Except for the mill, old buildings in this
complex were assembled here from other places in the park. The blacksmith shop was
constructed in recent years, and is typical of original ones.
Cades Cove Visitor Center
The visitor center is open daily during the
summer and fall season, usually from about mid-April through October. It was constructed
in 1972, and is not an historic structure. Personnel provide information on Cades Cove,
and assistance in emergencies. Exhibits inside illustrate rural life in the mountains
around 1900. Interpretive literature, post cards, film, maps, etc. are available.
Iron was an important material in pioneer life.
The blacksmith, its master, was a requisite figure in most communities. He pounded
violently on material from the depths of Hell, beside a fire from the same place, to forge
a graceful candlestick. From under his hammer came the tools of life: axes, adzes,
drawknives and froes; bolts and bits, chains and hooks; the bull tongue plow and the wagon
tire. He made and repaired the bits and pieces that cut, dug, hung, dragged, bore through,
or held together most everything else.
Large barns were common in Cades Cove because of
the considerable number of transient and resident livestock. The loft of this one would
hold many tons of hay and fodder. The large overhang sheltered many head of animals and
sundry farm equipment, without posts to get in the way of traffic. Cantilever construction
(counterweighted overhanging beams) was used frequently in east Tennessee, but originated
centuries ago in Europe. The support posts have been added as a safety measure.
Mill Race and Dam
The path beside the ditch full of water leads to
the mill dam. In order to insure an adequate water supply for his mill, John Cable linked
Forge and Mill Creeks with a small diversion canal. He then impounded the water with a log
and lumber dam. Water leaves the pond through a water gate, runs through the earthen race,
and into the wooden flume. The flume dumps it onto the waterwheel to supply power to the
John Cable Mill
Corn was a central fact of life to the pioneer.
A native American plant, its grain, stalks and foliage fed man and beast. Corn grew
dependably with minimum attention, frequently under poor circumstances. It was used for a
variety of foods -- bread, mush, grits, hominy -- and at times a potent beverage. But
first, it had to be ground into meal.
In the Smokies, single family
numerous but could grind only about a bushel of corn per day. When the need and
environment were suitable, a large mill powered by a waterwheel was built and became an
important feature in the community. It could grind more grain much faster than a tub mill.
A sawmill often operated off the same power unit (and did here), adding another service to
John P. Cables mill was not the first in Cades
Cove. However, by 1870 or so the population was large enough to support several such
businesses. As a rule millers were also farmers anyway, and John Cable was no exception. A
large bell used to be mounted atop a pole beside the mill; customers rang it to call the
miller in from the orchard or fields. Jim Cable, John ís son, inherited the mill and
operated it well into the twentieth century.
The millstones, some of the gears, and the main
framing of the structure are original. Other portions have been rehabilitated a couple of
times. In a sense, itís like the old axe that had two new heads and three new handles.
Cades Cove residents, as most mountain people,
ate pork in preference to other meat. Freshly killed bear, deer or turkey were welcome,
but difficult to preserve for months at a time. Pork was dressed into ham, bacon, jowl,
sausage and other products and kept in the meat house. It could be smoked over a slow fire
(thus smokehouse), or cured with salt and other spices to preserve it.
Built by Leason Gregg in 1879, this may have
been the first framed house in Cades Cove. Moved once and altered as the need arose, it
served its owners as a store, boarding house and private residence.
Aunt Becky Cable, bought
the house and lived in it till her death in 1940. She helped her brother manage the store,
kept boarders, farmed her land, cared for the orphaned children of her brother, and lived
to be 96.
A framed house is the kind of dwelling most
people aspired to and eventually built, whenever they were able. Old log homes were then
converted into barns or storage buildings. By the twentieth century framed houses probably
outnumbered log ones in Cades Cove. Several were much larger and finer than this one.
Being new in the 1930s, they were not preserved by the park.
The yard and garden were usually fenced to keep
domestic animals and varmints out of the beds of flowers, herbs and spices, and medicinal
plants. The yard was often scraped clean of grass to give small children a snakeless place
to play, and because there were no lawn mowers.
In the chimney corner stands an ash hopper. Wood
ashes from the stove and fireplace were conveniently stored in the dry until enough
accumulated for soap making. Water poured through the ashes leached out the lye, which was
then boiled with animal fat to make soap. Cooled and cut into cakes, it would clean just
Vegetable gardens provided variety at the table
and generally lay near the house. Most families saved seed from one year to the next but
occasionally needed to buy some.
Old store records reveal sales of a surprising
array of seed stock: bean, pea, cabbage, turnip, beet, lettuce, tomato, potato and others.
Gourd bird houses near the garden attracted beneficial creatures that controlled insect
The corn crib was a necessary structure on every
mountain farm. The years supply of corn was hauled in from the field and dumped into the
crib through the high hatch above the wagon. Small portions came out through the little
front door. Still on the cob and in the shuck, it would air dry sufficiently to be ground
into meal, chicken feed, or fed to livestock. Corn cribs were nearly always long and
narrow, with spaces between the logs left open. This promoted air circulation and enhanced
the drying. Some, but not all, cribs had under sheds to protect tools and vehicles
from the weather.
Farms often had more than one barn, particularly
if more than one generation had lived there. The drive-through design of this one provided
a protected place for farm equipment and animals. Milk cows and draft animals were kept in
stalls most of the time so they would be close at hand when needed.
Along with honey, sorghum molasses was a popular
sweetener. The cane stalks, stripped of their leaves, were fed into this horse drawn
It squeezed the juice out, which was then boiled down into molasses over the nearby
The sorghum mill is an interesting contract to
the Cable Mill. The farmer had two energy sources: water power and animal power. One was
strong but stationary; the other portable but relatively weak. Both served well into this
century on mountain farms.