So many people love visiting Gatlinburg so they can take part in the wide array of outdoor activities available throughout the year. One of the most exciting and interesting outdoor activities is visiting historic Gatlinburg landmarks. It’s exciting to think that you can actually walk up to cabins and buildings from the early 19th century and see how well preserved they are. Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park alone is a veritable treasure trove of historic buildings, as the area is listed on the National Register of Historic places. Here are a few landmarks that you’ll want to be sure to see when you visit Gatlinburg.
John Ownby Cabin
Before you visit Cades Cove in the park, you can stop at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and stock up on local historical information. This community was once a thriving area, and you can see some traces of foundations of old buildings on the Sugarlands Nature Trail and the John Ownby Cabin. This cabin is one of only two buildings that are left from the original Sugarlands community. When you visit this and many others of the early cabins in the area you’ll notice how small they are. This informative historical article on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website mentions that many cabins were about 18′ x 20′ in size and housed several generations of a family.
Here are a few ‘can’t miss’ historical sites in the Cades Cove area that you can enjoy. If you are interested in learning more about Cades Cove and some of its other features such as its wildlife before you visit, please see our previous posts on bird watching and wildlife encounters to learn more.
The Little Greenbrier School
On the way to Cades Cove take a moment to view The Little Greenbrier School (the Sugarlands Visitor Center can direct you; it is located on a one lane gravel road, so it’s a good idea to park and walk up to the school house). This one room schoolhouse makes a particularly interesting place for kids to see what it was like going to school back in the 1800s. Back then, children had to help out on the farm throughout the year, so they’d be sent to school in the winter months. You can go into the building and see the benches where children sat to do their lessons nearly 200 years ago.
The National Park Service provides this extensive written description of The Little Greenbrier School based on a Historic National Buildings Survey in 1936 and a 1950 interview. One of the interesting facts mentioned in this chronicle is that in some years, a school term only lasted 6 weeks due to the children being needed to help out on the farms. A video of the school can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfvO2hLrAwI
John Oliver’s Cabin
Put this one on your list because it is Cades Cove’s first and oldest cabin. John and Lucretia Oliver were the first settlers in Cades Cove. You’ll find this cabin near the beginning of the Cades Cove Loop Road. Having fought in the war of 1812, John Oliver came to Cades Cove with his wife in approximately 1820. They braved that first year alone and nearly starved. Fortunately some friendly Cherokee provided food for them. The cabin was still owned by the Oliver family until 1934.
If you would like to see some excellent photographs of the John Oliver Cabin, this blog by betsyfromtennessee offers some great shots she took when she visited there in 2010. Note the gorgeous view from the cabin towards the mountains in one of the photos that she took.
This video that shows the inside of the cabin provides a good look at its fireplace, the sturdy wall construction and the loft area: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yb3WM3HvI1Y
John P. Cable Grist Mill
The only mill still standing in Cades Cove, the John P. Cable Grist Mill dates from 1868 and could grind wheat and corn into meal. It also milled lumber. There were several diversions built along Mill Creek and Forge Creek to get enough water to the mill to power it. Since many of the settlers in Cades Cove were farmers, they needed a place to bring their corn and wheat crops to be ground. This was one of the mills that was able to grind wheat and corn more finely than some of the other mills in the area. Farmers were charged a percentage of whatever was ground; some say it was 8-10%. The Cades Cove Preservation Association provides an extensive photo selection that shows the mill before and after its restoration.
The National Parks Service offers these photographs of the Cable homestead including the mill, smokehouse, barn and other buildings in the area:
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