John Oliver Place

Simple log cabin surrounded by a split-rail fence with a mountain landscape in the background.
A short, paved path leads to the oldest log cabin in Cades Cove.

NPS Photo/M. Timothy

Quick Facts
Cades Cove Loop Road, Townsend, TN 37882
John Oliver Place is the first and oldest cabin along the Cades Cove loop road.

Accessible Sites, Parking - Auto, Scenic View/Photo Spot, Trailhead

The John Oliver cabin is the first historic structure on the 11-mile Cades Cove driving loop. It is also the oldest. John, Lucretia, and their young daughter, Mary “Polly,” arrived and began settling in Cades Cove in 1818.

Although the Olivers were the first permanent European-American settlers, Cherokee peoples had lived in this area for thousands of years. The Cherokee were present at the time of the Olivers’ arrival and had an active settlement. According to Lucretia Oliver, the family survived their first winter only because of the generosity of the Cherokee who provided them with food.

John Oliver was a War of 1812 veteran and collier (charcoal maker) by trade. He lived in neighboring east Tennessee counties before the prospect of settlement in Cades Cove came to be. The cove was different in 1818 from how it looks today. When the Olivers arrived, it had not yet been extensively cleared for agriculture and was densely forested except for the west end of the cove which was swampland. The Olivers decided to settle on the drier east end of the cove.

A well was dug for a reliable water source as the neighboring creek often dries in the summer. Fields were cleared for planting wheat and corn. Cattle were kept along nearby Abrams Creek. A barn with grain storage was constructed. A second cabin, the one that still stands today, was built in the 1820s just a few dozen yards from the original cabin (not standing today). A kitchen was added to the present cabin but has since been removed by the National Park Service.

Generations of Olivers lived on the homestead until the park was established over a hundred years later. Several descendants, including Elijah Oliver, branched out and settled elsewhere in Cades Cove, a testament to the family’s ties to this fertile valley.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Last updated: April 5, 2024