Archived Opinion

Strawberry wine and its place in the Smokies

To the Editor:

I have never met George Ellison, but I am appalled as a result of his referring to Granville Calhoun as an untruthful person in a column published back in November 2013. 

I am a great niece of Granville’s. My grandfather, William Clifford Calhoun, who died in 1929, was his brother. As a child growing up in Bryson City in the late 1940s and the 1950s, I remember Uncle Granville as honest, kind and helpful. All of our family held him in high esteem and considered his word to be his honor, not only in dealings with people but in looking at the past. We all respected him and considered him to be the patriarch of our family.

In reference to Mr. Ellison's accusation that Granville lied (or maybe I should say made up a Mark Twain tale) about Horace Kephart's arrival in the Smoky Mountains and the happenings of the immediate weeks that followed, I personally never heard Granville tell about it. However, my mother, Verayle Calhoun Franks; my grandmother, Nora Lee Calhoun; and my husband, Bob Breese, did hear him give the account and he gave it to each of them at different times. 

I want to point out that my husband knew Granville long before he met and married me and his respect and admiration for him has no connection to my family. The following is Granville's unwavering story as told to each of them.

He received a letter from a member of the Kephart family asking if Kephart could come to the mountains and stay for a period of time with him (Granville) and his wife, Lillie Hall Calhoun, as he needed a change of location and time to work on some issues. The Calhouns agreed to the request and Granville went to the depot to meet Kephart on the scheduled day of his arrival. He rode one horse and took one for Kephart to ride.

However, when Kephart arrived he was passed out. Therefore, Granville tied him to one horse which he led while riding the other one until they reached the Calhoun home. Lilly gave Kephart milk and later nourishing light food all while gradually tapering his alcohol intake. 

I do not recall hearing strawberry wine or pale red wine mentioned. I have always assumed that he was given corn liquor as that was used by many mountain families for health-related problems.

Another point of concern in Mr. Ellison's article is the way in which he referred to Granville as a mountaineer who worked as a timber cruiser, dam builder and caretaker for the mine on Little Fork. I am certain that Granville was proud to be a native of the Smokies, as most of us with that heritage are. However, the description obviously was not meant as a compliment. 

Also, I wonder why Mr. Ellison failed to include the following description of Granville: he was a member of the school committee (now called the school board); he was called upon by the North Carolina Park Commission as an expert witness during the original park acquisition; he was involved in numerous business propositions including banking and real estate where honesty in dealing would be essential for maintenance of reputation. These were not just on Hazel Creek but included activities in Bryson City during the early 1900s.

I trust you will share this strikingly different account of the incident in an effort to set matters straight.

Gwen Franks Breese

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