10 Things You Don’t Already Know About the History of the Smoky Mountains

Historical mill at Cades Cove
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The history of the Great Smoky Mountains is what makes our national park so unique. It’s hard to believe it was once a struggle to acquire the land for the national park. Today, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park serves over 9 million visitors, making it the most visited national park in the country. Keep reading to learn more about the history of the Smoky Mountains:

1. Smoky Mountain history dates back long before the national park was established. Even though the national park was founded in 1934, the mountains themselves are between 200 to 300 million years old.View of the Great Smoky Mountains in the fall

(Very Popular: 13 Facts About the Smoky Mountains You Won’t Believe)

2. The idea to create a national park began in the late 1890s, but the motivation and ability to begin acting on the idea didn’t take place until the 1920s. The government wasn’t allowed to buy land for the national park, individuals, private groups and even school-aged kids had to help raise funds. When their fundraising wasn’t enough, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Fund donated $5 million. This guaranteed that the land would be able to be purchased.

Black and white picture of a tree in the Smoky Mountains3. At the time of purchase, the cost to acquire the land in the national park was approximately $12 million. Of course, today, the land is absolutely priceless!

4. The people who used to live in Cades Cove, and other areas of the mountains, practically had their own language. Check out 34 Appalachian Words You Didn’t Know Existed to learn all about the words and phrases they used!

5. In the mid-1800s, children would attend school for 2-4 months out of the year. It cost parents about $1 per student per month for their education. The funds would typically go toward paying the teacher. To see an old schoolhouse, you The Little Greenbrier School in the Great Smoky Mountainscan visit the Little Greenbrier School that is located near the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area.

6. Glaciers had a huge impact on the Great Smoky Mountains. Want to learn how? Check it out here: ‘Do You Know How Glaciers Affected the Smoky Mountains?

7. Many of the roadways, hiking trails and facilities in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC provided wages and work for young men during the Depression. Some of the men were volunteers, but those who were paid, were making approximately $1 per day’s work (this was a good wage for the time period). The CCC worked from 1933 to 1942, when World War II shut down the entire CCC program. To learn more about the CCC, and the culture and history of the Smoky Mountains, take a look at the National Park Service website at this link: http://home.nps.gov/grsm/historyculture/index.htm

Fog covering the Smoky Mountains on a misty morning8. The Smoky Mountains get their name from the blue, smokey fog that covers the mountaintops. The Cherokee referred to the mountains as ‘shaconage’ which means ‘place of blue smoke.’

9. Unlike a national forest, the national park’s resources, nature and beautiful historical sites will remain for an infinite number of years. The park is protected by law, so visitors can see the beauty and history of the Smoky Mountains forever.

10. On June 15, 2014, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park celebrated its 80th anniversary!

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