A Passage through Time
Nestled amid the western slopes of the Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee, bisected by the Little River, and including the community of Townsend, Tuckaleechee Cove is known today as “the peaceful side of the Smokies.” Celebrated for its natural beauty, the area is also the site of human habitation dating back at least 13,000 years.
Tuckaleechee Cove’s rich past emerged from years of archaeological and historical research that began in 1999 when a state highway project uncovered a wealth of Native American and Euro-American remains, including burial mounds, fragments of tools, weapons, cooking vessels, and other evidence of past activity. This bountifully illustrated book combines details from that study with fascinating bits of history to tell the story of the cove and its disparate peoples.
The earliest Native Americans to visit the area were hunters and foragers who moved in small bands through the cove setting up temporary camps. Over the millennia, foraging gave way to more settled farming practices, with the establishment of permanent settlements about 2,000 years ago. By the 1600s the area’s residents were Cherokees who would soon encounter European explorers and traders. Displacing the Cherokees, Euro-Americans formed a number of small communities
in the cove with colorful names like Frog Town and Needmore. They farmed the land; built churches, schools, and small businesses; and fought in the Civil War. In 1900, a northern investor named W. B. Townsend recognized the area’s potential as a source of timber, and two years later the town bearing his name was literally abuzz with sawmill activity. By the Great Depression, however, the mills had closed, bringing hardship to cove residents. A measure of relief came in 1934 when the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established nearby, opening a new, still unfolding chapter in the area’s history.
Boyce N. Driskell is the past director of the Archaeological Research Laboratory and adjunct research professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Robert J. Norrell is a professor and the Bernadotte Schmidt Chair of Excellence in the Department of History at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.