Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

LeRoy P. Graf

Committee Members

Charles O. Jackson, John Finger, Lee Greene, John Muldowney


Although the Southern mountaineer has emerged as a distinctive figure in the fiction of local colorists since the 1880's, few actual historical investigations of specific locales in the region have been undertaken to examine the confusing plethora of stereotypes and hypotheses surrounding the Appalachian South. Using family records, oral history, and manuscript census returns, the present study of Cades Cove, a small mountain community in East Tennessee, attempts to remedy this situation by carefully analyzing the nature and degree of change within the community, and the extent to which cultural continuity existed throughout the nineteenth century.

Enormous economic and social changes marked the cove's development from its first settlement by the Oliver family in 1818 through the decade of the 1850's. During this period of growth, new immigrants brought both cultural diversity and innovative ideas; entrepreneurs such as Daniel D. Foute and Dr. Calvin Post undertook numerous projects to improve and develop the cove's economy; and the regional boom in farm prices combined with the high fertility of the soil allowed the average farmer greatly to increase his holdings and per capita income. The period was also characterized by movement of families in the mainstream of the Westward Movement into and out of the cove from many parts of the United States and several foreign countries.

Political change in the form of the Civil War drastically altered the lives of the cove people, however. Rejecting innovation in the political order, they opposed the confederates surrounding them, and were in turn brutally attacked by North Carolina guerrillas whose retaliatory pillaging of the community systematically destroyed both lives and property. The resulting postwar bitterness brought a basic change in the inhabitants' attitude; they became suspicious of strangers and hostile to many types of innovation. Their social retrospection was underlined by a continuing postwar regional depression in agricultural prices which slowed, but did not completely destroy, their market economy.

Cultural continuity was also evident in the cove's development. The surrounding wilderness remained a constant factor in their lives throughout the century. The difficulties of initial settlement and the later ordeal of the Civil War bound the community closely together, and this closeness was reinforced after the war by the growth of large, extended families. Religion also provided a thread of continuity as the dominant Primitive Baptist church attempted to maintain its orthodoxy in the face of many secular changes. Out of their sense of community and desire for continuity emerged a distinctive folk culture, marked by a shared communal consciousness - of one another, incidents in their lives, and an intimate knowledge of the cove's geography.

This study concludes that the people of Cades Cove appear far more complex in their historical development than the standard stereotypes of the Southern mountaineer in fiction or popular literature would indicate. In the final analysis, they were representative of the broad mainstream of nineteenth century American culture and society from whence they came, and their condition at the end of the century is explained both by the enormous changes in their political and economic environment, and by the continuity of their communal life style and geographical isolation.

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