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By Marshall McClung
An area we visited frequently while I was a young boy and living on Atoah was a mountain known as Goat Knob. It is located in the lower end of the Atoah Community and rises 2,980 feet in elevation. Several items of interest attracted us to this mountain. It was far enough "back in the woods" so that we were well away from adult supervision. There is a large rock outcropping on the Atoah side of the knob that affords a spectacular view of part of Atoah, a good portion of Robbinsville, and the areas surrounding the town. There are oaks trees with limbs as large as small trees that are low enough to the ground to climb upon.
One story told that wild goats used to stay on the knob, thus its name. It seems though that the true source of the name was that Jim Carver who lived in the area had tame goats that would climb upon the rocks. There was a rail fence built along the base of the knob through a small flat known locally as a "bench" that bordered Cherokee Indian land.
Another knob nearby is called Smith Mountain named after a Cherokee Indian couple Lewis and Nancy Smith who lived close by. They kept a lot of chickens, turkeys, and geese. They had an apple orchard that included a variety called "Arkansas Black". A trail through the woods was known as the Tarquit Trail. A small stream running through this section is called Tarquit Branch.
In 1933, a huge boulder broke loose and tumbled down the mountain breaking down timber. The rumble was heard by Mike and Olivia Campbell who lived down in the valley.
There is a small natural cave near the top of the hill between Goat Knob and Smith Mountain. Legend has it that the Cherokee "Little People" lived in the cave. Another legend associated with the area said that John Ropetwister, a Cherokee who had a gold mine had gold hidden in the upper end of the field beneath Goat Knob. People came and dug holes in the ground all around the area, but found no gold.
Jeff McRae lived in a log cabin near Louis Smith in an area said to be infested with rattlesnakes. Louis Smith told McRae that the "Little People" would not harm him or any other white person unless they harmed the Cherokee.
Delmas McRae who grew up near Goat Knob remembers cutting "acid wood" for the tannery at Andrews with his brother Huel McRae, and Vester Campbell. Glen Eller1 a neighbor who had a truck, hauled the wood for them. Delmas recalls cutting dead chestnut on the side of Goat Knob and dragging it down the hillside to be used for stove wood and to heat water in a large black pot kept outdoors to wash clothes in. Delmas said the knots on the chestnut poles would get hung in grapevines and give him a fit. Pine knots called "rich pine" by local folks made good kindling for starting fires.
I returned to Goat Knob recently. I had not been there in several years. The climb seemed longer and steeper than I recalled as a boy. We won't go as far as to speculate on the reason for this I saw several wild turkeys in the area. A lot of timber damage from Opal was evident all around. The oaks and hickories had been hit especially hard as had the locust trees.
I reached the top of the ridge leading out to Goat Knob and observed more changes. A survey line had been run and marked with orange paint out the ridge top. when we came here as boys, it never dawned on us to wonder who owned the area. I was pleased to see that at least one of the old oaks trees with the huge limbs had been spared by the storm. As I gazed out over the surrounding countryside, I was surprised at the additional homes that had been built since my last visit. There were several back up in coves and high up on hillsides that were not there before. I had a "bird's eye view of Stanley Furniture, and the new Robbinsville School. Visible through the trees were the steeples on the Robbinsville First Baptist and Methodist Churches.
As I gazed at the late autumn view, I thought of the farmers and their families who had lived and worked in the valleys below. The words from a poem I clipped from a Grit newspaper years ago came to mind:
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This page is maintained by Tom Livingston, Robbinsville, North Carolina