One of the earliest champions of the GSMNP, Horace Sowers Kephart was born in Pennsylvania in 1862. He lived in Iowa for a time and trained at several universities to be a librarian and scholar. As a 23-year-old, he lived and worked in Florence, Italy and had occasion to take walking trips in the Alps and the Apennines, acquainting him with the delights of the high country. He returned to resume his career as a librarian, this time at Yale, married, and started a family.
He moved to St. Louis where he compiled an excellent collection on American frontier history and awakened his own yearnings for adventure. He began to more spend time camping in the Ozarks and less time with his family and his job.
He determined that his life's work lay in a return to nature, and so he left his job and family forever. He moved to the remote southern flank of the Smokies in 1903, where he lived in a cabin along Hazel Creek and began his studies of the Smokies and their flora, fauna, and human inhabitants. He earned his living writing articles on outdoor life for major magazines and classic books including Camping and Woodcraft and Our Southern Highlanders.
By the mid-1920s, he had become an avid proponent of the creation of a national park in the mountains and was often visited at his boarding house in Bryson City by those seeking to learn more about the Smokies.
Although he died in an auto accident at 68, nine years before the park was dedicated, his name was given to one of the prominent peaks in the Smokies and a stream that arises on its slopes. His memorabilia and papers are housed at Western Carolina University in Sylva and the Pack Memorial Library in Asheville.