Brief History of Cades Cove
Cherokee Indians hunted in Cades Cove for hundreds of years before the first European settlers arrived in the early 1820s. In fact, the valley is named for a Tsiya’hi leader known as Chief Kade, and its largest waterfall is named after another local chief, Abraham of Chilhowee.
The early settlers cleared the land for farming and built their homesteads, primarily growing corn in the fertile valley. The temperance movement and Civil War caused some division, which spawned new churches from the original Primitive Baptist Church founded by the first permanent resident, John Oliver.
Cades Cove was a tight-knit community where neighbors gathered for corn husking, corn milling, molasses making, and gathering chestnuts. It was these communal events that fostered courtships and marriages. The entire valley came together for funerals, with the church bells tolling once for each year of the deceased life. The settlement was small enough that the sounds would typically allow the community to know precisely who passed.
The National Park Service began acquiring land in 1927. Some villagers willingly moved or accepted a life-long lease for their property. Others, like John W. Oliver, fought a prolonged court battle to keep their home. Kermit Caughron was the last of the permanent Cove residents who lived in Cades Cove until shortly before his death in 1999 at age 86. Today his home, a former one-room schoolhouse, and a collection of other historic buildings are preserved for visitors along Cades Cove Loop.