Friday, March 23, 2012

Travels with Norris

This is going to be a long rambling account for those of you with short attention spans but it is part of the continuing saga of our land and heritage in Tennessee.A couple of weeks ago I purchased the UTV you see in the picture to help us get around the backwoods of Tennessee. It is a Cub Cadet Volunteer. What could be more appropriate for Tennessee? It has 4 wheel drive, hi/low range,31 horsepower, 11 inches of ground clearance, and generally kicks ass. Tuesday morning, my brother Norris and I went exploring with it.

The drive to Tennessee is about 4 hours and is usually filled with useful information and brotherly advice such as-  Me -" The yellow light is on we'd better get gas" Norris- "Yeah , it's not good to run your engine after it runs out of gas" Me-" I think I have one of those engines that automatically shuts off when I run out" Norris-"That's good". We got to Campbell county about 11 and headed west to the Scott County courthouse to try to find the deed to a property that is referenced as our northern boundary. We were successful and one of the women in the office recommended another surveyor for us to talk to. She didn't know her current last name or phone number but she gave us her daddy's name and number. ( we will return to this).

After leaving the courthouse we went to where the roads used to be behind Elk Valley to search out our property.Regular readers might recall, this is where we broke a spring on a 4 wheel drive F250 last fall. The roads are very washed out, the side trails have almost vanished, and even though we tried several different routes, we were blocked by downed timber or washed out trails with vertical walled ditches as big as six feet deep and ten feet across at every trail we tried. The new buggy did a great job on everything we attempted but there are limits to what we were going to attempt miles from civilization with no help around. We made our way out of the woods and headed for dinner and our motel determined to give it another go from the other side of the mountain on Wednesday.

We also called and scheduled a meeting for 9AM with the owner of a neighboring property. He is being taxed by Scott County for land that is actually our Campbell County property that has been in the family for 120 years ( and taxed by Campbell Co ). A couple of years ago, he was told by the county that the vague 2 acre deed he bought at auction for $900 ten years ago was actually 38 acres but it's not. Scott County is just confused as to where the county line should actually be. I have deeds and evidence of my great grandfather having the State Legislature declare that the line was moved in 1897 to put all of his property into Campbell County but the official map was never redrawn. I have shown the evidence to the tax assessor and he felt I was correct but he's not going to change anything until someone (not the county) has a survey done.

Our neighbor showed up at 8AM but we were ready. I had my deeds, topo maps, and copies of what the Legislature had done. He had a parcel map from the county ( this is not a legal description of property, just a general idea of where it may be) and a deed that only referred to the parcel map.. We each explained our positions and why we held them. He really wants to define his boundaries by his neighbors' lines because he has not been able to find an accurate description of his property. I went back to our historical deeds and did my own estimation of where our lines are but I am not willing to agree to anything about his lines without the survey points(calls) from his deed and he can't produce them. We parted amicably and a little wiser but I doubt that this is over.

Back at the room, I called Rhonda the surveyors' parents and talked to her mom who gave me Rhonda's number. I called but just left a message. ( Here's where it gets strange) We headed for the woods but stopped at the Pilot station for gas. My phone rang and it was Rhonda. I explained our problem and asked if we could meet her later today. She said she had to go to Knoxville but asked" Where are you now?" I told her Pilot on 63. She said "Me too" Absolutely amazing. She came out to the van, looked at our maps, and heard our story. She said she started surveying in the Air Force and has been at it for twenty years. She seemed very capable and is going to put together an estimate for us. If you ever need a surveyor in East Tennessee call Rhonda Ellis.You can get her number from her mom.

We went back Whistlecreek road from Newcomb and looked for a safe place to leave the van and trailer. We stopped at a Truck repair shop a little ways back in the woods and the boys said it would be fine for us to park for a while. We spent 3 or 4 hours trying trail after trail. We rode for miles and tried many different routes. There are small gas wells all over the place up there and the trails are like a rabbit warren. We tried 4 ways around Lamb Mountain to the east of us but the closest we got was (I think) looking up at our place from a trail with a big steel gate across it that went up to a gas well near our land. We went around to the west side of the valley and tried to go up Bairds' Creek road. We got as far as the old cemetery were we saw our grandfather John L.'s grave for the first time. There were also graves of a couple of my cousins who had died at birth around 1920 and sad little hand carved stones scattered about the hillside.We probably could have gone farther if we had a chainsaw to cut some downed timber that blocked the trail but we didn't so we called it a day and headed back to the Truck Garage.We chatted a bit and one of the guys said one of the boys we had met earlier knew the area of our land well and ATV'd and hunted up there. I called him and he agreed to guide us next time we come down.That will be a big plus.

All in all it was a great trip. We bounced the buggy up and down some God awful trails and it swam through ruts and marshes without a complaint. We learned more about our property and made some new friends.Thursday was a long drive home with no incidents and now I'm catching up on chores. Thanks for stopping by.

One final note. Last week I made some comments on another blog that were impolite. I should have found a more tactful way to state my opinion and I am sorry that I put it the way I did.


  1. this sounds like my kind of adventure!! I would love to have a family cemetery like that to visit, how great.
    As you know, I probably win on saying less than appropriate things on my blog, and still they come to read haha!

  2. looks like you have some progress, good for you!

  3. I enjoyed reading this adventure you are on with your family land.
    I hope it all works out well.

  4. It's nice to read about what you did while in Tennessee. It may surprise you, but Dad doesn't say much.


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