The Dave Miller Homestead
It was a crisp, sunny Sunday afternoon in October when I traveled up the winding mountain roads of Roan Mountain, Tennessee, heading towards the Dave Miller Homestead. A cool autumn breeze blew, sending small showers of red, orange, and yellow cascading down around me. The cloudless blue sky was a stark contrast to the trees, creating an atmosphere of beauty and comfort. I had chosen the perfect day to visit this small, quaint, century-old farm house.
A genuinely preserved house and farm, the Miller Homestead offers insight into early twentieth-century Appalachia. The Homestead is located in Roan Mountain State Park, on the Tennessee and North Carolina border. The park offers numerous attractions for tourists and locals alike. The Appalachian Trail
runs through Carver’s Gap, and the famous Rhododendron Gardens attract countless visitors a year. However, the Miller Homestead has become one of the most popular sites at the park. Wildernet, a website of online guides to outdoor travel destinations and recreation, gives a history of the farmhouse along with other nearby opportunities in the park. According to the article, Dave
and Louise Miller first settled the area in 1870, building a log cabin
home directly in front of where the white frame house of today stands (Wildernet 1). In 1909, their son Nathaniel and his five children built and moved into the house that still stands today, and in 1919 a new log cabin was built for Dave and Louise. They lived in this house until they died, and when Nathaniel died in 1924, his son Frank took over the farm (Wildernet 1). Besides history, this website also gives information on the nearby Recreation Lodge, weather, and other activities such as fishing, hiking, and camping.
The steep, curving road leading to the farm was covered with an array of fallen autumn leaves. Once I reached the gravel parking lot atop Strawberry Mountain, I began the short trek into the valley where the small white house and farm sit nestled on the edge of the woods. The barn immediately stands out as the prominent feature, tall and looming above the small vegetable garden and old rusted farm equipment. The log barn boasts a hayloft, storage space, and horse stables. The hog pen and corncrib lie to one side of the barn, while on the other side a white picket fence and a colorful selection of flowers welcomes the visitor to the Miller House.
As one enters the front door of the house, the visitor is greeted by a series of pictures on the wall. The pictures range from black and white photos of Dave and Louise Miller to recent pictures of the last surviving full-blooded Miller, eighty-seven year-old Carrie Miller. The quaint living room looks modest, with a fireplace and several small armchairs. The downstairs bedroom accurately represents how an early twentieth-century farmer would have lived: a small bed, a desk and chair, and few decorations on the wall. The faded hardwood floors creek as you move down the hallway, past the antique sewing machine, and into the kitchen. A wood stove dominates the room, while handmade spice racks and washboards hang from the walls. On the counter, two baskets of fresh-picked apples sit out for the guests. After visiting the kitchen, I moved up the small, narrow flight of stairs to the attic. It is here that the two additional bedrooms are located. Both of the rooms bear wall-to-wall yellowed newspaper clippings, ranging from the early 1900s to around the 1980s.
I then moved outside to the back of the house, where several small buildings stand, including a root cellar, smoke house, and chicken house. A small wooden bridge leads over a tiny stream. A wooden flume leads down and empties water from the pure underground source. The water tastes almost sweet, setting the pallet up for the great tastes ahead. Just over the bridge a large apple tree provides shade and boasts a plethora of large, bright red apples ready to be picked. The springhouse sits in the shade of the apple tree. Past the springhouse, two herb gardens lie hidden. The flavored plants are enveloped by trees and shrubbery that sway gently in the breeze. If you are lucky, you might even get to see a deer casually grazing the grasses. If you travel up the small gravel road that leads into the woods across from the parking lot, you will come to a beautiful overlook that provides a great view of the mountains. You will also come across a family cemetery, where many of the Millers are buried. It is a humbling place that reminds you of the history of this land and the reality of the people.
The official Tennessee State Parks website gives a brief description of the Homestead. While short, the article is very informative and, because it is the state’s official website, it is a credible source. The website offers a summary of the seasonal activities visitors can enjoy while at the farm. When the Homestead opens in May, summer is upon the region, bringing warm comfortable temperatures. During the summer, musicians, storytellers, and artist put on demonstrations focusing on the history of the area, traditions, and local folklore (TN State Parks 1). Meanwhile, in the autumn one can come to enjoy the beautiful colors of the fall foliage, while in November the house is decorated for the Old Time Christmas at the Homestead celebration (TN State Parks).
The Homestead is an attraction for the entire family. Come and spend a day enjoying the scenery, having a picnic, or stepping into the past. It brings the visitor into a different place and time. Prepare yourself for a journey into the past, into a time where things were at the same time easier and harder than today. You would be hard-pressed to find a place so inviting and so openly friendly. This proved to be a worthwhile trip, a great place to take the family, and a place you will not soon forget.