History of Cades Cove
Kent Cave Photo
Today, Cades Cove is one of the most visited areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Visitors are able to explore historic cabins, churches and a grist mill; spot white-tailed deer, turkeys and black bears; enjoy gorgeous mountain scenery or take a leisurely bicycle ride around the loop road.
By 1850, the population in the valley had reached 685 as new families moved to the Cove and numerous children were born into the families already settled there. It was not uncommon for a household to have ten to twelve children. As the population grew, more community buildings were needed. A Baptist and Methodist church were established in the 1820s. Schoolhouses were built a little later, so at first the schoolchildren met in farm houses where the school teachers were boarding.
It was common for neighbors to assist one another and they often made social events out of corn husking, molasses making and gathering chestnuts during the autumn months. Courtships that started at social events often led to marriage. Many family farms had a "weaner cabin" - a cabin the son would bring his bride to live in the early days of their marriage. The "weaner cabin" was far enough away from his family for privacy and independence but close enough to help and be helped.
A death in the community was another reason for neighbors to help one another. When a member of the church passed away, the church bell would ring to get the people's attention. After a pause, the bell would be rung for each year of the dead person's life. Community members usually knew who was sick and the approximate age of the people in the church, which made it easy to identify who had passed away. The men would then dig a grave or make a coffin if one was not already made. The women would prepare the body and the coffin for burial. The men and women of the community would also help take care of the needs for the family of the deceased, such as by cooking meals, gathering crops, and caring for the young children.
Today, the National Park Service manages and maintains Cades Cove as it looked in the early days of the settlers. In 1945, the National Park Service designated Cades Cove as a "historical area" and restored several of the older log cabins and barns. While visiting Cades Cove, take a look around and imagine what it might have been like to grow up in the Cades Cove valley!