On Nov. 6, Dr. Aaron Astor’s Appalachian Culture and Social History class took a trip to Cades Cove where the group toured several historic sites and did a bit of hiking.
In a caravan of three cars, the class drove from the campus to the entrance of Cade’s Cove, part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and had a small lesson in the entrance before traveling through the park.
The class toured the John Oliver Cabin, the Primitive Baptist Church, and the Becky Cable house among other things.
“Our class stresses the importance of place,” said Dr. Astor.
The students were able to experience the concept of place as the group toured the park. In weeks prior to the trip, the class had read about and studied what life actually would have been like for Appalachians such as those who lived in Cades Cove.
“Borrowing from James’ Still’s River of Earth, what often seems like a permanent landscape is often just a ‘river of earth’,” said Dr. Astor.
Though the majority of the homes the class toured were constructed in the 1830’s, the people of Cades Cove had been much more modernized at the time of the park’s preservation than what is portrayed today.
The class has spent much time discussing stereotypes about the Appalachian people and how those are played out in the way Appalachian history is preserved.
“When we preserve places we usually have a certain image of the place in mind that we choose to present to the public, regardless of the reality of life there,” said Dr. Astor. “Cades Cove is a perfect example of this kind of selective memory.”
Catherine Colbran, class of 2018, said, “I thought it was interesting how much the people left behind, yet we know so little about the people. Right in front of us were people’s graves. All these names and all this history, yet we really don’t know anything about those people.”