The Jim Bales Cabin on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
Robert Crootof photo
Great Smoky Mountains National Park holds one of the best collections of log buildings in the eastern United States. Over 90 historic structures—houses, barns, outbuildings, churches, schools, and grist mills—have been preserved or rehabilitated in the park. The best places to see them are at Cades Cove,Cataloochee, Oconaluftee, and along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Self-guiding auto tour booklets are available at each place to enhance your visit.
Here are just a few you may want to visit.
The Little Greenbrier School
They really did walk nine miles to school in the snow.
On your way from Gatlinburg to Cades Cove, stop here and take a trip back to school in the 1800s. Families sent their kids here for more than 50 years, mostly in winter when there was less farming to be done.
Greenbrier is now a ghost town, and there’s a cemetery across the street. This classic one-room schoolhouse also served as a Primitive Baptist Church. Behave when you visit, or you’ll have to sit in the corner.
John Oliver’s Cabin
Cades Cove’s first and oldest.
John and Lucretia Oliver were the first to come to Cades Cove, and they almost didn’t survive the first winter. They ate dried pumpkin given to them by the Cherokee and ground their corn into meal with a mortar and pestle. And they SURVIVED. Take a short walk off the main loop at Cades Cove and visit one of the oldest structures in the Smokies. It’s still stands where they built it, held together without pegs or nails. It remains erect by gravity, and anchored by the spirit of the mighty will of two hardy settlers.
John Cable’s Mill and Mingus Mill
The daily grind in the late 1800s.
There are still four working mills in the Smokies. Two are little tub mills, such as the one at Noah “Bud” Ogle’s homestead. John Cable’s Mill, a classic waterwheel-powered mill, is a must-see during a day trip to Cades Cove.
Mingus Mill, a half-mile from the Ocanaluftee Visitor Center, uses a turbine. It was built under contract in just three months and completed in 1886. It was the largest mill in the Smokies, and you can still buy cornmeal there.
Noah “Bud” Ogle Homestead
Who says they didn’t have plumbing?
If you take a drive along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail or are taking a hike to Rainbow Falls, stop here first. The cabin, barn and working tubmill have all been preserved and restored. One look at the Ogles’ handcrafted wooden flume plumbing system will make you think twice before you complain about the water pressure in your home shower ever again. The tub mill is one the few left in existence. It still grinds away powered by water diverted from nearby LeConte Creek.