Churches of Cades Cove – Primitive Baptist

   Cades Cove Primitive Baptist Church

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In Cades Cove and the surrounding Smokies area, it took faith to settle the American frontier so religion was a big part of life for the settlers. Up until the founding of the Baptist Church, the Cades Cove members had to travel through the Smoky Mountains to attended Sunday meeting in Millers and Wears Coves. They also went to campground revivals inTuckaleechee Cove, present day Townsend.

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John and Lucretia Oliver introduced the Baptist denomination to Cades Cove. The Cades Cove Baptist church was established in 1827. In time a schism developed over biblical interpretation. One side said the scripture allowed for missionary work and others in the congregation said it did not. This problem was not isolated to the Baptists in the Smokies but was widespread elsewhere as well. As for the Cades Cove Baptists, they decided to rename their church in order to distinguish it from Baptists with other beliefs. Their church became known as the Primitive Baptist Church in 1841.

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The Primitive Baptists remained the dominant religious and political force in Cades Cove following the split.  The church staunchly backed the Union in the Civil War, which led to divisions tense enough within the cove that it was actually closed during the war.  The congregation met in a log structure for sixty years until 1887, when the white frame church building which can be viewed today was constructed.  The Primitive Baptist Church resisted closure until the 1960’s, more than 20 years after the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

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Churches of Cades Cove – Methodist

Cades Cove Methodist Church

for web-1This Cades Cove congregation began modestly meeting in a log structure with a fire pit and dirt floor. As change came rather slowly in the Smokies, it took sixty two years to get a newer more modern building. In 1902 carpenter/pastor, John D. McCampbell built the pretty white frame structure which became the Cades Cove Methodist church. The buildings two front door design was common in the 1800’s in the Smokies and elsewhere. Generally a two front door design allowed men to enter and sit on one side of the chapel and women and children on the other.

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Some churches even had a divider in the middle of the chapel. However, the Cades Cove’s Methodist congregation was more relaxed and sat where they pleased. Records show the builder was simply copying the design of another church building which happened to have the two door design. What a lovely result. The balanced design of the little Methodist Church tends to a feeling of peace and harmony in its Smoky Mountain setting.

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Yet the peaceful setting and harmonious design of the church building did not shield this Smokies congregation from controversy. The Cades Cove Methodist was troubled by division during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Dissidents split off and formed the Hopewell Methodist church. The Hopewell building no longer stands.

The Walker Sisters

The six Walker sisters lived all their lives in this house, from the 1870’s up till 1964 when Louisa Walker died. They were truly self-reliant Smoky Mountain folks, the Walker Sisters.


By 1936, all the residents of Little Greenbrier were bought out by the State of Tennessee and the Park Service in order to get land for the new National park. Only the Walker Sisters were allowed to remain until they died. The last sister died in 1964, and today their house and grounds remain as mute testimony to their self-reliant lives.

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Photo of the six unmarried Walker Sisters and their dad and brother, taken by Jim Shelton around 1918


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The last two living Walker Sisters (Louisa and Margaret) outside their home in Little Greenbrier in the Smokies.

The Farmer and the Chancellor

The following was written by John Hood and published in the Carolina Journal in 2011. I was researching genealogy records along my Cox line and came across this article. It really helps to bring the melting pot concept into focus.  The John Josha Cox referenced here is my 6th great-grandfather. I found it interesting – I hope you do as well.


To truly understand the American republic, you have to spend some time learning about America before it was a republic – that is, when it consisted of a few fledgling British colonies along the eastern seaboard of North America.

The 168 years of colonial history between the first settlement at Jamestown and the outbreak of the American Revolution offer a vast array of compelling stories, momentous trends, and cultural insights. For anyone interested in studying the period – and looking for connections between the colonial past and America’s present and future – there’s no better place to start than by reading David Hackett Fisher’s seminal work, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America.

Fisher describes four major waves of immigration to America, and how their origins, beliefs, and practices helped to create distinct regional cultures as well as conflicting definitions of human freedom and social order.

The first one was the Great Migration of Puritans, which brought some 21,000 immigrants from the east of Old England to the shores of New England during the 1630s. Next was a 1642-1675 wave of about 45,000 English Cavaliers and their servants from the south and west of England to tidewater Virginia. The third wave, from about 1675 to 1715, involved some 23,000 Quakers and related settlers who immigrated to Pennsylvania and its neighboring colonies, mostly from the English Midlands as well as parts of Germany and the Low Countries.

The final big wave of British immigration to America, and by far the largest, brought some 250,000 people from Scotland, Northern England, and Northern Ireland to America, usually through the port of Philadelphia. These folks – who have been variously called Scotch-Irish, Scots-Irish, Anglo-Irish, or Ulster Scots – quickly moved from the coast into the backcountry of Pennsylvania, and then on to parts of New England, Virginia, the Carolinas, and North Georgia.

Many are used to thinking about the Scotch-Irish as consisting of hardscrabble farmers, Presbyterian dissenters, and, well, basically a bunch of hard-drinking, hard-fighting border folk. Such groups were certainly well represented among the immigrants. But also in this amalgam of what would become a large chunk of the American population were representatives of the nobility and gentry of Scotland, Ireland, and parts of England.

What’s remarkable is how all these folks mixed and mingled once they arrived in America. Consider the very different stories of two Scotch-Irish families: the Rankins and the Coxes.

Alexander Rankin was born in 1635 in Ayrshire, Scotland, a county near the border with England. His family was poor. He and his wife Maria lived in Ayrshire until around 1665, when their son William Rankin was born. The family then moved to Ulster in the north of Ireland. They were among the many Scots of modest means who were relocated to Ulster during the 1600s to strengthen Protestant rule and work the land. In 1687 William Rankin married an Ulster Protestant named Dorothy Black. They had a son, John Rankin, in 1690.

