Latitude / Longitude:
35° 38′ 22.99 N, 83° 4′ 54.98 W
Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
Cataloochee is a valley in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, located in the Southeastern United States. Now a recreational and historic area within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cataloochee was once home to a substantial Appalachian community and Cherokee hunting ground.
Since the early 19th century, Euro-Americans were using the grassy balds along the ridges surrounding Cataloochee to free range livestock. Crude temporary herding camps were in place by 1814, when Henry Colwell made the first land purchase. In 1834, Henry’s son, James Colwell (1797–1867) moved the family to Cataloochee. The spelling of “Colwell” was eventually changed to “Caldwell.” The Caldwells were accompanied by the family of Young Bennett. Both families settled near the heart of Big Cataloochee, where their descendants would remain until the government forced them out in the 1930s.
For anthropological and historical purposes, the National Park Service has preserved several structures dating to Cataloochee’s pre-park days. Unlike other historical areas of the park such as Cades Cove and the Mountain Farm Museum at Oconaluftee, many of the structures in Cataloochee have a more modern look, and are more representative of life in the early 20th century as opposed to pioneer life in Appalachia. Notable exceptions are the Cook Cabin and Hannah Cabin.
George Palmer arrived in Cataloochee in 1838 and settled at the eastern end of Big Cataloochee. Family tradition recalls that Palmer had lost a fortune drinking and gambling in Waynesville and decided to move to Cataloochee to make a fresh start. Like the Caldwells, the Palmers would remain in the valley until the arrival of the national park. A notable late arrival in Big Cataloochee was Jonathan Woody (1812–1894), who arrived shortly after the Civil War.