The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is ideal for history buffs! There are historical landmarks throughout the park. To help make the most of your next vacation, here’s the top 6 historical places in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Walker Sisters Place
The Walker Sisters Place is a log cabin located in the Little Greenbrier section of the National Park right before the wooden bridge at Metcalf Bottoms, if you are coming in from Wears Valley Road. The Walker Sisters spent their entire lives in the cabin, which was built by their grandfather in the 1840s. When the Walker Sisters’ father died in 1921, the property was left to the sisters. They took on all farm responsibilities for more than 40 years. The sisters raised livestock, grew vegetables and made their own clothes! When the National Park was established, the Walker Sisters remained in their cabin and became quasi-ambassadors of the park. Visitors to the park could chat with the sisters, who sold homemade treats and toys. You can still see the historic cabin today!
Cades Cove attracts more than 2 million visitors per year, and is the most-visited section of the national park! The Cove offers opportunities to view wildlife, historic buildings and landmarks. You will see John Oliver’s cabin, one of the oldest historical structures in the National Park. The cabin was built in the early 1820s by John and Lucretia Oliver, who were the first to come to this area of the Smokies. There are 3 beautiful churches. Each church has its own unique history. There’s the Primitive Baptist Church, the Missionary Baptist Church and the Methodist Church. Then, of course, there’s John Cable Grist Mill. The Cable Mill was built in the early 1870s and processed logs, wheat and corn. The mill is still functional, and visitors can purchase corn meal at the Cades Cove Visitor Center seasonally. These are just a few of the many historic sites in Cades Cove!
Elkmont Ghost Town
Elkmont Ghost Town was once a sleepy mountain community. It was bustling logging town in the 20th century when the Little River Lumber Company was formed and a railroad was built to connect the logging operation to a sawmill in Tuckaleechee Cove. Many residents had lifetime leases for their summer cottages, but many of the leases expired in 1992, turning Elkmont into a ghost town. Some of the cabins are being preserved by the National Park Service and are open to the public to walk through and view.
Little Greenbrier School
Built in 1882, the Little Greenbrier School is a 1-story building that doubled as a church and a school for the residents of the Little Greenbrier Town. The school was started because citizens of the town wanted a teacher for their children. For a little more than 50 years, from 1883 until 1936, the Little Greenbrier School was a place for the community to grow academically and spiritually. Today, school groups can visit the historic building and learn about the Smoky Mountains while sitting in the old desks.
John Ownby Cabin
The John Ownby Cabin, which was built in 1860, was constructed from tulip trees, white pine logs and clay mortar. If you hike the Fighting Creek Nature Trail in the National Park, you’ll get to see this historic log cabin, along with beautiful forest scenery and a mountain stream. The John Ownby Cabin is one of the oldest remaining pre-park cabins in the Forks of the River community. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
Little Cataloochee Church
The Little Cataloochee Church was built in 1889 and served about 1,200 people who lived in Cataloochee Valley at the time. It is a white painted church surrounded by the Smoky Mountains and was a popular place for community gatherings. The well-maintained cemetery that is close to the church became the final resting place for many of its members. On Memorial Day, many descendants of the early Cataloochee families return to the church to decorate the graves of their relatives.
Now that you know more about these historical places in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s time to come see them in person! Learn more about the National Park and plan your visit today by contacting My Bearfoot Cabins.
Pat and Don Kirchhoefer, owners