Cades Cove’s Henry Whitehead Place

Cades Cove’s Henry Whitehead Place is located near the Chestnut Flats part of the cove. Constructed between 1895-1896, the cabin was built by Matilda “Aunt Tildy” Shields and her second husband, Henry Whitehead.

Matilda and her young son were abandoned by her husband. Though rare, it did happen in those days, even in Cades Cove. It was Matilda’s brothers who took it upon themselves to build a small cabin for her in the aftermath. Also included were a fireplace and chimney. So as you can see, it wasn’t an overnight job, it took some time. But as it were, it had to be built quick and its logs reflect the rough-hewn style – made with a felling axe, the stone chimney made of rubble.

In the coming years though, fortune would shine its light again on Matilda when she met the widower Henry Whitehead and re-married. It was Whitehead who built her one of the nicest log homes in Cades Cove, replacing the one her brothers had built. It was so nice for the time that it had a brick chimney, unheard of in Cades Cove then. Bricks had to be made by the individual in those days and were considered quite the luxury. To do this, settlers took a clump of clay soil, dug it out and then filled the hole with water. The surrounding clay soil was then scrapped and stirred with a hoe until thick and smooth. Then the wet clay was put into molds where the bricks were dried. Afterwards the bricks were fired to make them durable.

Aa for the rest of the Whitehead’s cabin, it was constructed of square shaped logs that were smoothly finished, at least the portion facing the inside of the cabin. The cabin looked a lot like the frame homes which were soon to become fashionable when the first sawmills came to Cades Cove. That’s how nice it was for its time.

The cabin could also really hold in the warmth as square logs were well insulated due to each log’s four inch width. There was virtually no space between the logs either. The Henry and Matilda Whitehead place is the only square-sawed log home to remain in Cades Cove as well as the only one left in the entire Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It is considered a transition house from the early Cades Cove cabins to the modern frame homes that later were popular in Cades Cove.

Cades Cove’s Primitive Baptist Church

When the first settlers of Cades Cove staked their claim they were optimistic that this area would help nurture and provide for their families, both physically and spiritually. Religion played just as big of a part in people’s everyday lives as it does today, and maybe even more so.

Faith was so much of an issue with the settling of Cades Cove and the surrounding Smokies area, that it wasn’t long after the first homes were constructed that churches soon followed. History shows that prior to the foundation of Cades Cove’s first Baptist church, residents traveled long distances through the Smoky Mountains, sometimes in feet of snow to attend services in Millers Cove and/or Wears Cove. Tuckaleechee Cove, which is now Townsend, TN, was known to hold their own religious revivals which drew people from all over the region.

John Oliver and his wife, who built the cove’s first cabin, even managed to establish a sect of Millers Cove Baptist Church in Cades Cove in 1825.

Soon though in 1827, the Cades Cove Baptist church was established. And although biblical interpretation would split the Baptists, one side said the scripture allowed for missionary work and others in the congregation said it did not, it was an argument that was being felt in numerous churches across the nation at the time. Therefore, Cades Cove Baptists decided to rename their church in order to distinguish their beliefs from other Baptists. Thus, the Primitive Baptist Church was formed in 1841. The small congregation met in a log structure for 60 years until the white frame church was built in 1887.

The Primitive Baptists remained the dominant religious and political force in the cove with their meetings interrupted only by the Civil War.

John P. Cable Mill in Cades Cove

The John P. Cable Mill in Cades Cove was a technological advancement of its day, the likes of which Cades Cove and the Great Smoky Mountains had never before seen. In those early days, power was a commodity that had yet to be discovered up until the Mill’s formation.

The water wheel was a form of power that was used by early grist mills like the Cable Mill. The Smoky Mountains Natural History Association operates the Cable Mill today from April-October.

Back then, the more forward thinking residents of Cades Cove built water driven mills to grind grain. It was a business decision for them. They thought that other families who called Cades Cove home would rather pay them to grind their grain rather than try to do it themselves in their homes. Tub mills, which were the alternative, could only process a bushel of corn a day. It was a worthwhile gamble as folks like John P. Cable made a good living with his mill.

The waterwheel driven mills could grind wheat into flour, in addition to processing cornmeal, and was looked upon favorably by Cades Cove’s residents. Instead of a diet of pure cornbread, families could now make biscuits.

