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.
Before 1819, Cades Cove belonged to the Cherokee Nation and the Cherokee called it Tsiyahi, “place of the river otter”. At this time, river otters, elk, and eastern bison, since removed, lived in the Cove. As the Cherokee were exposed to European traditions, they made efforts to include them in their own culture. Log and frame houses soon appeared and Cherokee children attended schools. By 1820 a written language was established and in 1830 a census showed that slaves were actually working for the Cherokee!
Andrew Jackson’s Presidency led to the “Trail of Tears”, the removal of American Indians from their lands east of the Mississippi River. More than 14,000 Cherokees left the Southern Appalachians in 1838 with over 4,000 of these dying before reaching Oklahoma. Some Cherokee chose to hide in the Smokies in order to avoid removal. The Eastern Band of Cherokee reclaimed some of their lands in the 1870s. Today this is the Qualla Boundary in western North Carolina.
By 1850, the Cades Cove settler population had reached 685, but as Americans moved westward, this number shrank. The Civil War, new logging industry, and factory jobs in Maryville, TN all continued to encourage Cades Cove residents to move away. When the park was created, most lands were purchased and only those with leases were allowed to remain until these agreements terminated. The last resident, Kermit Caughron, died in 1999, thus ending the period of settlement in Cades Cove.
History Of The Cove
Cades Cove was once a remote place in the Great Smoky Mountains. It was once known as "Kate's Cove" after an Indian chief's wife. The Cove drew the Cherokee Nation in again and again with it's abundant wildlife and good hunting. Beginning in the 1820's, Europeans settled in the Cades Cove valley and created a self-sustaining community. The settlers built homes, barns, churches, schoolhouses and more as the population grew.
The land was rich and fertile, creating the perfect environment for farming and growing crops. Though the Cove was generally a self sustaining community, 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 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.