Oconaluftee Mountain Farm Museum, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Oconaluftee Mountain Farm Museum, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known
as a vast wilderness abounding with animal and plant life, but at the heart
of the Smokies is a rich history of the people who have called these
mountains home. And there is certainly no better place
to learn about mountain culture than the Oconaluftee Mountain Farm Museum. The Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Mountain
Farm Museum are located on US 441, Newfound Gap Road, near Cherokee,
North Carolina. The fabulous new visitor center provides an
excellent gateway to the open-air museum. “The Mountain Farm Museum is an outdoor museum.
It’s a collection of historic structures that were brought from different
locations in the park to this area here so that folks could experience what
types of facilities a mountain farm would have had back at the turn
of the twentieth century.” “The main feature of the Mountain Farm
Museum is the historic house that’s down there and that house was built by John
Davis about the turn of the twentieth century.” “He started about 1900,
finished about 1902.” “At that time lumber mills were readily apparent and
you could buy your lumber but he decided that he wanted to build his own house with chestnut and so his house was hand-hewn lumber, which at that time period wasn’t
common.” The Davis house was moved here by the
park from its original location in the Indian Creek / Thomas Divide area near
Bryson City, North Carolina. It features corner joined with
half dovetail notches. These notches locked the logs together
and their sloped surfaces allowed the rain to flow off. And although many logs homes would have had
clay sealing the chink between the logs Davis finished his home with hand-split
boards to fill the gaps. Perhaps small by today’s standards, the home
fulfilled the needs of the family, and much of the storage and other activities were
accommodated by separate structures like the springhouse and corn crib. During warm weather, the front porch would have
provided an extra room for work and for socializing. Surrounding the cabin are other buildings
that were important to the mountain farm. “None of the buildings that are at the
Mountain Farm Museum, with the exception of the barn, would have been on the nice
flat ground that it is today.” “That would have been to valuable for farming.
You would have wanted your buildings away from your farmland and spread out a little bit more so that
you would have the good soil for your gardens.” The meathouse was often situated near the
home for convenience and security and was usually stocked with salt-cured
or smoked pork. The chicken house protected the chickens which provided eggs and meat for the dinner table
as well feathers for stuffing pillows and mattresses. Nearby the woodshed is an ash hopper for
collecting ashes removed from the stove and fireplace. These ashes could be used for making lye soap. Beegums, fashioned from hollow black gum trees,
allowed families to keep hives of bees and use or sell the honey. The springhouse channeled water off a
nearby spring or creek and provided cold storage for perishable foods. “There is a working blacksmith shop and
we do demonstrations in the blacksmith shop and even in the summertime the kids
get to come in and do blacksmithing and making a dinner bell to take home with them.” “The blacksmith shop was not something that every
farm had. You would have found that there generally in the area was one or
two blacksmiths that would do blacksmithing for everybody as a courtesy,
but also usually in exchange for some sort of bartering system.” “You’ll find we do have a couple of
different corn cribs to give you an idea of the types of corn storage there
was at that time as well as an apple barn and that came
out of Cataloochee Valley. You can still see the place where the apple barn was if you hike into Little Cataloochee Valley you can see the remnants of the
foundation that that barn sat on.” The barn is the only structure in the
Mountain Farm Museum that is original to this site, though it has been repositioned. “That’s what’s called a drover’s barn.” “This particular drover’s barn was used
during the Oconaluftee Turnpike era where people would pay a toll to
cross over the mountain and bring their livestock and cattle and so forth.” “A drover’s barn was kind of like a
hotel for the animals. Somebody would travel a day’s travel to get to this point.” “They would stop for the night. The barn
would be able to house their animals and the next day they would then start over
the mountain cause it would take them close to a day from here to get to Knoxville.” “We do have a vegetable garden and we do
rotate heirloom vegetables through that garden, and we’ll grow anything from
heirloom tomatoes to different types of beans, cabbages, greens, mustards–those types
of materials that a farm would have had at the turn of the twentieth century.” “You’ll also find that the corn field
is one where we demonstrate some of the heirloom varieties of corn.” “And the type of corn that we grow which is the
Hickory King corn is not like the type that you get at the grocery store these days,
but it’s more of a feed stock type corn.” “While it is edible, you’ll find that normally you’re going to dry it out and use it for cornmeal and grinding, and also for animal feed.” “We do a couple of festivals throughout
the year down at the Mountain Farm Museum that try to highlight some of the activities
that would have gone on in the lives of the people who lived at
that time.” “Women’s Work Festival focuses on the
types of activities that women would have done on a mountain farm.” “And we’ve got volunteers that come in to provide
demonstrations, and we’ll also include exhibits during that time.” “In addition to that, our Mountain Life
Festival, which is our main festival that happens the third Saturday in September– at that time we’re really showcase the sorghum milling.” “So we will have the furnace burning and we’ll also have the mill running with a couple of horses or mules that
will help to grind that juice out of the sorghum to create the
syrup afterwords.” “We will have a apple cider and we’ll have
soap making.” “We’ll have a variety activities that kind of demonstrate
what types of things people had to do in order to live in the mountain farm areas here.” “The area itself has also been
designated as a historic landmark because of the fact that it has been
farmed for so many years. We’ve done archaeological studies in the hay
field out there and have found a number of items that help us to determine what type of history was here, and we do know that there was a Cherokee
settlement in this area, and that they did work this land.” “One of the additions that we’ve been
able to appreciate the last year is the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center. It
was well over sixty years in the making, and through the Great Smoky Mountains Association and the Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains
National Park we were able to bring together those two entities to create a
museum in the visitor center that tells the history of this area through the land use.” “It takes you from the time that the
cherokee started, what their relationship was to the
land and how the european settlers came in, continued to farm this land,
continued to develop this land, all the way to the Civilian Conservation
Corps the establishment of the park.” “And even into today and some of the
things that we do today in order to continue to allow folks
to enjoy this remarkable resource.” Just a short drive further into the park
is another opportunity to view a historic structure, Mingus Mill, where you can talk to the miller and learn how
this 125-year-old water turbine mill works. Mingus Mill is open from mid-March thru
late November, 9 to 5. Complete your visit to the Mountain Farm Museum with a leisurely stroll by the river on the
Oconaluftee River Trail, which stretches from the farm to the nearby
town of Cherokee. Exhibits along the way teach about Cherokee traditions as you parallel the river that once
cradled several Cherokee towns. “I think both the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and the
Mountain Farm Museum will paint a great picture of how the people lived in this area. “You’ll find that it gives you a great
opportunity to really understand and appreciate the hard work that it took
to survive in this area, but also understand and appreciate the sacrifice
that people made in order to be able to still have it today.”

