Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains are the historic homesteads of Cade’s Cover. The community that developed here saw the challenges of not only farming in developing territories but constant raids during the Civil War.
Before Cade’s Cove was divided into homesteads, Cherokee Indians hunted in it for thousands of years.* While there were no large permanent settlements in the cove, there was a small one—likely a seasonal hunting site—named “Tsiya’hi,” or “Otter Place.” The cove itself still bares the name of one of their leaders, Chief Kade. Indeed, the tribe was critical in supporting the first European settlers of the valley: the Oliver’s.
John Oliver and his wife, Lucretia Frazier, came to Cade’s Cove in 1818. The Oliver’s did not even have a finished home to live in before winter arrived. They survived in an abandoned Cherokee hut, surviving mainly on dried pumpkin from the local Cherokee. Yet, the home that they eventually built and passed down from generation to generation, remains in the Cove, protected as part of the Smoky Mountains National Park.
By 1830, the population of people settled in Cade’s Cove had reached 271. Families such as the Tiptons, Cables, Shields, and other families joined the Olivers in settling the cove. Despite the growing community, the mountains that surrounded the cove still kept its occupants relatively isolated. Occupants relied on Tuckaleechee Cove for dried goods and other necessities that they could not product themselves.
Sadly, such isolation did not extend into the time of the Civil War. Despite technically being located in the south, this religious community primarily disapproved of slavery and sided with the North. Feelings were so strong that even many pacifist Quakers fought on the Union side. This didn’t prevent the cove from being routinely raided by confederate forces for resources. Even in the Cove, families were divided by varying loyalties, and with the end of the war, some families that had sided with the south during the war left the cove.
The last resident of Cade’s Cove left in 1937 and the cove was fully integrated into the Smoky Mountain National Park. Poetically, it was another John Oliver who was the last to leave, after extended legal battles with the park to maintain his homestead. Though the cove had grown into a modern small town for its time by 1937, only historic structures from the early homesteads remain today. The cove has been returned to a state of early settlement, including the cleared fields which had been used to pasture and farming. While the cove is naturally forested—like the mountains around it—the National Park routinely clears the fields to maintain the historic meadows of early homesteading. Not only does this intervention help frame the remaining structures in a more historically accurate environment, but it makes for remarkably dramatic views of the mountains and photography.
It is no surprise that this valley draws over two million tourists every year—making it the most popular location in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The historic structures, gorgeous views, and accessibility make the cove a natural draw. The Cove is best explored along an 11 mile road that circles its outer edge with stops at each historic location. While it is accessible by car, don’t expect this to be a quick trip. This one lane, single direction road is almost always filled with nearly bumper-to-bumper cars all traveling at the rate of the slowest car on the road. With such gorgeous views, no one is rushing to get out. Plan to spend 2-4 hours exploring the cove.
For those with a more active bent and not looking forward to traveling shoulder to car along the cove, the park closes the roads to vehicular traffic until 10AM on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Bicyclists and pedestrians have the roads to themselves to travel at their own speed and in greater safety. While the cove is on a valley floor, the road covers many hills, so the ride can be moderately challenging to beginner bicyclists.
However you choose to view it, the Cove is a “must” for any visit to the Great Smoky Mountains.
Impressed By The Cove?
So were we, and we loved taking pictures. Get your own high quality prints of the images in this post on our store:
*There is still a Cherokee reservation on the other side of the Smokey Mountains, in North Carolina.