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The Mountain Laurel is a Treasure

by Emeline Bluestocking

Mountain - “a large natural elevation of the earth’s surface rising abruptly from the surrounding level; a large steep hill.”

Laurel - “any number of shrubs and other plants with dark green glossy leaves.”

Mountain Laurel - “a North American evergreen shrub or small tree of the heath family with glossy leaves and umbrella of rose colored or white flowers.”

Old-timers, such as myself, would refer to this plant as ivy, mountain ivy, or a calico bush. Rhododendrons, a close cousin, were also called Mountain Laurel.

Did you know there was an effort back in 1914 to have the Mountain Laurel named as the national flower of America? Mrs. Woodrow Wilson even supported the effort by saying, “If we can have a national flower, there is no flower more beautiful or more appropriate for the purpose than the Mountain Laurel. The bud is so wonderful. The goldenrod is impossible from an artistic standpoint.” Mrs. Wilson knew the Mountain Laurel was a treasure and demonstrated that through some of her artwork.

Morgan County has Laurel incorporated into names of various locations. Here’s a story that’s been passed down through my family about one of them.

Back in the 1880’s, a Kentuckian approached an old settler near Jamestown, showed him a map, and pointed out to him a spot at the confluence of Laurel Creek and Clear Fork, where he said treasure was buried, and asked the old settler if he could show him the place. Certainly he could; he knew every foot of that vicinity. So the two went together to the cliff near the mouth of Laurel Creek.

After some examination of the place the Kentuckian announced that, due to his wife’s illness at home, he would have to return to Kentucky, but would come back in a few days. At that time they would together dig for the treasure and divide it fifty-fifty. So they returned to the settler’s home, where the Kentuckian turned his steps northward.


he old settler, however, decided to make some investigations of his own, and the next morning set out for the mouth of Laurel Creek. Arriving there he found something unusual had happened. A deep hole ten feet in diameter had been dug beneath the cliff at the bottom of which was a square hole some two feet in diameter. Nothing remained of whatever treasure had been found there. In the immediate vicinity feet of horses and men had trampled down both soil and vegetation, indicating a group of some size had done the excavating the previous night.

Evidently the Kentucky stranger, in spite of the reputation for hospitality of his fellow citizens across the state line, had failed to invite the old settler to the night’s party, and had used the old settler only to show him the spot. After that, he needed no further assistance.

Enjoy the Festival! There will be treasures a’plenty. Emeline Bluestocking

Photo from the Tennessee Mountain Laurel Festival a few years ago!

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