Skip to main content

Kelly E. Bennett papers

Identifier: AC-461

Scope and Contents note

This collection spans Dr. Kelly Bennett's adult life as a civic leader, pharmacist, photographer, and an elected official. It includes many letters to and from prominent political leaders, businessmen, and local people, such as those who helped find his lost hunting dogs in 1940. Some genealogical information on the Bennett family is present, and many, many photographs he took of western North Carolina scenery and people.

The oversize materials are housed in three boxes -- Box 20 is primarily business-related brochures, maps & newsletters; Box 21 contains personal letters/mementos; Box 22 is a glass-plate picture of Dr. Kelly Bennett.


  • 1912-1974, undated


Conditions Governing Access

The materials from Appalachian State University Libraries' Special Collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. The nature of these collections means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. As a result, the user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Conditions Governing Use

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Appalachian State University assumes no responsibility.

Biographical/Historical note

Kelly Bennett (1890-1974) was an active civic leader in the Great Smoky Mountains during the mid-Twentieth Century. With his friend author Horace Kephart, Bennett was a major force behind the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Bennett was born to Dr. Aurelious McDonald Bennett (1861-1941) and Mary Charlotte Hyatt Bennett (1866-1940). He, his father, and his daughter Mary Alice Bennett Greyer were registered pharmicists and his paternal grandfather administered first aid. After obtaining his bachelor's degree and his Ph.G.P. from the University of North Carolina, Bennett returned to Bryson City to work at the Bryson City Drug Store, at which his father had worked since 1903. Due to his profession, he was nicknamed "Doc Kelly." In 1913, he married Ola Tela Zachary (1890-1983), a descendant of Jackson County's earliest settlers and raised their daughters, Mary Alice, Gwendolyn Marie, and Jean Zachary Swan (1921-1997).

By the 1910s, Bennett delved into politics. Bennett served as the mayor of Bryson City during the 1920s and then again from 1947 to 1955 for a total of fourteen years. He served on the Swain County Board of Education for twenty years as well as the Swain County Democratic Chairperson for three years, state senator for five terms and state representative for two terms.

Bennett's civic work centered on the economic and environmental development of western North Carolina. He co-founded the Cherokee Historical Association, Inc. as well as served as its trustee and treasurer during the 1950s and 1960s. He was heavily involved in the North Carolina National Park, Parkway and Forests Development Commission since its 1947 formation and in the Western North Carolina Associated Communities from its establishment in 1947. He also worked with the Tennessee Valley Authority in the 1950s and 1960s and the Western North Carolina Tourist Association in the 1950s. He served in leadership capacities in many other organizations, such as the Rotary Club and Swain County Chamber of Commerce. After his death in 1974, a peak north of his home town of Bryson City was named "Kelly Bennett Peak" in his honor.

Chronology List

Early 1880s
Rev. Drayton Canario Smith, of Franklin, North Caroilna, advocated establishing a national park in the southern Appalachian Mountains
29 October 1885
Dr. Henry O. Marcy, of Boston, Massachusetts, read a paper to the American Academy of Medicine stating the government should secure land in Western North Carolina
19 December 1899
"Memorial to the Congress of the United States from the Appalachian National Park Association adopted December 19, 1899" submitted to the U.S. Congress
6 March 1899
Good Roads Association of Asheville and Buncombe County organized
7 October 1899
Asheville Board of Trade adopted a petition calling for the establishment of a Southern National Park
23 November 1899
Appalachian National Park Association was officially organized
2 January 1900
"Memorial of the Appalachian National Park Association" was referred to the Committee of Agriculture
21 April 1900
Senator Jeter Pritchard of Madison County, North Carolina introduced a bill to fund a preliminary investigation. It became law on 26 April 1900
Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia passed bills to give the federal government the right to acquire lands for a forest reserve and exempt it from taxation
House Speaker David Henson obstructed any measures for a national park or reserve
1 March 1911
The National Forest Reserve Commission was established and the Weeks Law, which permitted the government to purchase forest lands from individuals, passed
First tract of land purchased in Curtis Creek, near Old Fort, North Carolina
The National Park Service and the National Parks Association were established
The second movement to establish a national park begins
The National Park Service appointed the Southern Appalachian National Park Committee to investigate potential sites
22 May 1926
Congress passed a bill to establish national parks in the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (Shenandoah National Park)
2 September 1940
President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Great Smoky Mountains National Park


11.25 Linear Feet (18 boxes, 1 half-sized manuscript box, 1 small archival box, 2 oversize boxes)

Language of Materials



Kelly Bennett (1890-1974) was an active civic leader in the Great Smoky Mountains during the mid-Twentieth Century. He served as a local and state elected official for Swain County as well as many civic organizations such as the Cherokee Historical Association, Inc. and the Western North Carolina Associated Communities. The Kelly Bennett Papers consist of personal correspondence and interests, as well as Bennett's work with various organization dedicated to the development of the parks and roadways of western North Carolina and the Cherokee Historical Association.

Collection Arrangement

The Kelly Bennett Papers were originally arranged by subject. Upon processing, files are divided into series and subseries, alphabetized within each series with folders arranged in reverse chronological order. The oversize materials are housed in three boxes -- Box 20 is primarily business-related brochures, maps & newsletters; Box 21 contains personal letters/mementos; Box 22 is a glass-plate picture of Dr. Kelly Bennett.

Acquisitions Information

The W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection purchased this collection from L & T Respess Books in Winter 2002. Its accession number is 02-53. Its Collection number is AC. 461.

Related Material

Collection 426. A. Chase Ambler Collection of Books, W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection, Special Collections, Belk Library and Information Commons, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina.

Separated Materials

Several color photos were moved to cold storage in 2012, with notes attached to the accompanying correspondence as to their location. Several photos were supposedly moved to cold storage in 2003 but so far, have not been found.

Processing Information

Processed by Kathy Staley, not completed

Encoded by Kathy Staley, not completed

Re-processed by Anita Elliott, October 2012.

This collection was processed as part of a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The grant funded extensive processing of the backlog within the W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection between 2012 and 2014.

Kelly Bennett papers
Processed by Anita Elliott
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Description is in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository