At Milepost 189.1 in southern Virginia you will find Puckett Cabin. This cabin is the former home of Orlean Hawks Puckett, whose story of strength and goodwill has survived generations.
Born in North Carolina, Orlean Hawks Puckett received little formal education before she married John Puckett at about age sixteen. They settled close to his family near Groundhog Mountain in Patrick County. Her first child was born in 1862 but died a few months later of diphtheria. Of her twenty-three subsequent pregnancies, none of the children born living survived more than a few days, possibly as a result of Rh hemolytic disease.
Orlean Puckett and her husband moved in 1875 to a nearby farm in Carroll County, where he built a two-story log house. She first served as a midwife in 1889, when no doctor or other midwife could be found for a neighbor. Puckett soon began traveling around the region, sometimes up to twenty miles distant, to deliver babies. She never charged for her services and became known throughout the area for her compassion and skill, having never lost a mother or baby during the more than 1,000 deliveries she attended.
Orlean moved from her home in 1939 because of the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway. However, she died three short weeks afterward. A small cabin on her property was preserved by the National Park Service, and is known to be Puckett Cabin.
Continuing her legacy of care, the Orlean Hawks Puckett Institute, in Asheville, North Carolina, works to promote and strengthen child, parent, and family development.
Her story to many is a perfect picture of the strength of Appalachian women in the 1800's and the early 1900's.