WCU to publish new edition of ‘Twenty Years of Hunting and Fishing in the Great Smokies’

This original copy of “Twenty Years of Hunting and Fishing in the Great Smokies” was once owned and signed by Horace Kephart. The book is now held in the Kephart Collection of WCU’s Hunter Library

This original copy of “Twenty Years of Hunting and Fishing in the Great Smokies” was once owned by Horace Kephart. The book is now held in the Kephart Collection of WCU’s Hunter Library.

Thanks to funding from the University of North Carolina Press, Western Carolina University will reissue the rare regional classic “Twenty Years of Hunting and Fishing in the Great Smokies” by Samuel Hunnicutt, originally published in 1926.

The grant from the Thomas W. Ross Fund to Hunter Library to undertake the endeavor was announced Wednesday, Nov. 2. Elizabeth Skene, WCU special and digital collections librarian, will lead the project.

A hunting party is shown at the Bryson Place on Deep Creek, with Samuel Hunnicutt standing third from right on the front row, looking down at his dogs. (Photo courtesy of the Hunnicutt family

A hunting party at the Bryson Place on Deep Creek, with Samuel Hunnicutt standing third from right on the front row. (Photo courtesy of the Hunnicutt family)

Hunnicutt, a Swain County resident, was known for his wilderness prowess in the mountains prior to the establishment of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The book was first published by S.B. Newman & Company of Knoxville, Tennessee, as a 216-page, soft-covered illustrated edition when he was 46 years old. “These stories written in book form are true, and told just exactly as happened, as near as I can remember,” he wrote.

One of the few surviving original books is a personal copy once owned by Horace Kephart and now held in the Kephart Collection of WCU’s Hunter Library. An Ivy League-educated scholar, former librarian and leading outdoors writer of his time, Kephart became a proponent for the national park after moving to Swain County in 1904.

“Sam’s favorite thing was going on bear hunts with friends and family, and of course his beloved hunting dogs,” said his granddaughter Barbara Edwards. “He went bear hunting even into his 60s. At 80 years old he could still climb those mountains better than most young people.”

Hunnicutt was born in 1880, one of seven children of James Marion and Sarah Hunnicutt. As an adult, he and wife Leah lived on Hammer Branch, a tributary of Deep Creek near Bryson City that is now inside the national park.

Samuel and Leah Hunnicutt

Samuel and Leah Hunnicutt

“Together, they raised seven children, including my father, Charlie,” Edwards said. “I understand Sam made his living running a sawmill and operating a small country store on Deep Creek. When they had to leave the mountains (to make way for the coming of the park), I don’t believe he ever really got over it. He and his family loved Deep Creek and I can understand why – it is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.”

Hunnicutt died in 1969 and is buried in Buncombe County.

The grant provides for $800 worth of services from UNC Press to offset the cost of preparing the book for print. WCU’s Office of Creative Services will be designing the cover and the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center will provide digitization services. “We are excited to offer this rare and unique book to the public, and anticipate it will be the first in a series of regionally-focused volumes,” said Skene.

UNC Press successfully completed a challenge grant from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust to create the $100,000 Ross Fund, with the grants administered by the Office of Scholarly Publishing Services. “Changes in technology are creating new opportunities for universities to publish and make research widely accessible,” said Junius Gonzales, senior vice president for Academic Affairs for the UNC system. “We are very pleased to see this cutting-edge collaboration within the university system.”