Just a few miles from Wears Valley and adjacent to Cades Cove and Little River Road is the quiet village of Townsend, TN. Known as “the Peaceful Side of the Smokies,” this area moves at a slower, quieter pace and has an abundance of craft shops, unique restaurants, accommodations, and seasonal festivals.
Townsend Area HistoryBefore the 1900s, this area of the Little River Valley was called Tuckaleechee Cove, a name given to the region by the Cherokees that means “peaceful valley.” New settlers to the area began arriving in the late 1700s. For more than a century after these first settlements, it remained a “peaceful valley,” with subsistence farming as the primary livelihood of the inhabitants. Then, for a short period of less than 40 years, this region became a beehive of commercial lumbering activity. Wilson B. Townsend and a group of fellow Pennsylvanians formed the Little River Lumber Company in 1900. In order to log the terrain, they established the Little River Railroad. They gave the name Townsend to the village where the railroad and lumber company were located.
During this period of intense commercial activity, the scenic mountain country became a popular attraction once the railroads opened relatively easy access to it. Some of the logging camps such as Elkmont began to evolve into tourist hotels. When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in the 1930s, lumbering ceased and the area re-emerged as “the Peaceful Side of the Smokies.” With the end of lumbering activities came the removal of the railroad tracks that used to run through the valley. These rail beds provided the beginnings of roadways and trails into the Smoky Mountains. In the mid-1930s, most of the forest land originally acquired by Wilson B. Townsend was sold to the state which then turned it over to the National Park Service to form a large part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Because of its proximity to Cades Cove and access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Townsend has become a major destination for visitors to the Smoky Mountains.