Cades Cove

We had another beautiful day of weather yesterday. We were both out without jackets for the first time in quite a while. It was a long drive from the east side of the park to the west side, and then another long drive south to Cades Cove. We hadn't been on the road for very long when we noticed dozens of cars pulled off on both sides of the road and people running in all directions...in both lanes of traffic, on the narrow park road. It appeared to be either mass hysteria or mass suicidality. This can ever only mean one thing: a wild animal. We opted to drive around the next hairpin turn and park down below the crazy people. From there, we got out of the truck and looked up. The bright sunshine was making it difficult to see anything, but we were patient and persisted, peering into the brambles above us and trying to hone in on what the others were looking at. Finally, it moved, and we saw it: A black bear!

It appeared to be wearing some kind of tracking collar...or maybe it was a troublesome bear...who knows. It was very exciting to get to see one.

It was also hard to tell if I'd captured it with my camera, and so I was pretty excited when I took these photos off the camera. They aren't great, but they aren't terrible either. If nothing else of worth happened for the rest of the day, it was already a good day.

We stopped off at the information kiosk and picked up a self-guiding auto tour pamphlet for $1...well worth the price...we're surprised they can be printed at that cost. Cades Cove is a broad 2,400-acre valley that was home to more than 130 families in the mid-19th century. Many of their homes, barns, churches, and other buildings can be seen here. Former farm fields are now open grasslands, and we were able to see some white-tailed deer there yesterday. I'll say more about that in a minute.

The road was one-way and narrow. Traffic was fairly light when we started out, but jammed up pretty quickly, and it was a slow day of driving around the loop. I can't even imagine what it must be like during the summer.

The first home we came to was the John Oliver Place. It was the oldest log house in the area, built of hand-hewn logs and split-wood shingles. We hiked about half a mile out to see it.

There are lots of split rail fences in the areas we've been. We'd hoped to see an exhibit about them on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but it was closed for the season.

Inside, there wasn't much, but all of the homes we saw had stone fireplaces. These were basically one-room homes. Some had an upstairs portion. Remember that entire families lived here.

 Moving on, we came to the Primitive Baptist Church. It was established by some of the earliest settlers.

This building replaced the original log cabin in 1887.

Inside, the sanctuary looked like this.

Imagine sitting in these pews. They don't appear very comfortable.

The church closed during the Civil War. Official church correspondence explained that the church favored the Union and the Rebel sentiment was strong in Cades Cove. It reopened after the war.

Some of the earliest settlers lie in the cemetery behind the structure. Many of the headstones bore the name "Oliver." Indeed, I'll be showing you another home from the Oliver Family in just a bit.

But first, indulge me my morbid fascination with old cemeteries for just a moment. People didn't live long in these days, although plenty of headstones here testified to people who had lived to a ripe old age. This one made me sniff a little.

And knowing the history of the church and its stance in the civil war, this one below was interesting. Here's a little more information about him and Gregory's Bald.

Or how about this one with a member of the North Carolina militia during the Revolutionary War.

The far side of the cemetery was ancient with primitive headstones. It was hard to know if they'd ever borne an inscription. If they did, it had weathered away. And this always makes me thoughtful. It occurred to me long ago that the dead live on in the minds and memories of those who knew them. Eventually, however, even those folks are gone, and so they are truly dead and forgotten in all respects.

So if someone is buried with no marker at all...did anyone love them or care for them at one point? Whether the headstones above ever bore an inscription is anybody's guess, but this soul below at least had someone who cared enough to carve some letters on a rock to mark their life and their passing.

But what about this soul? Who lies here? What was their life like? How did they die?

This primitive stone was in the main part of the cemetery. You can see that here lies another member of the Oliver family.

So there you go...just the musings of a social worker who used to work with the dying and the grieving.

Moving on, we came to the Methodist Church. This church was built by J. D. McCampbell, who was a blacksmith and carpenter. He built the church in 115 days for $115 and then served as its minister for many years. Notice that this church has two front doors, and this usually indicated that the church followed the custom of having men sit on one side of the house while women sat on the other. This church didn't follow that custom, however. The two doors are there because the church borrowed the building plans of another church that did.

Inside, the sanctuary looked like this.

This piano has seen better days.

And these church pews seemed at least a little bit more comfortable than the ones I showed you above.

Also, I wanted you to notice the cornerstone foundation. Almost all the structures we visited yesterday were built this way. Imagine what happened as the ground grew wet or when it settled over time.

