Great Smoky Mountains National Park Undertaking Fascinating ‘Homestead’ Project, and They Need Your Help

by Jon D. B.

Estimates point to over 2,400 former homesites residing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and many remain unidentified. That’s where the park’s latest historical project comes in.

Heading into fall of 2022, Great Smoky Mountains experts are seeking help to identify and document former homesite locations in the national park. Frank March, GRSM’s Volunteer-In-Park, is leading the research efforts alongside Park Archeologist Allison Harvey. March is responsible for that 2,400 homesites estimate. The park states that “seventy percent of these homesites have been identified.”

But more remain. Together, March and Harvey are documenting field locations based on historic records. Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Collections Preservation Center currently houses records associated with the purchase of approximately 1,200 farms between 1920 and 1940 for the creation of the park itself, which was established in 1934. But the real challenge comes in documenting homesteads prior to the 20th century. The history of European habitation in the park dates to the 1790s, and March seeks to identify as many as possible.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Needs Your Help

“In order to gather as much information as possible we are reaching out to the local community to see if we can get old photos and information which may help with the project,” March offers for the park.

As March cites, he’s inviting the public to join alongside Park Archivist Mike Aday. The Swain County Visitor Center and Heritage Museum will host on on Saturday, August 20. There, those wishing to help can learn more about – and participate in – the project.

“March and Aday encourage the public to bring historic photos of old homesites, hand drawn maps, or other documents that will help the park identify these locations,” Great Smoky Mountains National Park announces in their media release to Outsider.

As for how the process will work, “Aday will scan the materials and provide digital copies and original documents back to the owner,” the park clarifies.

Full Details on GRSM’s Heritage Gathering

  • When: Saturday, August 20, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
  • Where: Swain County Visitor Center and Heritage Museum, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • If you or anyone you know has historic documents, please bring them!
    • These include: Photos of old homesites, hand drawn maps, or other documents that will help the park identify historic homesteads
  • For additional information please contact Michael Aday at 865-448-2247
Jim Kirkland home. (Photo credit: NPS Photo, NPS media release)

This is a fantastic opportunity for families to add their history to the national park’s records. If you believe you can help, please attend the event on Saturday, August 20. You can also give the team a call at the number above.

Best of luck to the GRSM team from all of us here at Outsider!