The culture and times of the Cades Cove settlement dictated that all members of the family produce both for themselves and the family. Children were trained as soon as they were old enough to perform chores and worked in the family business when they were not in school. A family business, such as Becky Cable’s was usually a farm or store but could be some other enterprise. In Cades Cove, even the girls worked in the fields of the farm and could hoe corn, pitch hay or whatever was needed.
Cades Cove was representative of the entire Smokies area in that children were taught to work. By age eight to twelve children in the 1800’s were considered sort of mini adults capable of being entrusted with large responsibility such as tending animals, milking cows which as mentioned were part of the family business. Cades Cove children were taught to cook dinner and were tasked with tending younger children when the adults had to be away on three day trips to Maryville. Perhaps most surprising, during the Civil War, some small children in Cades Cove were given the task of keeping watch for Confederate soldiers who harassed the residents of the cove none of whom had ever owned slaves and many of whom were Yankee sympathizers. If Confederates were seen in Cades Cove, the children were to blow a horn to warn their families.
In Cades Cove in the 1800’s, school generally came second to the needs of the family. In fact the American tradition of no school in the summer came into being so that the children could help with the chores during growing season. This common was universal in the United States as well in Cades Cove.
If Becky Cable and her nieces and nephews followed the Smokies culture found in Cades Cove they raised cabbages, lettuce, pole beans, turnips, beets and canned beans, peas and tomatoes, all of which grew heartily in the cove’s rich limestone basin. Cable’s family ate the chickens they raised for Sunday dinner and cooked baked goods with their own farm eggs. They would have planted, tended and harvested carrots and potatoes, storing them in a root cellar and picked wild greens in the spring to supplement their diet. This cove family may have also raised corn and wheat to be ground into corn meal and flour, cut hay for the livestock loaded it into wagons and stored it in the hayloft of the barn. In the Fall Becky’s family would have gone to one of the many Chestnut groves in Cades Cove and gathered bushels of chestnuts both for sale and for human and livestock consumption. Becky Cable’s family hunted wild game, picked and preserved blackberries, blueberries and raspberries, and raised hogs as well. They would have grown their own flower, spice, and herb garden near the house. The garden was likely fenced so as to keep domestic and wild life from trampling and eating the garden. Common in Cades Cove was the practice of hanging gourd bird houses near the garden to encourage birds to live close by so they would eat the garden insects. Becky’s family would have saved seeds found in their harvested vegetables to be planted the for the following year’s crop.
Some people in Cades Coveove grew their own flax and cotton and sheep for wool and spun these in to thread which they then wove into cloth which in turn was made into some of their clothing. Aunt Becky Cable was apparently one of those as there is a picture of her sitting at her spinning wheel. And all this she and her family did while there was school for the children and a boarding house to be run. Such a heroic effort would be enough to drive the ordinary woman to an early grave, but not Becky Cable. She took ill at age eighty six and hired someone to make her a coffin but resilient as ever, Becky bounced back to life and lived almost ten more years. Becky Cable died in Cades Cove just short of a century old at ninety-six.
Why is Becky Cable’s house called the Gregg-Cable house?
Old houses always have a lot of history and Becky Cable’s house is no exception. It was built in 1879 by Leason Gregg out of lumber milled by Mr. Cable and on a one acre tract he bought from the same. The house was the first frame house built in Cades Cove and was built not only to live in but to run a family business from. Products for the store were brought from Maryville by way of ox and wagon. Leason Gregg’s family opened the store in the downstairs while living in the upper floors, a custom brought to America from Europe by their ancestors. As was the custom in the Smokies sometimes farm items such as eggs were traded for store bought goods.
Eventually land and house were sold to back into John Cable’s family. It was purchased by his daughter Rebecca, her brother Dan and his wife. Together they and their family ran the store. After eight years the store was converted into the boarding house.