Moving on, we stopped at the house of Elijah Oliver. He was the son of John Oliver and was born in the Cove in 1824. After he married, he and his family moved out of the Cove before the Civil War. After the war, he bought this property and moved back in. In the time and place of this family, more buildings were required for living than now. With no refrigerator or freezer, they needed a springhouse to keep milk and butter cool. They also needed a smokehouse to store and preserve meat for an entire year. Also, a corn crib to store enough corn for grinding into meal and to last until the next harvest. We walked quite some distance to get back to the buildings. Along the way, I looked off into the valley and imagined what it would have been like to live here and farm this land. The trees are so graceful in their leafless state.

The first structure we came to was the barn.

Inside, it looked like this.

It had doors that slid along a rail above.

Walking on, we came to the home. This home was notable because of the "stranger house" added on the right to house overnight visitors.

We went inside there, walking up these stone steps.

The ceiling was low enough that I could reach up and touch it with my hand with no problem.

It had its own fireplace for warmth.

To the left was a door leading into the main structure.

Back outside, we could see that it was attached to the main structure with a sort of breezeway.

Inside the main structure, it looked like this.

It too had its own fireplace for warmth.

Back outside and on the left of the structure was a porch and more stone steps. Be sure and notice its cornerstone foundation.

Alongside the back of the structure was a wooden fence.

We explored a few of the outbuildings. This is the only one I photographed.

It appeared to be some sort of shelter for animals. It wouldn't have kept them very warm.  Another visitor remarked, "In bear country, you have to protect your livestock from bears."

Walking back to the truck, I noticed this one small tree with leaves still clinging for life.

From there, we headed to the Cable Mill Area. Along the way, we passed this white-tailed deer grazing in one of the open areas. When I took this image off the camera, I was kind of surprised by that bright light behind him. I can only think it's a reflection off a windshield on the other side of the wooded area.

I was sorry he didn't face me for this next image, but you can see his impressive antlers either way.

 Notice that his tail has a white tip...thus the name.

Just around the corner was the Cable Mill Area. We knew the day would be long and there was no food in Cades Cove, so I'd packed a lunch for us in the morning. We sat in the parking lot on the tailgate of our truck and ate it. It was so warm and lovely we took our jackets off and enjoyed the sunshine.

The gristmill is on its original site, but other historic buildings in the complex were brought from elsewhere in the park. There is a visitor center, open daily throughout the spring, summer, and fall, and even most days during the winter. We stopped off there...I'm still on the hunt for a shot glass from the park, but I've come to the conclusion that there are none to be had. Walking on, we were informed of how we're going to die today.

Oh yes, and this sign gave us a chuckle. If it was up to us, Bob would have done his time in jail.

Walking on, we were able to see the sorghum grinder in action, operated by Ethel the mule. The man in the center is feeding sorghum cane stalks into the grinder, and they squeeze the liquid sugar from the canes. You can see it running into the orange bucket there.

Just to the right of the frame the liquid sugar was being boiled into molasses. Also there was a kiosk set up where we could taste the molasses and some barbecue sauce. We tasted it, but found it nasty. There were some cookbooks for sale too. I picked one up and paged through it, vowing to come back later for it.

Beyond that was the Cable Mill. John P. Cable bought the land in the late 1860s and built this water-powered gristmill and sawmill in about 1870. The same wheel provided power for both mills.

There are the grinding stones.

Inside, the mill was working. Below, you can see the hopper where corn is placed.

Those white bags in the foreground contained cornmeal which was for sale.

In the image below, you can see how the upright rolling pin sort of thing jiggled the chute so that it dropped corn onto the grinding stone.

When the corn was ground into meal, it dumped into this bin below.

Back outside, we watched the mill wheel turning.

There's the flume feeding the water.

Walking up the hill, we could see how the upright on the left side of the image below was used to control the flow of water. For every one turn of the mill wheel, the grinding stone turned 25 times.

Walking on, we saw this barn. Large barns were common in the Cove where farmers needed shelter in the cold months for livestock. The overhang in cantilever barns, such as this one, provided shelter for animals and storage space for farm equipment. This kind of construction originated centuries ago in Europe.

Behind the barn was the stream that fed the mill.

In this next image is the Gregg-Cable House. Leason Gregg bought an acre of land from Mr. Cable in 1879 and built a small house with lumber sawed at Cable's mill. Later, he enlarged the house and his family lived in it and operated a store on the first floor. It is perhaps the first all-frame house in the Cove.

Walking inside...

there was a fireplace for warmth.

Another room was warmed by a wood stove.

