And the goats are fine, thanks

Posted by | October 2, 2017

The poet who penned “the fog comes in on little cats’ feet” moved to western North Carolina for the sake of the little goats’ feet. Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Sandburg and his wife Paula had lived for 17 years on Chicago’s foggy shores by Lake Michigan, but left it all behind in 1945. Flat Rock, NC, twenty-four miles south of Asheville, offered greener pastures and a longer browsing season for their Chikaming goat herd.

The Sandburgs paid $45,000 for 248 acres of land, a three-story, 22 room main house of over 9,000 square feet on a hill fronted by green pastures with various lakes, a barn complex and several outbuildings. Plenty of room for them, their three daughters, two grandchildren, their library of more than 10,000 volumes, and the goat farm operation. The hill approaching the house is steep and the climb ascends 100 feet over a third of a mile. Sandburg believed they had bought a “village” and Mrs. Sandburg a “million acres of sky.”

Lilian Sandburg at Connemara, Carl and Lilian Sandburg homePhoto caption reads: “Carl Sandburg spends most of his time writing, and his wife, Lilian Paula Sandburg, most of hers with her goats. She is shown here with her grandson, Joe Carol Thoman.”

The name of home they purchased, Connemara, is Irish, meaning of the sea. Connemara is a region in the country of Ireland located on the northwest coast in the county of Galway, bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The home was built in 1838 as a summer home by Christopher Gustavus Memminger of Charleston, SC, who later served as the secretary of the treasury for the Confederacy. After his death the property passed to the Gregg family and then to textile tycoon Capt. Ellison Smyth, also of Charleston, who named it Connemara in honor of his Irish heritage. The Sandburgs bought the estate from Smyth’s descendants and kept the name.

The Asheville area was familiar to Mrs. Sandburg because her brother, photographer Edward Steichen, had spent time there and recommended it as a place to investigate.

Sandburg died on July 22, 1967 at the age of 89. His wife followed ten years later. Both of their remains were cremated and their ashes buried at Carl Sandburg’s birthplace in Galesburg, Illinois beneath a large boulder named after Carl Sandburg’s first and only novel, Remembrance Rock. Connemara, meantime, was sold to the government and is now maintained as a National Historic Site by the U.S. Park Service.


Carl+Sandburg Connemara Flat+Rock+NC Asheville+NC +appalachia appalachian+culture appalachian+history history+of+appalachia Appalachia+history

4 Responses

  • Marc Bentley says:

    I had no idea Carl Sandburg had a home in North Carolina! I’ll have to make a trip down there while I’m studying in Boone.

  • Glenda Beall says:

    We made a visit to Connemara several years ago and stayed almost all day. While I toured the house with a wonderful guide, my husband enjoyed the goat farm. We met a lovely young volunteer named Tuesday, who was amazingly astute about the goat herd and their history. She seemed to adore the goats, hugging them and petting them.
    I would recommend to anyone a visit to Connemara. I learned so much that day and enjoyed the staff and the volunteers. My husband made lots of great photos.
    Thanks for sharing this information on your blog.

  • John Morris says:

    I just Googled capt. Ellison Smyth who turns out to have been a major force in the early southern textile industry.

    Probably very worthy of a post on here.

  • Barbara Van Straten says:

    I was visiting my cousin in nearby Hendersonville and we stopped at Connemara last week. I wasn’t familiar with the Carl Sandburg story, but now I will be a fan. I love books as much as he did and bought his story. I was so impressed with their love for each other and their family. I especially loved the goats!
    Winter will go faster now, I have a good book to read.

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