By and large, until the early 1800’s, mostly Cherokee Indians occupied the land now known as the Smoky Mountains. As far as we know, the Cherokees were the first to make these mountains their home.
They built communities, farmed, fished, traded with others, and traveled on the extensive network of trails.
As the European population of America expanded and moved west, increasingly the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee became a destination. People wanted to farm on cheap and plentiful land away from the crowded eastern seaboard.
The United States government began pushing the Cherokees out, and by the 1830’s, their relocation further west was in full swing.
Small farming communities sprang up throughout the region. Cades Cove is one of the most famous farming communities that arose out of this migration. Pioneers built stores, homes, churches, schools, barns, mills, sawmills, roads, and anything else they needed.
Beginning of the End
About that same time, railroads began expanding with more than 45,000 miles of railway put down in the following twenty years. Travel was about to get a whole lot easier.
Changes throughout the United States in the last quarter of the 19th century transformed the landscape of the Smoky Mountains. The Industrial Revolution was well under way. Railroads made the transportation of building materials across vast distances a lot easier.
Logging companies purchased hundreds of thousands of acres in the mountains. They cut the trees then shipped the logs out on the new railroads. Before the U.S. government put an end to the practice, loggers harvested two-thirds of the trees.
The government purchased the land for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and forcibly relocated more than 1,200 pioneer settlers. The entire process was reminiscent of the Cherokees.
Mountain Farm Museum Born
Rather than lose the local mountain culture to the past, the park service set aside land inside the park where farm homes, barns, meat houses, and other remnants of the farm life could live on. The Oconaluftee Mountain Farm Museum was born.
The buildings were moved from their original locations throughout the Smoky Mountains and brought together in one place. As you wander around the grounds, you will see original structures and a few reproductions.
The Davis House (pictured below) is an original building. Built by John E. Davis with his own hands, this log home is a great example of the building techniques used in the mountains at the time.
After nearly two years of construction, the family moved in around 1902. Three of the seven Davis children were born in the house.
The meat house, chicken house, apple house, corn crib, gear shed, barn, blacksmith shop, and springhouse, are all original structures. The barn is the only structure original to this site. The woodshed and “beegum” (beehive) are reproductions.
The blacksmith shop is a working forge where you can see demonstrations.
Spend a few hours at the Oconaluftee Mountain Farm Museum and get a glimpse into the lives of pioneer mountain farmers. Life was difficult, but they survived by working together, using natural resources, and working hard.
We appreciate the hard work and resources provided by the National Park Service to maintain the structures and keep the museum going.
Oconaluftee Visitor Center
Entrance to the Mountain Farm Museum is FREE. This open air museum is directly behind the Oconaluftee Visitor Center at 1194 Newfound Gap Road (US-441), Cherokee, North Carolina 28719. Their phone number is (828) 497-1904.
The visitor center is a nice place to pick up a map, get a t-shirt, or talk to a local working in the center. Ask about annual events, like the fall heritage festival in September.
Open every day except Christmas Day
|January – February||8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.|
|March||8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.|
|April – May||8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.|
|June – August||8:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.|
|September – October||8:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.|
|November||8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.|
|December||8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.|
Mingus Mill is a working mill built in 1886. Refurbished by the National Park Service in 1968, and open to the public, this mill is a wonderful place to experience life in the 19th century.
Located just a half mile from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it is easy to find and even easier to enjoy.
The whole family can take a tour of the mill, talk to the miller, and even buy cornmeal from the gift shop. There is plenty of parking and restrooms are provided. Best of all, entrance is FREE.
Open Mid-March to Mid-November 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Open Thanksgiving Weekend