Elijah Oliver Place

Cades Cove’s Elijah Oliver Place was home to one of the first lifelong residents of the cove. Elijah Oliver grew up, married, and spent his life in the confines of Cades Cove’s majestic beauty. Today, people can come and view his home, take in its surroundings, and imagine themselves growing up in simpler times.

Not only does the Elijah Oliver cabin still stand in Cades Cove, so does the smokehouse, corn crib, springhouse and barn that made up Oliver’s homestead in those years. As the most remote of all the Cades Cove homesteads, it provided for more privacy for this branch of the Oliver family. The son of John and Luraney Oliver – Cades Cove’s first settlers, Elijah was born in the original Cades Cove cabin in 1824. It was there that he grew into a young man, moved away, married, then came back and bought the property where the home still stands today.

Elijah Oliver life, like other residents of Cades Cove at the time, centered around God and religion, family and the Oliver’s neighbors. It was common in those times to take in a complete stranger whenever they came through the Cove, feed, and house them for a period of time. So well known were the Cades Cove hospitality practices that fishermen would come in knowing that the settlers would provide them with lodging free of charge. Many residents, including Oliver, even built a special room onto their house for strangers passing through Cades Cove who needed a place to stay. Elijah Oliver’s “strangers room,” built on his front porch, is a popular aspect of his home site.

It wasn’t until 1900 that some of the Cades Cove residents began to charge guests for room and board. When you sit back and think about the area as it is today with all the cabins, condos, and hotels that are found here, Elijah Oliver and many of his neighbors were ahead of the times when it came to hospitality and tourism.

Cades Cove’s Missionary Baptist Church

cadescovemissionarybaptistBaptists first made their mark in Cades Cove in 1825 when John and Lucretia Oliver organized a branch of the Miller’s Cove Baptist Church in the cove. In those days it was an independent entity.  Many of the first Baptist churches in the area would eventually split from one another over issues regarding missionary work and other practices.

Baptists at the time Cades Cove and the Smokies was settled were divided into a few groups: church members who supported Sunday schools, the practices of missionary work and temperance societies, and those that didn’t support any of those initiatives. To some there just wasn’t that Biblical text that called for such things in worldly society. When these issues came about, a number of Cades Cove Baptists, including pastor Johnson Adams, were dismissed from the original Baptist church affiliation due to their beliefs.

On May 15, 1841, Adams and other disenfranchised Smokies pioneers banded together and established the Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church. The start was rocky. They had no meeting house and had to meet in individual homes. Sometimes they made arrangements to meet at the Primitive Baptist or Methodist church buildings. Also, in the Smokies there was much confusion over the Civil War. During the Civil War and reconstruction, the Missionary Baptists didn’t meet for long periods of time. After the war however, they had a particularly successful revival and were able to erect their own church building in the Cades Cove area of the Smoky Mountains. Their church was constructed on Hyatt Hill in 1894.

Over the years, the church roll would grow from 40 to over 100 members, prompting the construction of a new building in 1915.  This building is the one visitors to Cades Cove can still see today.

Cantilever Barn in Cades Cove

Another feature of the Cable Mill display of Cades Cove is the preserved Cantilever barn, a design in which the upper story was larger than its base. This design allowed animals which were normally outside to stand underneath the over hang in order to get out of the sun or rain. The farm animals resting under the eaves in Cades Cove would have included pigs, hogs, chickens, goats, and in wintertime, cattle.

In summer cove farmer’s cattled were kept on the grassy balds of the Great Smoky Mountains. Gregory’s Bald is one still in existence today and was named for one of the men who made their living looking after the cattle in the summertime. Also, farm equipment could be kept dry if placed under the large eaves of the cantilevered barn as there were no posts or walls to get in the way.

“Col. Hamp” Tipton, who served in the Mexican War, had the Tipton Place built in the early 1870s. The cantilever barn, a replica of an earlier one in the same place, stands on the other side of the road from the house.

Cantilever barns usually have two log cribs, each measuring about twelve feet by eighteen feet and separated by a fourteen- to sixteen-foot driveway. The topmost logs of each crib extend eight to ten feet out to the barn’s sides, becoming the cantilevered primary supports for a whole series of long secondary cantilevers which run from front to back across the entire length of the barn. A heavy timber frame, aligned over the corners of the cribs and the outer ends of the cantilevers, supports eave beams and heavy purlins, which are the major structural features of the loft. Most barns have a gable roof. Lofts were originally used for storing hay, loaded conveniently from wagons pulled into the driveway between the cribs. The cribs were livestock pens, while the sheltered area under the overhanging loft provided space for storing equipment and grooming animals.

Cades Cove – A Brief History

Cades Cove was a pretty hard place to reach for early settlers. To put it simply, you had to really want to get there to actually get there. Indian trails proved to be the main route most took to reach the Cades Cove area. SInce then, roads have taken the place of most of the major trails. Cades Cove road was one of these trails, which is better known these days as Rich Mountain Road. It’s still one of the main routes out of Cades Cove today and one of the most scenic. Hint, hint, fall color enthusiasts and photographers.