In the early 1700s, the Rankins decided to abandon Ulster for a more inviting locale. They sailed to Philadelphia and made their way into central Pennsylvania. The patriarch, Alexander Rankin, died soon afterward. In 1705, his grandson John Rankin married another young immigrant from Northern Ireland, Margaret Jane McElwee, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They soon produced a daughter, Mary Catherine Rankin.

The Rankins offer the stereotypical Scotch-Irish story of 1) humble origins in the Scottish lowlands, 2) relocation to Northern Ireland in the 1600s, and 3) subsequent immigration to Pennsylvania in the 1700s.

The Cox family followed a very different path to America. The original Richard Cox lived from 1500 to 1581. He was a famous English clergyman and chaplain to King Henry VIII who was imprisoned twice in his life for heresy. He later served as Dean of Westminster, Bishop of Ely, and Chancellor of Oxford University.

His grandson, Michael Cox, came to Northern Ireland around 1600 as an “adventurer,” according to one source. That means he might well have been among the earliest English founders of the Ulster plantation. One of his sons, Captain Richard Cox, fought for King Charles during the early stages of the English Civil War but later joined the army of Oliver Cromwell to subdue Ireland in 1649.

Two years later, Captain Cox was walking near the Irish town of Bandon with a fellow officer, a Captain Norton, who apparently had some kind of grudge against him. Norton suddenly turned on Captain Cox and stabbed him to death. The unfortunate Cox left behind a pregnant wife, Katherine, who soon gave birth to Richard Cox Jr. and then died herself.

The orphaned Richard grew up with his mother’s family in County Cork, Ireland. After obtaining a legal education in London, he held several offices in Ireland as part of the Protestant ruling class. Richard and his wife Mary had several children, including a son, Joshua Cox, who would later immigrate to Pennsylvania.

When the Catholic James II became king in 1785, Richard Cox Jr. lost his position in Ireland. He briefly left public service to practice law in Bristol, England and write a noted history of Ireland from an English standpoint, entitledHibernia Anglicana.

In 1688, William of Orange deposed James II in the Glorious Revolution. The deposed king fled to Ireland and organized Irish Catholics in an attempt to reclaim his throne. The new king William followed, and defeated the army of James II in 1690 at the Battle of the Boyne in eastern Ireland.

Richard Cox Jr. was there, fighting for William. In return for his service, the new king knighted Richard. A few years later, in 1703, William named Sir Richard Cox as Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Richard headed the government of the island for four years, during which he was also made a baronet. Later, he served as the chief justice of Ireland’s high court.

Could there be a greater contrast between the lives of Alexander Rankin, a poor Scottish farmer who became an Ulster settler, and Sir Richard Cox, a lawyer who become Lord Chancellor and chief justice of Ireland? Yet both fathered children who joined the Scotch-Irish immigration to America. In 1724, Alexander Rankin’s great-granddaughter, Mary Catherine Rankin, married Joshua Cox, the son of Sir Richard Cox.

Only in America.

Joshua and Mary Cox made their home in the Pennsylvania backcountry. Their children included a son, John Cox. During the French and Indian War, an Indian raiding party attacked the Cox home and burned to the ground. They held young John Cox in captivity for six months. He escaped the Indian camp, moved to northwestern North Carolina, commanded militia during the Revolutionary War, and in the 1790s became one of the first three commissioners of Ashe County, N.C.

He was my 5th great-grandfather – and his family story is a telling reminder that America has always been a land of reinvention, recombination, and rejuvenation.

Cades Cove in the Fall

I made a quick afternoon run into Cades Cove. It was not the best time of day for pictures and I didn’t have enough time to do the scene justice, but I really like Fall in the mountains. So here are a few shots grabbed in a quick pass through the park.

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Site Update

Just a little housekeeping around the site. Photo galleries have been updated to an HTML viewer rather than the flash that was used before. It should work on more platforms now.

I also swapped out a few pictures adding some newer shots in the Tennessee section.

Hope you like the changes. Let me know if something isn’t working for you.

Grotto Falls / Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail


We took a long weekend trip and toured the Smokies and the region. The trip started with the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail with Grotto Falls as the primary objective.

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Lots of interesting flowers and plants along the trail headed to the falls.

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You can walk under the falls for an interesting perspective. There were several folks there for a weekday.


View from the other side. I was one of three photographers dodging spray and waiting for a shot from this side. We got caught in rain about the time we finished shooting the falls, regretting having left the rain gear in the car. We were pretty soaked by the time we got to the bottom of the trail.


Further down the trail, we stopped by this stream.

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These cabins are further down the loop road.

Overall, not bad for the first leg of the journey.

For more information about this trail –

Cumberland Mountain State Park

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I just had a few minutes to hop off the Interstate while on a return trip from Murfressboro. I got out of the car and grabbed this shot as it started to rain. Exploration of the downstream side will have to wait on another trip.

Cumberland Mountain State Park began as part of the greater Cumberland Homesteads Project, a New Deal-era initiative by the Resettlement Administration that helped relocate poverty-stricken families on the Cumberland Plateau to small farms centered on what is now the Cumberland Homestead community. This 1,720-acre park was acquired in 1938 to provide a recreational area for some 250 families selected to homestead on the Cumberland Plateau.

Appalachian Mountains Interest, Stories, Photos, etc.


If you use Facebook and are a fan of the Appalachian region, you should check out this page. They have a ton of great photos from throughout the region.



Just John and Others…

I stumbled across this blog by John from Jonesborough, TN. Here is one of his pictures of the devil’s bathtub in Scott County Virginia

Check out some of his pictures of the region at I think you’ll be impressed. I know I was.