Thirty-four 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, fell in love with the idea. The 60-acre farm where she had grown up would make a perfect location. Soon the idea turned into a passion and she quit her job. Norman, an educator himself, was also an architectural draftsman who drew the plans for the Victorian-style farmhouse to sit on top of a hill overlooking the rolling hills and mountains. The inn opened in July 1987 and was already becoming a family business with the involvement of Norman and Sarah’s daughter, who was in college, and their fifteen-year-old and five-year-old sons.
Through the years there have been so many changes, interesting experiences, and wonderful guests (many becoming friends). Years later, Jason, who was 5, is now the office manager and has seven kids. Eric, who was 15, is the kitchen manager and wonderful cook and has two kids. Misty, who was in college earning a degree in graphic design, developed our first brochure, website, and many marketing ads, now lives in Charlotte, NC raising six kids, homeschooling, and creates the Inn paintings we sell.
In addition to these family members, the staff feels like an extended family and some have become family! Kolette is our assistant and helps with all day-to-day operations, with guest relations, reservations, and group retreats. She is now married to Jason and they have seven children together. Sara, has been working with us since very early on and is an expert at keeping Blue Mountain Mist washed and polished. Robin is in charge of all the gardens and green things on our property ensuring that the grounds are full of life and beautiful to walk through. SarahAnna, our granddaughter, now lives on the farm and works at the Inn, in the painting and room remodels department.
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 attracts 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 and would love you to be our guest!
—Sarah Shields Ball