A couple of weeks ago I asked readers to share any information they had on why Lost Knob came to be known by that name. L.C. McMahan of Sylva answered that question. Turns out I already knew the story behind Lost Knob. I’ve even hiked almost to it and written about it in a May 2015 column. What I didn’t hear at that time was the actual name of the mountain where the story took place.
The knob takes its name from the sad fact that four boys – two sets of brothers – got lost in the area and died on the mountain. According to L.C., all four boys, two Teagues and two Kuykendalls, were from Jackson County’s Caney Fork area. At different times the two sets of brothers left home to walk across Old Bald into Haywood County’s Allens Creek area. They all got lost on the way home; the Kuykendall brothers are buried atop Lost Knob, and the Teagues are buried on Bald Ridge, L.C. said.
“Lost Knob is on the head of Caney Fork, up Bald Ridge,” said L.C., who was born and raised on Chastine Creek in the Caney Fork section. “People used to walk up the trail to Old Bald and down into Haywood County. The boys got lost and froze up there.”
The cove on the left as you’re walking down Bald Ridge is Teague Cove, L.C. said.
My husband, Richard, and I walked from the Blue Ridge Parkway out Bald Ridge and down into Caney Fork, passing the Teague boys’ grave on the way. At the time we were following a map drawn by James Nations, who had recently done the same hike. I had been invited along with James’ group but hadn’t been able to go. James knew I was disappointed and made a map to help Richard and me find our way.
As the story goes, the Teague brothers were on their way back home when they were caught in a blizzard. They crawled into a fallen chestnut tree in an effort to keep warm but were later found dead. The tree was split and used to make a coffin, and the boys were buried where they died, on Bald Cliff.
It’s believed the brothers died around 1900 and that they were 11 and 14 years old. Seeking more information, James talked to Bill Crawford, who told him the boys’ family name was likely Teague. In an effort to help, I called retired schools’ Superintendent Earl Hooper, because I had heard his family had once grazed cattle up on Old Bald. He knew the story and said that Teague sounded right for the brothers’ last name. Local author and storyteller Curtis Blanton agreed that Teague is the correct name but didn’t have any other information to add.
The only difference in the story I heard in 2015 and the one I heard from L.C. the other day relates to where the boys lived. James had heard they were from Allens Creek and walked to Caney Fork, while L.C. believes they lived on Caney Fork and walked to Allens Creek. Everyone agrees how sad it is that two young boys got lost and died on their way home.
In any event, the hike out to the grave is a good one. In my view, the Old Bald area is one of the prettiest spots to be found along the Parkway. Now part of the Roy Taylor National Forest, it was once a popular summer grazing site for cattle. Bald Ridge is a long, high ridge connecting the Parkway with Caney Fork. The area was owned by Mead Corp. before it became part of the Nantahala National Forest around 1980, and Mead allowed free range. I talked about the area with Jim Sellers a few years ago, and he told me that some 200 head of cattle grazed the area’s grassy slopes when he was a boy.
“It was mostly cattle and maybe a few hogs,” Jim said, adding that Old Bald was mostly used by people who lived in Brasstown and Caney Fork.
With James’ map (and Richard’s GPS) in hand, we set out from the Parkway almost three years ago, taking an old road to the crest of the ridge.
The Teague boys’ grave is a peaceful spot, covered in stones. There are two crosses – a stone cross with “IHS” on it and a wooden one. Daffodils, in bloom the day we were there, surround the grave, and an aluminum sign beneath the stone cross reads “Brothers.”
But thinking of those long-ago boys, lost and alone in the storm, casts a shadow on even the sunniest day.
Lynn Hotaling was editor of The Sylva Herald for 18 years, retiring in January 2016. She is the author of two books on local history.