LETTERS FROM OLE BERT OF THE SMOKY MOUNTAINS
Ole Bert Garner, the Smoky Mountain Man
Note: The following letters were written by Bert Garner to Robert O. Delzell after a visit to Bert Garner during which Bob and Ms. Inez Burns, author of “History of Blount County Tennessee,” helped Bert discover the grave stone of Delzell’s GGGgrandfather, in the abandoned Hamil/Tedford cemetery, just down the hill from Bert’s cabin, about five miles south of Maryville, TN. during the spring of 1954. Bob was on the way to visit the scenes of his war experiences as well as a two week visit to the home of his ancestors in County Down, Northern Ireland. After the discovery of the stone on the property of Max and Jimmy Mize, Bert carried the 75 pound stone on his shoulder up to his cabin where it excited considerable public interest among Bert’s many visitors.
June 16, 1954, "Paradise",R. 6., Maryville, Tenn.
Well you should be back in Frisco and sobered up by this time. Thanks so much for taking the time out on your big Safari to send me the card from Krefeld with views of Duren. Also received your very interesting airmail letter from London or rather written in Belfast. Am glad you like the Irish. They seem more congenial than the bloomin English—and they have a culture all their own.
You certainly had a wonderful trip. I’d love to hear more of the details. Your way of traveling footloose and alone appeals to me—that’s the way I went. You can see more that way and study people and places better.
Am wondering if you let any fellow take your Calif. girl while you were away? Did you go by train from Wis. to Calif. The grave stone of John Delzell in my yard has caused a lot of comment. They want to know if he is buried in my yard. Wouldn’t you like to see what old man John looked like? He was born one year after my ancestor John Garner. They must have reached Blount County about the same time and they certainly knew each other.
Miss Burns is now working on her history of Blount County. That research work is too tedious for me. She was in Nashville last week. I went with her to the Sam Houston home place recently. Both of us enjoyed your short visit in Tenn. and she said she hoped you would return. It is too bad our old ancestors left so little written record. Had they only kept journals and left them to their posterity they would be precious,
Wonder what our ancestors would think of our liberal religious views. Yes, Ireland has quite a lot of Unitarians—so does England. I haven’t heard of many among Scotland's Calvinists.
Did you keep a journal on your recent trip? You should have for I’ve often wished I had. I took only a few notes. I’d be very delighted to hear more of your travels, you are a keen observer and would.
When you get ready to return to Tenn. please let me know ahead and come to see me. I should be interested in what you get into or what you intend doing to or for this sorry world. Personally I’ve decided if the fool human race wants to eliminate itself the sooner the better and I don’t worry.
Please let me hear from you.
July 31, 1957 "Paradise"
The DELZELL data came through in perfect condition yesterday and O\I hasten to write to you. It is good to see you getting intop family history, The very word DELZELL has for years entrigued me with its mystery,They must have owned very muchlan hereabouts. Inez Burns in her fine book "History of Blount County" off the press last Feb. says that David Delzell owned Mountville Springs, a famous summer resort four mile from here.
The stone has excited much curiosity in my yard, while fe would see it in the Hamil cemetery.
My best wishes, Bert Garner.
October 20, 1957, "Paradise".
Yours with check enclosed received. Will crate your ancestors stone and ship it to you.Ten dollars entirely too much. Regret to part with it but I can't live forever and when I die the shack and the woods around it will be desicrated. We are making efforts to stop the desicration of the Hamil Cem and you father's great great grandfather's grave.
October 26, 1957, "Paradise", Rt. 6, Maryville, Tenn.
Well the historic gravestone of old soldier John Delzell is on its way to Stevens Point. Please let me know when it get's there to see what shape it's in. It's a good quality stone and almost unbreakable. The scratches on it are where some heathen had run a harrow over it after it was removed from old John's grave. Wouldn't you like to see a photo of John to see what he looked like?
Wm A. Dalzell of Prtland is quite a poet. I like his "The Clan of the Dalzell." I hope you will set the stone in concrete on a pedistal, but it will do very well just to set it in the earth 6 or 8 inches. (We finally did get John's gravestone set in concrete in the original cemetery thanks to
the kind attention of couple on whose land the cemetery lies.)
Maryville-Sunday night. (no date).
Please go to the Oak Ridge Unitarian Church one time and report to me.
April 10, 1958, "Paradise"
Deighted to hear you are coming to Tenn. in July. I will meet you in Maryville any day you say and we will explore the Smokies.
We also might get some clue as to where John Delzell came from. He likely came to Tenn from N.C. as my John Garner did. My folks landed in VA 1630. Miss Burns and another historian were talking about the Delzells only yesterday. One or two of the Revolutionary Delzells were buried in Maryvilles oldest cemetery. Maybe John's father and brothers. They were in Blount co., about when Tenn. became a state in 1796.
Excerpts from Letter dated July 31, 1958
Sure will be looking for you Saturday Morning. I'm not sure you can find my cabin again alone, so I will meet you at the Maryville Courthouse at 10 A.M. this coming Saturday.
In haste. Bert
St. Patricks Day (not date)
Miss Burns & I brought John Delzells gravestone to my cabin and it will be safe here. Its away from the shack & agaiinst a tree so if my shack burns the stone will survive. It is a good solid durable stone and will last forever. I will send it anyplace you say anytime. It will ship well. I am adding a codicil to my will stating the stone is yours and wil be respected and remembered. Too bad my ancestor who was contemporary with John had no such stone. The two men were doubtless acquainted. Please let me hear of your travels.
Letter from Inez Burns
Tennessee Historical Society
July 24, 1972
I am sorry to have to tell you that Bert (Garner) passed away about a year ago after a prolonged bout with cancer. He learned about it when he fell on a hiking trip about a year before and was slow in recovering.
His nephew owns the woods now—I haven’t been there since the last time I went to see Bert before he went into the hospital.
I have very few copies of Blount County left @ $10.00.
Do you have any data on John Davis the Rev. soldier? Or am I thinking about the wrong person.
Nice to hear from you
(Note: MyRef. L-151.Letter)
For those who would like to know more about Bert Garner:
1. "Ole Bert", by H. C. Brinegar, Maryville, Tennessee.
2. "Dr. Jeptha Davis Garner: Education Pioneer, Physician, Minister."by Betty Boone Best.
The Blount Journal, Spring 2003.
3. History of Blount County Tennessee: From War Trail to Landing Strip, 1795-1955, Tennessee Historical Commission, Whippoorwill Publishers.
4. "Blount County, Tennessee,Cemetery Records" Edith B. Little, Whippoorwill Press, 1980.
5. The Maryville Daily Times, 20 April 1915
6. GRNER-KEENE FAMILIES OF NORTHERN NECK, VIRGINIA, BY Ritchie and Wood, Jarmin Printing Co., Charlottsville, VA 1952