Life on the Little River
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The forests of the Great Smoky Mountains have always sustained life on Little River. Generations of many Americans and pioneer settlers depended on forests for the necessities of life. Despite the cultural differences between native Americans and Euro-Americans, they both survived by using the nuts, roots, and wood of the forest for food, shelter, and medicine.

After the forced removal of the Cherokee in the 1830s, the upper Little River became inhabited by self-sufficient farmers of Scotch-Irish and German descent. These people lived for generations largely untouched by the forces of modernization.

The virgin timbers of the Smokies eventually lured logging companies to the area, namely the Little River Railroad and Lumber Company (LRR&LC). Founded in 1901, the LRR&LC was among the largest commercial logging operations in southern Appalachia. From 1901 to 1939, the company built over 150 miles of railroads in the Smoky Mountains and sawed over 560 million board feet of timber.

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The coming of industrialization transformed the isolated, agrarian community of Tuckaleechee Cove into the bustling mill town of Townsend, named in honor of the LRR&LC founder and president, W.B. Townsend. Workers brought their families with them to settle in log camps, such as Elkmont and Tremont. Despite the temporary nature of these camps, they established strong community ties through school, church, and recreational activities.

The forests also provided the basis for the area's tourist industry. Health and pleasure seekers had traveled to the Little River since the 1830, but tourists did not become an important part of the local economy until after the Little River Railroad opened access to the area. Visitors flocked to resorts along Little River, including Kinzel Springs and Elkmont.

The scars on the landscape left by commercial logging prompted a group of prominent Knoxvillians who owned cottages at Elkmont to launch a movement to create a national park in the Smokies. W.B. Townsend provided an early boost to this movement when he agreed to sell nearly 80,000 acres to become part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Logging operations ceased in 1939.

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