Halls Cabin built right on state line
Certain place names in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have become iconic: Gregory Bald, Thunderhead, Chimney Tops, Jump-off, Mt. Le Conte, Alum Cave, Charlies Bunion, High Rocks, Bryson Place, Cataloochee, Huggins Hell, and more.
Halls Cabin can be added to that list. You can, in fact, add it twice, as there are two well-known sites in the Smokies that go or went by that name.
One was constructed on Bone Valley Creek, a tributary of Hazel Creek, about 1880 by Jesse Crayton (Crate) Hall and his wife, Mary Dills Hall. The 24-by-17-foot structure is still standing.
The Halls Cabin that’s the subject of this column was situated on Big Chestnut Bald (Derrick Knob) smackdab on the North Carolina-Tennessee state line. Constructed about 1882 by Crate Hall, it provided shelter for more than three decades of hunters, fishermen and cattlemen who grazed their animals on the lush grassland the 50’ to 75-acre bald provided.
(Besides the Halls Cabin on the state line there was also a structure built by the Appalachian Hunting and Fishing Club situated lower down on the Tennessee side, in the general area of where the present day Derrick Knob Shelter is located. It was also sometimes referred to as the Halls Cabin. Indeed, the entire setting encompassing the buildings and the bald is referred to collectively by the place name Halls Cabin.)
The Halls Cabin on the state line was described by various writers. Most were just passing through. But Horace Kephart, who lived in a cabin not far from the Halls Cabin down on Hazel Creek, hunted there with frequency and even lived in the cabin for an entire summer. In this excerpt from Our Southern Highlanders (1913) he described it as a “hut built many years ago for temporary lodgement of cattle-men herding on the grassy ‘balds’ of the Smokies. A sagging clapboard roof covered its two rooms and the open space between them we called our ‘entry.’ The state line between North Carolina and Tennessee ran through this unenclosed hallway. The Carolina room had puncheon floor and a clapboard table, also better bunks than its mates.”
In an article published in 1904 in “Outing Magazine” titled “Old Sharpnose’ of Bone Valley,” Joseph T. Bowles wrote:
“The chimney — a two-sided affair — rests right on the line, throwing the kitchen end of the cabin in Tennessee, and the sleeping quarters in North Carolina. Snug and comfortable, with bunks arranged alongside the walls in the sleeping-room, Halls Cabin is truly an ideal hunter’s camp. Many a bear has been skinned at the cabin, and if the walls could speak they would doubtless recount many of the tales of the old bear hunters who have been frequenters of the cabin for years.”
Bowles provides the following description of the views to be had from the site:
“On an eminence free from all trees and undergrowth for several hundred yards on either side, with gentle slopes from all directions, the cabin commands a magnificent view of the surrounding country. Far to the southwest can be seen the outlines of Hang-Over Mountain, limned faintly against the horizon. To the northwest, the lights of Knoxville, Tennessee, some forty-odd miles distant as the crow flies, can be seen on clear nights; while against the setting sun the smoke from the lumber mill at Ritter, North Carolina, some twelve miles away, slowly winds its way upward, making grotesque figures against the countless intervening ridges over in the direction of the Tennessee River.
“Wonderful is the view from this vantage point, five thousand feet above the sea-level!”
Note: the primary source for this column is Ken Wise’s Hiking Trails of the Great Smokies (University of Tennessee Press, 2nd edition, 2014), 236-238, 481-484. Much more than a trail guide, the book is an indispensable compendium of historical information compiled by a librarian at the University of Tennessee. It makes for good reading whether you’re going for a hike or not.