We chuckle today about snowbirds – northerners who spend the winter months here in warm and sunny Florida – but in the days before air-conditioning it wasn’t unusual for many Florida families to escape to the Smoky Mountains in the summer. Our family was no exception, only we headed to the mountains of northwest Georgia and The Farm.
To us it was always just The Farm. Many summers Mom would pack us all up into the family car and make the 500+ mile – pre Interstate – trek to the tiny community of Holland, Georgia, to enjoy the pleasures of rural northwest Georgia. We always looked forward to those trips.
Just after the Civil War, our Barker great-grandparents bought land on Kincaid Mountain – just south of Holland – and began raising their family. Our grandfather, Dolph, was born there. Mom, and her brother and sisters, were born just up the road in Lyerly. Grandmother Lois moved the family to Tennessee several years after Dolph died, but did not sell the Barker home place in Georgia. As her children grew and left home, they began wandering the country. Uncle Tom served as a Seebee during the war. Later he traveled the country working as an electrical engineer building power plants and other exotic (to us) projects. Mary and Lin spent time working in Tennessee, Florida, New Orleans and Georgia. Although Tom was married briefly after the war, Mom was the only one with children. Aunts Lin and Mary never married.
When Lois retired, she and her three single children returned to Georgia. The old home place on Kincaid Mountain was no longer habitable so the family bought another farm a few miles up the road. The new property bordered the little country church where the Barker family was buried. The house sat on a hill with Kincaid Mountain rising behind it. It looked out across the valley to another mountain – I don’t remember which one.
This is The Farm of our childhood.
There were many “chores” to keep us occupied – feeding chickens, plowing fields with Uncle Tom and picking vegetables for meals. There were kids our age in the neighborhood for entertainment and we easily adjusted to country living.
Each summer there would be at least one special excursion. One year we panned for gold at Dahlonega. We made several trips up Lookout Mountain to “see” Rock City, ride the incline and visit Ruby Falls. Of course we visited the Choo Choo in Chattanooga, but we also visited the Civil War battlefields in the area – Chickamauga and Lookout Mountain – and learned that our great-grandfather fought in both.
A lot of my memories are just snapshots – one picture with little else to back it up. . .
- A big family picnic at Cousin Marcus’ cabin. The cabin was built next to a spring so the front porch sat right at the edge of the water. We were fascinated with the outhouse.
- There were lots of border collies used to herd cattle on the neighborhood farms. One summer Mom bought a puppy which we brought home with us. Nina was one of the best dogs of my childhood. The other was one of her pups.
- After they began raising pigs, one of the sheds was turned into a smokehouse. I remember the hams hanging from the rafters and the heavenly smells.
- Cousin Rob Dan’s bomb shelter. I don’t really remember what it looked like, just how “progressive” (it had an entirely different meaning back then) he was for having one. We Florida folk couldn’t have one, because we couldn’t dig more than 3 feet without hitting water.
Several years after grandmother died, they sold the Holland farm and bought another in Chattoogaville – a few miles away. This farm backed up to the river and had a huge spring on the property. It was a beautiful place, but the house was right up on the highway. For years they worked on that house – transforming it from a four-room farm house into a split-level with suites for each of them and multiple parlours to hold all their collected treasures.
By this time we were working adults and only able to make short visits – no more long summer vacations. I lived in the Macon area for several years after leaving the Air Force and I loved going up there for weekends. We didn’t do much – walk the farm, visit neighbors and cousins, enjoy the fall color and eat lots of good food – but it was always a welcoming place.
I always made a point to go up there for Columbus Day weekends. We’d drive through the countryside enjoying the fall colors and tramp up to the Old Home Place on Kincaid Mountain. As a child I vaguely remember the remains of a chimney, but by this time even that was gone. Still, there was something spiritual about the place – a friendly, relaxing and welcoming feeling.
I’d always come home from these visits with my car full of both fresh and canned vegetables – and often some special dish or baked treat.
These Barkers have moved one last time – to join the rest of the family at the little cemetery in Holland. The Chattoogaville farm was sold, but the Old Home Place is still in the family. It’s our connection to the people who are no longer with us.