Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee & North Carolina


Great Smoky Mountains

April 24-25, 2006

by Jess Stryker

Click on any photo for a larger image. Hold mouse pointer over photos for descriptions.

The photo above is the Davis farmhouse at the Mountain Farm Museum on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Newfound Gap Road:

This is the main scenic highway (hwy 441) that bisects the park, running from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to Cherokee, North Carolina. It follows the Little Pigeon River on the Tennessee side, passes over the mountains at Newfound Gap, and follows the Oconaluftee River on the North Carolina side of the mountains.

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Chimney Tops, a well-known park landmark. The right hand peak has a deep cavity in the top, thus the name "chimney".

 

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This monument stands at the summit of Newfound Gap. The Appalachian Trail passes just to the side of this monument.

 

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Julie with the Smoky Mountains behind her.
The photo was taken from the top level of the monument pictured above.

 

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Julie at the trail marker for the Appalachian Trail.
The Appalachian Trail is a hiking trail that extends all the way from Maine to Georgia.
We hiked about 1/8 mile on it. It was not one of our more ambitious hikes!

 

Mountain Farm Museum:

The Park Service relocated a number of historic buildings from throughout the park to the Mountain Farm Museum on the North Carolina side. The result is a "super farm" -- it has more buildings and features than any one farm of the late 1800's early 1900's would have had. However it gives the visitor the opportunity to see a lot of different types of buildings and farm features in a single area. This is a "living museum", meaning that the Park Service operates the area somewhat as it would have been in the late 1900's, with some livestock and garden crops being grown at this location. None of these buildings in it's original location, although the barn is pretty close- it was moved only a few hundred feet from it's original location. Unfortunately we arrived late in the day, after they had closed up the buildings.

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The Davis farmhouse, unique as it is constructed of Chestnut wood. By the 1940's Chestnut Blight killed
most of the American Chestnut trees, so no more Chestnut wood homes were built.

 

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Note the dove-tailed joints on the log walls of the Davis farmhouse.
Dove-tailed joints are difficult to make, but hold the logs more firmly together than standard notched joints.

 

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The back of the Davis farmhouse. The workmanship on this house is fantastic.

 

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Note the batten boards that cover the gaps between the Chestnut logs on the side of the farmhouse.
Also take a look at the simple peg-in-hole leg design on the wood-slab bench and table.
The odd reflection on the house door is from a plastic barrier that keeps people out when the door is open.

 

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Check out the fabulous rain gutter design on the Davis farmhouse. Also look for the floor joists of the second floor protruding through the outside wall.

 

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The Oconaluftee River flows by the Mountain Farm Museum.

 

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The reading room and corn-cob disposal pit. Located conveniently near to the house, but not to close!

 

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There are many styles of barns found throughout the park. This one has a central enclosed area surrounded by a wide,
covered porch area that could be used for storage, animal pens, or a covered work area.

 

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Julie by a carriage with very nice red upholstery in the overhang of the barn.
This must have been the goin' to church on Sunday carriage! Carriages and wagons were rare,
most of the early settlers used sleds that were dragged over the ground. Wheels were difficult to make.
Horses were the primary beast of burden used in the area, a few families had mules and/or oxen.

 

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The meathouse or smokehouse. Meat was smoked in the smokehouse to preserve it.
Typically this was the closest building to the house, to help protect the meat supply from wild animals.

 

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The springhouse was the "refrigerator" for the farm. Perishable foods such as milk and butter were stored here.
Cool water from a spring or creek was redirected to flow through a wood or rock channel that ran inside the springhouse.
The thick log walls insulated the room and the cool water kept it cool.

 

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This is an apple house, for storing apples. This one has rock walls to help keep it cool in the summer.
Most apple houses were sunken into the ground like a cellar.
Apples were the primary fruit and were used for making cider and pies as well as just eaten.
In a cool location like this apple house apples store well for a few months.
For longer storage they were dried and preserved using sulfur smoke.

