee claimed that when the surveyors were running the state line that they visited a moonshiner’s cabin, got drunk, and got lost in the vicinity of what is now known as Stratton Meadows or John Meadows, today located along the Cherohala Skyway.   Tennessee alleged that North Carolina cheated them out of a large portion of land, but did give them a rugged section known as Jeffrey’s Hell.  Tennessee said if you doubt the story about the surveyor’s getting drunk, you only have to look to see how crooked the state line between western N.C. and eastern Tenn. is as proof.

     North Carolina called for the state line to run the extreme height of the mountain range in this area northeast of the Tennessee River and follow the main ridge top southwest of the river to a point west of the mouth of Slickrock Creek to the top of Big Fodderstack Mountain and then follow the main ridge to the junction of Big Fodderstack Mountain Lead and Hangover Mountain Lead and then to the main ridge of Unaka Mountain and continue southwest.

     Tennessee disputed this location saying that North Carolina had not indicated how much of the state line they held in dispute when they filed the original claim.  Tennessee felt the state line should run the main ridge all the way which they claimed had been agreed to in 1789, and was supposedly marked in 1821.  This would have put the state line running the crest of Hangover Mountain and Stratton Bald, which would have greatly reduced the size of present day Graham County.  Tennessee even went to the point of mentioning certain pine and hemlock trees that had been blazed for state line location.

The territory that today is the state of Tennessee was ceded to the United States by North Carolina in 1789.  Tennessee claimed that in this act the location of the state line was described as running from Iron Mountain to Great Iron Mountain or Smoky Mountain to a place called Unicoi or Unaka Mountain, passing between the Cherokee Indian towns of Cowee and Old Chota.

     In 1796, North Carolina appointed commissioners to settle the boundary line dispute, as did Tennessee.  They did so again, North Carolina in 1819, and Tennessee in 1820, instructing them to settle, run, and mark the boundary line between the two states.  Three commissioners were appointed by each state.  They met in Newport, Tennessee on July 16, 1821.  No controversy over the work of these commissioners was heard for years, and it seemed that the argument was finally settled.  Then in 1836, Tennessee began laying out townships, and called for Slickrock Creek to be the boundary.  North Carolina disputed this and made land grants in 1853 on land that Tennessee said was in their state.  Word battles raged back and forth as to what actually constituted the “main ridge” in this area, and what was meant by the “extreme height” mentioned, supposedly meaning the very top of the mountain. 

     Some of the North Carolina papers pertaining to this matter were lost or destroyed in 1832.  Papers filed with Tennessee were lost and not discovered until around 1903 or 1904.  In November of 1910, a book containing the field notes of one of the surveyors of the state line, W. Davenport was found by a grandson in an old desk.  The book contained Davenport’s handwritten notes and was presented as evidence in one of the many court cases.  Davenport’s field book began with notes from July 18, 1821.  He mentions locating work of other surveyors; J. McDowell, M. Matthews, and D. Vance performed in 1790.  Davenport indicates that these surveyors did not locate the state line on Hangover Ridge, but did locate it along Slickrock Creek to Fodderstack Mountain.

     In the case of North Carolina versus Tennessee, the U.S. Supreme Court in October, 1914 appointed three commissioners to survey and establish the line between the two states from the Little Tennessee River south to Stratton Bald.  The three appointed by the Court were D.B. Burns of Asheville, N.C., W.D. Hale of Maryville, Tennessee, and Joseph Hyde Pratt of Chapel Hill, N.C.  These commissioners filed their report with the Clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court on October 20, 1915.  The report states that they had located and marked the state line beginning at Mile Post 59 on the north side of the Little Tennessee River and when the line reached the river at a tree marked in 1821, they dropped downstream, crossed the river at the mouth of Slickrock Creek, then took the line along the Fodderstack Mountain Lead, installing twelve markers of set stones.  The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the commissioner’s report in October, 1915.  The cost of the survey was divided evenly between the two states, but as of 1929, Tennessee had still not paid their share of the cost - $3,428.97.

