A Piece of Smoky Mountain History: 5 Buildings You Need to Explore
One of the best ways to learn about the history of the Smoky Mountains is by exploring some of the historic buildings that have been in the area for as long as two centuries! Many of the hiking trails in the Smokies offer different structures that you can tour, including old cabins, churches, schoolhouses, and more. Here are 5 buildings that you need to explore that hold a piece of Smoky Mountain history:
1. John Oliver Cabin
As you begin your journey of studying the history of the mountains, a great place to start is the John Oliver Cabin. The cabin was once the home of John and Lucretia Oliver, who were the first permanent European settlers in Cades Cove. When they moved to the area in the 1820s, the only road was a primitive trail and there was not a working grist mill. This means that the Olivers had to beat corn into cornmeal using only a mortar and pestle. There have been stories passed down that stated that at one time, Lucretia feared that she was going to starve to death. Today, you can tour the John Oliver Cabin in Cades Cove which is held together using gravity and notched corners, meaning you won’t find a single peg or nail in the foundation.
2. Little Greenbrier School
Just like children do now, many young residents that lived in the Smokies went to school. While many kids were originally homeschooled, residents finally showed interest in children having a teacher. Eventually, the Little Greenbrier School was built in 1882 with the help of John Walker, the father of the aforementioned Walker Sisters. The building operated as a schoolhouse, as well as a church building for local residents, until 1936. The Primitive Baptist Church used the building to hold a number of services, and they also ran the cemetery that was nearby. If you are interested in taking a step back in time, you can still visit the school in the Metcalf Bottoms area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
3. Walker Sisters Place
For one of the most interesting stories in Smoky Mountain history, look no further than the Walker Sisters. They spent the majority of their lives in a cabin in Little Greenbrier Cove that was built by their grandfather in the 1840s. The seven sisters spent some time all living together before one of them got married and moved away. The remaining sisters took off over the responsibilities on the farm, which included raising livestock, growing vegetables, and making their own clothes. When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was dedicated in 1940, five sisters remained in the cabin. The park tried to force the sisters out of their family home, but they put up a fight for many years. Finally, a deal was made that gave them permission to continue living in the cabin for the rest of their lives!
4. Cades Cove Churches
If you have made the drive through Cades Cove, you have probably noticed the church buildings that sit off to the side. Along the scenic loop, you will come to three buildings that each hold their own piece of Smoky Mountain history. The Primitive Baptist Church gave local residents a closer place of worship, as before they were having to travel a long distance every week. In the early 1900s, the Methodist Church was built nearly 80 years after Methodists became active in Cades Cove. An interesting fact about this church is that it took 115 days to build and only cost a total of $115! In 1894, the Missionary Baptist Church made its debut in the cove, and it grew so fast that another building had to be built in 1915, which is the building you can still see today!
5. Dan Lawson Cabin
Also located in Cades Cove, the Dan Lawson Place is made up of a barn, a smokehouse, and a granary. The cabin was constructed in 1856 after Lawson purchased the property from his father-in-law, Peter Cable. Because the cabin was constructed before powered sawmills, it was made from hand-cut logs and a unique brick chimney that was not a common feature of homes built during this time. In addition to becoming well-known for his craftsmanship, Lawson led the singing at the Methodist Church while his wife Sidney helped to educate the children in the community. You can tour the famous cabin today and take in the history of the historic family.
Now that you know about some of the historic buildings in the Smokies, learn more about things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! We look forward to seeing you soon in the Smoky Mountains!