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The History of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park

scenic Smoky Mountain viewThe idea started in the late 1890s to create a national park in the mountains. There was a mission of the people with a goal for the creation of the Smoky Mountain National park and that was for the public land to be preserved in the southern Appalachians. An unsuccessful bill even entered the North Carolina Legislature. By the early 20th century, many more people in North and South were pressuring Washington a public preserve in the Eastern United States.

A turning point for the success happened in the mid-1920s, when two competitive groups with the same mission came together to work jointly in a goal for the park to be between the two.  With most of the supporters split between being based in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Asheville, North Carolina. The hard work to create a national park became successful when they began pulling their support together for a park in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, halfway between the two cities.

Becoming a national park was not an easy feat to manage, even with many people involved.  For an area that was established with residents and labor trades to effectively join the National Park System it required a lot of money and the hard work of thousands of people.  Not only did the legislation have to be passed for the rights of a National Park to be granted the land to be used also had to be purchased, the residents had to relocate for the most part, and the labor trades such as logging, farming and fur trades had to be stopped.

The land that was to become The Great Smoky Mountain National Park was previously owned by hundreds of small farmers as well as a few large timber and paper companies. The farmers had family homesteads that some displayed no desire to leave, as well as huge forests of timber, many miles of railroad track, extensive systems of logging equipment, and whole villages of employee housing the large corporations were reluctant to abandon.

In a national park, however, the scenery and resources would be protected, and nature allowed to run its natural course. This was the mission of those with the vision to create the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The ultimate decision to establish a national park meant that the scenery, resources, and some of the native architecture would be protected for all people to enjoy throughout the future.

Through many fund raising efforts the estimated amount required to purchase the land totaling $5000 was in place by 1928.  The land cost had doubled in value in the time it had taken for the amount to have the funding in place though.  A private group supporting the mission, the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial Fund, matched the $5000 to allow the efforts to continue.  By 1934, together the states of Tennessee and North Carolina had transferred deeds for 300,000 acres to the federal government.   In September, 1940 the park was formally dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt. Speaking from the location of the Rockefeller Monument at Newfound Gap, Roosevelt addressed over lookers from the intersecting points of the Tennessee and North Carolina state line.

A visit today to The Great Smoky Mountain National Park offers the opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of the mountains through: trees, plants, waterfalls, and wildlife of the natural environment.  Also nearly 80 protected and preserved historic structures remain viewable.  The homes, barns, churches, schools, mills, landscapes, and artifacts help share the stories from people who once called the mountains their home.