John Oliver Cabin
In 1817, John Oliver was living up in Carter County, TN, which is in the northeast corner of the state. He was working as a collier there, making charcoal for a living. He would travel up into the mountains, chop down trees, cut them into 4 foot lengths, pile them up, bury them with dirt, and light them on fire. A smoldering fire would turn them not into ash, but into charcoal that could be used for forges in the making of iron and by blacksmiths.
John was also raising a young family. He had a wife, Lucrecia Frasier Oliver, known locally as Laurany, and a young daughter, Polly. It was during this time that John decided to strike out on his own - to move to a new place and to begin farming. He and his friend, Joshua Jobe, brought the family from Carter county to what we now know as Cades Cove. Originally he probably had a borrowed wagon, that he used to bring his necessities down to Tuckaleechee cove, which we now call Townsend. He probably had good trails to travel at that time, but there were no roads into Cades Cove. He had to come up and over the mountain that sits behind you, Rich Mountain, by way of an old Cherokee path. It was said that it was so steep goin’ up the mules could hardly make it, and it was so steep comin’ down you needed hobnails in your britches to keep from slidin’ all the way to the bottom. When they reached the crest of the mountain, Laurany got a view that you might get if you drive out by way of Rich Mountain road today. She saw, not a pastoral setting like you see today, but a forested valley, except for the west end, which was largely swamplands. Its said that Laurany didn’t want to be anywhere near “them swamps, full of their vermin and pestilence”. So up to the east end of the cove the Olivers came.
What you see here is not their original cabin however. John built a small lean-to that first year. They came late in the year and so they needed to set something up just to get them through the winter and to begin clearing the land. If you walk up Rich Mountain trail just a short distance you’ll see a flat rock sticking out on the right side of the trail. The descendants of the Oliver’s believe that this was the front step of the original John Oliver cabin. The cabin we see today was built after John and his family had become well-established members of this growing community.
Laurany said, later on in life, that if it hadn’t been for the Cherokee, they would probably never have survived that first winter. Joshua Jobe had left the family as winter settled into the cove. There hadn’t been a lot of time to put any food by. The Cherokee, seeming to be aware of that, stopped by leaving presents of dried pumpkin on their porch.
The Olivers were likely illegal settlers. The Olivers say they were here in 1818, and this was still Cherokee land at that time. It wasn’t until 1819, when the Calhoun Treaty was signed, that this land became open for settlement. This was not an uncommon practice of land speculators - entice a young family, like the Olivers, to move into an area, which would put pressure on the Cherokee and get them to relinquish their land. When Jobe returned the next spring, Laurany was ready to go back to Carter County. Jobe offered her a milk cow to stay, and so, the Olivers remained in the valley the rest of their lives. They had children who had children. Oliver descendants remained here until 1945.
Please install flash to listen to the audio
John Oliver Family History