So what did it cost the average family to grind and sack of grain? Maybe a portion of the flour or meal, possibly money, whatever they could offer was up for grabs in those days. And it wasn’t only John Cable reaing the rewards of a fully operational mill. His son and Frederick Shields also operated mills in Cades Cove. The Cable and Shields also used their waterwheel to power saw mills.

Saw mills were important in the history of Cades Cove because they revolutionized how houses were built. Homes were constructed out of logs before saw mills. Saw mills provided for lumber and frame construction. Also, most owners of the log homes in Cades Cove bought lumber for siding to cover the fact that they were living in old fashioned cabins.

Metcalf Bottoms

If you’re looking for a great picnic location near Townsend, Tn, be sure to give Metcalf Bottoms in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park a shot next time you’re in the area. There, you’ll find picnic tables placed at various points along the Little Greenbrier River. It’s also a great swimming and tubing hole during those hot summer months.

The Little Greenbrier River really draws people to this area of the Smokies. It’s a river that not only allows for tubing, but for things like rock hopping as well. And the river’s never lacking for any swimming holes.

At Metcalf Bottoms there’s plenty more to do than just swimming. The Little Greenbrier schoolhouse is located just off a trail past the picnic area. It’s a 0.5 mile wooded trail that’s great for an afternoon jaunt or stroll. It’s not a totally smooth trail as rocks and other natural creations like roots jut out at many places along the way. Walking the trail isn’t the only way to get to the school, you can also drive if you’d rather not go by foot.

If you do decide to drive, travel about a half a mile to a gravel road leading to the Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse on the right. That’s after you cross the bridge. you’ll find that the desks and blackboard still remain in the schoolhouse from when it was last used sometime in the 1930’s. One teacher taught at Greenbrier school and educated children from grades 1-8. On the hillside just outside the schoolhouse you will find an old community cemetery. Wander around the cemetery and look at the names of some of the earliest folks to settle the Smoky Mountain region.

The Walker Sisters’ home site is another attraction you might want to visit next time you’re at Metcalf Bottoms. Located just off the parking lot for the Greenbrier Schoolhouse is the trailhead. This is a special place because the Walker sisters were some of the last living residents inside what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  When the national park was established in the Smokies by the U.S. government, the five sisters refused to sell their land. An agreement with the government was finally reached where the land was sold but the Walkers retained a lifetime lease on the property. They said the land produced everything they needed with the exception of sugar, coffee, soda and salt. Until 1964, when the last Walker sister died, the sisters farmed the land while supplementing their income with the sale of souvenirs to tourists.

Cades Cove Controlled Burn Scheduled for This Week

Don’t be surprised if you see a few brush fires being watched in the Cades Cove area this week. Great Smoky Mountains National Park fire management personnel will be conducting a few controlled burns in Cades Cove Nov. 5-9. Of course, this is one dependent on weather cooperation.

In all, about 570 acres are tabbed to be burned as a part of this prescribed burn.

In order to keep Cades Cove’s fields from being reclaimed by forest, they are strategically being burned. Around 950 acres of fields are mowed twice a year that are visible to motorists and cyclists from the Cades Cove Loop Road. The Cove’s many other fields – totaling around 1,500 acres, are kept up by burning or mowing on a three-year rotation.

These seasonal controlled burns benefit the park as well as its inhabitants. They encourage new grass, providing high quality cover and opportunities for wildlife including deer, turkeys, and ground nesting birds who forage for food on the ground.

Without these prescribed burns, officials with the park say that Cades Cove would quickly convert to pine and hardwood forest, instead of the lush green meadows people are used to seeing.

The burn will be carried out by national park staff. Firefighters will ignite the grasslands each day and make sure the fire stays within its designated boundaries. Grass sections surrounding each field marked for burning have been cut short in order to contain the burned sections.

Cades Cove Loop Road will remain open this week but motorists may experience delays due to smoke or other safety concerns.

“Motorists are asked to reduce speed in work zones and if smoke is present, keep windows up and headlights on,” said Dave Loveland, fire management officer. “The public, of course, will notice smoke in the valley but it will dissipate quickly and not unduly impact their visit.”

Townsend Wye

There are several terms that you will hear while you are visiting the Smokies and it helps to have an idea what those terms mean.  It helps to let you in on the place names so that it becomes easier for you to find different areas around the Smokies and follow the directions that the people of the area might give you.  One of those terms is a place name:  the Townsend Wye.  This is the area where Lamar Alexander Parkway and Little River Road intersect.  It forms a ‘Y,’ thus the name.

