The National Park Service and the Landscape

 View of the southern end of the cove from near Carter Shields cabin

View of the southern end of the cove from near Carter Shields cabin

 
 

By Kyra Bowman

This picture is of the view you get from a knoll right before Carter Shields’ cabin. To get this picture, a little walking was needed but the view was worth it. The view shows the land for possible farming and the mountains that has seen all of Cades Cove history. Though this knoll or location is not pointed out while driving the loop, it subtly represents the aftermath of what the National Parks did to the cove.

It was a major controversial decision in making Cades Cove a part of the Great Smoky National Park. John W. Oliver, the great grandson of John Oliver the first, tried to stop the national park services from taking Cades Cove from them. In April 1927, the Tennessee General Assembly signed a bill giving the park commission to seize homes within the boundary by right of eminent domain. John W. Oliver would spend 6 years[1] fighting against the national park service. By January 1936, all of the families in the cove were told to vacate the property.

While traveling the loop in the spring, you will occasional see many flowers blooming in random areas in the open meadows. These flowers are remnants of a homestead once stood. The cove became overgrown and did not have the same views it once had. Many homesteads, schools, stores, and a post office were destroyed in making the Cades Cove we see today. These structures were destroyed as they became hazardous due to the lack of care. This happened because once the National Park received all of the land, they did nothing to maintain the cove.

The original plan[2] was to allow the cove to revert back to the wilderness. This plan was though to make the cove look more like it did when John Oliver first came to the cove. When the national park services realized that this plan was not going to bring in tourist, a decision[3] was made to make Cades Cove a historic district and treat it like one. The park then came in to make scenic views in the cove and kept some buildings to raise interest for tourism. Making these changes, it led to Cades Cove being one of the most visited national parks in the nation. [4]

The first picture shows the view from the knoll and the open meadows. The open meadows were made by clear cutting by the early settlers and now are maintained by industrialized mowers[5]. The meadows were used for farming to support the cove population. The decision to keep the center of the loop cleared and having the land outside of the loop to revert back to the wilderness shows the elements of the cove. Having the wilderness reverting back to the wilderness gives the wildlife of the cove homes. The wildlife in the cove consists of deer, turkeys, many birds, rabbits, and the most anticipated animal- the bear. Most of the cove traffic is from many visitors slowing down and stopping to get a look and a picture of these animals. The second picture is of a cluster of daffodils. This cluster looks like it would have gone along the sides of a home in the cove. Now this daffodil cluster is huge, but still goes along an invisible home in the cove. These pictures show how the Great Smoky National Park made Cades Cove a historic district and how the original cove can still be seen in today’s cove.

The effect that the National Park Services had on Cades Cove goes back to the theme of Appalachia otherness. The Park Service wanted the cove to “revert back to wilderness” to attract tourists. During the 1920s, there was a large influx of tourism in Appalachia. What attracted the tourist to the region was how the region seemed to live in the past. The log homes, vast scenic views, unique culture, and rural atmosphere are the factors that attracted people to the region. Also, the stereotype of the Appalachia people being “hillbillies” and toothless started to appear during this time. When the park service gained all of the property of Cades Cove, reverting the land back to the wilderness was meant to appeal tourists to come and visit the region. With the original plan failing, designing the cove to what it is today attracted the tourist and accomplished the park services goal.

So, the exact location of this view is unknown, but we do know that is in the same area has the Carter Shields Cabin. This spot, or knoll, could have been where a cove family had a home. It could have been a barn to hold tractors, or livestock to maintain the large amount of agriculture produced in the cove. We will never know what because the park has changed the cove to attract tourists. The Cades Cove you see today is not what you would have seen in 1818- 1927.

 

[1] Dunn, Durwood, Cades Cove: The Life and Death of a Southern Community: 1818-1937, pg.241

[2] Dunn, Durwood, Cades Cove: The Life and Death of a Southern Community: 1818-1937, pg. 253

[3] Jantz, Claire, “Cades Cove: Reconstructing Human Impacts on the Environment, and Conservation Before Euro-American Settlement” in Howell, ed., Culture, Environment, and Conservation in the Appalachia South (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000), pg. 55

[4] Jantz, Claire, “Cades Cove: Reconstructing Human Impacts on the Environment and Conservation Before Euro-American Settlement”, pg. 57

[5] Jantz, Claire, “Cades Cove: Reconstructing Human Impacts on the Environment and Conservation Before Euro-American Settlement”, pg. 56