Cataloochee Valley, NC, some Photos and history

Palmer house fireplace and hanging wall paper
Palmer house fireplace and hanging wallpaper

We’re at the Palmer house, in the old settlement of Cataloochee Valley in North Carolina. What first caught my attention was the “wallpaper.”  Pages from Sears Roebuck catalogs hanging in tatters transport us to another era, built around 1869.

George Palmer lived in Buncombe County in 1840. Due to his lack of bad judgment and a game of chance, he lost a whole lot of money. Ashamed to face his relatives and friends he packed his family and belongings and set out to find a new home. In the year 1848 the Palmers came to Cataloochee which had a small population and this seemed like a good place to start a new life.

Bob taking picture of class, Cataloochee, Palmer house Paul Viau photo
Bob taking picture of class, Cataloochee, Palmer house Paul Viau photo

     George and his family became one of the most prosperous families in Cataloochee. George died in 1859 due to a heart attack. His son George Lafayette known as( UNCLE Fate) was 23, single and living at home when his father died, but he eventually started his own family. His brother Jesse was already married and living on his own property.

     The brothers built similar houses around 1869; this one belonged to Uncle Fate. It is a classic “dog-trot” house -two log structures side by side, an open area between and covered with a common roof. On one side you had a living/sleeping space and the other a cooking/eating area.  Uncle Fate died in 1910 and his son Jarvis inherited the place.

Cataloochee barn Photo by Susan Lawrence
Cataloochee barn Photo by Susan Lawrence

Outbuildings included the large barn, blacksmith shop, springhouse and now absent can house and smokehouse.

     There were 3 post offices in the area of which the third was located in the Palmer house. As you face the Palmer house today, the room to the left of the porch was the Cataloochee Post Office from the early 1900s until the time the family moved away.

Bull Elk, Looking back, GSMNP Bob Grytten Photo
Bull Elk, Looking back, GSMNP Bob Grytten Photo

We first became interested in the area when Elk were reintroduced in 2001. Today they provide great wildlife watching opportunities, along with wild turkey, and an occasional bear if one sits quietly along the Cataloochee Creek. A campground accepts reservations from April till the end of October.

Cataloochee Valley is nestled among some of the most rugged mountains in the southeastern United States. Surrounded by 6000-foot peaks, this isolated valley was one of the largest and most prosperous settlements in what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Some 1,200 people lived in this lovely mountain valley in 1910.

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