The National Park Artifact Collection

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The National Park Service protects thousands of historic artifacts spanning some 10,000 years of human history in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Visit the Oconaluftee Visitor Center!Some of these include tools and projectile points from the American Early Archaic period, household goods, farm equipment (similar to the oxen yoke pictured left), quilts, and firearms from the 19th century settlement by European Americans, documents and photographs from the period of park establishment, and uniforms and tableware from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps.

Proposed Visitor Center and Museum!A few of these objects are on display at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend, Tennessee. Others will be part of the exhibits at the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Museum (see the elevation pictured at right) slated for opening in 2011. The great majority, however, are stored in the park’s artifact collection and have never been on public display.

Buy the book here and a portion of the proceeds support GRSM National Park!A few years ago, however, Great Smoky Mountains Association published a large format book titled Heirlooms & Artifacts of the Smokies: Treasures from the National Park’s Historical Collection. The book displays over 1,000 of the park’s objects in brilliant color photographs.

The text which accompanies the photos was written by former park historian Ed Trout and archaeologist Erik Kreusch. It describes each of the objects, explains how they were used, and relates their significance. The book is available at national park visitor center bookstores or on-line at SmokiesInformation.org .

ERA In The SmokiesSpecial thanks to the Smokies Guide, official newspaper of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for providing the artifacts update.

This blog is sponsored by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg. For more info. on a Gatlinburg Cabin for your Smoky Mountain Vacation or all the reasons to move to the Smokies, call 1-800-309-0277. ERA In The Smokies is a leader in chalet and Log Cabin Rentals and Real Estate Sales in the Gatlinburg area.

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Gettin’ By In Winter

Subscribe to A Day In The SmokiesWe would like to thank the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for this wonderful article. You can find many more interesting articles on their website!

What did mountain families do to get by during the long, gray days of winter?

Elijah Oliver PlaceCabin Fever
The homes of mid-19th century farm families were small, while the families themselves were often large. The typical log home was 18’ x 20’ (360 square feet) plus, perhaps, a sleeping loft. Families were frequently multi-generational, including a grandparent and five to 12 kids.

During periods of cold, snowy, or rainy weather, families were forced to spend most of the day indoors. Dorie Woodruff Cope, who spent her childhood and young adulthood in the Smokies, described winter this way:

“So we waited. Snow came two or three times a week to add inches to the blanket already on the ground. Silence hung over the mountains like a misty fog…. Wind whistled around the corners of the cabin and down the chimney, causing the fire to reach out of the fireplace and fill the room with ashes. Ma kept beans and meat boiling in a kettle.”

Smoky Mountain Tunes & TalesMaking Music
Mountain folk knew lots of songs and enjoyed singing ballads at home during winter, often solo and unaccompanied by musical instruments. Many of the ballads were from the British Isles and were about love or death, or religious faith. Ballads told stories and sometimes included lessons on life. Examples are “The Drunkard’s Last Drink,” “Barbara Allen,” “Pretty Pollie,” “Geordie,” “Young Hunting,” and “Bold Soldier.”

Some residents wrote their own ballads about local places or events, like the tragic train wreck chronicled by “Daddy Bryson’s Last Ride.”

Winter Fare
Mid-1800s Smoky Mountain winter fare was somewhat lacking in fresh produce, but few complained: it was a whole lot better than having nothing to eat.

If the crops had been good, the livestock prolific, and the jobs of pickling, drying, salting, and sulfuring productive, the typical menu might include:

• lots of corn bread
• salted pork
• dried green beans
• pickled vegetables
• chicken
• potatoes
• chestnuts
• butter
• stack cake
• sulfured apples
• honey
• sorghum molasses
• squirrel
• corn mush

Smoky Mountain people are still crafting beautiful quilts!Lessons Learned
Winter days were often school days in the Great Smoky Mountains of the mid-1800s. Winter was when children were needed the least on the farm, so it was the logical time to hit the books.

In the early days, the school year lasted only 2-4 months. Parents paid about $1 per student per month to get their children educated. The money (or produce in lieu of cash) went to a teacher who often boarded with a local family.

Most students completed only 3-5 years of schooling, enough to learn to read and write and perform basic mathematics. By the early 20th century, however, Smoky Mountain schools and school years more closely resembled today’s.

Two country schools are preserved in the national park. Little Greenbrier School is accessible in winter by the 0.7 mile Metcalf Bottoms Trail which begins at Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area. Beech Grove School is beside the road in Cataloochee Valley.

A Stitch in Time
Mountain quilts were often both useful and beautiful. The top layer was usually made from leftover scraps of cloth, worn out clothing, and cloth sacks. The middle was stuffed with pieces of old clothing, old quilts, feed sacks, or sheep’s wool, and the bottom was simply whatever other plain material was available.

Popular patterns in the southern Appalachians were Log Cabin, Blazing Star, Double Wedding Ring, and improvised “crazy quilts.”

ERA In The SmokiesThis blog is sponsored by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg. For more info. on a Gatlinburg Cabin for your Smoky Mountain Vacation or all the reasons to move to the Smokies, call 1-800-309-0277. ERA In The Smokies is a leader in chalet and Log Cabin Rentals and Real Estate Sales in the Gatlinburg area.