Great Smokey Mountains

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The land now occupied by the Great Smokey Mountain National Park was once the home to mountain farms and mountain people.  The area was relatively healthy because the altitude kept the disease rates lower.   Fast moving water provides less habitat for germs and disease carrying insects.  Families were large and farms were divided and subdivided.  The soils were not generally good, so it got harder and harder to make a living.

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Timber companies cut much of the forest and by the time the park was started there was no much left.   It has since grown back, as you can see in the pictures.  Park authorities have reconstructed a mountain farm by bringing buildings.

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The cabin you see was built around 1900 our of local chestnut, which was very common back then.  The guy who built it carefully cut the edges of the wood so that it fit together very tightly.   It took him two years to complete.

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“This is the worst pigsty I have ever seen,” my mother used to say of my room.  Most mothers are experts on pigsties, evidently.  The picture nearby shows a real pig sty.  The pigs were not kept there all the time.  During the summer, they were allowed to run free in the woods.  Pigs are very self sufficient – and destructive of the forest.  They would round up the pigs in the fall.

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Life improved for the mountain people when they could buy things from Sears mail order.  The picture above shows the styles.  We sometimes idealize the simple life of people like those of these farms.  They do too – in retrospect.  But life was tough. As soon as people could leave, they did.  And when they could buy from Sears, they did.  It is well to remember that if other people think your lifestyle is picturesque, you probably having a hard life.

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