Jerry Alden Howell Family
seated: Bell (Issabelle) Lominac Howell & Jerry Alden Howell
baby: Tom Howell
standing: Harry and Fred Howell
Pearl Howell is held by Jerry.
**Harry is the father of Jim Howell, author of this piece.**
Now the strangers came and tried to teach us their ways,
and they scorned us just for bein what we are,
but theyd just as well be chasing moonbeams,
or lighting penny candles from a star.
As the tramontanes infiltrate the Appalachians, and view in wonder
the giant escarpments from overlooks on modern highways or from the
monstrosities of dwellings that have been imbedded into the sides and
tops of the mountains, they often remark of the beauty of the far ranges
They sleep in comfortable motels and eat in the many restaurants,
then easily drive the next day through still more of the scenic splendors
of these ancient mountains.
They have been coming now for many years. They respond to the sheer
beauty of this land, yet they do not understand what these massive heaves
and lifts of earth have meant to a race of people who came here to settle,
and stayed to make do on what little was provided by these rugged terrains.
For many years the mountains were standing like the Great Wall of
Jericho, known only to the Indians, the White man ventured not across
them. But gradually the most strong spirited began entering into the
Red Mans domain. Although commonly thought to be of a Scotch-Irish
heritage, the Mountaineer's blood is heavily mixed with German and British
About the time some settlement was being made on the eastern coast
of America, the Catholic-Irish were driven out of Ulster, Ireland and
replaced by people from England. The Crown wanted people in the uplands
who would not freely associate with the Catholics in this time of xenophobia
and religious turmoil in Ireland. This may explain why so many of the
so-called Scotch-Irish have English names.
They were a ruddy people with wild frosty blue eyes, and brown dry
hair. Only about ten percent of them have brown eyes. This English race
thrived in North Ireland and Scotland and founded a superior education
system. However, this defeated the Crowns purpose. The people
were becoming a threat to Londons politically potent merchants,
so heavy taxes were levied on them. Then, to add to their general hardship,
the potato famine struck in the 1840s. Nearly a million people
died from starvation. The people became even more difficult for those
who had to deal with and rule them. They evolved into a stubborn, cantankerous
One of the first to come was Colonel John Carson, an immigrant from
Ireland who settled in Burke County, North Carolina in 1769. He was
an acquaintance to Andrew Jackson, David Crockett, Sam Houston and John
At the time there were five Indian trails leading through these
North Carolina mountains. They were known as the Catawba Trail, Cherokee
Trail, Cataloochee Trail, Tuckaleechee Trail and the Tuckaseege Trail.
The Tuckaseege Trail later was called the Rutherford War Trace named
for General Griffith Rutherford who followed it with 2400 soldiers in
1776. His object was to drive the Cherokees further into the mountains
and open the land for White settlers.
The Tuckaseege Trail ran from Fort Davidson (Old Fort), which was
built in 1757, to the head of the Swannanoa River and Bee Tree Creek
where the first White settlers stopped in 1782. From there it ran to
what is now known as Cherokee County.
The first land grant in the Western District was issued to CaptainWilliam
Moore for 450 acres on Hominy Creek west of the French Broad River in
Buncombe County was formed in 1792, and named for Colonel Edward
Buncombe, an officer in the 5th North Carolina Regiment, Continental
Troops, who had been wounded and taken prisoner at the Battle of Germantown
and died in Philadelphia in 1778.
Samuel Ashe was elected Governor of North Carolina and the name
of Morristown was changed to Asheville in his honor in 1798.
They came here and lingered in the lush green coves and rich valleys,
settling the region. Their possessions were what they could carry or
ride. An ax, rifle, dog, a woman, possibly a horse and some brood stock,
and in no particular order of importance.
These people brought with them the genius for survival and endurance.
They were a people to contend with, in any matter, educated, and shrewd,
thrifty, and industrious, They spoke the Queen's language, of which
has survived in parts of this area since that time.
Often differences are found in their customs, habits and attitudes--which
range from sullen suspicion of strangers to an openness calculated to
allay suspicion on the part of the stranger until he can be studied.
Mountaineers will generally do anything they can for anyone, even
a stranger--but are exceedingly careful about being indebted to anyone.
They feel deeply obligated if someone does something for them. A sort
of commonlaw--without even the authority of the Apocrypha Books--is
usually found among the Mountaineers, and they forget not they
friend nor enemy
Usually a mountain man will make a concentrated and sincere effort
at forgiving someone who has wronged him--but in the end, a great majority
of them wait their enemies out and deal with them within their own sense
Family is, or was until recently, all-important. The far-flung cousins
are kept track of, and there are reunions at fairly regular intervals.
The Mountaineers are careful about caring for their dead ancestors--usually
found clustered in one family plot or cemetery, and as often as not
most of the family lines go back to the early settlement of the area.
The mountain men in generations past were inclined to gather and
whittle and shoot their guns at targets. To an outsider this may appear
to be just that, but it goes deeper and is a kind of communication among
The mountain man is prone to the protection of his wife, daughters
and sisters, along with the family honor.
He has plowed these old slopes with a bull-tongue plow and harrowed
with nothing more than a big evergreen bough. He has made do with little
and he is eternally in charge of his own fate.
The dark, visionary mind of the Mountaineer can accept God when
he cannot accept the teachings of either the New or Old Testaments.
The old breed has nearly died out now and in many cases has failed
to pass on to their descendants many of the old ways. The world is coming
in here rapidly now, and even those people who have been taught the
old ways are finding it hard to keep up. The time is not far off when
all these shall have passed.
Edgar Allen Poe once alluded to the mountain men in some of his
works. Those mountains, he said, were tenanted by
a fierce and uncouth race of men. Poe may have known them, but
be did not know them well.
The Mountaineer is best described in the words of an old Irish ballad,
Now the strangers came and tried to teach us their ways, and they
scorned us just for bein what we are, but theyd just as
well be chasing moonbeams, or lighting penny candles from a star.
Left to Right: Jerry Howell (son of Albert) on the boiler, George Ward (short), Jess Raby, John Ward, Olis Howell (son of Cance), Alford Galloway (first Galloway to own land on Jericho), Bill Howell (son of York), Wylie Galloway (son of Alford), York Howell, and Elbert Galloway (son of Alford, with the mules).
photo courtesy of Mr. Clyde Allison
© copyright 1998 Jim Howell