     The disputed section of land fought over so long by the two states is today under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Government and administered by the U.S. Forest Service.  Any “land battles” today would simply determine which national forest it would fall in, the Cherokee in Tennessee or the Nantahala in North Carolina.


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One of the early, prominent pioneer families in Graham County was the Hooper family.  Much information on the family is contained in a family history compiled by Betty Hooper Carpenter.  A very informative work on the Hooper Bald area was done by Joy Tipton Stewart.

Dr. Enos Hooper and his wife Margaret Harbison Hooper moved to Graham County from Monroe County, Tennessee in 1840.  Enos was the first doctor in Graham County, and Hooper Bald is named for him.  Enos was forty-five years old at the time, and took up holdings on several thousand acres of land opened up to homesteaders after the removal of the Cherokee to Oklahoma by the United States Government.  The land holdings on and around Hooper Bald were said to be about 13,000 acres.  S.S. Hooper said in 1908, that as a small child, he recalled seeing the Cherokee Indians come to Hooper Bald in autumn and hold a sort of fair or fall festival, and play a number of different games including the rugged game of stickball.

The Hooper landholdings were said to stretch from the present day town of Robbinsville to the Unicoi Mountains along the North Carolina-Tennessee state line.  Enos began grazing cattle on the grass of the high mountain meadows including Hooper Bald.  They are thought to be the first family to graze cattle in the area.  The Hoopers developed a special breed of pony for herding cattle known as the Hooper Pony.  Sim Hooper brought the first Black Angus cattle to Graham County in 1909.  They are sometimes called “black poll” or “black pole” by locals.  Sim Meadows is named for Sim Hooper.  Sim was a schoolteacher, and taught the Cherokee Indian children...  Patrick Meadows is named for Patrick Hooper who died at age 34, and was never married.

General Marion Hooper, born in 1860, had the name of being quite a hunter, and was a caretaker for the various herds of cattle grazing in the high, lush, meadows.  He charged $1.00 per head to look after people’s cattle, and is credited with building many of the old wagon roads in Graham County and in nearby sections of Tennessee using only the crude hand tools of the day.  He also built a wagon that was only about half the size of the larger wagons of that day that had trouble navigating the steep, narrow wagon roads.  In 1897, he used his smaller wagon to assist some surveyors who had a larger wagon stuck below Hooper Bald.  General Hooper lived at Whig Meadows around 1900, and hired Jep Hooper and Jack Roberts to enlarge the meadow for a year or more.  The area was then sowed in grass, and a rail fence built around it.  A mowing machine pulled by a yoke of oxen was used to cut the grass for hay.   Dow Hooper was said the be the first photographer in Graham County, and is credited with taking the only known photograph, a tin type, of Cheesequire, a Cherokee Indian who lived near the present day community of Ground Squirrel.  Cheesequire was said to have lived to the age of 137.

As was the case with most Southerners, and the rest of the nation as well, the Civil War changed things forever.  Most of the Hooper sons left to fight in the Civil War.  When they returned, they were financially broke, and much of the South lay in ruins.  Although, they still had their land, they had no money to operate on.  They borrowed $1200 from a Tennessee man, sizable sum in those days.  They put their property up for security, and when they were unable to repay the loan, lost the land. 

Although their vast land holdings were gone, the Hoopers did retain their individual homes and adjoining property.  They continued to farm and raise cattle.  Dr. Enos Hooper continued to practice medicine here until his death in 1872 at age 76, ironically, the same year Graham became a separate county from Cherokee County.  Many descendants of Enos Hooper live in Graham County and nearby east Tennessee today.  


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A piece of history thought lost forever recently resurfaced.  Jim McGuire’s sister, Nancy Smith, recently presented him with an elk antler from one of the original elk brought to Hooper Bald many years ago when a wild game preserve was established on Hooper Bald, elevation 5,429 feet.  Jim said that at one time, there were several large sets of elk antlers in the old hunting lodge, but he thought all of them were long gone.

