A cool, misty, rainy day on the Blue Ridge of North Carolina…a sturdy log cabin for shelter…a warm fire in the fireplace. There’s a garden out back, planted with the seeds we saved from last year. There is a springhouse down below with milk from the cow fresh this very morning. The cow and her calf are in the pen out by the barn. Chickens and pigs or turning and scratching the fall garden plot. there is fresh butter being churned by the door. Momma is working on grannies loom, cloth for new clothes for the comin’ winter. The dogs are resting under the porch awaiting the next hunting trip into the woods up the hollow…Life is hard here on the Blue Ridge but really…what more could a family ask for?
Life on the Blue Ridge had its blessings even at the end of the 19th century when Martin and Caroline raised their children here. The cabin Martin built stands still in the little hollow off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The view of the rolling piedmont below and the cool summers must have been one of the things that kept the Brinegars on the Blue Ridge for their life together.
The little cluster of log buildings aren’t very imposing but they were home to Martin and Caroline for going on 50 years. Good years and bad, these buildings have weathered everything nature and man have thrown there way. Inside the cabin stands the loom Caroline inherited from her mother…The loom she used to make the cloth that clothed her family. The cloth that made the blankets that kept out the cold on those winter nights when the icicles would reach the ground from the eaves.
The 1900 census records show that Martin and Caroline raised three children in this cabin. First born was Alice, then Sarah in June of 1881. A son John W. was born in September of 1888. The spacing tends to leave one to suspect other babies were lost to the hardness of the times.
The 1920 census finds Martin and Caroline still in the cabin on the Blue Ridge with their grandson Bearl at 7 keeping them company. It would not be hard to visualize the young grandson playing on the porch in the photo below. By mid decade Martin will be laid to rest in the little cemetery on a knoll above what is now the Blue Ridge Parkway. Caroline will continue to live in the cabin until the government purchases it for the new park. Not long after, she will again rest beside Martin.
The next time you are cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway and pass the sign for the Brinegar Cabin pull in and spend some time thinking about what it was like to be living on the mountain shortly after the Civil War…