10 thoughts on “Oconaluftee Mountain Farm Museum, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  1. I love these videos so much. It's a nice way to virtually visit the Smokies that I love & miss so much until I can visit again. TFS

  2. Great video, thanks for sharing it. I had the opportunity to visit this site with my family in early April 2012. It was a great experience going through the village museum. The visitor center is very well done in keeping the history of the Smokies alive. Looking forward to my next visit of the Smoky Mountain National Park.

  3. My family lives just down the road from the museum and has since the 1830's. Prior to that we lived more to the north. When the center was created, officials came to our farm and wanted my grandfather's smoke house. He wouldn't let them have it because we were using it! (It was very old)  As a boy, my grandfather took me into the museum and showed me farm tools and woodworking tools that he had donated. Great memories!

  4. I'm from the mountains of NC but live/work in DC. When I miss the mountains.. I look at these videos and they help until I can get home again. Great work!

  5. We are going there for vacation this year! I can't wait. We were there about 10 years ago. We have our youngest daughter the choice of N.C. Or Ocean City,MD. She chose N.C.

  6. Narrative By These Females Is Totally Unauthenthic And Basically Sickening! Don't Waste Your Time!
    Go To Harrahs Since This Is The Only "DRAW" To Cherokee! Terrible Loss Of Natural History! Cherokee
    Indians Is No Longer A Friendly Place Because Of Greed!

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