The History of Cades Cove

When new visitors travel to Cades Cove, they’ll notice beautiful fir trees, views of the Smoky Mountains, and a sense of peace as they escape the busy city life. Visitors often come to camp or lodge in cozy cabins while enjoying horseback rides, hiking, or the many historical sites in the national park.

Today, Cades Coves is a part of one of the most visited national parks in America: The Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Yet, what many may not know is that Cades Cove was originally owned by Cherokee tribes.

A Cherokee Hunting Ground in the Mountains

Before the American Revolution, Cherokee Indians discouraged settlers from moving into the area and used it as a summer hunting ground. Back then, the area was called the cove Tsiyahi, or “the place of the river otter.” Although the Treaty of Calhoun in 1819 would end all Cherokee claims to the Smokies and Tsiya’hi would be abandoned, Cades Cove still derived its eventual name from the Tsiya’hi leader, Chief Kade. Yet after the defeat of their English allies, the tribes sought peace. That’s when the first European settlers arrived in the cove during the early 1820’s, marking the transformation of the land into what it is today.

When these settlers arrived, they focused on farming the land and building school houses as well as Baptist and Methodist churches. By the 1850s the population had even reached 685 people as new families continued to settle and prosper. Today, you can see the work of these settlers in the form of log homes, cantilever , corncribs, and smokehouses.

The Beginning of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

You’ll also notice that these families lived in the area for a long time. In fact, the area that is now the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the only national park that was built on what was once private land. The land remained private for a long time as the residents in the area were given life-leases that let them continue to live on their land for their rest of their lives as long as they followed the rules set by the National Park Services.

Now, the National Park Service continues to manage and maintain the area and has even designated it as a historical area, restoring several of the older log cabins and barns in the process.

When you pay a visit, you’ll be able to see what life was like for these families as you, yourself, enjoy the simple life while camping or staying in the area. To learn more about the history of this beautiful place, you can also read more on our History Page. Or, begin planning your vacation by exploring nearby vacation rentals and resorts.

Author: Annika Darling

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