Randall Glen is located at the very end of Big Sandy Mush, in a mountain cove above the valley. Where the mountains meet the land, narrow valleys climb upward between the arms of the mountains. These are the coves of the mountain people who settled this land two hundred years ago. In their native Scotland, each Highland glen-or cove-was occupied by a closeknit family. The Scots who pioneered the Great Smoky Mountains claimed the coves in the same way. Each cove bears the name of the family who settled there, and you’ll still see these family names on most every mailbox.
Farming the steep, rocky mountain coves was different, and much harder than farming the lush valleys, but it was the life the Highland Scots knew. Some coves are very remote-for instance, from Surrett Cove the smaller Randall Cove branches off, and from that the even smaller Randall Glen-and some families seldom met anyone from more than a mile or two away.
These hardy settlers were self-reliant and incredibly resourceful. They grew, or made, or repaired everything they needed. From the chestnut trees they cut to clear their fields they built their houses and barns; with the stones they built their foundations and fireplaces. Their sheep provided their clothes; their crops, fresh or dried, fed them year round. They grew their own tobacco, they gathered wild honey and fruits, they hunted game for food and warm pelts,they made their medicines from native plants. They forged their own tools, tanned their own leather, and made their own instruments to play the music of their native Scotland.
As the centuries went by, the Southern Highlanders of the Great Smokies kept their ways. They had little contact with the outside world, and little reason to change. They still produced almost everything they needed, still wore the clothing and spoke the dialects of their eighteenth-century ancestors. The draft of World War I was the first time that most Southern Highlanders encountered the modern world. When these soldiers returned to their coves they brought some modern ways with them, but the overall impact was small and their lives continued much as before. Gradually the 20th century brought more contact and more conveniences, but today’s Southern Highlanders live their lives surprisingly like those of the 1700s.