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No words can fully describe the beauty of Cades Cove. The trip on a one-way, 11-mile loop road perfectly combines cultural history with natural beauty; in fact, the 4,000 acre valley is often referred to as an open-air museum. The Cove was originally settled by John Oliver but derives its name from Cherokee chief Abrams' wife Kate. Over the years, "Kate's Cove" became "Cades Cove." The valley harbored a thriving community for over a hundred years. In 1850 its population peaked at 685 people. The opening of the western frontier lured many families away from the Cove and by 1860 only 269 people remained.

Preserved Structures

The homes of John Oliver, Carter Shields, Henry Whitehead and Dan Lawson dot the valley floor and represent a variety of building techniques. The Whitehead home is made from logs sawed square at a nearby mill. Dan Lawson's home features an unusual chimney made of brick fired on the spot. Other buildings include a smithy, smokehouses, corn cribs and a cantilevered barn.

Historical Churches

Three of five original churches remain in Cades Cove today. The oldest among them is the Primitive Baptist Church, built in 1827. These churches and the surrounding cemeteries provide fascinating insight into the lives and times of 19th-century. For instance, the Baptist church was forced to close during the height of the Civil War because of its Union sympathies. In the cemetery nearby, one headstone reads simply "Bas Shaw -- Killed by Rebels."

Working Corn Mill

Halfway along the loop stands John P. Cable's 19th-century farm. Once a self-contained world, today the farm illustrates the daily lives of early settlers. The farm's centerpiece is the 1868 mill that still grinds corn raised in the Cove, open daily from mid-April through October.
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