Connect with us

Local News

Kephart and Masa: A Bond That Changed the Course of History



Horace Kephart was born in Pennslyvania and raised in Iowa. He was enrolled in graduate school at the age of 17. Kephart became an expert on western exploration. He served as the director of the Mercantile Library in St. Louis, Missouri, from 1890 to 1903.

He married fairly young, at the age of 25. However, his marriage was not a happy one. Kephart began partaking in outdoor life via camping and hunting trips. He would write articles about the experiences he had in the Arkansas and Missouri wilderness.

Kephart suffered from what he later called ‘nervous exhaustion’.  He stated that urban life was a major contributor to his problems. He turned to heavy drinking and lost his job. His wife left him, taking their six children with her.

After a short respite, Kephart decided to start over in a place where he could lose himself. He chose the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. He lived alone in a small cabin where he wrote Camping and Woodcraft, which later became known as the ‘camper’s Bible,’ and Our Southern Highlanders, a book about the distinctive people of southern Appalachia. These two books are still in print and remain popular today.

“It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy,” he wrote, while living for about three years in a little cabin on the Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains.

While living in the wilderness, large logging companies were slowly moving into the area. Kephart became worried that the serene wilderness was becoming much too ravaged by clear-cutting, so he began a mission to save the mountains as a national park, which prompted the writing of many influential articles. He convinced both politicians and the public that the Smokies should become a national park. “I owe my life to these mountains,” he wrote, “and I want them preserved that others may profit from them.”

Kephart crossed paths with George Masa (who was born Masahara Iizuka in Osaka, Japan). Masa came to the United States in 1901 to study mining. He found his way to Asheville, North Carolina. It was there that he became a bellhop at the popular Grove Park Inn. He soon began studying photography which eventually led to the opening of his own photography studio.

Kephart and Masa became close friends. They spent much of their time working on maps for the proposed park, as well as maps for the Appalachian Trail. Both Masa’s images and Kephart’s text were used in promotional materials supporting the effort to turn the area into a national park. After seeing Masa’s photographs, John D. Rockefeller Jr. donated $5 million to help purchase the lands to become part of a new park.

Sadly, in 1931, just before the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was finalized, Kephart was killed in a car accident. After organizing a hike to commemorate the second anniversary of Kephart’s death in 1933, Masa became sick. He had lost his money in the stock market crash of 1929 and could not afford his own doctor. He died without enough money to be buried next to Kephart, which had been his wish.

One year after Masa’s death in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt used $1.5 million in government funds to establish Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A 6,217-foot peak has officially been named Mount Kephart. On its broad shoulder is another shorter peak, known as Masa Knob.

The owner and founder of The Smoky Mountain Life, Kim Hunt, is a lifelong resident of southeast Tennessee and lover of all things Smoky Mountains. 

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Dollywood1 week ago

An Exclusive Look at Dollywood’s 2021 Season Preparations

Attractions1 month ago

Nashville’s The Listing Room Announces Second Location in Pigeon Forge

Local News2 months ago

Ober Gatlinburg President Bruce Anders Passes Away

Dollywood4 months ago

An Exclusive Look at Santa’s Nice List at Dollywood

Dollywood4 months ago

Your First Look at Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival Foods

Dining4 months ago

Smoky Mountain Restaurants Open for Thanksgiving

Dollywood6 months ago

Exclusive Dollywood 2020 Passholder Renewal Extension Offer

YouTube Spotlight6 months ago

YouTube Spotlight: Journey Through An Appalachian Heart

Dining6 months ago

Chubby’s Deli: They’re #1 For A Reason

Attractions6 months ago

An Exclusive First Look at Pigeon Forge Chairlift

Dining6 months ago

It’s Almost Time for GatlinBURGER Week!

Events6 months ago

September 2020 Calendar of Events

Lodging6 months ago

Courtyard By Marriott Hotel Review

YouTube Spotlight7 months ago

YouTube Spotlight: Tyler’s Adventures

Dollywood7 months ago

Dollywood Homeschool Days + Educational Resources

Dining7 months ago

Wears Valley Social Is The Place to Be

Local News7 months ago

Kephart and Masa: A Bond That Changed the Course of History

Attractions7 months ago

Your Smoky Mountain Getaway: The Ultimate Guide for Homeschoolers

YouTube Spotlight7 months ago

YouTube Spotlight: The Wondering Weasel

Local News7 months ago

Sevier County Mask Mandate Extended Through August 29

YouTube Spotlight7 months ago

YouTube Spotlight: The Crazy Pop

Attractions7 months ago

Guests Staying August 10-September 7 Get Free Admission To Soaky Mountain Waterpark

YouTube Spotlight7 months ago

YouTube Spotlight: Adventures In Coriolis

Attractions7 months ago

Soaky Mountain To Recognize Essential Workers, Hospital Employees, First Responders And Military

Attractions8 months ago

Soaky Mountain Waterpark to Host Neighboring Counties Week!