Finley Hensley House

Finley Hensley cabin
The Finley Hensley house when the park obtained the property. Finley built his house next to the spring.

NPS Photo

Building Traditions
When the Hensleys and Gibbons families began moving to the mountain in 1903, there were a few log structures that had been built by the tenants on the land before them. They used these to begin their homesteads but quickly set about the task of building their own homes, outbuildings, and fencing. The residents of Hensley Settlement used the folk knowledge of siting and building mountain farms that was widespread through many parts of central and southern Appalachia.

The barn at the Finley Hensley farmstead in the 1970s. Notice the roof shingles.

NPS Photo

Lige Gibbons, for example, remembers "everywhere we were going to build a cabin to live, we'd get as close to a spring in summers as we could get." And Jess Gibbons remembers his father picked the site for his barn based on water concerns: "Another reason he built it here, see it's rolling, and the water will drain both ways. Down this way and back the other way, too. And it keeps it drier around your barn. And it was close to the water. It's down toward the hill there." Herbert Thompson, who taught school on the mountain, observed that "they built all their buildings on the south side of the ravine, or hill." He describes the site selection process of Willie Gibbons and others:

"He went over here on a little spur and you go down in the valley, down that hill. And you go down into a branch or valley, and he built up here pretty close to top. He built his house over on the south side of this spur. Then it goes right up across the road and he has a little road, built a little road up to that. And he build a hen house and he builds it on the south side, all the buildings. And he builds a large smokehouse right down below his house. All these buildings are on the south side and they're very near his home, his dwelling, farmhouse. And then he builds a cow barn on, pretty close to the top. Find a little level place. If he couldn't find a level place, they'd build a. . .building to go with the ground, sort of. And. . .they built those solid out of logs and they stuck those cracks up with planks just like they did their homes cause it got cold and the cows had a warm place to sleep. And Bert Hensley's house was on around here on another south exposure and where Sherman's is a way around about a mile. It was on a southern exposure. They always built 'em on southern exposures."

Living History at Hensley Settlement
Park interpreter Tom La Ferrier uses a draw knife on the shaving horse in a 1975 program in Willie’s blacksmith shop.  Draw knife from park collection (cat. #616).

NPS photo


Last updated: June 17, 2015

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