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Secrets of these Hills | 2022 Granville Challenge

The 2022 theme for Historic Granville is, “If These Hills Could Talk.” As we discussed this, the thought was to tell the secrets these hills hold. What are those secrets? What topics do we cover? How do we select content? An on-going point of discussion is, how do we display and preserve these stories in a professional manner for present and future generations. As you can see, this is a challenge and I need your help.

What makes Granville a magical place?

There’s one answer: the people! As I thought about stories from the hills surrounding Granville, I recalled a time that “folks” came to Granville every Saturday, sat on the store porches and shared tales. In the early 1950’s, Granville was a prosperous farming community with many new families moving to the area, some as land owners and some as tenant farmers. That’s it, the hills would tell the story of the people and where they lived!

Come sit on the store porch with me. It’s a Saturday in the early ‘50’s, Granville is bustling; children playing in the street, ladies shopping and exchanging flour sack fabrics, and men sitting around on the store porch whittling. Someone asked, “Did you move to Granville? Where do you live?” The response was, “Just over the county line (That would be Jackson/Smith County line.), out past the Mound (Chestnut Mound) on the ridge (Pea Ridge). All those listening knew where the family lived.

Another man says, “I moved my family from over past Gainesboro, Big Bottom, to the holler just off Martin Creek, the Lambert Holler."

Then, I listen as a lady explains that they live across the river on a farm in Funn's Branch. While another tells her experience of moving into the bend, Holliman’s Bend. Another was living on Spring Fork, and another on a farm on the Dillard’s Creek. No one needed an explanation; these terms were descriptive for “folks” who lived in these hills.

Living in these hills and “hollers” vs. textbook descriptions

Fast forward several decades and I am teaching landforms to second graders. The textbook uses the term valley. I could easily explain valleys as I grew up in the hills and “hollers” of Jackson County, Tennessee. The textbook does not define, ridges, forks, creeks, bends, river bottoms, hills, and “hollers” nearly as well as the visual I can recall from living in these hills.

That’s it! “If These Hills Could Talk”, they would tell the stories of the people. The families that lived in the hills, “hollers”, bends, ridges, forks, and creeks. How do we do that on a display board. As you can see, this is a challenge.

Definition and more

Hollow - noun: A small, sheltered valley that usually but not necessarily has a watercourse. The Southern Appalachian Dictionary labels the “chiefly Southern” pronunciation as holler. Some say it’s a hollow but I disagree, it’s a holler and has always been a holler.

I have mixed feelings about using the word holler to describe a place. Let me explain! I love the Southern Appalachian speech almost as much as I love the hills and hollers around Granville. It makes me sad to know that these descriptive words and this dialect are disappearing. I want to use it and explain the beauty. But I hesitate because for some this is described as “hillbilly talk” or terms used by the uneducated. Neither is the case here; this is the language of the hills. As you can see, this is a challenge!

More than the Definition

If these hills could talk, they would tell you stories about the families who lived in the hills, hollers, branches, ridges, bends, and creeks around Granville. There’s more to this than a definition of the landform. I have great memories of orchards, green pastures, and lovely little homes with front porches for sitting and visiting. Clear streams running over flat rocks and cascading into a pool just the right size to sit and cool off on a hot summer day. Let me share a few facts from the hills.

  • These are places where you can sit on the porch at night and hear the coyote’s howl. If you're lucky, you will hear someone pick up a fiddle (not to be confused with a violin) and play with music echoing through the hills.

  • Dogs, cats, chickens, and children can be seen in the yard and surrounding areas.

  • These are places where children play in the creek, learn to climb trees, and enjoy the natural beauty of the hills.

  • Neighbors become family and help each other when needed.

Most of all, these hills would want you to know, these were good places to live and a wonderful place to raise a family. The hills, creeks and hollers become your playground.

How do we communicate this passion, these stories beyond the definitions in an exhibit for present and future generations? As you can see, this is a challenge!

You can Help

After you read the blog, scroll down to comments. Leave us a comment about what you would like to hear from these hills. Do you have a story to share? Do you have ideas to help us with these 2022 challenges? We are open to suggestions and value input from our readers and visitors.

The 2022 goal of the Granville Museum is to capture these stories, display them in the museum, and preserve this rich history for present and future generations.

Historic Granville is open Wednesday- Friday 11AM-3PM and Saturday 11AM-5PM.

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