The father of woodcraft in America, Horace Kephart, described the inhabitants of the Southern Appalachian chain, as the “most independent race on earth.” (527) One shining example of that very ideal is Quill Rose. He was a blockader, Confederate, fiddle player, farmer, logger, storyteller, hunter, blacksmith and freedomista writ large.
Aquilla Liam Rose, was born in 1841, on Anthony Creek at Cades Cove, Blount County, Tennessee. Quill was a picturesque 19th century mountaineer. Tall for the time at 6’1”, he sported a beard and was said to always have a rifle. In 1857, Quill married Lavisa Hyde who was half Cherokee and daughter of Qua-nee-gar-na-gar (otherwise known as Ben Hyde) from the North Carolina side of the Smoky’s. He affectionately referred to her as “Aunt Vicey.”
During the conflict of 1861-1865, he enlisted in the Confederate Army at Franklin, Macon County, North Carolina. He was a Private in Levi’s Battery Light Artillery, in the very unique Thomas Legion of Highlanders and Cherokee, which would be called the 69th North Carolina during a foray to the Virginia Valley later in the war. The Legion was composed local mountain people and approximately 400 outlaw Cherokee who resisted and evaded the slave patrols of Andrew Jackson on the Trail of Tears.
After the war, Quill returned to his normal life. He took up the art of illicit liquor making. The federal government had recently imposed another tax on distilled spirits in order to pay for the subjugation of the several southern states that attempted to CS-Exit from the Glorious Union. Quill was also a very active and legendary hunter.
Shortly after he returned home from the war, he was reported to have been on moonshine business on his way to Charleston, North Carolina, which is now present-day Bryson City, North Carolina. He got into an altercation with a man named Rhodes. After Rhodes threw verbal blows at Rose, he shot Quill through the body. Before Quill fell from the wound he managed to draw his knife and stab Rhodes. Quill lived, Rhodes bled out.
Though a fairly clear-cut case of self-defense, but given his natural aversion to government justice and his involvement in illicit liquor distillation, Quill fled to Texas for a few years until things cooled off. Rose returned to North Carolina. Quill had allegedly killed 2 other men in his time that aggressed upon him and escaped trial on all counts. The Quill Rose legend began to build.
Quill and his wife had decided to retreat even further into the mountains. This action was no different than the peoples of the geographic area known as Zomia, in the hills of south east Asia which James C Scott has written so eloquently about. The retreat to remote and inaccessible areas or “Non-State Space” is a form of escapism from the State. Historically governments have had trouble establishing and maintaining authority in challenging terrain, whether it was mountains or swamps. Add in a freedom culture and particularly one with self-defense as a chief plank, you end up with a pretty good recipe for maintaining at least some level of freedom even in a statist world. Quill made his home at the head of Eagle Creek, a very remote section of the Smoky Mountains on the Tennessee line, an area that Horace Kephart termed the “Back of Beyond.”