In 1910, George Gordon Moore, said to be a Canadian businessman involved in financing began putting his plan for a wild game preserve in Graham County into action.  The construction of a large hunting lodge was begun.  The lodge was ninety feet by 45 feet and contained fourteen rooms complete with bathrooms, containing what may have been the first bathtubs in Graham County.  Most people took baths in washtubs in those days.  The lodge had a telephone, also said to be the first in Graham County.  The phone line ran from Marble, N.C.

The lodge was completed in 1911, and construction of a large wild game lot was begun.  Local residents, including Walt Wiggins and Will Engle were hired at $1.25 per day to haul material and build fences.  A rail fence, nine rails high was built around 600 acres for the wild boar.  Twenty-five tons of wire were used to build a fence ten feet high around 1500 acres for the buffalo.

The first of the wild game animals began arriving in the spring of 1912 when wild boar from the Ural Mountains along with four bison arrived at the rail depot in Andrews.  That fall, more bison, elk, black bear, cinnamon bear, mule deer, wild turkeys and pheasants arrived.  Many of the larger animals arrived in crates, and were hauled by wagon the some thirty miles to Hooper Bald.

Garland “Cotton” McGuire, Jim McGuire’s father, was one of the local men working on the game project, and he eventually became the chief caretaker of the estate.  He was married to Mabel Hooper, a descendant of Enos Hooper for whom Hooper Bald is named.

Not much is known about George Gordon Moore, the man who established the preserve, nor just what he had in mind when he started this venture.  It is said he only visited Hooper Bald a few times after the project was completed, with his last visit coming in 1922.  Difficulties were soon encountered with the wild animals.  The bear climbed over the high fences and escaped into the forest. When hunting dogs approached the wild boar, they also escaped through the fence.  No one was permitted to shoot the buffalo, as Moore wanted them to increase to a sizeable herd.  The buffalo didn’t fare too well, and the last reported buffalo was shot by Bill Moore in 1926.  The elk grew to a herd of around thirty, perhaps as many as seventy, depending on which account you wish to acknowledge.  The last elk was said to have been killed by Claude Hyde sometime around 1930 or a little later.  The wild turkeys were all killed by local hunters.

     In the 1920’s, Moore apparently began to experience financial difficulties.  He had not been to Hooper Bald in quite some time, and had not paid Cotton McGuire his salary.  Cotton was living in the caretaker’s house (later known as “The Burnt House” by locals).  It was located near the lodge, later called “The Big House” by locals.  Eventually, Moore had Cotton to come to New York to meet with him.  During this visit, Moore gave Cotton all the property and $1,000.

     Cotton returned to Hooper Bald, and in 1939, the caretaker cottage burned to the ground one night.  The McGuire family then moved into the lodge.  Some of the elk were trapped and sold alive to various individuals, with some going to what is now known as the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.  Hunters paid $100 to be allowed to bag an elk.  Eventually, the lodge fell into disrepair, and with the exception of the wild boar, which thrived, all the wild game animals were gone.  After spending some thirty years on Hooper Bald, Cotton McGuire later made his home on West Buffalo.

     Cotton McGuire died in 1957, followed by his wife Mabel in 1978.  In 1994, a scenic highway, the Cherohala Skyway that passes near Hooper Bald, was completed.  Today, much of the Hooper Bald area is part of the Nantahala National Forest and managed by the U.S. Forest Service.  Nearby property is still in ownership of the McGuire family.


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     I recently had the opportunity to visit several of the higher mountain peaks in Graham County with my good friend “Hoot” Gibbs.  The cooler, more fall like weather especially in the higher elevations was just too good to resist.

     Haw Knob, elevation 5472, was no doubt named for the hawthorn bush that is often found in the area.  The bush is called haw or haw apple by locals as it bears red fruit resembling small apples.  On the way up the trail we came upon the rusting frame of an old motorbike minus the engine and wheels. 

