Uncle Lem's Story
Uncel Lem Ownby was the last lifetime leaseholder to reside in the Smoky Mountains. Lem passed away in the early eighties and has never been commemorated by the Park, and so brothers Lee and Kevin Hill have decided to build the identity of their store around their great great uncle’s persona. Uncle Lem lived his entire life in Elkmont keeping bees and living off the land.
Lem became famous for the tales of his simple wisdom and indifference to politicians and Supreme Court Justices who trod up Jake’s Creek to meet the mountain sage. Living most of his life blind, Lem became one with his mountain landscape attributing this as the secret to his almost 95 years of vibrant living. Once when asked what he credited his longevity and vitality to, Lem responded, “I lay it up to the honey.”
When Lem passed away to the surprise of many he donated his entire life savings to support underprivileged children at the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home. What surprised so many was not Lem’s generosity but the size of the contribution that has grown to be a fund currently over $70,000. Years of simple living and selling honey to hikers translated into a blessing for the children Lem and his wife Mimmie were never able to have for themselves.