George Ellison      
  These programs normally last about an hour; however, they can be
scheduled to last anywhere between 40 and 90 minutes as needed. Click the titles, below, to read the descriptions —


George Ellison
PO Box 1262
Bryson City NC 28713


An opening discussion will consider basic materials and source guides (binoculars, field guides, checklists, and CDs/tapes of calls and songs) as well as non-technical methods of identifying birds by visual clues and vocalizations. This is followed by a set of slides depicting the varied bird life (including vultures, woodpeckers, waterfowl, eastern towhees, juncos, kingfishers, nuthatches, evening grosbeaks, purple and house finches, numerous warblers, scarlet tanagers, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and ruby-throated hummingbirds) of the Blue Ridge.

An opening discussion will consider the origins of traditional Cherokee plant usage and the extent to which the early white settlers learned the plant lore of the Blue Ridge from them. This is followed by a set of slides depicting numerous plants (including ginseng, ramps, liver-leaf, squaw-root, paw-paw, river cane, Indian hemp, may-apple, squaw-weed, and touch-me-not) with a discussion of their uses. The program concludes with a series of slides that depict the Cherokee methods used to dye basket splints with shrub yellow-root (yellow), bloodroot (red-orange), black walnut (brown), and butternut walnut (black).

An opening discussion will consider animal species that are no longer here (timber wolves and wood bison), ones that have been reintroduced (river otters, peregrine falcons, and elk), the possibility of the continued presence of the eastern cougar, and the origins and ongoing problems associated with the introduction of the European wild boar in the early 20th century. This will be followed by a set of slides depicting numerous animals (including black bear, white-tailed deer, eastern and spotted skunks, bobcats, coyotes, red and gray foxes, mink, least and long-tailed weasels, and snakes) of the Blue Ridge.

An opening discussion will consider the origins of the Cherokees, traditional beliefs and lifestyle, European contact, the removal era from 1800-1838, the Trail of Tears, and the origins of the Eastern Band of Cherokees as well as their continued presence in western North Carolina. This will be followed by a set of slides depicting traditional Cherokee life (including mounds, houses, clothing, medicine, and religious and burial practices) in the Blue Ridge.

An opening discussion will consider the origins of the ancient Appalachians approximately 250 million years ago due to plate tectonic action, significant events during the last Ice Age approximately 18,000 years ago, and the present day geographic provinces of the Southern Appalachians: Piedmont, Blue Ridge, Ridge and Valley, and Cumberland Plateau. Emphasis will then be placed on defining the Blue Ridge as a province that extends from south-central Pennsylvania to north Georgia, particularly that region known as the Southern Blue Ridge Province that extends from Roanoke VA to Mt. Oglethorpe in Georgia. With 125 peaks exceeding 5,000 feet in elevation and 47 peaks exceeding 6,000 feet, this is the most significant mountainous region in eastern North America. Aspects of the Southern Blue Ridge Province that will be discussed include: the Eastern Continental Divide and Appalachian Trail, the location of the Appalachian "rain forest," forest types and distinctive natural areas, and the place of the Great Smoky Mountains within the province.

This slide/lecture program depicts the life and career of Horace Kephart (1862-1931), who left his family and professional career as a professional librarian in St. Louis to live alone from 1904-1907 in a cabin on the Little Fork of the Sugar Fork of Hazel Creek, an area that is today a part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From 1910 to 1931, Kephart resided in Bryson City, on the North Carolina boundary of the park. He wrote Camping and Woodcraft (1906) and Our Southern Highlanders (1913) — this being one of the finest regional studies yet written by an American, and which was reissued in 1976 by the University of Tennessee Press with a biographical introduction by George Ellison. From the mid-1920s until his death in an automobile accident in 1931, Kephart was a major participant in the movement that culminated in 1934 in the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A selected reading from Kephart's journals now on deposit at Western Carolina University concludes the presentation, which originally was put together as one of a series of programs presented in the spring of 1994 in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Since that original presentation, new material has been added to provide a fuller picture of Kephart's family life, his friendship with the Japanese photographer George Masa (including slides of Masa photographs from the holdings at Pack Memorial Library in Asheville), Kephart's life on Hazel Creek and in Bryson City, and the logging operations conducted on Hazel Creek by the Ritter Lumber Company.