Besides supporting Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the many perks of a Great Smoky Mountains Association membership is a subscription to Smokies Life magazine. Below is a sneak preview of one of the features in the upcoming fall issue. Become a member by July 15 in order to receive a copy in the mail.
Some of the earliest representations of the Great Smoky Mountains in literary fiction were published in the uncertain years following the Civil War. As the Reconstruction era came to a close, national magazines featured a wave ‘local color’ stories—stories written to highlight regional differences and cater to northerners’ growing curiosity about what was perceived to be the country’s most isolated people and places.
Although these stories often trafficked heavily in stereotypes, exoticism, and nostalgia for simpler, pre-industrial times, they also brought a number of previously overlooked places and issues to the attention of national audiences and generated some of the first detailed descriptions of the lives of common people.
Working at the very forefront of this wave in the Great Smoky Mountains was a woman named Rebecca Harding Davis—the reform-minded journalist and author who, despite publishing widely in her lifetime to the praise of writers like Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson, was largely forgotten until her work was rediscovered by chance in the 1970s.
In the fall issue of Smokies Life, contributor Allison McKittrick revisits Davis’s early travel narratives set in the Great Smoky Mountains and explores how her trips to document Qualla and the North Carolina mountains in the late 1870s ultimately complicated some popular assumptions and prejudices about the region and its people at the time.
Photo: View of the Tuckasegee on the road to Qualla. This illustration by Charles Graham introduces the third installment of “By-Paths in the Mountains,” Rebecca Harding Davis's 1880 travelogue published in Harper's.