There is more to Cades Cove than black bears; a good thing, too, because we did not spy a single one on this visit.

Cades Cove is truly a beautiful place to explore; and for more than 10,000 years it was a beautiful place to live. The earliest archeaological findings of the Cherokee and their ancestors date to around 8,000 B.C. Evidence of European settlers dates to between 1818-1820, when newcomers came from Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina to clear the land and build a community.

The story goes that for the Oliver and Jobes families, believed to be the first families to settle, life was so grueling (how would it not be?) that after Mr. Job left one year to recruit more settlers, upon his return the following spring he had to bribe his wife with two dairy cows just to get her to remain in the cove. I’m thinking Tony would have needed way more than two dairy cows to even get me to 1800’s Cades Cove in the first place.

This is the Oliver Cabin, the oldest log home in Cades Cove and an impressive construction for its time. John Oliver fought to keep it when the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was being established, but in the end he was compensated for the land. The Olivers hold a reunion and festival each Labor Day weekend, too, that would have been fun to attend last month but for the coronavirus.

The Primitive Baptist Church, built in 1897 to replace a log building. (“Primitive” in this context means “Original.”) The church closed during the Civl War, with official correspondence to explain why:

“It was on account of the Rebellion and we was Union people and the Rebels was too strong here in Cades Cove. Our preacher was obliged to leave sometimes, and thank God we once more can meet.”

The cemetery adjacent to the church warranted a walkabout. Some of the gravestones were particularly sorrowful.

A notable family plot.

Numerous military graves were sprinkled with coins. I learned that leaving coins on military graves came to be during the Vietnam War as a way to pay respects without getting into an uncomfortable discussion about a war that was not popular. A penny means you visited; a nickel, that you trained at boot camp with the deceased; and a dime, that you served with the soldier. Leaving a quarter means you were there when the soldier died. A thoughtful gesture.

The Methodist Church, built in 115 days at a cost of $115. The double doors do not mean that the church followed the convention of separating men and women during service; they had simply borrowed the plans from another church that did divide its congregation.

The Mill Area sits at about the halfway point of the loop, and is a nice place to get out of the wagon to stretch one’s legs, while being mindful of the new rules, of course.

As one might expect there is a grist mill, on its original site. The Cable Mill was established in the late 1860s. Fun fact: Millers generally charged between 8 and 12 percent tax to grind corn, the most important crop in the Cove.

The cantilever barn is a style I had not seen before landing in Tennessee. Even more interesting to me is that this is a European design; given all the traipsing about rural Austria that we did you would think we’d have come across one or two.

The requisite cane mill and sorghum furnace, along with a smokehouse and blacksmith shop are also on the property, but the Gregg-Cable House is the most interesting. It is thought to be the first all-frame house in the Cove, with the Gregg family operating a store on the main level.

Eventually Rebecca and Dan Cable (siblings) purchased the property back and continued operating the store for a number of years before using the rooms for boarders. Who might be passing through Cades Cove I do not know, but I guess it worked for them.

Dan married and started a family. Tragically Dan’s wife had tuberculosis and Dan was hospitalized for mental illness, so “Aunt Becky” raised Dan’s children, ran the boarding house and took care of the farm and the cattle, living a full and successful life until her passing in 1940 at the age of 96. Whether she exerted any influence to get Dan’s children into USC is unknown. 🤣

At this junction we turned off to exit the loop. The weekend crowds had arrived and were spoiling the views. Quite soon the leaves will change colors, giving us the excuse we need to return for leaf peeping.