Appalachia Oconaluftee/Smokemont

Timeline Of Oconaluftee

Oconaluftee visitors center

  • 1540
    Hernando De Soto explores the southern Appalachian Mountains and encounters the Cherokee who had inhabited the region for centuries.
  • 1795
    Mingus and Hughes families clear homesteads in Oconaluftee River Valley.
  • 1819
    Cherokee relinquish claim to the last of their lands in the Smoky Mountains.
  • 1836
    Lufty Baptist Church established.
  • 1838-39
    Most of Cherokee tribe were forced to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears-but some escape removal and hide in the rugged terrain near Oconaluftee.
  • 1839
    Oconaluftee Turnpike between Oconaluftee and Indian Gap completed.
  • 1850
    Cherokee numbering almost 1,000 were still living in the Oconaluftee area.
  • 1861-1865
    American Civil War.
  • 1871
    Swain County formed.
  • 1886
    Mingus Mill built.
  • 1920
    Champion Fiber Company builds mill at Smokemont.
  • 1928
    NC Park Commission made its first purchase (on upper Mingus Creek).
  • 1932
    Court renders verdict against Lufty Baptist Church to seize the land and building.
  • 1934
    Great Smoky Mountains National Park is fully established.
  • 1976
    Lufty Baptist Church placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • 2013
    Blind Pig & The Acorn readers remember those who once called Onconaluftee home.

Makes me wish I could have a real live storyteller from each of the dates above come and tell me about the days when they walked upon this earth.


*Source Great Smoky Mountain National Park; Don Casada.


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  • janet pressley
    January 19, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    I would love to hear all those storytellers, too!

  • Don Casada
    January 19, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    I’d be appreciative if Tom could provide reference source(s) for his note that “Cherokee were here not just for centuries but for many thousands of years — according to archeological findings and the Cherokee’s own history.”
    I’m specifically interested in the archeological source references.
    Thanks in advance.

  • Jane Bolden
    January 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Thank you for the history lesson. Knew the Cherokees hid to avoid the Trail of Tears but didn’t know where. It all breaks my heart. Appreciate all the info on the churches. Didn’t know they existed.

  • Ron Banks
    January 19, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Tipper, this has been a very enjoyable topic. I love the rich history of the Appalachian people and I am proud to be a descendent of hard working people who fought against the odds and carved out a life there. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to travel back to each of the time lines just for a while to see what it was really like? I know I would have an even deeper appreciation for my ancestors.

  • Ed Ammons
    January 19, 2013 at 11:33 am

    I too have withheld my true feelings for fear of offending people. Some have spilled out anyway. The best way I can think of right now to express my feelings are to say, I am ashamed of my white ancestors for what they did and allowed to happen to the native people of Western NC, Eastern TN, Northern GA, Northern Al and Upstate SC.
    When Columbus “discovered” America, there were fully human civilized people here showing him where to park his boats.
    Here I go again!

  • Lise
    January 19, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Thank you for sharing this history. I am aligned with what Miss Cindy said…and though I agree with preserving some of our beautiful mountains and country forever, I can’t agree with forcing people to relocate because of that desire. As Ruth B said, “brotherhood”…let us remember we our brotherhood.

  • Will Dixon
    January 19, 2013 at 10:17 am

    I agree with Tom’s post completely. We exploited the native’s weakness: Alcohol. They in turn found ours: Casino’s.

  • PinnacleCreek
    January 19, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Somebody could have a best seller if they could write a trilogy based around those timelines. I love History even though it always seems cruel to numerous people. Not only was there the “Trail of Tears”, but the Native American’s descendants were later cheated out of money set aside, as they could not prove their relation. Many were hiding from the forced movement! Numerous people from Appalachia, including my family, had family on the Guion Miller roll. It is an interesting, but very sad, part of American History.

  • B. ruth
    January 19, 2013 at 10:02 am

    I keep trying to comment, but I keep running into words that might offend someone….sooo, I just think about our history, the “purple mountains majesty” and keep hopeing and praying,
    America! America!
    God shed His grace on thee,
    And crown thy good with brotherhood
    From sea to shining sea!
    We sure needed to underline “brotherhood”….
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…No snow, but frosty, frosty trees this morning…

  • Mamabug
    January 19, 2013 at 9:17 am

    What some wonderful history there Tipper. Enjoyed reading about Onconoleftee! Have a great weekend!

  • dolores
    January 19, 2013 at 9:16 am

    When a timeline appears in the format you presented, it makes me realize how this country slowly developed through hard work and methodical types of living. The struggles of the times of old and what they left us are just so precious. Great work!

  • Miss Cindy
    January 19, 2013 at 8:10 am

    Wow Tipper. There is a story there, with you the storyteller.
    Seems to me the highlights are that in 1838/39 our government took the land away from their original owners, the Cherokee. Then in 1934 our government took the land from the people they had given it to, to make a limited use park, displacing owners, again!
    Does that about sum it up, and people lived lives in between.

  • Mary Shipman
    January 19, 2013 at 8:02 am

    yes, that would be something!

  • Tom
    January 19, 2013 at 7:49 am

    Thank you for presenting this and getting people thinking about the history of the region. Of course, the Cherokee were here not just for centuries but for many thousands of years — according to archeological findings and the Cherokee’s own history. And the clearing of land by the white people and establishing of homesteads, well, reading abut it at a glance in this cursory way might suggest (as we white folk were taught in school) that it was a brave and heroic endeavor on part of the white frontiersmen, forging their way in a new world. But we know that it was actually an era of genocide, colonial expansionism, ruthless conquering and a century or two of broken treaties that led to the establishing of the United States. To truly understand our history here it is important to acknowledge what has been so often denied or dismissed by our own people, and it is equally important to honor the native peoples for who they are: keepers of the ancient traditions that arose out of the natural geographic and climatic conditions of this land. When you put it all in perspective, we, the current descendants of the foreign invaders, are guests here and it would benefit us to honor the native peoples and uphold their fading culture, because it is through them that we can reconnect to the deeper laws of nature that guide life and uphold evolution in this region.

  • Tim Mc
    January 19, 2013 at 7:33 am

    I’ve enjoyed reading about Lufty Baptist Church, and the history surrounding it. But kinda gives you a sad feeling also. But one day we will all be just a memory, to somebody, if the world stands that long. Memories are a valuable asset, we can learn from them..

  • Sheryl Ormond Paul
    January 19, 2013 at 7:19 am

    Impressive history, I am so glad someone had the forethought to preserve this area for our children.

  • John
    January 19, 2013 at 4:39 am

    …and one would really like to know what happened during that huge time before 1540.