Want to learn more about life in the Smoky Mountains before the turn of the 20th century? Then you need to pay a visit to the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center (GSMHC).
This museum and living history location teaches visitors about the people that settled the area and made their homes in the Smokies during the 1800s. The GSMHC has three separate exhibits: Native Americans of East Tennessee Museum, Pioneer and Mountain Culture & Tennessee on the Move.
Native Americans of East Tennessee
Before the first European settlers came to the area, native people like the Cherokee dwelled in the mists of the Smoky Mountains. These people had more then just a hunting and gathering culture. They had a society that had trade and infrastructure, they had political meetings and communities that stretched from the valleys to the hillsides. This museum celebrates those people and their way of life before they were moved on by the European settlers that found this area to be so similar to the homes they left in Europe.
Pioneer & Mountain Culture
As the pioneer moved into the Southern Appalachians, they founded farms and homesteads. They developed small communities that traded with each other and helped each other make it through the good times and the bad. This part of the museum picks up the story of these mountains after the Native Americans had moved out of the mountains and the settlers and pioneers had made this land their own. From the type of farming they did to the commerce they practiced. Included in this part of the GSMHC is a living history farming display. During the warmer months of the year and the harvest you can go see how these people lived, farmed and harvested their crops. Included in the living history section are:
- The Caldwell Log Cabin
- The Montvale Station
- Set-Off House from the Little River Lumber Company
- Two Cantilever Barns
- Underground Still / Shed
- Wheelwright Shop
- Wilder Chapel
Tennessee on the Move
This is a collection of various forms of transportation that have gotten Tennesseans on the move since the 1800s. Included in this exhibit is a freight wagon, a postal wagon, farming vehicles and turn of the century road construction equipment.
Spend a day in Townsend next time you visit the Smokies. Learn more about the people that inhabited this region before the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Get your kids into history by letting them experience it first hand. And be sure to check with the GSMHC before you arrive and see what special events they have going on. You might find that this becomes a place you visit on every visit to the area.
Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center
3/4 miles east of the traffic light
at the intersection of Hwy 321 and Hwy 73