Blackberry Farm

Friends of the Farm

Exploring our Past and the Cove - With Horses!

From horseback, in many parts of West Millers Cove, the views would still be familiar to our predecessors who traveled these pathways, game trails and streambeds more than four centuries ago. Often, while riding along Hesse Creek (the fishing stream that courses Blackberry and the Stables property), I imagine I’m riding alongside Juan Pardoe, a Spanish explorer, whose records indicate a journey up our creek from the Little River in 1567. Surely the stream rose in the spring in those days just as it does today. The same wildflowers would have graced its banks and fish would have been abundant. I’m sure he saw the ancestors of our Great Blue herons and the Kingfishers swoop diving, much as we do today. Last month we spotted a mink in the strong tree roots along the bank near the spot where otters sometimes play. Did Pardoe watch them with the same fascination we do today, with his horse’s ears pricked up in interest?

By the time Europeans arrived here in the late 1700s, our Cove was established as hunting grounds for the Cherokee, whose territory is marked still by a great tree indicating the “John Hawkins Line” on the Singing Brook side of Blackberry Farm. Though this land has been timbered many times through the years, the same game trails and roadways remain. I’ve lived and worked in this valley for 12 years. When I ride the back of our farm, I’m riding the old Cherokee trade route, still marked by stone. There is a “medicine wheel” in the woods pointed out to me by local historian, Inez Adams, whose roots go back into the deep mountains. What meaning did this land hold for the Cherokee, who also rode horseback along the foot of Chilhowee Mountain? Sometimes I believe I feel their spirits there. Surely they loved the beauty of these hills as passionately as we do.

From the Veranda of the Main House, on horseback, it is impossible to not stop and stare out toward the Three Sisters Mountain. Even the horses pause to soak it in. Do equines appreciate beauty in the same ways we do? Did the horses of European settlers react the way ours do--- to that magnificent vista? Likely, yes, is my guess.

There is a story of a pioneer woman, Lindy Webb, who made her home on the current Blackberry Farm in the 1870s. She is credited with driving a team of horses all the way here from Texas. Whenever I drive a pair of horses and a wagon at Blackberry, I’m reminded of her bravery and perseverance. She would have owned good horses and been an accomplished horsewoman. Her life depended upon it. Nowadays, it seems our spirits and souls need good horses just as much…

Surely horses connect us to our roots, to nature, to those precious aspects of the mountains we hope will never change. They provide us a means to gain a part of our ancestry, to share experiences with people of the past. Nothing much has changed about the cadence of a horse walking, of the manner in which a bear pauses on the trail to note our passing or a doe stands stock still, watching. The birdsong, the rushing stream, the leaping fish are part of my daily life. Thank you, horses, for taking me there, much as you did my ancestors. Without you, I would never have experienced mountain life from the saddle or a carriage, and a valuable aspect of my history would have passed me by.

For those interested in experiencing West Millers Cove with horses, we offer riding instruction (English and western), carriage driving instruction, trail riding, mounted foxhunting, and historic carriage rides. We have lovely horses suitable for novice-advanced. Each ride is carefully planned and horses chosen to create a customized experience. Please provide your height, weight, experience, and tack preference to the Concierge. The more you tell us about your experience, the better! We will do the rest!

Carla Hawkinson, Equestrian Program Manager
865-273-8545, Stables