Smoky Mountains History
Experience the Rich History of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
It's the most visited National Park in the United States. It's so big that scientists are still discovering some of the plant and animal species that live there. The park is home to more than 1,500 bears, so keep your eyes open when hiking the Smoky Mountain trails. Nothing beats seeing a bear in the park, and there are plenty of other breathtaking sights here in the Smoky Mountains, including waterfalls, winding valleys and century-old architecture.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee Historical Sites
Who were some of the first settlers in the region? What did the first Smoky Mountain cabins look like? What was it like to go to school in 1800s Appalachia? Learn all there is to know about Gatlinburg and the Smokies at these eastern Tennessee historical sites. History and culture lessons abound in the old homesteads, mills and schoolhouses that remain in the Smoky Mountains.
Read on for more about the Gatlinburg, Tennessee historical sites that provide a window into the past for Smoky Mountain visitors.
John Oliver's Cabin
Cades Cove's first and oldest cabin
John and Lucretia Oliver were the first settlers in Cades Cove, and they almost didn’t make it through the first winter. They ate dried pumpkin given to them by the Cherokee and ground their corn into meal with a mortar and pestle… and they survived. Take a short walk off the main loop at Cades Cove, and visit one of the oldest structures in the Smokies. It still stands where they built it, held together without pegs or nails. It remains erect by gravity, and anchored by the spirit of the mighty will of two hardy settlers.
Noah "Bud" Ogle Homestead
Who says they didn't have plumbing?
If you take a drive along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail or are hiking to Rainbow Falls, stop here first. The cabin, barn and working tub mill have all been restored and preserved. One look at the Ogles’ handcrafted wooden flume plumbing system will make you think twice before you complain about the water pressure in your home shower ever again. The tub mill is one the few remaining in existence. It still grinds away, powered by water diverted from nearby LeConte Creek.
The Little Greenbrier School
They really did walk nine miles to school in the snow.
On your way from Gatlinburg to Cades Cove, stop here and take a trip back to school in the 1800s. Families sent their kids here for more than 50 years, mostly in winter when there was less farming to be done.
Greenbrier is now a ghost town, and there’s a cemetery across the street. This classic one-room schoolhouse also served as a Primitive Baptist Church. Behave when you visit, or you’ll have to sit in the corner.
John Cable's Mill and Mingus Mill
The daily grind in the late 1800s
There are still four working mills in the Smokies. Two are little tub mills, like the one at Noah “Bud” Ogle’s homestead. John Cable’s mill, a classic, waterwheel-powered mill, is a must-see during a day trip to Cades Cove. Mingus mill, a half-mile from the Ocanaluftee Visitor Center, uses a turbine. It was built under contract in just three months and completed in 1886. At the time, it was the largest mill in the Smokies, and you can still buy cornmeal there.
A great first stop on your way into the Park
Just two miles from Gatlinburg, the Sugarland Visitor Center is next to Park Headquarters. The Visitor Center features tons of information, exhibits and books. Forget your hat? Grab an official Smokies ballcap, pick up a map, and take a stroll on the Sugarlands Nature Trail to the John Ownby cabin, one of only two structures remaining from the original Sugarlands community.