Kephart was pivotal in making the park a reality, working tirelessly through the 1920s to protect the Smoky Mountains he loved so deeply. Kephart used his poetic voice and national reputation as a writer to advocate for the Smokies, which were being ravaged by clear-cutting operations of timber barons at the time.
Kephart was also an skilled survivalist and amateur anthropologist. He took up residence with Southern Appalachian mountaineers and documented their lifestyles and folkways, which in turn provided the material and characters for the nationally selling Our Southern Highlanders.
This year, annual Kephart Days coincides with Kephart’s 150th birthday. A portion of the events will be held on the campus of N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching in nearby Cullowhee.
• Thursday, September 6, 4 – 7 p.m. Opening reception for year-long Horace Kephart exhibit at the Mountain Heritage Museum at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee.
• Saturday, Sept. 8, 8 a.m. Horace Kephart’s 150th Birthday Breakfast at the Calhoun Inn in Bryson. $10, reservations required. 828.455.1234.
• Saturday, Sept. 8, 9:30 a.m. Ceremony at Hillside Cemetery where Kephart is buried with special guest speakers, bagpipes and singers.
• Saturday, Sept. 8, 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Lectures, book signings, historical exhibits on Kephart’s life, artist showings, demonstrations will be held at the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching across N.C. 107 from WCU campus. Historic camping re-enactors will provide a glimpse of backcountry life from Kephart’s day.
Speakers will include Libby Kephart Hargrave, Kephart’s daughter; Smokies Superintendent Dale Ditmanson; Great Smoky Mountains Association director Terry Maddox; Susan Shumaker, researcher from Ken Burn’s National Park documentary; George Ellison, naturalist, author and chief Kephart expert; George Frizzel, curator of WCU library special collections, including a newly opening Kephart exhibit.
• Sunday, September 9, 8:30 a.m. Breakfast at the Calhoun Inn with guest speakers Thomas Rain Crowe, a regional poet and writer, and Lynn Harlan, a Cherokee speaker. Reservations required. 828.488.1234.