The Henry Whitehead Place is one of Cades Cove’s most remarkable historical monuments, both in terms of its historical significance and its beauty!
Separation and divorce were uncommon in early Cades Cove, but Matilda ‘Aunt Tildy’ Shields’ first husband abandoned her. Matilda and her kid were left homeless, so the community rallied around her and built her a shabby, but much-needed cabin.
Despite the fact that Aunt Tildy’s first marriage did not work out, she fared considerably better the second time around. Matilda met Henry Whitehead, a carpenter who was devoted to his family. Henry promised Matilda the best home in Cades Cove before they married, and he did not disappoint!
The house has the appearance of being a modern frame built home due to the high quality of the woodworking. Close examination of the corners, however, reveals that this is a sawn log home with properly planed logs. Sawn log homes were extremely rare in the Smoky Mountains during this time period – this is one of only two believed to exist.
The sturdy timber walls are four inches thick and are designed to give insulation against the weather. Henry created a real brick chimney with bricks he produced on site, rather than the typical rubble or stone chimney.
The considerably smaller, shabbily constructed hut behind the main house is a tribute to Matilda’s romantic struggle. Following her husband’s departure, her brothers and some local men collaborated to rapidly construct the modest cabin. Matilda and her boy were sheltered by the rough logs and rubble chimney until she remarried Henry Whitehead.
When Henry Whitehead built the main house, he placed it right in front of the small cabin and connected the two roofs to create a covered walkway between the two. On the same property, you may find a beautiful example of superb craftsmanship and a crude cottage!
Josiah ‘Joe Banty,’ Matilda’s son, became a famous moonshiner during prohibition, providing the ‘white lightning’ for Cades Cove.
Near the antique grist mill, this historical landmark is a 15-minute walk or five-minute drive from the Cades Cove visitor center. Turn right on Forge Creek Road (closed November to March) near the exit from the Cades Cove visitor center parking lot and proceed 0.8 miles to the parking area. On the left, you’ll find the Henry Whitehead location.