With a diversity of flora and fauna unmatched anywhere else in the world, the half-million-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park was declared a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization “Heritage Site,” giving special emphasis to its preservation. European settlers who came there first, settling in what they called Cades Cove and what the Cherokee called “Tsiyahi” – Place of the River Otter. But both civilizations there cared more for natural resources than natural beauty: some two-thirds of the forest in the future Park was clear-cut before a preservation movement halted the practice.
On this day, June 15, 1934, after donations from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and contributions from the federal government and private citizens from Tennessee and North Carolina, the lands of the region were purchased joined into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Many of the local farmers who stood to lose their land fought the government buyout. John W. Oliver, the great-grandson of one of the earliest settlers, fought Tennessee for 6 years to keep his land, ultimately losing his case in the State Supreme Court. As a compromise, families in the Cove were allowed to remain in their home on a lifetime lease. Most chose to move out; but one home still stands in the middle of the park to this day.