There were many beautiful valleys located among the Appalachian mountains that invited European settlement. One of the better known due to its location in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park is Cade’s Cove in East Tennessee.
Named for the Cherokee Indian chief Kade, Cade’s Cove was first settled in 1818 by a Carter County, Tennessee, couple, John and Lurena Oliver, along with Joshua Jobe. Eventually the valley developed into a thriving farming community that was pretty much self-sufficient.
Cade’s Cove was a pro-Union stronghold during the Civil War, with a stop on the Underground Railroad having been established prior to the conflict.
After initially being told that their beloved cove would not be incorporated into the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, by 1927, the Tennessee General Assembly authorized the state Park Commission to seize property in Cade’s Cove by eminent domain for the new park. With that, the state park commissioner began receiving anonymous threats, including a phone call saying that if he ever returned to Cade’s Cove that he “would spend the next night in hell.” After the Park Commission lost one lawsuit because the court reasoned that the federal government never said that the inclusion of the cove was necessary for the new park, another was filed (this time the Secretary of the Interior issued a statement saying that Cade’s Cove was essential for the park), with the Tennessee Supreme Court ruling in favor of the government.
On the advice of experts, all the modern buildings in Cade’s Cove were demolished, leaving primitive cabins and barns which were considered to represent pioneer life in Appalachia. One of the cabins left standing was one built by John Oliver, the original settler in the valley.
Not everyone left, though. Several residents signed life leases with the government that allowed them to stay on their land for the rest of their lives, so long as they abided by park rules. Kermit and Lois Caughron were the last people to live in Cade’s Cove. Kermit, a descendant of John Oliver, died in 1999, and his wife moved away shortly thereafter.
Cade’s Cove is one of the more popular destinations for visitors to the Smokies, with more than two million folks coming there each year. The Cade’s Cove Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.