The Puckett cabin at milepost 189.1 on the Blue Ridge Parkway is a tribute to the midwife Orlean Hawks Puckett. She had little education and married John Puckett at 16.
Puckett gave birth to and lost 24 children. Many were stillborn and the rest died in infancy. Many believe she symbolizes the strength of the Appalachian woman. Several theories exist today about why Orlean’s was unable to carry a pregnancy to term.
In 1889, when Orlean was in her 50s, a neighbor went into labor and no doctor could be found. This began her career as a midwife, and for the next 50 years, she traveled the Virginia countryside, never charging for her services. She was known for her compassion and skill. In more than 1,000 deliveries, she never lost a mother or a baby. Orlean delivered her last baby at age 94, and died in 1939. This cabin was her last home.
Orlean moved from her home in 1939 because of the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway. However, she died three short weeks afterward. A small cabin on her property was preserved by the National Park Service, and is known to be Puckett Cabin.
Continuing her legacy, the Orlean Hawks Puckett Institute, in Asheville, North Carolina, works to promote and strengthen child, parent, and family development.