Scott County, Tennessee
FNB Chronicles

This page was created 06 Sep 2008

Pioneer Homestead in the Big South Fork

[EDITOR’S NOTE – The following article of the early history of the Blevins family of Scott County is reprinted by permission of the Scott County News, in which the article appeared on July 18, 2002. The article was written by the late C. W. Hume, editor of the McCreary County Record, and was first published in the August 4, 1931 edition. It was subsequently picked up and published in the Scott County News in 1968, 1980 and again in 2002].

Come my tan-faced children,
Follow well in order, get your weapons ready.
Have you your pistols? Have you your sharp-edged axes?
Pioneers! O Pioneers!


This little stanza perhaps expresses the very command of the pioneer father as he started with his family on the hard, tedious, dangerous journey across the Appalachian Mountains on his way to the great free country on the western slopes in what is now Kentucky and Tennessee.

"Uncle Jake" Blevins poses with his trusty gun across his sholder at his home in the Station Camp Creek Section of Scott County in the 1930s.

The great westward movement, that started in Virginia about 1762, with the explorations of Daniel Boone, Dr. Thomas Walker, and Colonel Richard Henderson (president of the powerful Transylvania Land Company, which purchased the whole of Kentucky and Tennessee from the Cherokee Indians at the treaty of Sycamore Shoals for $50,000) brought many a sturdy pioneer to these two states, and many of their descendants are yet living in the most remote mountainous sections today.

Flintrock rifles and axes were very necessary equipment of the pioneer. The forests were infested with savage beasts, and hostile tribes of Cherokee, Wyandottes, and bands of the Iroquois roamed beneath the primeval trees.

These, the pioneers met and conquered after a strenuous struggle that lasted half a century. The struggle cost many gallant lives, brought untold suffering to most every family that started on the, westward quest, but won everlasting glory and a mighty empire to the present United States.

The sufferings and hardships endured by the pioneer families in the early days made it possible to successfully colonize west of the mountains. After this initial battle was won, the pioneer’s next, and most urgent problem was that of establishing his home and providing a livelihood for himself and his family.

Thousands who came across the mountains pushed further west, but many of them were content to settle in the numerous valleys nestled among the hills, make their homes there, and bring up their families. What we owe to the spirit of the gallant pioneer is inestimable.

The descendant of one of these brave men is the subject of this article. Thirty-one years ago, the writer met for the first time "Uncle Jake" Blevins and his splendid wife, Viannah. It was his first trip to the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee, and the experience of meeting this fine old couple left an unforgettable memory.

"Uncle Jake" was working in his gun shop, boring out the barrel of an old-fashioned hog rifle. Think of finding a gun shop here in the heart of the mountains! On closer investigation, I noticed his trousers and coat were of home-spun linsey and jeans. His shoes were homemade from leather, which he had tanned himself, as I was later informed. His gun shop, or blacksmith shop. for he did all kinds of work for himself and his neighbors, was a small, square building made of hewn-out logs.

"Uncle Jake" Blevins and his wife Viannah are shown in the yard of their home in the this photo taken in the early 20th century.

"Aunt Viannah" Blevins is shown outside her loom at the Blevins homestead in the Station Camp Creek area of Scott County.

"Uncle Jake" very proudly showed me his tools and a small bellows that heated. his forge and related how he had mad~ each by the labor of his own hands. He also showed me the tools with which he made hog rifles, all handmade, the most unique part being the spiral and wry that was used to rifle the barrels.

While yet filled with amazement, "Uncle Jake" led me to his house, a low rambling structure built of logs with a porch across the front facing the east. Here, I met his remarkable family, consisting of his wife, five boys, four girls, and two maiden sisters.

All were wearing clothes of homespun, and homemade shoes. It soon dawned on me that I had chanced to come to a real pioneer home, the type prevalent a hundred years ago, here at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Their courteous treatment to me, a stranger, bespoke the spirit of early English culture. On the wide projecting porch, I was shown a huge handmade loom, where on was made the linsey and jeans used in making clothes for the family. Nearby, stood a spinning wheel.

Sheep and goats that furnished wool for the spinning and weaving could be heard bleating to each other on the mountainside. In another room I was shown the wooden models, from a baby size to that of a full-grown man, on which the family shoes were made.

In the fall of the year a beef was killed, the meat being stored in the smokehouse for use during the long winter months, and the hide was tanned for making shoes. Usually, a large chestnut log was hollowed out, the hide was placed in it and covered with water and chestnut bark. After a short period, it was removed, scraped, dried, and was then ready to be made up.

A few casual glances during my visit caused me to notice the old split-bottomed chairs and rockers, spool beds and trundle beds, and marvelously wide poplar boards that formed the floor and ceiling, which "Uncle Jake" had made with his own rip-saw. Another marvel I was shown on this visit was a pair of scales or balances, which "Uncle Jake" had made, that would weigh up to eight pounds.

