We sure have it made compared to the mountain folk of the mid-19th century. I can’t imagine living in the small cabins they called home, especially in chilly winter temps with the wind whistling through all the cracks and down the chimney! The typical cabin was 18 X 20 (360 sq ft), frequently with a sleeping loft. The cabins may have been small but the families normally large. Usually the log home would house multiple generations including grandparents and 5 -12 kids!
Life was simple yet hard. They lived off the land and in winter while fresh produce was sparce if crops had been good and livstock prolific they had plenty to eat. They would dry, salt, pickle, and sulphur things to make sure the family would eat well. Some items their diets may have included are: chicken, corn bread, pickled vegetables, dry green beans, squirrel, sorghum molasses, potatoes and salt pork, sulphured apples.
Winter was the time when most children attended school since they were not needed to work the farm. The school year lasted only 2-4 months of the year and cost about $1 per student per month for the family to have their children educated. Typically a child only went to school for a 3-5 year period enough to learn basic reading, writing and math skills. Two country schools are preserved in the national park. Little Greenbrier School is accessible in winter by the 0.7 mile Metcalf Bottoms Trail which begins at Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area. Beech Grove School is beside the road in Cataloochee Valley.
To pass the time indoors during the wintery weather the mountain folk would play music and sing songs. Ballads were written about life events, tragedies, and local places.
The woman sewed quilts made from leftover scraps of cloth, worn out clothing and scraps of sack cloth.
I like to imagine what it would have been like for those hardy people to farm the land enjoy the fruit of it and the beauty too but I will admit I like to do so in the comfort of my climate controlled home in my very comfortable easy chair with a stocked refrigerator not far away!