Former residents share experiences of life in Cades Cove
By J.J. Kindred | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Former residents of Cades Cove shared their experiences and their fondest memories of living there during the final day of the annual Winter Heritage Festival of the Smokies Sunday afternoon.
Precious Memories, presented by the Cades Cove Preservation Association (CCPA), was the festival’s closing event, held at the Big Valley Resort in Townsend.
“This is Precious Memories. This is a reunion of former residents of Cades Cove and this is the end of the Winter Heritage Festival, and they love to share stories about their past experiences of living here,” said Missy Green, who emceed the event and also co-authored a book on the history of Cades Cove.
Leon Sparks was born in Cades Cove in 1929, as one of 12 children to Asa and Amy Sparks. He was one of dozens of former residents who spoke about their memories of living in the area.
“When we moved over there, we started seeing a lot of traffic coming through,” he said.
His wife, Johnnie Sparks, moved to Cades Cove when they got married in 1951, moving in with his parents.
“I was a transplant,” she said. “We had three children, and we were out and about and I just tagged along.”
Their youngest daughter, Kathy Sparks Burns, also shared her memories growing up.
“I’m sure people had sewing machines back then, and one was bought to Mama in Cades Cove,” Burns said. “I cherished having that and the last churn she made butter with. Those were precious times to me.
“Mama said the boys wore gowns, and it was real common,” she added.
Larry Sparks spent the first 12 years of his life there, and he is a descendent of historical figures such as William “Fighting Billy” Tipton, Russell Gregory, Nathan Sparks and Robert Burchfield.
“I’m number 11 (of the 12 children in the Sparks family),” Larry Sparks said. “All my grandmamas and granddaddies are from Cades Cove, and we’re proud of it. In 1996, the East Tennessee Historical Society in Knoxville named us as one of the first families of Tennessee. I hadn’t kept as many records as I should have.”
Left Cove, Returned
Verna Lee Burchfield Myers was born on Mill Creek in Cades Cove in 1932 as the second of three children. Her family moved to Townsend when she was younger, and then to Maryville as her father sought employment at a dairy farm and later at the ALCOA plant.
When she got married in 1948, she moved back to Cades Cove where they farmed and ran Cades Cove Riding Stables.
“I’m very proud of my heritage at Cades Cove,” Myers said. “I can only remember the last parts of people living in the Cove. I would go back every summer and spend two weeks with my grandmother and grandfather. Every year, me and Grandma would make paper flowers to put on the graves of the family.
“I remember playing around the house at Grandma’s and living in that house after my husband and I were married,” Myers continued. “We had cows and chickens in our yard. We had to build the fire around the kettle.”
The CCPA records interviews, restores cemeteries and churches, and participates in anything that will historically preserve the accounts of Cades Cove residents.