Past Government land acquisition abuses.

"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
-- George Santayana

MID CENTURY (1920 to 1960)


EXCERPTS DESCRIBING THE UNNECESSARY AND POINTLESS DESTRUCTION OF THIS PIONEER COMMUNITY BY THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE from CADES COVE, The Life and Death of A Southern Appalachian Community 1818-1937 by Durwood Dunn, The University of Tennessee Press, 1988, 5th Printing 1992.


Chapter 10 -- Death by Eminent Domain

Knoxville Journal, May 9, 1926

Tyson Issues Statement.

Senator L. D. Tyson today issued a statement to allay the fears of those residing in the area to be included in the Great Smokies park that their homes may be taken from them. Nothing of the kind will happen, the senator said. His statement follows: 

"I have noticed reports to the effect that the people within the boundary which is proposed to be taken in for the Great Smokey Mountain park are somewhat disturbed over the situation, feeling that they may be compelled to sell their land and to move out of the area within the boundary and be put to other inconvenience thereby. 

"The bill which has been introduced for this proposed park in the senate and house carries no authority whatever to move anyone, and there is no authority whatever for buying any land or of doing anything in regard to the land except to receive it as a donation. No person within the boundary limits so far as any authority is contained in this bill, is compelled to move or in any way to be disturbed - nor their land taken over under this bill. 

"I do not understand how such a rumor could have gotten out.

Tyson's statement was widely printed in local papers and greatly reassured cove residents. Tennessee governor Austin Peay also publicly assured owners of land within the park that "they need have no alarm." At Elkmont in 1926 Governor Peay met with three or four hundred concerned citizens and repeated assurances that their farms would never be seized by eminent domain for park purposes. "As long as I am a member of the Park Commission," Peay argued, "I wish to assure these people that there will be no condemnation of their homes." Such evictions "for the pleasure and profit of the rest of the state," he continued, "would be a blot upon the state that the barbarism of the Huns could not match!"


On a hot September afternoon in 1929 John Oliver found himself once again engaged in legal battle before the Blount County Circuit Court. Even unfriendly spectators in the old courthouse in Maryville, however, grudgingly conceded Oliver's audacity and courage in fighting a seemingly hopeless battle against impossible odds. Arraigned against him were the full force of the federal government, the state of Tennessee, and widespread public disapproval throughout East Tennessee. He was challenging the right of the state to seize his farm by eminent domain, but in so doing he threatened the larger progress of the entire movement to establish the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

Also difficult to measure were the fears and anxiety among elderly cove people, most of whom had lived their entire lives there. William Howell Oliver, seventy-four years old in 1931, particularly dreaded selling their churches and cemeteries to the Park Commission. It seemed "like selling our dead," he lamented.

It was as though, having destroyed the community of Cades Cove by eminent domain, the community's corpse was now to be mutilated beyond recognition.

"The eviction of the mountain people after they had been promised they could remain during their lifetime was a shocking breach of faith on the part of this legalized agency of the state of Tennessee, the park commission" (T.H. Alexander in the Nashville Tennessean, September 1, 1932). Oliver Family Collection.

Cades Cove:
The Life and Death of a Southern Appalachian Community, 1818-1937

by Durwood Dunn 

University of Tennessee Press, 1988 

copies available:   BookFinder

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