As a remembrance of my trip, I carried away two pairs of woolen stockings, the wool being sheared from his flock, carded and homespun on the spinning wheel, and knitted by the eldest daughter.

In one corner of the yard stood the smokehouse. It was filled with hams, shoulders, and sides of pork and sacks of sausage, cured with salt and smoked with green, hickory wood. Perhaps there were one or more hind quarters of beef and of mutton, also hanging down from the beams.

A great iron lard kettle was leaning against one side of the wall. In another corner of the yard I was shown the old spring house, sheltered by a magnificent weeping willow tree. A hollowed out gourd hung over the door to dip up the clear, sparkling water that gushed out from beneath the mountainside.

In the bottom of the spring house sat several wooden vessels filled with milk and containing a batch of freshly-made butter. The shelves above were loaded to the breaking point with canned fruit and preserves, and wild honey taken from the trees in the forest.

Alas, it seemed the Master had emptied his horn of plenty in this secluded valley among the hills. A short walk up the creek took us to the old water mill, where their corn crop was converted into meal to furnish their bread supply.

All this we saw, and learned that Jake – the farmer, miller, blacksmith, gunsmith, shoemaker, and father – served his family and neighbors for many miles around by making them the things they needed in their homes.

He had built his home in the early eighties about 18 miles west of Oneida, Tenn., locating it at the junction of three branches, which form the main Station Camp Creek. It is referred to in the "Annals of Tennessee" as the "Turkey Track."

Nestled among the high cliffs of the Cumberland Range, it is in a wild and picturesque setting. A short distance above the house is a large rockhouse, or overhanging cliff, where during the Civil War, Negroes escaping to the" North were concealed by the mountain people. At one time, it must have been the camping place for the Indians, as large pieces of broken flint, arrowheads, etc., can be found nearby at this time.

The Jake Blevins cabin in what is now the Big South Fork Area of Scott County

It was in 1884 that "Uncle Jake" married Miss Viannah West and brought her to this home shortly afterwards. It was extremely interesting to hear him tell of his first days here — when bear, deer, and turkey were plentiful — and how he managed to make his living from the forest and by doing shop work for his neighbors. Even today, the terrifying scream of a wildcat is not an uncommon sound at night.

For forty years they have lived in this same house and brought up their family, educating them in the stern school of experience, for neither of the parents enjoyed much formal schooling beyond a few rudimentary lessons in the three R’s.

His splendid wife has been a true helpmate throughout their many trying times together, and they have raised a splendid law-abiding and respected family. "Uncle Jake" and "Aunt Viannah" have given four of their boys to the army.

Although the family is scattered now throughout Kentucky and Tennessee, they make frequent visits to the old home on Station Camp Creek, "Uncle Jake" and "Aunt Viannah" have been staunch, lifelong members of the local Baptist church and often travel six or eight miles to attend services conducted by some mountain preacher. "Uncle Jake" has been a deacon for many years.

The lumbermen and oil drillers are now only a few miles away, and it will be only a short time until this setting of a real pioneer home will be a thing of the past. A home where everything pertaining to its comforts of life were produced by hand on its immediate surroundings.

It is still a golden storehouse, connecting the past and present. It is a rare privilege today to sit and listen to "Uncle Jake" tell of the building of his home, when his rifle often kept the wolf from this door, the log-rollings, house-raisings, and the times when dancing "skip-to-my-Lou" afforded most of the pleasures of the pioneers.

The time is not far distant when the pioneer shall pass from the scene. His contributions to us and examples of courage and industry furnish to us a guiding light. It is not without sincere regret we see him go, but the "old order must yield to the new" and the new must press on toward greater things.

Peace to his ashes. May his future life be spent in undisturbed rest as everlasting as the mighty rocks that sheltered his little mountain home.

Jake Blevins poses with two sisters and two daughters in the yard of his homeplace. From left: Jacob Blevins (1854-1935), sisters Elitha Blevins (1839-1929) and Nancy Blevins (1848-1928), and daughters Elitha Blevins (1888-1979) and Arbanna Blevins (1889-1929).

Jake Blevins visits the mill house at his homeplace in the Station Camp Creek area of Scott County. The mill was powered by a water wheel.

C. W. Hume, former editor of McCreary County Record, who wrote the article on Jake Blevins, looks over the spring house at the Blevins Homestead.

Daughters of Jake Blevins, Elitha Blevins Thomas and Arbanna Blevins, demonstrate use of spinning wheel.

FNB Chronicle, Vol. 15, No. 1 – Fall 2003
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841
(p1,4-5, 11)

Scott Co, TN Homepage

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