If you’re not planning on viewing Cades Cove by way of the Cades Cove Loop Road, may we suggest traveling up Rich Mountain Road to view the cove. One fact if you choose to take Rich Mountain Road, you’ll exit Cades Cove before completing the loop if you take the route. Rich Mountain Road is a one way dirt road which exits Cades Cove and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park after 12 mountainous, but very scenic miles.

Reaching Cades Cove by roads coming from the west or by way of towns like Maryville, TN could be especially challenging to travel for the residents of Cades Cove and their horses. Getting to town took at least 3 days in those days. One to travel to town. One to buy or sell goods, or perhaps visit family and friends and one to travel back to the cove.

Though Cades Cove was generally a self sustaining community, pioneers bought things from Maryville such as medicine and remedies such as Camphorated oil, catnip tea, Castor oil, Epsom salts. As time went by, general stores such as the Giles Gregory store, sprang up in Cades Cove where medicine, seeds, sugar, kerosene, yard goods and hardware supplies. Products could be purchased with money or by trading products such as eggs. Still, the larger town of Maryville had a more appealing selection and so the trips from the Cades Cove continued. If on a trip to Maryville, the family was selling rather than buying, chances are they were selling chestnuts which grew in abundance in Cades Cove. Unfortunately disease eventually killed the majestic chestnut groves.

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.

Gregg-Cable House

The Gregg-Cable House, one of the great historical landmarks of the Smokies that can be found in the Cades Cove area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It just so happens to be the first frame house built in the area and a house that not only provided shelter for two families, but also a place of business.

A family business, like the one run out of Becky Cable’s home was usually a farm or store but could be some other enterprise. As soon as children were old enough to be able to help out on the farm or in the family store, their time in school usually came to an abrupt halt. School was secondary in those times to the family’s needs. It was said that even in Cades Cove girls worked in the fields in addition to their chores and duties in the home.

Becky Cable’s house is bears a wealth of history relevant to those times. Built in 1879 by Leason Gregg, it was the first frame house built in Cades Cove and served as a working business as well. The store goods were brought in by wagon from Maryville, Tn. The downstairs housed the store while Gregg and his family lived on the upper floors. People could come and trade goods for other products or just straight up buy what they needed there.

John Cable’s family – his daughter Rebecca, her brother Dan and his wife, eventually bought the land and house, and ran the store. It was converted to a boarding house eight years after that.

Cades Cove provided Becky Cable and her family with much of what they needed to survive including such heirlooms as lettuce, pole beans, turnips, beets and canned beans, peas and tomatoes, all of which flourished in the cove’s rich limestone basin. Chickens were raised, they cooked baked goods with their own eggs, and carrots and potatoes were stored in a root cellar.

The house was also used as a place to stockpile goods, like most homes during that time. The numerous Chestnut groves in Cades Cove were depleted every fall not only by bears but by families like the Cables who came to gather bushels of chestnuts both for their use and to sell. Becky Cable’s family also hunted wild game, picked and preserved blackberries, blueberries and raspberries, and raised their own hogs. Next to the house, they grew their own flower, spice, and herbs in a garden.

Becky Cable was one of Cades Cove’s first clothing designers too. Her family grew their own flax and cotton and raised sheep for wool and spun these in to thread which they wove into cloth, thus making their own clothing. There is a famous picture of Becky Cable sitting at her spinning wheel doing just that. Becky Cable did all this while providing for her family and others before passing away in Cades Cove at 96 years of age. The home bears her and the preceding family’s name still.

The John Oliver Cabin in Cades Cove

You can point to the John Oliver Cabin in Cades Cove as a lynchpin in the settlement of the Great Smoky Mountains area, especially Cades Cove and Townsend, Tn.

Pioneers looked to the area north of Cades Cove where the current-day Cades Cove Loop Road begins as the ideal location to settle down, farm the land, and raise a family. The Oliver cabin is located at a high point in the cove that was chosen due to its more solid foundation. It is recorded in the history books that John and his wife Lucretia were the first to settle in this part of the Smoky Mountains.

John Oliver and his family settled the area despite the lack of an Indian treaty allowing them access to the Smoky Mountain land, which was typical of most European immigrants who came to the region during that time. By deciding to just go ahead and settle the land without treaty caused its fair share of contention, especially between new the immigrants and the Native Americans that had called the mountains home for centuries. It’s a small miracle that Cherokee Indians actually helped the Olivers get through their first winter in Cades Cove. Coincidentally, a short year later the Calhoun Treaty would give whites settlers the right to settle the cove. In 1826 the Olivers purchased their piece of the cove.

Up until the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there were Oliver kin living in the Smoky Mountains.

The cabin itself is reminiscent of other European-style log homes of the era found throughout the eastern frontier in the mid-1850s. Gravity has come to lock and seal wood together over time. You’ll find that mud was used between the logs to protect the insides from the rain and wind. You’ll also notice the cabin’s small windows and doors if you ever visit Cades Cove. They conserved heat and helped the building stand strong and upright through the changing seasons.

One note, the Oliver’s original cabin actually stood 50 yards behind the cabin now identified as their first home place in Cades Cove. The cabin that stands in Cades Cove today is actually the honeymoon house which was built for their John’s son to use when he married.

John, who died in 1864, and his wife are buried in Cades Cove at the Primitive Baptist church which they helped to found.

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.”