The shape that the road makes is where this area got its name and it has been called that since these roads were established with the founding of the National Park.  Little River Road from Sugarlands continues past this point to continue toward Tremont and Cades Cove.  Lamar Alexander Parkway is the main road that leaves Maryville and runs through Townsend.  The intersection of these two roads does in fact make a ‘Y’ shape and like many roads that make that shape around this area it is known as the Wye.

AT this ‘Y’ or Wye is something a little special.  As you come out of Townsend, the area to the left is a parking area next to the Little River.  This is the parking area to one of the best tubing rivers in the Smokies.  It is also home to a gently sloped grassy hillside that is a perfect spot for a picnic or for a place to sunbathe   During the summer months, the parking lot here is full of cars and the grassy areas is covered with bodies looking for a place to spread out a blanket and enjoy the sunshine.  Especially if you have spent time in the sometimes chilly water, laying in the grassy and luxuriating in the sunshine is a welcome change.

The most important thing to take away from this is the fact that you are going to hear people refer to the Townsend Wye as a reference point and in directions while you are in town.  For instance, if you are in Maryville and you are asking how to get to Cades Cove, someone is going to say to you to go to the Townsend Wye and take a right.  When you are in Townsend and you are trying to go to Elkmont, they are going to send you to the Wye.  And of course, if you are tubing with any of the tubing companies in Townsend, they are going to tell you that they will drop you off and pick you up at the Wye while you are spending the day tubing all day long.

Tuckaleechee Cove

Tuckaleechee Cove is Townsend, TN and Townsend, Tennessee is Tuckaleechee Cove. Think about that for a second.  Actually, Townsend is more a part of Tuckaleechee Cove – a place in the Smokies where the Little River meets the more urban settings of Townsend.

The area has been a hotbed of  archeological findings over the years as Native American artifacts have yielded clues that date their people, primarily Cherokee, back 10,000 years. Englishmen first settled the area in the 1700’s, areas now known as Townsend and Cades Cove. Still, by the time those first settlers arrived, the Cherokee had long since abandoned their villages. During that time, the railroad and a growing logging industry brought commerce and development tot he small Smoky Mountain settlement.

The name ”Tuckaleechee” comes from the Cherokee word “Tikwalitsi”. It’s actual meaning is still unknown even to this day.

As previously mentioned, the Little River Lumber Company was chartered in 1900 by Colonel W.B. Townsend, whom the town takes its name from. It wasn’t until the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was founded in the 1930’s that logging completely stopped. Up until that time, almost two-thirds of the region’s woodlands had come down under the saw and blade of the Little River Lumber Company. It wasn’t until he was under tremendous pressure from conservationists that Col. Townsend sold 76,000 acres to the federal government that would become national park land.

Tuckaleechee Cove is also said to be one of several “limestone windows” located in the Smoky Mountains. These windows form when erosion carries away older rocks like sandstone, thus exposing younger rock formations below, like limestone. Some of the other limestone windows in the Smoky Mountain area include Cades Cove and Jones Cove. Located between Bates Mountain to the north and Rich Mountain to the south, Tuckaleechee Cove’s population is estimated at around 1,500. Little River, which flows from high in the mountains on the north slopes of Clingmans Dome, slices east-to-west through Tuckaleechee and drains much of the cove. The city of Townsend is found on the eastern half of Tuckaleechee.

Cades Cove Campground

Thinking about getting in the Smokies to go camping, but don’t want to get too far into the Smokies? Cades Cove is home to a wonderful campground and a number backcountry sites you can reach via one of the many hiking trails. The main one is right on the left as you enter Cades Cove. At last count, they offered 159 camping sites and can handle trailers up to 35 feet. RVs are allowed to be a little larger than 40 feet. Sites are equipped with picnic tables, fire rings and a tent surface. And you can also find camping supplies at the Cades Cove Campground store.

You’ll also find that the Cades Cove Campground has a wealth of other conveniences in the form of comfort stations with toilets and running water. However, there are no showers at the Cades Cove Campground so our suggestion is to shower up before coming or just jump in a creek. No, in all seriousness, we’ll leave that one up to you.

