The Legacy of the Walker Sisters in the Smoky Mountains

Published Jul 8, 2020

The Smoky Mountains are rife with rich history. From abandoned ghost towns to secret mountain hideaways, there’s plenty for the amateur historian to explore here. If you’ve already gotten your fill of all the most well-known Smoky Mountain lore and are ready to move on to some of the more adventurous stuff, then buckle up for one of the wildest history rides this region has to offer: the legacy of the Walker Sisters.


No one can deny that the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is one of the most beloved wilderness areas in the nation. National parks are a vital way of preserving the natural wonders of this country for everyone to enjoy. However, there was more than a fair bit of drama during the creation of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park all the way back in 1926--namely, there were quite a few people already living on the land!

Most of these families left their log cabin homes willingly and others were forced out, but nearly everyone evacuated pretty quickly. They had no choice, after all. Yet one family remained: 6 women, all of them unmarried sisters.


Born and raised on their family land, the Walker Sisters refused to budge. As everyone around them haggled, argued and eventually sold off their land to the government, the Walker Sisters held strong until in 1940. When President Roosevelt finally officially dedicated the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the sisters got their way.

While one of the Walker Sisters (Caroline) married and moved away, the remaining five (Polly, Louisa, Margaret, Martha and Nancy) continued to live on their farm courtesy of a lifetime lease offered to them by the government. The sisters were nearly entirely self-sufficient, growing and harvesting their own food and making their own clothing and home items.


The Walker Sisters may seem like recluses given their situation, but they actually welcomed visitors. For many years, an informational sign led national park guests to their home where the sisters greeted everyone who arrived, showing them around the farm and selling handmade children’s toys and other items.

While the sisters have now long since passed away, their homestead and legacy remain. To this day, you can drive to Metcalf Bottoms and hike less than a mile up to the Little Greenbrier schoolhouse, a small and sturdy building constructed by the sisters’ father.

Just a mile or so further up the trail you can find “Five Sisters Cove” and visit the historic house of the Walker Sisters for yourself. Though the people who lived on and cultivated the property are long dead, you can still feel the devotion and love they had for their home.

Rich in history and heritage, the Great Smoky Mountains are truly a special place to visit. From scenic mountain tops to rustic log structures, the Smokies are both intriguing and beautiful. When planning your visit, our fabulous selection of quality Smoky Mountain cabins are the perfect place to stay.

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