During the years when people actually called Cades Cove home, before its designation as a national park, no person was more revered or needed than the blacksmith. Some say, in those days, a blacksmith was as important if not more so than a doctor.
In those days, horses were THE mode of transportation, and in some cases powered farming equipment. A blacksmith’s abilities were needed at some point or another by every farmer in the Smokies. When James V. Cable, son of John P. Cable, inherited his father’s mill and farm, he took it upon himself to teach himself the trade of a blacksmith. Maybe it was the numerous people who brought him grain and logs to be milled that planted the idea in his head. Grains and logs were milled by way of wagons drawn by horses and mules. Each required horseshoes. At the same time as the grains and logs were being milled, most customers wanted their animals shod. It was way more convenient than traveling somewhere else. The metal shoes worn by mules and horses, on average, needed pulled and reset every 8 or so weeks. Blacksmiths were in constant need to carry our these tasks.
In order to do this, blacksmith cut the nail ends off and then pulled the shoes right off the mule or horse. The hoofs were then trimmed down like fingernails. Finally, the old shoes could either be reset or brand new shoes could be made and re-shod. The process called for the metal to be heated until it was bright hot and molded into a horseshoe.
But it wasn’t just horses that needed such things as new shoes, blacksmiths in the Smokies crafted metal to be used in the home, on the farm and in the light power industry. The list of items made by blacksmiths could fill up page after page. Things like adzes, axes, hinges, bolts, plows, nails, hammers, chains, hoes, bits, broadaxes, hooks, kitchen knives and drawknives. Cades Cove blacksmiths were certainly welcome and well respected for their skills and paid in everything from labor to crops to cash money.
Today, the James Cable’s Cades Cove blacksmith shop still stands and is a monument to a profession that had as much to do with the lives of those early Cades Cove settlers as any crop or natural resource produced in the area.