The Miller Farmstead in Roan Mountain State Park is one of five submissions to the Tennessee Historical Commission to receive placement on the National Register of Historic Places. (Photos by Ron Campbell/Johnson City Press)
ROAN MOUNTAIN — A century-old farmstead that is now a popular part of Roan Mountain State Park could soon be nominated for the National Register of Historic Places.
The Miller Farmstead includes a well-maintained house that was built around 1907, a barn, root cellar and other buildings that were once part of a subsistence farm on 200 acres of land in the foothills of the Roan Massif.
The State Review Board of the Tennessee Historical Commission will meet May 28 at the Clover Bottom Mansion in Nashville to consider five nominations to the National Register. The Miller Farmstead is one of the five historic sites across the state that is being considered by the board.
Roan Mountain State Park Manager Jacob Young said the farmstead is a popular place, and school groups often tour the farm to observe life in a time before modern electrical conveniences.
“Many of the visitors have never seen farm life before,” Young said. One way Young gets the young visitors to understand how different things were is simply to tell them to turn on the light switch. After searching the walls for a few minutes, the children realize there is no electric lights. Then they notice the lantern on the table.
Young said the farmstead’s inclusion on the National Register will open up grant opportunities that may help the park realize some of its Legacy Project plans for the farmstead.
“We would like to make it a working farm,” Young said. That would require a full-time presence to work the fields and watch the livestock.
Young said the Millers began working the farm around 1870. At that time, the Millers rented the property from Gen. John T, Wilder. Wilder had extensive holdings in the decades following the Civil War, including iron ore mines and a hotel near the Cloudland rhododendron gardens on top of Roan Mountain.
The family continued working the land from generation to generation. Young said the original cabin was replaced by the current house around 1907. It was built by Nathaniel Miller with the help of friends and family.
Young said the family farm was remote and the Millers became self-sufficient. He said the family did use the wagon road that followed a path similar to the park road to the farm today. He said the family also used a road to nearby Ripshin.
Stories are plentiul about how self-sufficient the Miller Family was, even in more modern times, Young said. During one of the largest snowstorms of the last half-century, people became concerned about the family. Since there was no way to contact them, a helicopter was sent to rescue them.
The helicopter landed to find the Millers doing just fine, Young said. “They had shoveled out walkways in the snow to get to the barn and other places they had to go. They were well-adapted,” Young said.
The helicopter trip wasn’t totally wasted, Young said.
“Granny Miller made them all breakfast.”