cades cove primitive baptist church
January 25, 2024

Cades Cove is the most popular area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as it receives about 5 million visitors each year. Long before it was a popular tourist spot in the United States’ most visited national park, the area was a thriving settlement. Some historical structures have been preserved, and visitors can see them when they drive along Cades Cove Loop Road. This is an 11-mile scenic loop that is jam-packed with beautiful views. Read on to learn more about it! Here is a list of 3 popular historical structures along Cades Cove Loop Road:

1. John Oliver Cabin

An exterior view of the historic John Oliver cabin in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The John Oliver Cabin is the oldest human structure in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. John Oliver and his wife were some of the first residents in Cades Cove. John Oliver built the cabin in 1818, and it was the couple’s first home. They built a second home close by. John Oliver’s son later used the first one as a honeymoon cabin when he got married. Another interesting fact– the John Oliver Cabin has no pegs or nails in the wood. The structure is held together by gravity and notched corners, which was an impressive feat in engineering when it was built.

2. The Primitive Baptist Church

The Primitive Baptist Church is another historical structure that you’ll see along Cades Cove Loop Road. Built in 1827, it was the first of 3 churches in Cades Cove. It served both the religious and social needs of the community. Before the structure was built, residents traveled to each other’s homes to gather for Sunday services. Inside, there are two rows of pews facing a preacher’s stand. On the church’s lawn, you’ll see the Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery. This is the oldest cemetery in Cades Cove. The area’s first residents, including John Oliver and his wife, are buried here.

3. The Cable Mill

cable mill on the cades cove loop road

John P. Cable built the Cable Mill in 1867. He was the descendant of Peter Cable, an earlier Cades Cove resident who built a system to drain the area swaps. The gristmill was just as valuable to the Cades Cove residents. Farmers used it to turn their wheat and corn into flour. The flour could then be used in baking bread. Before the mill was built, farmers would have to complete the flour-making process by hand. The power of the gristmill’s 11-foot tall water wheel completed it much faster and allowed farmers to save time. It also provided an increase in production, which helped the local economy. Believe it or not, the gristmill served another important purpose: socialization. Farmers would gather together and have to wait for their turn on the gristmill. This time was well-spent as it forged numerous friendships and business relationships. The power of the water wheel also operated the sawmill. This helped the residents make lumber and changed the way homes were built.

You’ll see all of these structures and more along Cades Cove Loop Road. Want to learn even more about the area before planning a visit? If so, explore everything else that Cades Cove has to offer!