History of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Great Smoky Mountains have very long historical perspectives. The history depicts that humans have been inhibited here for more than 11000 years. The earliest civilization that lived here was the breakaway group of Cherokees who lived in New England. Cherokees had very sophisticated approach towards the agriculture. Europeans were the first who discovered the Smoky Mountains and the people living here in 1540.
European settlers soon started to take hold of the area in late 18th and early 19th centuries. At first the Cherokees were friendly with the settlers but many confrontations between them ignited when settlers became aggressive in their approach (Saferstein, 76). In order to stay put with the control of the area they passed some treaties and formed Supreme Court in order to provide justice. However, European settlers when took over the mainland in early part of 19th century nothing was able to stop them. This also led them to suffer under the Indian Removal Act of 1830 which required them to move to the west of Mississippi River into now called state Oklahoma (Tilden, 22). This Act was also passed because of the discovery of gold in the Northern Georgia, neighbor state of Tennessee and North Carolina where the Smoky Mountains exist. The growing tensions between the Cherokees and European settlers left Smoky Mountains place for continuous violence. Most of the Cherokees then left the place but some of them hide in the Smoky Mountains in order to fight with the foreign settlers, led by Tsali. The Trail of Tears march started in this area in 1838 by the government enforcement in which more than 30000 Native Indian died en route to Oklahoma (Campbell, 21).
In 1889 Qualla Indian Reservation was chartered at the southern part of Smoky Mountains where Indians were allowed to live with freedom (Campbell, 217). At first there were only 1000 Indians who inhibited this area but now currently more than 10000 Native Indians are living at the Qualla Indian Reservations.
As the Europeans poured in, they took over the fertile land that was not currently under hold of Cherokees. Soon all the fertile land was covered and there were no more places to build houses. When the Cherokees left, more and more settlers started to migrate to Smoky Mountains which made residential construction even more difficult. This allowed people to build houses on the steep slopes of the Smoky Mountains.
With the insurgency of the settlers, the logging became an important aspect for the building of houses, fuel and furniture. All the settlers were quite reluctant to build houses from wood and timber and used them to develop their tools for agriculture. For early years, all the wood was for the consumer use but in the middle part of the 19th century it became a profession and the wood was then sold in various parts of the country (Tilden, 56). There was an abundance of trees in and around the Smoky Mountain area which soon made logging as its major economical business. This was true until the end of 19th century because with the advancements in the field of science and technology, railroads were created which eventually finished whole of the trees in the area. Even the farmers of the area became attracted to the logging of trees because it was continuous income stream and had much less risk that was involved in the cultivation of land until 1930 when the trees of the area were diminished and the lumber companies started to move to other places. The labor force of Smoky Mountain area then moved back into farming, textile mills and mining occupations that were established in this area. The cutting of trees, however, assisted Smoky Mountain area economically for a quarter of a century and provided financial security.
In 1904 a librarian named Horace Kephart came to Smoky Mountains in order to heal his health in natural environment. He saw the impact of logging on the people and environment of the area and emphasize on the stoppage of this tree cutting. Soon after he left the area he started voicing this issue in the nearby towns and cities in order to gain support. In order for a movement to become successful it is important that either the motive is powerful or some influential persons are involved in the movement. The movement started for the area having both elements luckily. In 1923 Mr. Willis and his wife, from Knoxville, Tennessee started the movement in order to provide a park status to Smoky Mountains as only that could stop the logging of trees. Mr. Willis was very wealthy and had strong influence in the politics, so his words had worth (Saferstein, 121).
The elements that didn’t want Smoky Mountains to become a park were mostly businessmen who were trying to build a road that would pass through the mountains and provides the ease of transportation. Even more opponents were the lumber companies that had owned lands in the Smoky Mountain area for their logging business. In 1925 the fundraising began for purchasing the land from the residents of the area. There were descendents who didn’t want to leave their home as well but the government was able to enforced buying for better cause. However, fundraising started in order to minimize the burden on government which might also refrain from making it a park if the budget increased. The state governments of Tennessee and North Carolina passed $2m each in order to purchase the land but it was not enough. Some healthy families were confronted in order to raise fund and Dr. Rockefeller gave the grant of $5m.
As the funds reached the required level, the landowning started in 1930. By the order of federal government and in the involvement of state government, this process continued until later parts of the 1934. The lumber companies were not eager to leave their businesses and the Cherokee descendents and the European settlers who were living here from many years weren’t easily convinced. Lumber companies were then lured into agreement which allowed them to continue cutting trees for other seven years in order to minimize their lost whereas the residents were provided with huge money to leave their places in the favor of the park.
In 1934 United States Congress officially chartered the park status to Smoky Mountains and set aside the required budget for it. In 1940 Franklin Roosevelt officially dedicated the park. The area that is covered by the Smoky Mountains is 814sq miles which make it the most protected area in the Eastern United States and the most visited park as well. The park was also designated as International Biosphere Reserve in 1976 for research, communications and training in ecosystem conservation. The park was also added to the UNESCO World Heritage in 1983 and since then various researches are being carried out as well by the scientists and teams from different parts of the world.
It has been found out that total of $12m was spent in order to purchase the land from the inhabitants and businessmen that were present in the Smoky Mountainous regions (Campbell, 212). The current worth of the land today is immeasurable because of the extent it has spread upon and also because of the resources and reservoirs it has. More importantly it is the historical aspects that have made it one of the most important cultural heritages of the Native Americans and early European settlers. After being designated as a park, the park has been used to grow different kinds of plants and to study their behaviors in different environments. The wildlife is another important part of these mountains where they are provided security. The presence of recreational opportunities makes it even more fascinating and charming with different breathtaking sceneries. 800 miles of tracks have been built for running and hiking afterwards. In addition to this there is a trout stream for fishing. Smoky Mountains also include many beautiful valleys like Codes Cove and Mt. LeConte.
The word Smoky Mountains critically describes its feature. Mist is always hovering around the peaks of the mountains with dark colors and according to the Cherokee Indians it was called as shah-con-ah-jey meaning a place for blue smoke (Campbell, 45).
It is assumed that more than one million people visited the park when it was first opened. The number of the people has grown steadily with each year and currently the visitation number is around 10 million showing it’s important as a recreational and research place. As described before it is not only the largest protected land in Eastern America but also the best place to spend free time. However, with the passage of time the impacts of pollution have started to shown and the roads that are built around the park are jammed most of the times. The problems are being dealt with seriousness and steps are being taken continuously to improve the environment.
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