If you go . . . .
How to find the Thomas Clingman Childers, Jr, Home Site on Couches Creek
The last Childers home in the valley of Couches Creek was located on the north side of the Creek about one mile west of Highway 441
at these coordinates:
N 35° 32' 17.204'' W -83° 19' 8.346''
Nothing of the old home place remains except a heap of stones where the chimney collapsed and a large depression in the rise behind
the house site, where the old root cellar stood. (Roy Childers, who grew up at this place, led others, including his sons, to the site
several times over the years and described the importance of the root cellar.)
However, we know from the record made when the North Carolina Park Commission inspected the properties in the process of
acquiring land for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that the Childers plot included “two three-room box houses”.
An excursion to the old home place is worth the trouble if you are strong, adventurous, prepared, and willing to accept the challenge.
Choose a time of year when the leaves are down – late fall, a mild day in winter, or early spring before leaves emerge. (Good visibility is
a key to success.) Equip yourself with the usual recommended layers of sturdy clothing, good hiking shoes with gripping soles, and a
sturdy walking stick. A small day pack may be useful, but bear in mind that you will need to crawl under laurel branches and downed
trees a few times along the way, so avoid too much bulk on your back. Be prepared to cross some small tributaries, picking you way on
whatever stones provide some footing (with your walking stick for stability).
Here is how to find the home site.
From Cherokee (Swain County, NC), continue north on Hwy 441. Soon after passing the Visitors’ Center / Farm Museum on your right,
look for signs to the Mingus Creek Mill Museum on your left, and take a moment to notice the low stone wall on your right where Mingus
Creek passes eastward under the highway to join the Oconaluftee River, running nearby parallel to the highway. Now continue
northward about a half-mile or so and look for another similar low stone wall on your right. There is Couches Creek passing under the
highway. Just ahead look for the spacious pull-out area where you can park between the road and the river.
Walk back south a few paces and cross the road where you see a gentle slope into a level-ish patch of woods. Now, theoretically, this
should be easy: why not just walk west on the north side of the creek one mile to find the home site? The problem is that the creek-
side terrain is occasionally impassable because the grade becomes nearly vertical and is covered with laurel thickets (often
called “laurel hell” for a good reason).
Instead, it is better to look for the old wagon road up the hill to the north a bit. In places it is overgrown with laurel, but stay with that as
much as possible because it provides the best passage through the terrain. There are stretches, however, where erosion has
destroyed it and it becomes necessary to make your way off to the side instead. Proceed keeping close to the old road and returning to it
when possible. About half or two-thirds of a mile along you will see an old homesite down by the creek; this is believed to be the old
Rogers place. It has a large stone pile where the chimney collapsed, but no root cellar. Press on, again keeping on or near the old
wagon road. You will find the Childers place in a similar clearing about a mile in, at the GPS coordinates shown above. It’s a lovely spot
with an especially pretty stretch of the creek right there. Across the creek is another level area where one can imagine a garden. Behind
that to the south is the cove where the earlier house stood and hill patches may have been located. The Childers tract stretched up north
and south with the narrower width of the rectangular plot continuing west. Where the terrain rises to the north, there is a cavity where the
old root cellar stood.
1955: Roy Childers, with son Gerald, and Henry Childers, with sons Max and Morris.
1972 & 1974: Roy Childers with son Hoyt.
1988: Roy and Inez Shepherd Childers, with son Hoyt and daughter-in-law Kimberly
Walsh-Childers (at Mingus Creek Mill).
2012: Gerald Childers, Dwight Childers (with Ben Ra), Hoyt and Kim Childers, with sons
Ian and Aidan.
2016: Gerald Childers, Dwight Childers (with Ben Ra), Steve Childers, and Garry Wooten
Over the years since the park was established, many Childers descendants have enjoyed excursions
up Couches Creek to the old homesite in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We have photos
of these particular journeys:
|Excursions to Couches Creek