Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Cades Cove -- A "Ghost Town" in the Great Smoky Mountains

By Michelle Shocklee

Cades Cove, photo from https://www.oldcreeklodgegatlinburg.com/

When I look at this picture of Cades Cove, I immediately get a peaceful feeling deep inside. The tranquil beauty of God's handiwork is breathtaking, and I simply can't get enough of it. Unfortunately I don't live here, but I enjoy visiting as often as I can!

Have you been to Cades Cove? If you haven't, you may not know about this sweet spot in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And even if you have visited this area of the park, you may not be familiar with its history. 

John Oliver cabin; built 1822 (Wikipedia)
Before settlers came to this beautiful valley in Tennessee, the Cherokee Indians camped and hunted in this area. One of their leaders, Chief Kade, is said to be the namesake. In 1819, The Treaty of Calhoun ended all Cherokee claims to the Smokies, and although they abandoned Cades Cove, they remained in the vicinity until 1838 when they were forcefully removed to Oklahoma. 

During that time, European settlers began to arrive, including John and Lurena Oliver, the first permanent white residents in the cove. John built a sturdy cabin that still stands in the cove. Their first winter was extremely difficult, and the Olivers relied on help from their neighbors, the Cherokees, to survive. 

Cades Cove Methodist church (Wikipedia)
In 1821, William "Fighting Billy" Tipton, a veteran of the American Revolution, bought up large tracts of Cades Cove which he in turn sold to his sons and relatives, and the settlement began to grow. Businesses and a post office were opened, and several churches were built. There were even quite a few moonshine stills tucked in the hollers. By 1850 the population of Cades Cove was nearly 700, with most residents living on farms. Life in Cades Cove was good.

Everything would change, however, when plans for a new national park were put into place in 1926. 

The cove residents were initially assured their land would not be incorporated into the park. In 1927, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill approving money to buy land for the national park and gave the Park Commission the power to seize properties within the proposed park boundaries by eminent domain. The residents of Cades Cove were outraged when they learned their properties were included. Death threats against the men involved in organizing the park were made. Legal battles ensued. In the end, the park won. All the residents who remained in the cove either sold their land or were evicted.

Cades Cove gristmill (Wikipedia)
Today, Cades Cove is the most popular destination in the park. A narrow one-way road runs the entire
11-mile loop with stopping points along the way at old cabins, barns, gristmill, and churches. Wildlife, including black bears and deer, are often spotted in the now-empty fields and pastures where crops and farm critters used to reside. It is said that some of the houses are haunted by residents who refuse to relinquish their homes to the government, even in death. 

I highly recommend a trip to Cades Cove if you find yourself in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's like stepping back in time. (But I don't recommend going during peak tourist seasons. Traffic can be awful!)

Your turn: Have you been to Cades Cove? Have you ever visited a ghost town? Tell me about it!

Michelle Shocklee
 is the author of several historical novels, including Count the Nights by Stars, winner of the 2023 Christianity Today Book Award, and Under the Tulip Tree, a Christy Awards and Selah Awards finalist. Her work has been included in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books, magazines, and blogs. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of two grown sons, she makes her home in Tennessee, not far from the historical sites she writes about. Visit her online at www.MichelleShocklee.com


*2023 Christianity Today Book Award Winner*

1961. After a longtime resident at Nashville’s historic Maxwell House Hotel suffers a debilitating stroke, Audrey Whitfield is tasked with cleaning out the reclusive woman’s room. There, she discovers an elaborate scrapbook filled with memorabilia from the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Love notes on the backs of unmailed postcards inside capture Audrey’s imagination with hints of a forbidden romance . . . and troubling revelations about the disappearance of young women at the exposition. Audrey enlists the help of a handsome hotel guest as she tracks down clues and information about the mysterious “Peaches” and her regrets over one fateful day, nearly sixty-five years earlier.



  1. Thank you for your post today. It was great to read more about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I read a great novel set in this area by Karen Barnett. I've never visited a ghost town; the closest thing might be a fort that was restored to its' original state.

    1. Connie, I'll have to look for that novel. I love reading about life in the Smokies! Thanks for your comment.

    2. Michelle, the book is When Stone Wings Fly. It's Karen's newest and it was such a good story.

    3. I've been to Cades Cove once years ago, but would love to visit again! I am actually reading When Stone Wings Fly right now...

    4. Patty, I hope you can visit Cades Cove again! Enjoy the book. I MUST order a copy of it! :D