Nestled within the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, surrounded by an unbroken symphony of lush greenery, lies a poignant testament to a bygone era – the Walker Sisters cabin. This rustic homestead bears witness to a remarkable chapter in Appalachian history, telling the extraordinary story of the resilient Walker Sisters and their steadfast commitment to their roots.
The Walker family, originally from England, found their way to Little Greenbrier Cove in the 1800s. The patriarch of the Walker clan, John N. Walker, purchased the land in 1866, building a log cabin that over time would become a cherished heritage site. John and his wife, Margaret, raised eleven children in this humble abode, seven of whom were the resilient Walker Sisters – Margaret, Polly, Martha, Nancy, Louisa, Caroline, and Hettie.
The Walker Sisters were known for their tenacious adherence to a traditional way of life. Even as modernization swept across America, they continued to lead a lifestyle reminiscent of the early settlers, cultivating their land and tending to their livestock with unwavering dedication. The sisters became symbols of the ‘old ways’ – spinning, weaving, gardening, and maintaining a self-sufficient life in the mountains.
When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in the 1930s, the U.S. government began acquiring private lands within the park’s boundaries. Yet, the Walker Sisters refused to leave their ancestral home, entering into a lifetime lease agreement that allowed them to remain on their property. This act of defiance garnered them national attention, making them enduring symbols of resistance and Appalachian culture.
Today, their 19th-century cabin stands as a stark contrast against the passage of time. The cabin offers visitors an intriguing glimpse into the past, recounting a compelling narrative of a lifestyle that largely vanished with the advent of the industrial age.
Visiting the Walker Sisters Cabin from Gatlinburg is easy if you know where to go. The journey begins with a scenic drive through Wears Valley to Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area, a picturesque site ideal for a picnic lunch before or after your exploration.
From the picnic area, you embark on a moderate 2.4-mile round trip hike along the Metcalf Bottoms Trail and the Little Brier Gap Trail. The trails are well marked and the journey is filled with beautiful woodland scenery, offering the delightful serenity that the Smokies are famous for.
The trails ultimately lead you to the Walker Sisters cabin and the surrounding homestead which includes a corn crib, barn, and smokehouse. The log cabin stands as the heart of this site, its preserved rooms showcasing the Spartan interiors that once were a home to the seven Walker Sisters.
The cabin had been closed for some time because of dangerous conditions, but thanks to funding provided by the Friends of the Smokies, the cabin has been restored and can once again be visited.
As you walk through the cabin, you can almost hear the echoes of the past. The worn wooden floors, the large stone fireplace, the simple, hand-made furniture, all speak of a life lived in harmony with the land. It’s an emotional journey that paints a vivid picture of a family’s resilience and the timeless charm of Appalachian culture.
Moreover, not far from the cabin, you’ll find the Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse. Built in 1882, this building served the local community until the 1930s and is another intriguing window into the past, offering insights into the historical education system of the region.
After the exploration, retracing your steps back along the trail to the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area is a refreshing walk. Here you can unwind and reflect on the rich history and simplicity of life that the Walker Sisters embraced. This trip is sure to enrich your understanding of the Smoky Mountains and their indelible mark on American history.
Visiting the Walker Sisters cabin is more than just a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains, it’s a voyage back in time that embodies the pioneering spirit of America. So, as you plan your stay with us in Gatlinburg, carve out a day to experience the Walker Sisters cabin. It’s a unique and enriching trip into history that you won’t forget.