 

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A blacksmith shop. Note the open gaps between the logs in the walls to allow air movement.

 

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The corn crib was used to store dried corn. Corn was used for feed and ground into corn flour for baking.
This crib has a covered equipment storage "porch". The roof of many smaller corn cribs could be removed to make loading corn into it easier.

 

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These are bee hives, or "bee gums". They are made from sections of hollow Black Gum tree trunk.
From honey to Maple syrup to Sweet Sorghum molasses,
it's clear the early settlers had a sweet tooth!

 

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This structure was used to leach the lye out of the fireplace ashes. Note the drain outlet at the bottom
on the left side. The lye was then mixed with animal fat and cooked to produce lye soap. Fireplace
ash was also used in the vegetable garden as an insecticide and fertilizer.

 

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The chicken house. Chickens were supplemented with wild game, including geese, ducks and turkeys.
The fowl provided eggs and meat, as well as feathers for stuffing pillows and mattresses.

 

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Some of the chicken house residents.

 

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A split rail hog pen. Cattle and sheep were also raised by the early settlers, however hogs were the primary
meat source due to the ease of raising them. Most were allowed to run wild and forage for themselves.
For this reason fences were used more often to keep animals out of the garden than to pen them in.

 

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This is a sorghum furnace. Sorghum juice was placed in pans or kettles and boiled over a fire
to reduce the water content and make "Sweet Sorghum" (sorghum molasses).

 

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A table constructed of a wood plank with smaller tree limbs used for legs. Practical and cheap back then,
a wood slab that size today would cost a small fortune!

 

Cades Cove:

Cades Cove is a beautiful valley, or "cove", located within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When the park service took possession of the valley in the 1930's there were a considerable number of historic cabins still standing. The park service left many of these, while removing most of the newer buildings, leaving the appearance that the area is stuck in time. If you visit be prepared for crowds and very limited parking. We had to skip several areas due to no parking spaces being available!

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A view of the fields and mountains of Cades Cove.

 

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Cades cove has a superb collection of old barns of many styles. This barn looks somewhat like a covered bridge!

 

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This barn has a cantilevered equipment storage area on one side (no support columns to get in the way of equipment).

 

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An old hauling wagon in the cantilever barn above. In the foreground is a more
commonly used hauling sled, which was simply dragged over the ground.

 

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Somewhat typical interior structure of a barn.
Hay and feed would be stored above with animals and equipment below.

 

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Another barn, this one a newer one built with milled lumber and a metal roof.

 

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A wood bridge in Cades Cove.

 

Cades Cove has a superb collection of pre-1900's settler's cabins. Fortunately, the later occupants of the area didn't tear down the old cabins, but continued to use them for various purposes. This left us with a great collection of historic structures when the area was purchased by the Park Service. The average 1800's era cabin is about 18 feet by 20 feet in size and had a single fireplace for heat. The logs typically were cut from Yellow Poplar trees, this tree tends to have straight, knot-free trunks which make good building logs. Floor boards tend to be White Oak, this rock hard wood holds up well to foot traffic. Many cabins have later additions, they are easily seen since they used saw mill produced wood rather than logs.

Unfortunately, some of the more recent visitors have badly vandalized every one of them that is open to the public. Almost every inch of the interiors are completely covered with graffitti. One even had writing on the window glass! What a sad commentary on the lack of respect some people in this country have for our parks and historic resources. Why do these idiots think that anyone cares that they were there and felt the need to write on the walls to leave their mark on history? Do these jerks really think they are such important people? Due to their lack of respect for the other people in this world, I suspect the cabins will soon need to be closed to the public. That will ruin the great experience of being able to go into them and try to picture what life might have been like 150 years ago.

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The John Oliver place. A classic log cabin dating back to around 1820.
The logs are locked together using notches in the wood, mud was used to seal the gaps.
Inside is a single room, with a sleeping attic above. Families spent most of their time outdoors.

