|Throughout the 18th century, the Cherokee Indians used two main trails to cross the Smokies from North Carolina to Tennessee. One was the Indian Gap Trail, which connected the Rutherford Indian Trace in the Balsam Mountains to the Great Indian Warpath in modern-day Sevier County. The other was a lower trail that crested at Ekaneetlee Gap, just east of Gregory Bald. This trail traversed Cades Cove and Tuckaleechee Cove before proceeding along to Great Tellico and other Overhill towns along the Little Tennessee River. European traders were using these trails as early as 1740.
Cades Cove was named after a Tsiya'hi leader known as Chief Kade. A now-discredited theory suggested that the cove was named after chief Abraham of Chilhowee's wife, Kate. The Treaty of Calhoun (1819) ended all Cherokee claims to the Smokies.
John Oliver (1793 - 1863), a veteran of the War of 1812, and his wife Lucretia Frazier were the first permanent European settlers in Cades Cove. In 1821, a veteran of the American Revolution named William "Fighting Billy" Tipton bought up large tracts of land in Cades Cove which he then sold to his sons and relatives, and settlement began to boom. In the 1820s, Peter Cable, a Pennsylvania Dutch farmer, arrived in the cove and designed an elaborate system of dykes and sluices that helped drain the swampy lands in the western part of the cove. Robert Shields arrived in the cove in 1835, and would erect a tub mill on Forge Creek. His son, Frederick, built the cove's first grist mill. Other early settlers would build houses on the surrounding mountains, among them Russell Gregory , for whom Gregory Bald is named, and James Spence, for whom Spence Field is named.
Between 1820 and 1850, the population of Cades Cove grew to 671, with the size of cove farms averaging between 150 and 300 acres.The early cove residents, although relatively self-sufficient, were dependent upon nearby Tuckaleechee Cove (Townsend) for dry goods and other basic necessities. A post office was established in the cove in 1833. Cades Cove had phone service as early as the 1890s, when Dan Lawson and several neighbors built a phone line all the way to Maryville.
Preserved structures on the 11 mile loop drive include the homes of John Oliver, Carter Shields, Henry Whitehead and Dan Lawson, dotting the valley floor and representing a variety of building techniques. The Whitehead home is made from logs sawed square at a nearby mill. Dan Lawson's home features an unusual chimney made of brick fired on the spot. Other buildings include a smithy, smokehouses, corn cribs and a cantilevered barn.
Three of five original churches remain in Cades Cove today. The oldest among them is the Primitive Baptist Church, built in 1827. These churches and the surrounding cemeteries provide for fascinating insight into the lives and times of the 19th century. For instance, the Baptist church was forced to close during the height of the Civil War because of its Union sympathies. In the cemetery nearby, one headstone reads simply "Bas Shaw - Killed by Rebels."
Halfway along the loop stands the Cable Mill area. This area features the Cades Cove Visitors Center, the blacksmith shop, cantilever barn, smokehouse, Gregg-Cable house, the corn crib and the John Cable Mill (relatives of our friend Jenny Johnson). The mill is still working and visitors can stop in and sample or purchase corn mill and flour as our ancestors once did.
Cades Cove suffered from the effects of the Civil War for most of the rest of the 19th century. Only around 1900 did its population return to pre-war levels. The average farm was much less productive, however, and the cove residents were suspicious of any form of change. It wasn't until the Progressive Era (1890's to 1920's) that the cove recovered, economically.
Of all the Smoky Mountain communities, Cades Cove put up the most resistance to the formation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The cove residents were initially assured their land would not be incorporated into the park, and welcomed its formation. By 1927, the winds had changed and the long-time residents of Cades Cove were outraged. For about one-hundred years before the creation of the national park, much farming and logging was done in the valley as the main source of economic development for the peoples living in the cove. The park service demolished the more modern structures, leaving only the primitive cabins and barns which were considered most representative of pioneer life in early Appalachia. In its day, the cove was as well educated and progressive as any rural community in the area.
No words can fully describe the beauty of Cades Cove. This loop road perfectly combines cultural history with natural beauty. In fact, the 4,000-acre valley is often referred to as an open-air museum. It took us about 4 hours to drive this 11 mile loop today. It was extremely interesting & thought provoking as well.
We read these questions on the Cade's Cove website & they really hit home with us. What might it have been like to bump over this Smoky Mountain road in a wagon pulled by horses? What would it have been like to move to the Smokie's where the native inhabitants may be angry at your coming, lived a very different lifestyle, and spoke a different language? What would it be like to face the daunting task of clearing the land in hopes of creating a prosperous farm? The first step of clearing the land was done by girding the trees with an ax to kill the tree so enough sunlight would reach the forest floor in that first year to support a garden. Imagine then building a cabin, cooling food that would spoil in the cool springs or streams, hunting and fishing for food. Of course you would need to do that while as quickly as possible also planting a garden so you and your family would not starve over the first winter. What would it be like to tend and harvest the garden and preserve the yield and to know your families survival depended upon your success. Imagine slaughtering your own livestock if you were lucky enough to have it and preserving the meat for later consumption. Imagine chopping down the deadened trees to use for buildings and fences or to burn them into fertilizer. In short, image what was it like to be a Smoky Mountain pioneer. Yes indeed, imagine...
P. S. You might find the following links interesting, they contain plenty of information on the auto tour we took today, info on the pioneers involved, the wildlife in the area and Aunt Becky. Enjoy!