Behind the house was this barn with the drive-through in the center and stalls on each side. This was more typical in East Tennessee than the cantilever barn. Two men with pitchforks, one on a wagon load of hay in the drive-through and the other in the loft, could transfer the hay to the loft in a short time. The drive-through sometimes served as a storage place for farm equipment.

We decided to head for home at this point. It was nearly 3:30 p.m. by this time, and we still had an hour and a half drive (at least) to get back to the RV. Along the way back to the truck, I stopped to pick up the cookbook I was interested in. I was mainly interested in the preserving and fermenting recipes.

Nevertheless, if the Big One ever hits, we'll be ready with plenty of recipes for game meats. Yuck.

Now, I know some of you will write to tell me you've actually eaten these dishes, and my hat is off to you. Not this woman, although I'm thinking stewed squirrel might be pretty good. We certainly have enough squirrels at our place to keep ourselves fat and happy.

Opossum on the other hand...I'm not sure I could get past thinking about their ugly tails.

There were still more structures to see along the drive back through Cades Cove. We just looked at them as we drove by.

Back at the RV it was time to attend to the vitally important state of the states.

Tennessee and North Carolina...gotcha!

We've decided to stay an extra day here, but not for the park. Today we're driving a half hour into town to see the American Museum of the House Cat. I doubt meeting the Queen of England could have me any more excited to see something. James Taylor, on the other hand...now that's a different story. He's the only man I'd leave my husband for, but I hear he's already married. Oh well. Maybe in the next life. But anyway...the museum. Yes, it's going to be a great day. Also, grocery shopping...because we wanted to go on the worst grocery shopping day of the year...the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Also, we need to pick up a few other things. So, it's an errand-running day, but man...I can't get over my excitement about visiting the American Museum of the House Cat. I'll bet you're waiting on tenterhooks for me to come back and tell you all about it. Just request of the universe that photography is allowed, okay? Also, I still need to tell you about the quilt shop, but that will have to wait until a little later.


QuiltShopGal said...

I'm impressed with how well the old homes have been maintained and that the Mill is still working. I remember visiting an historic Mill in the midwest, as a child, but it has no been long closed. I had no idea there was a Museum of the House Cat. I look forward to hearing about it, but I'm also curious how it started (Crazy old cat lady ?). Bet they have some cool merchandise in their store!


gpc said...

So many things to think about. Bears with collars. Those small homes that typically housed several people in the family. The way we are ultimately forgotten and whether future generation will discover, in some grant funded experiment, my dna in the soil of my home state. What I would want on my tombstone if I want one at all. House cats. And how lucky I am not to have boiled "meat skins" for supper -- instead of using them as leather? Good grief. I think I'll take a nap.

Vroomans' Quilts said...

It amazes me that people get out and 'look' at wildlife that could potentially attack. The BIG barn looks so like the one here. Love this venture into history and main/settling families. Curious about the Cat Museum

Kate said...

Sounds like an adventurous day. Started with a bear and ended with a cookbook. Lots of amazing history in that part of the country.

Judy1522 said...

What an informative post. I really enjoyed reading everything and yikes on those foundation stones. I am surprised the buildings are still standing after all this time. It always amazes me how many people manged to live in those tiny houses. I agree with you about Bob. We were in Yosemite in early October and I was so disgusted with people for ignoring signs and climbing over fences just so they could take a better picture. I did finally say something to someone and If I hadn't been so disgusted I would have laughed at her performance at pretending she didn't know. If the parks need money to pay for things they could make tons of money off fining the people that can't seem to obey the park rules to stay on the path. Ok off my soapbox I just wish people wouldn't be so selfish and realize the parks need to be preserved for everyone.

Brown Family said...

The second set of church pews look exactly like the pews I grew up sitting in! They were not comfortable by today's standards, but we did not know any different! As for the cornerstones and foundations in those structures, I was raised in a house built in the 30's that had that kind of stacked rocks. Some of the supports were neatly stacked bricks, but most were native rocks. We sis not have as much shifting as you would think. Where we live now, we have to water our foundations to keep them from shifting. Where I grew up, We could adjust the level of the house. My sister and Mom would be in the house with a level and Dad and I would go under the house with a jack and shims. Dad would Jack it up till Mom would say it was level and I would start putting shims (they could be up to a 2X4) in teh gap. we did this several times while I was growing up. I was always amazed at the cactus that was growing under the house. We never saw any snakes under there!

My Dad loved Sorghum syrup (molasses), It dies take time to get use to it! .

Unknown said...

All those old buildings are amazing! I'm with Sharon, I don't think I would be out swarming around a wild critter sighting.
Ooooh, more cool millstones too!

Thanks Barbara!