Big Creek Tennessee

Big Creek Tennessee

There are lots of “Big Creeks” in the world, I’m finding, but there’s only one Big Creek Tennessee…and no, it’s not a town. The Big Creek I’m referring to is an actual creek, and my family farm sits on its banks. Coach, the girls and I are moving back to my homeplace soon, and we couldn’t be more excited.

So, about this move.

I will have to begin with the history.

Big Creek Story

“Big Creek” is somewhat sacred ground. It’s not just a house, it’s a place of refuge for many people. This 13-acre farm, just up the hill from the creek that shares its name, has been in the same family for three generations. We hope to soon be the fourth, in a roundabout way. The original owner of the property, and the one who built the house, was Bully Rhea, my stepfather’s grandfather. The property now belongs to my mother, and will soon belong to Coach and me, which I truly feel makes us the fourth generation to keep the place from being taken back by nature.

big creek tennessee

Big Creek, as it was when it was built.

Mr. David ” Bully” Rhea worked as a stone mason on Milky Way Farms, helping to build all the neat, old, rock barns on the property. He built his summer cabin here at Big Creek, which included a living room, dining room, small kitchen, small bath, two small bedrooms (one of which is now a hallway) and an upstairs, which is one big room over the whole original floor plan.

Behind the cabin sat another, smaller cabin, where some of the farmhands lived. This all took place somewhere between 1913-1915. I just love old time cabins, and this one has all the charm in the world.

big creek story

The original cabin.


The small cabin was, at one time, an office for an old logging outfit that used to be on the property. After the logging business closed down, the cabin was moved up behind the “big house” to be used as housing for the helpers. It was one room with a bathroom when we moved here in the early ’80’s.

old time cabins

How the cabin looked when I moved there as a child.

the first of the farm house remodels

The “big house” was still just a cabin itself back in the day, but definitely much roomier than the small cabin out back. It was two bedrooms, a bath, a living room, dining room, and train-car kitchen. The attic was accessed by a ladder in the tiny kitchen.

My step-grandfather, “The Judge” David Rhea, added a master bedroom and another bath to the “big house”, and moved his family there to live year-round when Papa was a child, sometime in the 40’s. Papa grew up there with his parents, The Judge and Gran, and his older sister (Auntie Claire) and younger brother.

farm house remodels

Big Creek after the addition, and how it looked when I moved there as a child.

When Papa (David Rhea…see a pattern here?) and Madre met, Papa was living in an apartment in town, and Gran still lived at Big Creek. I remember going out there to visit her numerous times, and I remember how much I loved it there…it was love at first sight. The old, rock chimney going straight up through the main living space, the creaky old floors, the slamming screen door, and the interesting layout of the house were mystifying to me. I never got bored.

Big creek Tennessee in my life

When Papa and Madre married, we all moved to Big Creek. I was seven years old, and about to start second grade. Jimmie and I shared the upstairs and it made a marvelous bedroom for us. Gran lived there with us for a brief time, and then moved to North Carolina to live with her daughter, my Auntie Claire. We became a family of six when my brothers came to live with us. I spent my childhood exploring the woods around our place, swimming in Big Creek, hauling water from the spring down the road when the pipes froze, and experiencing total bliss. I loved my upbringing at Big Creek, and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

When I was a little older, Madre did another fantastic remodel on the old house. It was no longer a “cabin” after the Judge’s additions, but the new space added when Madre started renovations was much-needed. She added a huge room off the back of the kitchen, and a sunroom off the other side of the house. It’s pretty large and spacious, but the last remodel was almost 30 years ago. I am still in love with the old house, and I see the wonderful potential it has, but it needs some work.

Old time cabins

Around the same time as the remodel, the little cabin out back took on a tenant. This tenant added on to the little one-room cabin, giving it a kitchen, laundry room, and a bedroom. The tenant lived there from way back then until last year, and it’s fully functional. It’s in pretty rough shape, as well, but with a little work can become a great home for Madre. As a matter of fact, she has already gotten started.

old time cabins

The cabin today.

A slight case of nerves

So, you see why the move is a little scary? And why I talked up my current house so much? As an adult, I have always lived in places where everything works right all of the time, the pipes don’t freeze, and the floors aren’t rotting. We are giving up three spacious bathrooms for two tiny ones, and fairly-new everything for old-and-worn-out everything. It’s a scary thought, but so, so worth it. Yes, this will be the mother of all farm house remodels, but it should be fun, right?

To have my children grow up there, at Big Creek Tennessee, will be a dream come true. We will have no cell service, no wifi, and sometimes no water, but we will have nature, learn the value of hard work, and be wrapped in the comfort of all the history that this house holds. No, no one in my little immediate family is named “David Rhea”, but I still feel we can be worthy caretakers of Big Creek, and make it a place where all of my extended family can come and seek refuge (including my brother, David Rhea).

I can’t wait.

X,O,X,O  Martie