Sunday, March 10, 2019

Source of E. L. Moore's Shaggy Mountain Mill

Although this mill was once a landmark in my favorite stamping grounds, the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, I failed to see it in the flesh, so to speak, but came upon it years later, sparkling with hillbilly personality and endowed with a Beatle wig in Sheppard's "Cabins in The Laurel"
The opening paragraph from E. L. Moore's A Shaggy Mountain Mill that appeared in the June '64 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman.

After reading that I went and looked up the book in Abebooks, and there it was, Cabins in the Laurel by Muriel Earley Sheppard, with photographs by Bayard Wootten. It was originally published in 1935, reprinted in 1991, and a few times more in the '90s. The copy I bought is a 1995 reprint. 

The book is an account of Ms. Sheppard's interviews and visits with her neighbours in the Toe River Valley of North Carolina in the late 1920's and early 1930's. Many told her stories of their lives in the valley dating back into the 19th century. Ms. Sheppard, a New York native, was born in 1898 - the same year as E. L. Moore - and moved to the valley with her mining engineer husband in 1928. Although I bought the book to see the source of the mill, from studying the photographs I suspect the pictures capture a sense of what Mr. Moore saw during his vagabond years, and I think I got a little better understanding of his so-called 'rural models'.
This is a snippet from the lead photo in E. L. Moore's A Shaggy Mountain Mill story that appeared in the June '64 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman.
And this is a snippet of the same mill from a photograph on page 134 of Ms. Sheppard's book.
And here's the cabin that also appears in that opening RMC photo as a background item.
And here's the prototype on page 187 of Ms. Sheppard's book. She notes that it's the snake man's cabin. You can see that E. L. Moore's photo also includes the snake man sitting out front as does Ms. Wootten's photo, but it looks like he added a front window to his model. Mr. Moore's model of Snake man's cabin still existed in 2015, and it's the second cabin in this post, Two Cabins.
One of the great things about buying used books are the unexpected items I'll sometimes find tucked inside. My copy of Cabins in the Laurel had this page from the  27 March 1996 edition of the Mitchell News-Journal, from Spruce Pine, North Carolina (located in the Toe River Valley), of an interview with the current owner of Muriel Sheppard's cabin. Ms. Sheppard's cabin is shown in the photo at the bottom of the article.
That's a snippet from the photo, and the caption states: The cabin sits atop a ridge above Wing Road. The one room cabin with chimney was the original building. That sprawling home in the mountains is a potential E. L. Moore style project if I've ever seen one :-)


  1. What a find! I think you're on to something that the sprawling home in that last image would make a terrific scratchbuild. Great sleuthing.

    1. Thanks! I rather enjoy the sleuthing part in all this.

  2. Okay, I have been reading your great posts on Moore and bought a woodburning tool (and have been practicing brick and shingle patterns). How do I find the actual plans? My library has nearly every issue of MRC and Model Railroader in their archives from which I could copy the ones I am interested in, but wondered before going that route if there was an easier way.

    1. I'm not sure which projects you're looking for, but I have made an index of all his publications which can be found here:

      Also, in the wikipedia article I wrote, , I've included an index of his publications.

    2. Yes, the index is a big help, thank you for pointing it out to me. I did find a newspaper article about him (an interview really) from January 19, 1958 with a photo of a mill. You probably have that already, but I thought I would mention it.

    3. Glad that helped! That article sounds like the one called 'He Builds Railroads - Then Scraps' in The Charlotte Observer? The dates line up. I think there might be a few more newspaper articles about him - maybe 2 or 3 more - that were written in the '60s, but I have no idea where they might be. Please let me know if you ever come across any others.