 

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Rock chimney on the John Oliver place. Note the dove-tailed
corners on the logs. Also the stacked rocks supporting the back porch.

 

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Stairs to the second floor/attic sleeping area. Note how steep the stairs are.
The staircases were inclosed and had doors to keep the heat from escaping into the upstairs in winter.

 

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The upstairs sleeping area, typically just the sons slept upstairs. Nothing fancy here!

 

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These butterflies were behind the cabin.

 

 

 

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The Dan Lawson place, 1856.

 

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The Dan-Lawson place. Notice the original log cabin side is apparent on the house, with later milled
lumber porch and kitchen additions on either side. The building to the left is the Granary.

 

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A closer look at the side of the Dan Lawson home where the different additions over the years are more apparent.
The original log cabin is in the center, later mill cut wood surround it. The brick chimney is a rarity, the bricks were home-made.

 

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The Dan Lawson barn, built with milled lumber.

 

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Barn door latch detail at the Dan-Lawson place.

 

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The smokehouse/meathouse at the Dan Lawson place. Local Red Maple would probably be used for smoking the meat.
The meat would most likely be ham and salt would be used as the primary preservative.

 

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The granary at the Dan Lawson place.

 

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A square nail partially protrudes from the wood.

 

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The staircase to the second floor sleeping room inside the Dan Lawson home.
This was a fancy turning stair design that uses less floor space in the small house.

 

 

 

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The Carter-Shields Cabin, built sometime after 1910. While the grass in the photo looks pretty,
vegetation would have been kept well away from the house. This helped keep insects and snakes out of the house.

 

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Interior and fireplace of the Carter-Shields Cabin.

 

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Detail view of the wood peg system used to hold the ceiling joists to the outside wall.
Also note the hatchet marks on the larger logs.

 

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Another look at the construction detail of the Carter-Shields Cabin.
Notice the uneven edges of the beams where they were split rather than cut.

 

 

 

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The farmland quickly reverts to forest if it is not kept cleared. In this photo you can see second generation regrowth coming up.
(Look for the darker green shrubs & small trees mixed in with the yellow grass.)

In the past the Park Service leased out the farmland in Cades Cove to local farmers who grew crops on it. This kept it from reverting to forest. However the current emphasis in large parks like the Great Smoky Mountains is on eliminating non-native species from the park. Since Cades Cove is well within the park rather than near the edge it created a problem, seeds from the non-native crops were spreading into the surrounding forest areas. So they no longer grow crops in the Cove, but this creates yet another problem. The Cades Cove area is maintained as a historic, rather than natural area, thus the goal for this small cove is to keep it looking somewhat like farmland. At the time the park service purchased the land, the farmers had cleared just about everything in the cove that was level enough to farm, and such a large area was not needed to convey the historic feel. So much of the perimeter areas have been allowed to revert to forest. To keep the rest of the area from reverting to forest the Park Service burns the fields every few years. Burning is usefull as it kills many of the non-native plants and seeds. But burning also creates it's own environmental problems, such as smoke, so they are experimenting with other methods such as herbicides and mowing the fields to keep them from becoming forest. At the same time they are trying to reintroduce native grasses and eliminate the imported European grasses brought in by early settlers.

If you have read many of my park visit pages, you know that I sometimes give the park service a bad time for what I think are bad design or management decisions. Managing a national park is a difficult task. Everything they do tends to have both positive and negative impacts. Even when they think you have a great solution to a problem, someone, someplace, will have heartburn over it. From the top management down to the ranger trying to settle a disagreement between a couple of park visitors, its a harder job than it may at first appear. You and I may not agree with all of their decisions, but they do the best they can in a difficult situation. So next time you see a park ranger, give them a bit of respect.

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A stream crossing on the single lane road that loops around the cove.

 

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There are many old churches in Cades Cove, I've included three here, representing different views of what a church building should be.
This one is the Primitive Baptist Church, built in 1887. A very basic structure, one room, no ornamentation other than the bell tower.

