GSMNP – The Beginning

By Stephen

Last month my blog concentrated on resources outlining the culture in the Great Smoky Mountains before the park was established.    This time I will  list items in the libraries’ collections  telling about the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

A lot of work was done before a national park could be established in the Smoky Mountains.   Conservationists, afraid the lumber industry would clear-cut the beautiful mountains,  started a movement in 1923 to establish a national park in the Smokies.   The best overall history of this period in the park’s development is Carlos C. Campbell’s Birth of a National Park.  The writings of Horace Kephart, especially Our Southern Highlanders, and the pictures of Japanese photographer George Masa played a big role establishing the The Great Smoky National Park.

Masa migrated to the United States from Japan early in the 20th century, eventually settling in Asheville.   After working at a menial job at the Grove Park Inn, Masa turned to his profession, photography.   Masa befriended Kephart and, through his photographs, worked with him to insure the Smokies would be included in a national park.  Almost sixty years after his death  in 1933, a documentary film maker produced  The Mystery of George Masa.  More about Masa may be found in May We All Remember Well,  Vol. One.

Another little known person who aided in the effort to establish a national park along the border between Tennessee and North Carolina was Paul Adams.  Adams, who established LeConte Lodge, was recruited to the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association because of his ability to guide prominent visitors to the mountains who would be able to influence the creation of a national park.  Adams narrated this part of the story in Mt.Le Conte.

Ken Burns film, The National Parks:  America’s Best Idea, sets the  Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the history of the conservation movement in the United States.   The role played by Kephart and Masa in establishing  the park as well as the grass-roots movement in finding funding  for the purchase  of the land outlined in the film.

The next blog will concentrate on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park today.