     On top of Haw Knob is a small concrete slab where something had been mounted.  If memory serves me correct there was a small weather station or at least a rain gauge there at one time.  There were some beautiful mountain ash trees with their cluster of ripe berries and an occasional fir tree.

     Laurel Top, elevation 5317 was a different story.  It is more or less a jungle of mostly rhododendron called laurel by locals, hence the name.  Locals also refer to mountain laurel as ivy.  There is a nice view from the top if you can find a spot where you can see through the bushes.  The trail is more like a tunnel through the underbrush and you have to walk stooped over part of the way.  Most people would not care much about going there.

     One of the most beautiful spots along the Cherohala Skyway is the walk up to Oak Knob, elevation 5440, Big Huckleberry Knob, elevation 5560 and Little Huckleberry Knob, elevation 5360.   Oak Knob and Big Huckleberry Knob are both large open grassy areas with a fantastic 360-degree view of mountains in every direction as far as you can see.  Oak Knob was probably named for the numerous oak trees that grow around its summit and Big and Little Huckleberry Knobs no doubt named for the huckleberry bushes that grow in abundance in the area.

     Big Huckleberry Knob has the distinction of having claimed the lives of at least three men.  On December 11, 1899, Andy Sherman and Paul O’Neil left a logging camp on Sycamore Creek near the Tellico River in Tennessee enroute to Robbinsville in a snowstorm.  They missed their turn down Big Santeetlah and continued on out the main ridge top toward Big Huckleberry Knob.  On September 6, 1900, Forrest Denton and some other men who were hunting found their remains.  The men had frozen to death after becoming lost in the snowstorm.  Andy Sherman is buried on Big Huckleberry Knob and his grave is marked by a metal cross and plaque.  The skeleton of Paul O’Neil was brought to Robbinsville and served as a medical exhibit in the office of Dr. Robert J. Orr.  On April 27, 1952, the crash of an F-51 aircraft killed the pilot, Captain Donald H. Moede, 31 of Cheyenne, Wyoming.  The plane slammed into the side of Big Huckleberry Knob some 200 feet under the summit.  The propeller and a few small engine parts still remain there.

     Hooper Bald, elevation 5429 is named for Enos Hooper, Graham County’s first medical doctor.  Hooper settled there in 1840, and the Hooper family at one time had landholdings that stretched from near present day Robbinsville to the North Carolina-Tennessee state line along the location of the Cherohala Skyway.  The sons of Enos Hooper fought in the Civil War for the south.  When they returned they were financially broke.  They still hand their land, but no money to operate on.  As a result, they borrowed $1200 from a man in Tennessee, a very large sum in those days.  When they couldn’t repay their loan, they lost most of their property. 

     In 1910, George Gordon Moore established a hunting preserve on Hooper Bald and stocked several species of animals including boar, bison, elk, black bear, and mule deer.  The wild boar has multiplied greatly since then.  A large hunting lodge and caretaker’s cottage was also built.  Garland “Cotton” McGuire served as a caretaker and eventually received property in the area as payment.  The McGuire family still owns property in the area today.   


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     Whig Meadows is located about one and one half miles from the North Carolina-Tennessee state line near the Mud Gap Trailhead on the Cherohala Skyway.  An old cabin was once located there, but has been gone for years.

     I first visited Whig Meadows sometime in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s while on a camping trip at Hooper Bald.  We walked from Hooper Bald to Whig Meadows one day.  I don’t recall seeing any sign of the cabin then.  Perhaps I was too full of the foolishness of youth then to be very observant, although I do recall seeing sections of an old rail fence.

     The Whig Cabin was built sometime before 1895.  One account suggests it was built shortly after the Civil war ended in 1865.  The Whig family only cleared a few acres of the meadow then.  General Hooper is thought to have moved there about 1900, and hired Jep Hooper and Jack Roberts to enlarge the meadow, clearing more land for over a year.  The area was sowed in grass and a rail fence built around it.  Hooper is thought to have lived there at different times, the last being in 1920.

