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A Brief Timeline of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Area

Pre-1500s – The Smokies are home to the native people that would be become the Cherokee Indian Nation.  They developed a thriving culture based on agriculture and trade. 

1540 – European explorer Hernando De Soto came to the southern Appalachian Mountains.  He encountered the Cherokee Indians and was witnWilliam Bartramess to their amazing civilizations that had been around for centuries.

1775William Bartram, a botanist from Pennsylvania, explored the region and with the help of the Cherokee cataloged many of the plants growing in what would become the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

1795 – In the Oconaluftee River Valley the Mingus and Hughes families clear homesteads and settle in the Smoky Mountains.

1814 – The Caldwell family become the first settlers in the Cataloochee Valley.

1818-1821 – Cades Cove sees its first non-indian settlers.Cherokee Indians

1819 – The Cherokee people release the last of the lands they hold in the Smokies

1830 – Cades Cove population reaches 271 people.

1838-1839 – Trail of Tears moves most of the Cherokee tribe to the Oklahoma territory.

1839 – The Oconaluftee Turnpike which connects Oconaluftee and Indian Gap is completed.

1850 – Cades Cove population reaches 685 people.

Soldiers In Field1861-1865 The Civil War – The communities in the Smokies are torn between the Union and the Confederacy.  Union and Confederate Raiders on both sides attack farmsteads and small mountain towns.

1900 – Cades Cove population reaches 708 people.

1903-1904 – The first lumber companies set up shop in the Smokies.  The first two are on Eagle and hazel  creeks.

1908 – The logging camp at Elkmont is constructed.

1910 – Cataloochee population reaches 1,251 people.

1911 – The Wonderland Hotel is finished in Elkmont.Kephart

1913 – Travel writer Horace Kephart pens one of the first books about the southern Appalachian Mountains:  Our Southern Highlanders.

1931 – First Park Superintendent , J Ross Eakin, arrives with the other rangers, ready for work.

1933 – President Franklin D Roosevelt creates the Civilian Conservation Corps.  This group will help build the basic infrastructure of the park.

1934 – Great Smoky Mountains National Park is dedicated and what will become the most visited National park is born.

1935 – The Wilderness Society, one of the Nation’s first organizations geared toward environmental conservation, is established.

1939 – The Little River Lumber Company finishes their business in the Smokies.

1940 – President Roosevelt gives a dedication speech at Newfound Gap, dedicating the national Park.

1941 – 1 million people visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Though war time will affect this number, the visitation does continue to grow.

1950 – Unto these Hills, the second longest running outdoor drama in the US, opens.  This outdoor drama is sponsored by the Cherokee Historical Association.

1951 – With the help of the UT Botany Department and the Gatlinburg Garden Club, the first Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage is held in the national park.Clingman's Dome

1952 – Over 2 million people visit the Smokies.

1959 – The Clingman’s Dome concrete tower is constructed and opened to the public.  This is the same tower that you still climb to this day.

1960 – The Sugarland’s Visitor Center is dedicated and begins serving millions of visitors to the park each year.

1963 – Auto-touring gets another trail.  Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail opens.  3,528 vehicles use the trail in the first month.75th Anniversary

1984 – The Great Smoky Mountains National Park celebrates its 50th Anniversary.  The 50th anniversary year is full of special events.

2009 - The Great Smoky Mountains National Park celebrates its 75th Anniversary. The 75th Aniversary year is ful of special events, including a reeactment of the dedication service.