Cades Cove History

Cades Cove is the most popular destination in the most visited national park in the country, the Great Smoky Mountains. The valley was home to many settlers before the national park was established, and native Cherokees before that. Today it is attracts more than 2 million visitors per year and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

History Of Cades Cove

According to archeological evidence, people lived in Cades Cove as early as 6500 BC. They valley's deep and fertile soil comes from millions of years of limestone erosion, and the surrounding mountains (made of more weather-resistant formations) created an isolated area that was an attractive place for early farmers. Today you can still see some of their homesteads.

Cades Cove

Original Settlers

Likely prior to 1797, Cades Cove was home to the Cherokee people. They called it Tsiyahi (meaning "place of the river otter"), and it's possible that it was little more than a hunting camp village. The current name of the valley comes from a Cherokee leader known as Chief Kade.

Cades Cove Facts
John Oliver's cabin in Cades Cove

European Settlers

The first permanent European settlers in the cove were John Oliver and Lurena Frazier in 1818. They struggled through the winters and survived on dried pumpkin seeds generously given to them by the local Cherokees. Years later, the settlement began to boom after William "Fighting Billy" Tipton bought large tracts of land and sold it to his relatives. In the 1820s more settlers came and built elaborate drainage systems, water mills, metal tools and many settlements.

Cades Cove History

The Population Grows

As more Europeans settled in the Cades Cove valley and created a self-sustaining community, the population grew to hundreds. A post office was established in 1833 and a mail route by 1839. The settlers built more homes, barns, churches, schoolhouses and more as the population grew. Farmlands averaged between 150-300 acres. The area had telephone service by the 1890s. Pioneers bought things from Maryville such as medicine and remedies such as camphorated oil, catnip tea, castor oil, or epsom salts.

As time went by, general stores such as the Giles Gregory store sprang up in Cades Cove where medicine, seeds, sugar, kerosene, yard goods and hardware supplies. Products could be purchased with money or by trading products such as eggs.

Still, the larger town of Maryville had a more appealing selection and so the trips from the Cades Cove continued. If on a trip to Maryville, the family was selling rather than buying, chances are they were selling chestnuts which grew in abundance in Cades Cove. Unfortunately disease eventually killed the majestic chestnut groves.

Cades Cove History

Cades Cove Purchased By The National Park Service

In 1927, the states of Tennessee and North Carolina were well underway in purchasing land that would eventually become the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was at this time that they purchased the land north of Cades Cove. The National Park Service worked with residents to purchase their land for the park and were for the most part widely successful.

Some residents were not eager to sell their land to the National Park Service. Several went to court to fight for their land, while others signed life-leases that gave them the right to live on the property for the rest of their lives. This lease gave residents less money for their land and placed them under rules and restrictions set by the NPS. In the 1940s, the community in Cades Cove had largely dispersed or passed away. Functioning buildings like schools and post offices closed. Beginning in 1945, the National Park Service gave Cades Cove a "historical area" designation and began restoring the area.

The Cove has been preserved by the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to look much the way it looked in the 1800's. Today, the Cove is the largest open air museum in the entire Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Cades Cove still has original pioneer homesteads, barns, businesses, pasture and farmland that serves as a fitting tribute to the hearty people who lived here in the days of yesteryear.

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