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  1. #1

    Default Spence Field / Cabin and other former shelter sites on the AT in GSMNP

    Edited to add photos . . .


    and edited again to say that the Jenkins Ridge Spence Field shelter is mentioned in Ken Wise's guide.


    I'm curious if anyone here has any information about the shelter that used to be at the top of the Jenkins Ridge trail near the AT, and more generally the pre-GSMNP structures in the Spence Field area.

    My understanding is that there were several (4?) different structures referred to as the 'Spence Cabin' over the decades before the Park, not all at the same location. One of these cabins was roughly where the current Spence Field shelter (built 1963, renovated 2005) is located. I seem to recall reading that one Spence Cabin was actually on the Tennessee side of the ridge.

    The first generation of AT shelters, the six-person log and/or shingle structures, that I have seen pictures of or references to, were built at Moore Springs, Silers Bald, Little Indian Gap, and Icewater Springs. (I assume there were others, these are just the ones obvious from photos or topo maps showing both shelters.)

    Is the shelter on the Jenkins Ridge trail the first-gen shelter? Was there any form of hiking shelter at the current Spence Field shelter location prior to 1963? The topo below is dated 1964, so I assume the shelter on the left is the one there today.

    Spence Field Shelter

    West Barber at Spence Field Shelter


    Thanks for any information, photos or corrections you can provide.

    spencefield.jpg
    Last edited by johnacraft; 01-11-2020 at 18:48.

  2. #2
    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnacraft View Post
    Edited to add photos . . .


    and edited again to say that the Jenkins Ridge Spence Field shelter is mentioned in Ken Wise's guide.


    I'm curious if anyone here has any information about the shelter that used to be at the top of the Jenkins Ridge trail near the AT, and more generally the pre-GSMNP structures in the Spence Field area.

    My understanding is that there were several (4?) different structures referred to as the 'Spence Cabin' over the decades before the Park, not all at the same location. One of these cabins was roughly where the current Spence Field shelter (built 1963, renovated 2005) is located. I seem to recall reading that one Spence Cabin was actually on the Tennessee side of the ridge.
    This is the "Spence Cabin" on the TN side you are probably referring to. At 2000+ sq ft, it was more a vacation home on what was called "Millionaires Row" for a wealthy Knoxville family than what us paupers consider a cabin. http://npshistory.com/publications/g...-cabin-hsr.pdf

    The first generation of AT shelters, the six-person log and/or shingle structures, that I have seen pictures of or references to, were built at Moore Springs, Silers Bald, Little Indian Gap, and Icewater Springs. (I assume there were others, these are just the ones obvious from photos or topo maps showing both shelters.)

    Is the shelter on the Jenkins Ridge trail the first-gen shelter? Was there any form of hiking shelter at the current Spence Field shelter location prior to 1963? The topo below is dated 1964, so I assume the shelter on the left is the one there today.

    Spence Field Shelter

    West Barber at Spence Field Shelter


    Thanks for any information, photos or corrections you can provide.

    spencefield.jpg
    Good luck researching all this. Interesting stuff. Historically there were so many entities building small structures and camps and such in what is now GSMNP - large scale logging; hunting, fishing, and vacation homes/cabins; then CCC; then the park itself; etc.
    Last edited by 4eyedbuzzard; 01-11-2020 at 22:52.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4eyedbuzzard View Post
    This is the "Spence Cabin" on the TN side you are probably referring to.

    I'm familiar with that one, but it's not the one I'm referring to.

    Most photos labeled 'Spence Cabin' show this structure, which appears to be the same structure here (both 1907). The topography seems to match the area of the current shelter, and of course the 'Spence Cabin Branch' name of the watercourse is a big clue.

    Then there is this 'cabin on Spence Field,' ca. 1920, which appears to be the cabin in this photo and this photo as well (all 1920s). To my eyes this looks like a different location, but it may be the same.

  4. #4
    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
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    From your first post it looks like you're already accessing this source https://libguides.utk.edu/c.php?g=188635&p=1246076 Other possible sources for clues would be NC and TN and local land records. Probably very time intensive...
    Given that there's likely no one left alive who can shed light on your search (unless there's something hiding in a private family archive somewhere), it's going to be a difficult search. Once you start looking into stuff like this you wind up going down lots of rabbit holes. Unfortunately (well, not really), nature erases so much of the physical works of man in an amazingly short timeframe. It still amazes me that most of GSMNP, the Whites, and other mountain forests were mostly clear cut for lumber only a little over 100 years ago. Yours sounds like an interesting investigation. Please post updates as to what you find out. There are a lot of us here who are interested in history of the trail, parks, surrounding areas, etc. Best of luck in your quest!

  5. #5

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    Last spring I searched for the shelter shown near the intersection of Jenkins and the AT on an old USGS Quad overlay I downloaded on my In Reach. I bushwhacked down from the Jenkins ridge trail after not finding any traces of the old path that seemingly branched off the AT. I found the spring head but the only remnant of the shelter I could find was an old chain link door. I have a picture on my PC at home.....but it's just an old chain link door.

    Jenkins Shelter.jpg

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4eyedbuzzard View Post
    Probably very time intensive...


    Probably. Just curiosity on a wet day here.



    Quote Originally Posted by PatmanTN View Post
    Last spring I searched for the shelter shown near the intersection of Jenkins and the AT on an old USGS Quad overlay I downloaded on my In Reach. I bushwhacked down from the Jenkins ridge trail after not finding any traces of the old path that seemingly branched off the AT. I found the spring head but the only remnant of the shelter I could find was an old chain link door.


    Good to know, thanks.

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