      Claude Hyde is quoted as being there for his first time in 1924.  He said large stumps could still be seen in the meadow.  His father would bring a mowing machine over from Hooper Bald to mow the grass.  It was pulled by a yoke of oxen.  Hyde said the first time he was at Whig Meadows; he saw the largest turkey gobbler he had ever seen in the woods in his life.  It was out in the meadow catching grasshoppers.

     In later years, the Whig Cabin was used by hunters as a camp.  In 1908, a party of hunters from Tennessee, consisting of C.F. Keith, Jr., R.J. Fisher, Robert Fisher, Edward Fisher, James F. Cooke, James S. Vaughn, and a man named Bulah McGee as the cook, made their way to Whig Cabin.  The party traveled to within seven miles of Whig Cabin by horse drawn hacks, and then walked the remainder of the way up the mountain to the cabin with a pack of supplies on their backs.   

     The party rested the first day at the cabin, eating huckleberries as large as the end of your little finger.  The next day, they fished in Big Santeetlah Creek, and encountered some of the worst laurel thickets they had ever been in.  The next day, they fished Big Snowbird Creek and found themselves in more laurel thickets.

     The party then visited Hooper Bald where they saw S.S. Hooper and his wife on horseback.  They had come to bring salt for their cattle, which ranged free at the time.  Hooper told the party that when he was a small child that Cherokee Indians would come to Hooper Bald during autumn and hold a sort of fair with different games being played.

     The group of hunters had a turkey hunt one of the days they were camped at the cabin.  Wild turkeys could be found in abundance in those days.  The party left the cabin at 4:00 A.M. the day of the turkey hunt.  The party hid, and called in several turkeys.   Each man in the hunting party was able to bag a turkey that day. 

     Today, Whig Meadows is a part of the Cherokee National Forest and is managed by the U.S. Forest Service.  The meadow covers several acres now, and there is a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.  Whig Meadows can be reached by foot by using an old road that takes off from the Mud Gap Trailhead parking lot on the Cherohala Skyway.  The distance is about 1.5 miles.  It can also be reached by vehicle by taking a road off the gravel road leading from Stratton Meadows toward Tellico Plains.


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     We are coming into a great time of year to get out and explore the higher elevations of Graham County.  Soon the heat of summer will be a distant memory.  A trip to our higher mountain peaks will reveal that summer is on the wane.

     On a recent trip I took with hiking companion “Hoot” Gibbs this was evident.  Trees such as sourwood and dogwood were already showing bits of color.  The mountain ash berries between Oak Knob and Big Huckleberry Knob, elevation 5,560 were showing a brilliant red color.  Big Huckleberry Knob is the highest point in Graham County.  Mountain Ash is usually found mostly in higher elevations and can be seen at points along the Cherohala Skyway.  More wild flowers and shrubs were visible past Big Huckleberry Knob.  We ventured on out to Little Huckleberry Knob, elevation 5,360 feet.  It was once clear, but is now overgrown with blackberry briars and bushes over head high.

     One flower of interest that also grows in lower elevations in moist ground was flourishing between Oak Knob and Big Huckleberry Knob.  Queen of the Meadow, also known as Joe Pye Weed grows to be several feet tall with a large cluster of purple blooms.  The Queen of the Meadow name comes from it large size, sometimes reaching as much as twelve feet high.  The name Joe Pye comes from the legend of an Indian herb doctor or medicine man by that name that was said to use the plant to cure a number of ills including typhus fever.  A tonic from the plant was said to cure diarrhea. 

     Our local Cherokee also used this plant for medicinal purposes.  They used it for respiratory problems and also used the roots to treat persons with kidney stones and gallstones.  It was also used to treat diphtheria.  It was said to ease the pain of stiff joints.  The dried leaves were used to make a tea that induced sweating. 

     The plant was also said to be something of a love potion.  If a young man held some of it in his mouth while courting a young maiden, his chances of winning her over were said to be improved.

     White settlers later sold the dried leaves of the plants to stores who then sold it to pharmaceutical firms.  The wine colored blooms were often used in floral arrangements.     


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