A surprise was waiting for me in the mailbox last week — a new book by my dear friend Betty Boone Best, “Miranda of the Mountains: A Smoky Mountain Diary.” The book is a fictionalized account based on the life of Betty’s grandmother, Florence Miranda Payne.
In the epilogue, Betty reminds readers that she has taken liberties with people and times written about in the diary, but told me, “Everything really happened to someone in our family.”
Florence Miranda Payne was born in 1901 in Swain County, N.C., to Samuel David and Sarah Ann Payne. The Payne family moved to the Richwoods in Blount County in 1909, and the diary begins on April 17 of that year as Miranda wrote about the trek from North Carolina to the Richwoods and a new home on Abrams Creek.
The diary tells of life in the Richwoods through Jan. 13 of the following year, ending with the news her father and brother heard in Maryville that “the president is planning to take our homes here along Abrams Creek and turn them into a national park.” Great Smoky Mountains National Park became a reality about 20 years later.
On Jan. 5, 1918, Florence Miranda Payne married James Hartsell “Tass” Boring, and had three children, one of whom, Dorothy Ann, is Betty’s mother. Tass died in 1925, and Miranda married David Kirby in 1949. She died in 1990 and is buried in the cemetery near Happy Valley Missionary Baptist Church.
This is the second book Betty has released within the past year. “Happy Valley in Blount County, Tennessee, Friends and Family” is a pictorial history of Happy Valley, a narrow, seven-mile valley in southwest Blount County between the Chilhowee Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Betty was born in “the Valley” in 1938 at the home of her grandmother, Florence Miranda Payne Boring. The book won a community history award from the East Tennessee Historical Society, which it presented at its annual meeting May 1.
Blount County was well represented at the meeting and awards ceremony. In addition to Betty’s award, Missy Tipton Green and Paulette Ledbetter, co-authors of Arcadia Publishing Co.’s Images of America series books “Cades Cove” and “Walland,” received the Award of Distinction for their work. Community History Awards also were given to:
• Cades Cove Preservation Association, which preserves the history and heritage of Cades Cove through projects and publications as well as clearing, cleaning, painting, decorating and maintaining graveyards and roadways in the Cove.
• Shirley Carr Clowney, author of “Our Place in Time: Blacks in Blount County,” a pictorial history of the black community; she is founder and executive director of African Americans of Appalachia and Blount County.
• David R. Duggan, Alcoa city historian and chair of the Alcoa Centennial Committee who has researched and co-authored books on the history of Alcoa, Maryville and Alcoa basketball.
• Maj. William A. McTeer Camp No. 39, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, which preserves local and regional history and heritage through locating, marking and holding dedications for unmarked graves or damaged headstone of Union veterans.
• Jeff Wallace, owner of Maryville Monument Co., and who works with families and organizations to preserve the region’s history, especially through repair of family gravestones, such as that of William Finley, whose daughter, Polly, married David Crockett, as well as family stones in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
History has always fascinated me, and it’s such a pleasure to know these dedicated people and many others who are so intent on preserving our heritage and history for those who follow in our footsteps. Our local museums are wonderful places to learn more, including the Blount County Historical Museum and Cades Cove Museum, at 1006 and 1004 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Maryville, near the Blount County Justice Center; Historic Sam Houston Schoolhouse, Sam Houston School Road; Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum; and Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend. I highly recommend checking out the exhibits at each of these museums. Admission is either free or a nominal fee.
In the meantime, if you’d like more information about “Miranda of the Mountains” or “Happy Valley,” contact Betty Boone Best at firstname.lastname@example.org.