Twenty-five years ago the idea of owning a bed and breakfast inn began to grow in the minds of Norman and Sarah Ball. Sarah, an elementary school teacher, particularly was intrigued with the idea. The 60-acre farm where she had grown up would make a perfect location. Once the idea turned to passion, she quit her job. Norman, an educator himself, was also an architectural draftsman and started drawing the plans for a Victorian-style farmhouse to sit on top of a hill overlooking the rolling hills and mountains. (He kept his job.) The inn opened in July 1987, when Norman and Sarah had a daughter in college, a fifteen-year-old son, and a five-year-old son.
Through the years there have been so many changes, interesting experiences, and wonderful guests (many becoming friends). Twenty-five years later, Jason, who was 5, is the office manager and has two kids, and Eric, who was 15, is the kitchen manager and wonderful cook and has two kids, specializing in the desserts served each evening. Misty, who was in college earning a degree in graphic design, developed our first brochure, website, and many marketing ads and now lives in Charlotte, NC raising six kids and homeschooling. Jason’s wife, Heather, is our wedding coordinator and our in-house massage therapist. Heather and Jason are expecting their third baby in May 2013 and that will bless us with 11 total grandchildren when this happens.
In addition to these family members, the staff feels like extended family. Sara and Delcie are the experts at keeping Blue Mountain Mist shined and polished. Smiling Kolette is our main night innkeeper.
The mist rises from every hollow and ravine, and the hills and mountains appear layer upon layer—their hazy-blue color giving meaning to the Cherokee phrase “Shaconage” (land of blue smoke). This land has a wonderful, mysterious, magnetic pull. The lush vegetation, varied wildlife, and spectacular views have an appeal that attract the Smoky Mountain visitor.
For Norman and I, there’s even more than this that holds our hearts to these mountains. Our roots are planted deep in these mountains. My mother—whose maiden name is Shields—is a direct descendant of some of the very first settlers to this area. In 1784, Robert Shields moved his family of ten sons and one daughter from Virginia to the new frontier. He came to settle only a couple of miles from where our inn is today. He and his sons built a fort on Middle Creek at the foot of what is known as Shields Mountain.
Norman’s great-great grandparents were full-blooded Cherokee and had been planted firmly in these mountains long before land-grabbing intruders. Both sides of our families—parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents—were natives of this area. Several lived in mountain communities which were taken over when the national park was established.
Norman’s parents were both reared where the national park is now. Norman’s dad, a self-taught musician, played bluegrass and mountain music for a living. All of our parents were reared in this difficult and unique lifestyle which shaped them into people whose values, faith and fun-loving spirit stayed with them throughout life.
It’s really a wonderful feeling, knowing how we came to belong here. It also makes us feel very proud and, even though it’s a little selfish, I guess we feel as though these mountains are ours. Ours to share, of course. We also want to share our great appreciation of the natural beauty of the mountains and our love of the mountain heritage with all of our guests. We love this little spot God has given us and we want to share it and our heritage with as many people as possible.
—Sarah Shields Ball