Life was not always perfect in Cades Cove. Divorces and separations, though rare, sometimes happened. Take Matilda Shields Gregory, of Cades Cove, for instance. She and her young son were deserted by her husband. But in the Cades Cove culture, if you had family nearby, you had help. Her brothers quickly built a small mountain cabin to give her shelter which was no small task when you consider they also had to build the fireplace and chimney. The cabin was one of the roughest places to live in Cades Cove because there was only a short amount of time to construct the home. The logs were rough-hewn with a felling axe with a stone chimney made of rubble.
In time, Matilda re-married to the widower, Henry Whitehead, who in 1898, built her one of the nicest log homes in Cades Cove. Matilda and Henry Whitehead’s new home had a brick chimney, unheard of in Cades Cove at the time. In Cades Cove, if you wanted bricks, you had to make them yourself. The process was accomplished by finding clay soil, digging and then filling a hole with water. The surrounding clay soil was then stirred with a hoe until thick and smooth. Then, the wet clay was put into molds where the bricks were dried. After drying, the bricks were fired to make them durable. Henry stacked his bricks with mortar into one of the first chimneys in Cades Cove.
The rest of the Henry Whitehead Place was made of square-sawed logs that were finely finished inside to be smooth and attractive. In fact, the cabin was so nice that it looked very much like the frame homes which were soon to become fashionable when the first sawmills were constructed in the Cove.
The couple’s masterpiece was of a higher standard; square log construction was naturally well insulated by approximately four inch thick walls and had little to no space between the logs. The Henry Whitehead Place is the only square-sawed log home that remains in Cades Cove as well as the only one left in the entire Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is considered a transition house from the early Cades Cove cabins to the modern frame homes that became popular not long after.