The Peaceful Side of the Smokies may be quite peaceful at the moment, but at different points in history it’s been a crossroads for conflicts, and played home to a raucous community of frontier loggers and businessmen. There are plenty of places in Blount County to learn about the region’s history, and here are a few that history buffs and their families are likely to love.
The Little River Railroad & Lumber Company Museum
Once upon a time (let’s say, oh, 1901), a man named W.B. Townsend founded the Little River Railroad and Lumber Company, which eventually operated for 38 years and sawed 560 million board feet of timber. Far from legend, the actions of W.B. Townsend and the loggers he employed shaped the region, and in 1982 the museum was created to explain their legacy.
Visitors can expect a restored Shay train engine, other vintage train cars, restored buildings, and ephemera, like photographs and tools, that tell the story of the Railroad & Lumber Company.
Cades Cove and The Cades Cove Museum
There’s plenty of history to be had in Cades Cove. The Cades Cove Loop Road offers both motorists and hikers a chance to experience history firsthand, as visitors can drive through the scenery or park and hike through historic structures, some of which, like the Cable Mill, are still in operation. There’s also a Cades Cove Visitors’ Center, offering ranger-led programs and a bookshop.
The Cades Cove Museum is run by the Cades Cove Preservation Association, a community of those dedicated to preserving the history of the pioneers who once settled Cades Cove, and who moved to make way for Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The museum celebrating these frontier lives is free and open from 10 AM to 3 PM, Wednesday through Saturday, at the historic Thompson-Brown House at 1004 East Lamar Alexander Parkway in Maryville.
Blount County Historical Museum
Keeping those same hours and located in the very same historic home as the Cades Cove Museum, the Blount County Historical Museum also offers plenty to keep history buffs entertained. The Museum features Civil War artifacts, including uniforms and women’s clothing, as well as personal items and other equipment, a model railroad display, and information on Cherokee settlement in the region.
The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center
This heritage center offers more than just a museum – their facilities play host to local concerts and other events, their grounds feature a veterans’ honor garden, and they also have a historic village with 13 buildings, including cabins, a chapel, a granary, two barns, a smokehouse, and buildings used by other historical businesses, like a wheelwright’s shop.
In the museum itself you can find permanent exhibits on the Native Americans who once lived in the region, as well as the European pioneers who settled in Eastern Tennessee and developed their own culture and way of life. Expect lots of real and replicated tools, utensils, and other equipment, plus the museum is also home to a collection of 19th and 20th century vehicles.
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