On Bears: Fair warning, there are bears in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, so if you do decide to camp in Cades Cove you’re very likely to see one, or two, maybe even three. Attacks however are rare, and the ones that have occurred usually have to do with food left unattended. So, don’t leave food out at your campsite or store it in a tent. The Black Bears that call the national park home have a keen sense of smell and even the smell of toothpaste can lure them to a campsite. If you do see one in the campground, bang something together to create a loud noise, shout, wave your arms and act like you’re a loon…. Anything to try to scare them away. If nothing works, RUN to a building, into a car, whatever.

Upon your departure, please attempt to leave no trace of food or litter in the campground that will attract bears. No burying or burning of food either. If you bring something in to the Cades Cove Campground, you must pack it up and take it out when you leave.

On occassion, you may see photos of people interacting with park bears. Still, Smoky Mountain Black Bears are extremely unpredictable when it comes to their interactions with humans. It’s in your best interest not to try to interact with them or attempt to feed them.

Outside of the Cades Cove Campground, Russell and Spence fields provide shelters and there are 16 backcountry campgrounds as well throughout the Cades Cove trail network. To make reservations, call 865-436-1200.

Getting to Townsend, TN – The BEST Route.

In years past, if you were coming to Townsend, Tennessee you were likely going to take in Cades Cove’s majestic beauty and time-worn structures. With so many local eateries and outdoorsy offerings, people have made it more of a destination here lately than a stop on the way to Maryville or the Great Smoky Mountains. So, what way is best if I want to get to Townsend many of you have asked…. Well, there are a few ways.

Coming west from Maryville via Knoxville, you’ll travel east along Lamar Alexander Parkway/U.S. 321/Hwy. 73 through Walland straight into Townsend. Between this route and the route coming through Pigeon Forge, there really isn’t a better way. It just depends on if you’re coming into town from the east or west. To quote an old saying, “It’s as broad as it is long.”

As noted, if you’re coming from the Great Smoky Mountains area already – Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, etc., you’re well on your way there already. You’re best bet is to head west on Wears Valley Road which is right in the middle of Pigeon Forge at traffic light No. 3. From there, Wears Valley Road/U.S. 321/Hwy. 73 will take you through Wears Valley and its many foothills before you reach the center of Townsend.

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Ticks and Lyme Disease in the Smoky Mountains

In Townsend, Tn and the Great Smoky Mountains ticks are to be taken very seriously and can be a public health threat. Ticks feed on the blood of three different animals during their development, injecting their saliva that in turn causes intense itching that doesn’t let up.

If you ever get bitten while hiking or camping in the Smokies, take every precaution. Some people can even have severe allergic reactions, and infected ticks can transfer hazardous pathogens.

Throughout the tick’s life cycle, from the larva to nymph to the adult stage, each feed on mammals, including humans. Some stages of the lone star Ticks can be found from March through October in the Smokies. Individual nymphs and adults usually attack themselves to humans and animals by way of overgrown vegetation along trails and wooded areas.

However, hundreds of tiny seed ticks or larva will attach themselves to anyone unfortunate enough to pass by a newly hatched egg mass.

Adult American dog ticks feed on larger mammals, including humans and dogs. They occur throughout the Southeast and can be dispersed by wildlife. The American dog tick can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever; fortunately the proportion of infected ticks is very low. The American dog tick however does not transmits Lyme disease.

The blacklegged tick has recently caused concerns – a carrier of Lyme disease in the eastern United States. It has been found on humans in Kentucky. Deer trails in and around Daniel Boone National Forest were where they were found. These ticks are especially treacherous as they are active during the winter-spring months rather than the summer feeding time characteristic of other species. Tennessee is one place where increased numbers of the blacklegged tick have been found due to deer movement and mild winters.

For states like Kentucky, this marks the first significant presence of Lyme disease. While blacklegged ticks are fairly common in the South, incidences of Lyme disease are pretty low compared to regions in the Northeast and north-central United States.

Recommendations for dealing with nuisance or potentially disease-bearing ticks include wearing protective clothing and applying repellents to skin and clothing when you’re going to be outdoors for lengthy periods of time, especially in wooded areas. Additionally, thorough self-inspection where ticks are known or suspected to be active is invaluable. Ticks frequently wander on the body for an hour or more before feeding, and if infected, must feed for several hours before a pathogen is transferred. Detection and removal are important parts of a protection strategy.

Diseases that might occur from a tick bite and its symptoms are relatively general. Anyone who experiences fever, headache, a rash, joint or muscle pains or swollen lymph nodes within 30 days of a tick bite should report the bite and see a doctor immediately.