Walker County’s Version of Cades Cove
Just off Highway 5 in Walker County is a small slice of the 19th Century. I’ve driven past the road that leads to Thomas King’s farm many times over the years. Never did I imagine what lay hidden behind the trees.
Exact dates are fuzzy for owner Thomas King. He remembers "about" when things happened, but not exactly. For him, the farm has just always been this way. He never really saw a need to pinpoint when it all began.
King, 61, knows that it all began sometime before the Civil War when his great-grandfather homesteaded 300 acres near Nauvoo in Walker County. Since then he has added on another 100 or so adjoining acres.
He and his wife of 41 years, Debra, live on the family farm where King was born and raised.
King figures the house was built prior to the Civil War because his aunt recalls stories told by her mother about soldiers coming through the area and spending the night in the house.
Legend also has it that none other than Colonel Sanders himself played the organ that still sits in the living room of the family home.
As we moved from room to room in the farmhouse, King recalled the origins of different pieces and pondered the origins of others. He pointed out pieces made by his grandfather or great-grandfather, noting other things that were purchased at auctions.
Two of his aunts lived in the farmhouse until the 1980s, he said. King pointed to a bank of cabinets that his aunt had installed in the kitchen in the 1960s, noting that she wanted the extra storage space. He recalled eating many meals at the long, hand-made kitchen table.
As we made our way out to the back of the house, King pointed out the porch that was taken in to make a bathroom at some point. The emergency outhouse still stands in the backyard, as well.
Under the house is a cellar that was used for storing canned goods.
Most homesteads can’t boast the number of structures that still stand on the King place. Most have been torn down long ago.
King’s farm is different. It never really occurred to him to tear down any of the structures. Most of them are still in use anyway. The place is the way it is simply because that’s the way it has always been.
No one remembers the farmhouse ever being painted. King remembers the tin roof being put on over the old board roof. Not much else has been done to the house, which remains in remarkable condition.
The family now uses the house to store unneeded furniture.
King has had offers for the contents of the farmhouse, but he’s never seriously considered them. He noted he probably wouldn’t sell his family’s things even if were offered a fair market price.
Locals refer to King’s farm as the Cades Cove of Walker County. Old barns and corn cribs dot the landscape. However, not everything is old.
Instead of a split-rail fence, King has constructed a sturdier fence made out of guard rail material. King noted even the most spirited of cattle can be easily contained with the pen.
The county road cutting through the center of King’s property used to be the main road. His family had a general store on the side of the road for many years. It still stands and is loaded with memories of by-gone days. Bottles, tins, glass jars and buckets tell the tale of long-ago merchandise that used to fill the shelves.
Across from the farmhouse is the wagon shed, which King still uses for storage. He said his aunt kept her car in there as long as she had one.
Behind the wagon shed stand the log stables. King said the stables and the farmhouse were the only building made out of logs.
Across from the stables is the mule barn and behind it the horse barn. King has stories to go with each structure and smiles to go with the memories.
One of the few buildings missing from the landscape is his grandfather’s blacksmith shop. King, however, can point to the spot where it stood.
King, who used to raise cattle with his sister and brother-in-law, now farms basically by himself. His nephew helps out when he can, though.
King row farms crops and raises commercial cattle. He trades with manager Ricky Aldridge at the Walker Farmers Co-op in Jasper. King depends on the Co-op for all of his seed and fertilizer as well as his fencing materials.
Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.