 

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The interior of the Primitive Baptist Church. Note the metal plates on the floor and ceilings where the stove was.
Beyond that there is little to distract the worshipers. The pews are basic and simple in construction, as is the rostrum.
The books on the rostrum are Bibles left by park visitors. Most of the Bibles have comments or dedications inside the front cover.

 

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The rear of the Primitive Baptist Church, viewed from the cemetery.

 

 

 

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This is the Methodist Church, built in 1902. Much fancier than the Primitive Baptist church.
Note the transom windows above the doors. Many churches of the time separated the congregation
(audience) by gender- women sat on one side and men on the other. They also had two doors, one for men and one for women.
This church didn't separate the congregation, however the church was built from a set of standardized plans, and the plans called for two doors.

 

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Interior of the Methodist Church. Note the nicer pews and larger windows.
There are two rostrums for lay-readers (non-clergy) as well as a pulpit for the preacher on the left.

 

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Side view of the Methodist Church from the church cemetery.
Notice the fancy trim over the windows.

 

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The Missionary Baptist Church, built 1915. The fanciest of the 3 churches shown here
but it is also the newest.

 

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The Missionary Baptist Church has both a narthex (the entry-room under the bell-tower), and a alcove on the other end.

 

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The interior of the Missionary Baptist Church. Note the alcove behind the altar.

 

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Looking out the window at the cemetery of the Missionary Baptist Church.

 

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A young child's grave in the cemetery. In a rather touching display of sympathy,
children visiting the park often leave one of their own toys by the headstone.

 

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Another view of the Missionary Baptist Church.

 

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The Cades Cove Visitor Center at the Cable Mill Historic Area. This is an area where the park service
has relocated several buildings to in order to recreate some typical scenes from a 1800's era farm Cades Cove farm.
The following photos are all from this area.

 

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This larger 1879 home is located in the Cable Mill area. It is fully furnished inside.
Unfortunately it was closed as they were replacing the roof.

 

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This is a smokehouse, where meat was cured and stored.

 

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This device is a sorghum press. The wood arm is attached to a horse or mule, the animal walks in a circle around
the machine pulling the arm. The arm is attached to a pair of large gears, which turn as the arm rotates.
The cane of the sorghum plant is fed between the large gears, which crush the cane. As it was crushed the sugary
sap is squeezed out of the cane and drips down into a bucket which is placed in the hollow opening under the press.
After being crushed the cane was used as animal feed.

 

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This is the sorghum furnace. Sorghum juice collected from the sorghum press (photo above) was placed
in pans or kettles and boiled over a fire to reduce the water content and make "Sweet Sorghum"
(sorghum molasses). About 10 gallons of sorghum juice is needed to make a gallon of molasses.

 

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A fully-operational replica of a late 1800's blacksmith shop. Periodically the park service gives blacksmith demonstrations here.

 

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A corn crib at the Cable Mill Historic area in Cades Cove.

 

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The Cable Mill. The mill is a fully operational gristmill and they grind cornmeal
(or other products) daily during the spring, summer and fall tourist season.

 

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This is the wood flume that feeds water to the Cable Mill grist mill.

 

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A wood gate in the flume controls the amount of water that goes to the water wheel.
This is used to control the speed of the mill, more water makes the mill wheels turn faster.

 

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Different view angle of the Cable Mill.

 

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Close up view of the water wheel.

 

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Gears inside the mill that transfer power from the water wheel outside to the grinding wheel above.
The original gears likely were made from the wood of the Dogwood tree!

 

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The flour box. After the corn is ground between the wheels it drops into this box,
from where it is collected and bagged.

 

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The funnel shaped hopper colds the corn kernels and feeds them down to the mill wheel
in the round enclosure below it. The miller looks a bit bored... (Actually he was a nice guy, very helpful
considering he has probably answered the same questions a million times. Just not the best picture of him.)

 




Text and Images by Jess Stryker. Copyright © Jess Stryker, 2006. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for student use of photos for non-profit school/class projects.