Cades Cove: History in the Smoky Mountains National Park
All of the more than 500,000 acres of land in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were once privately owned. A considerable portion of it was cleared and some of it cultivated. Now, as one of our country's national parks, it belongs to all the people of our country. The park land is now being managed in accordance with the National Park Service policy of preserving all natural features in their original condition and making them available for the enjoyment of the people. Land once cleared for farming or lumbering is rapidly returning to its original thickly forested condition. The visible reminders of the former use of the land and its forests are slowly disappearing. The old abandoned fields the moldering cabins barns and mills are being invaded by the quickly encroaching forest. Cades Cove is the one large exception to this situation. In Cades Cove today farmers are still raising cattle and hay and grain. Some of the log cabins, barns, and other structures were rehabilitated and these are being prepared with constant repair and maintenance. The pioneer scene is being preserved as a historic exhibit.
Here there survived a manner of living which has disappeared almost everywhere else in the United States-the pioneer way of life. That is what Cades Cove represents with its pastures and fields its old mill and its cabins barns and other structures-a persistent pioneer community now being preserved as a historic exhibit.
Development of Cades Cove in this manner was begun in the early 1930's. The general scene is maintained by farming accomplished by special use permits for agricultural activities conforming to the National Park Service objectives.
Before the first white settler arrived on the scene, Cades Cove had been a part of the Cherokee Indians' domain. Abrams Creek and Abrams Falls are features named for a prominent Cherokee chief named "Old Abram" who at one time lived in a village at Chilhowee on the Little Tennessee River. According to tradition, Old Abram's wife was named Kate, and Cades (Kate's) Cove was named after her.
An old Indian trace leading from the west prong of the Little Pigeon River at Wear's first settlement, up Walden Creek, Cove Creek, Wear Cove, Brickey Valley to Tuckaleechee Cove, then across Rich's Gap into Cades Cove, was later used by early traders and white settlers. From Rich's Gap the earliest road crossed Cades Cove on what is now called Hyatt Lane.
The first grant relating to land in Cades Cove was one of 5,000 acres made by the State of North Carolina to Hugh Dunlap in 1794. The grant was mislaid and the record of it lost from the secretary's office. Dunlap later petitioned the state of Tennessee for a re-issue and obtained a new grant in 1809. There was at least one other grant of Cades Cove land in the 1790's. Actually, the region was not legally open for entry until the Cherokee Indian treaty of 1819, but white people had been living here long before that time. The first permanent white settler was John Oliver who established residence in 1818.
In 1821 William Tipton acquired 640 acres, a tract which had been granted to William Crowson by the State of North Carolina in 1796. Subsequently, William Tipton owned over 3,000 acres in the Cove and on the surrounding mountain sides.
Other settlers rapidly came in. The entire area was cleared of its forest and planted in crops, pastures, and orchards. Some of these pioneers became dissatisfied from being hemmed in by the surrounding mountains and joined in a general migration into Georgia in the early 1830's when the Indian lands there became available to white settlers. The vacated home sites were mostly reoccupied by people who came across the mountains from North Carolina.
In common with certain other Southern Appalachian communities, Cades Cove was isolated by the ruggedness of surrounding mountains. Three days were required for a horseback trip to the nearest town, Maryville, and back. A pioneer way of life characterized by self-sufficiency prevailed for three or four generations as a result of the severe isolation.
Agriculture was the main occupation of the people and corn was the chief crop. In 1825 corn was worth only 6.25 cents per bushel. Since it was impossible and unprofitable to haul grain over the poor mountain roads, it was fed to livestock which could then be driven to the markets. Much of the land was put in grass for pasture and hay. Spence Field, Thunderhead Peak, Gregory Bald and other "grassy balds" on the crest of the Smokies above the valley were used as pastures for livestock during the late spring and summer. Cattle herding in the high Smokies was a profession followed by a number of Cades Cove people.
Some of the names prominent in the local history were the following: Dunlap, Crowson, Smith, Oliver, Tipton, Cable, Foute, Sparks, Gregory, LeQuire, Shields, Whitehead, Burchfield, Davis, and Myers.
Schools were maintained in the cove from 1825 until the late 1940's. The first church to be organized was the Primitive Baptist, built in 1827 on the site of the present church building. The Cades Cove Methodist Church was built in 1830. Other churches were established at later dates.
Even though the Great Smoky Mountains in TN were originally called the Great Iron Mountains, very little iron ore is found in the range. However, even small amounts of useable iron ore were valuable in isolated areas. Daniel D. Foute bought up large land holdings in Cades Cove during the 1820's and later, for the purpose of establishing forges. He was forced to sell much of his land but still owned more than 20,000 acres in the Cove and vicinity at the time of his death. One of his forges was built around 1826 on Forge Creek near the John P. Cable Mill.
Foremost on the meager list' of items in the mountain people's restricted diet was corn meal. Prepared in various ways it was literally indispensable, and mills for grinding corn were essential. Small "tub" mills were built on many streams. At occasional points large mills developed, such as the John P. Cable Mill.
Although the people living in Cades Cove were extremely isolated in that they did practically no traveling out of the area they were not without contact with the outside. As early as 1832 a mail route was operating from Sevierville to Wears Cove, Tuckaleechee Cove, Millers Cove, Cades Cove, Carsons Iron Works, and Chilhowee. The round trip was made once every week. Soon thereafter deliveries were increased to twice a week with carriers meeting at Tuckaleechee, near Townsend, Tenn. Other ties with the outside world came about through visits to the stores in Maryville and elsewhere in TN, the itinerant preachers and tradesmen, school teachers, and the livestock drives across the mountains. Later on, lumbering activities brought the people into closer touch with outside communities, and around 1920 the development of automobile roads started the complete breakdown of the barriers that had imposed the long period of isolated pioneer conditions upon the mountain people.