Category Archives: Off the Beaten Path

The Little River Railroad and Lumber Co. Museum

As we bring another installment to our Off the Beaten Path Series we highlight the Little River Railroad and Lumber Co. Museum in Townsend TN. Many guests of The Resort at Governor’s Crossing visit and enjoy the beauty and history of Cades Cove but have no idea how close they are to a big part of the regions heritage at this small museum.

Water tower at Museum

Water tower at Museum

Located on Lamar Alexander Parkway just a mile east of Wears Valley Road, the most popular route to Cades Cove from The Resort, sits this museum of early 1900s railroading and logging. W. B Townsend, whom the town was named after, came to the region after having run a successful logging business in Pennsylvania. In 1901 he founded two companies, the Little River Lumber Co. and the Little River Railroad. Soon the lumber company owned nearly 80,000 acres of timber in what is now the Smoky Mountain National Forest.
As the two companies began to flourish; workers, their families, and other settlers moved into the area starting other businesses. Saw mills, tanneries and even tourism provided many opportunities for these settlers as the railroad serviced over 150 miles in the region. In 1924 the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Assoc. was formed hoping to turn the area into a national park. After many negotiations, W.B. Townsend sold the land, retaining logging rights for another 15 years, giving conservationists 80,000 acres to advance the park movement. By the late 1930s most of the trees had been harvested and the small camps and towns in the region began to disappear and along with them much of the history of the region.
The Little River Railroad and Lumber Co. Museum provides a small look into this history. Outside you will find a locomotive, railcars, steam engine and a logging crane. Inside the Walland Depot, restored and moved here in 1983, you will find artifacts, photos and stories about the region and the life these people lived. Alongside the depot sits a gift shop, a replica of the Elkmont Post Office, with volunteers who gladly offer more stories of the history of the railroad and logging company.

70 Ton Class C Shay Locomotive used by Little River Railroad from 1932-35.

70 Ton Class C Shay Locomotive used by Little River Railroad from 1932-35.

Walland Depot moved to this location in 1983

Walland Depot moved to this location in 1983

Train moving logs to be milled

Train moving logs to be milled

Admission is free, donations are greatly appreciated. The museum is open daily in June, July, August, and October. Also they are open on weekends in April, May and September and by appointment only November through March.
Directions from The Resort: Turn right onto Collier Drive going .5 mile to the intersection with the Parkway. Turn left on Parkway going 2.4 miles to traffic light #3 in Pigeon Forge. Turn right onto Wears Valley Rd. (Hwy 321) traveling 16 miles to the junction of Hwy 321 & Hwy 73, Lamar Alexander Pkwy. Take a right at light and proceed 1 mile, the museum will be on your right.
Directions from Cades Cove Loop Rd exit: Right on Laurel Creek Rd traveling 7.4 miles to intersection of Hwy 73/Townsend Entrance Rd. going left to exit National Park. Travel 3.2 miles Lamar Alexander Pkwy (Hwy 321 S), museum will be on your right.

Day Trip from The Resort at Governor’s Crossing to the Wheatland’s Plantation

Established 225 years ago by Revolutionary War veteran Timothy Chandler, The Wheatland’s was one of the largest farms in Sevier County at its peak covering over 4,600 acres. The plantation presents a rich diverse history of the region and is also known for paranormal experiences. Many accidental and intentional deaths have been reported to have occurred at the Wheatland’s Plantation.

Wheatland's Plantation

Wheatland’s Plantation

In 1780 John Sevier, whom Timothy Chandler served with at the Battle of Kings Mountain, defeated Cherokee Indians at the Battle of Boyd’s Creek. Timothy Chandler moved his family to the Boyd’s Creek location in 1791. After his death in 1819 his son John took over the farm. The original farm house burned in 1825 and John commissioned the building of the Federal-style home to replace it. There is a mass grave of approximately 28 Cherokee warriors between the house and the creek.
One of the builders of the plantation home was Capt. William Morgan. John Chandler and Morgan built one of the first commercial distilleries in Tennessee making wheat whiskey which they shipped via inland waterways to New Orleans. By the mid 1800s they were producing 8,000 gallons of whiskey annually.
During the Civil War Union troops wintered at the plantation. After the war Chandler paid emancipated slaves and upon his death in 1875 he left a portion of land along the south side of the plantation to the former slaves. The grounds of the plantation have over 100 slaves and two Revolutionary soldiers buried here.
Marked grave sight

Many original structures remain at the plantation including the brick mansion house, a hand hewn smokehouse, summer kitchen with dining hall and a loom house. The interior of the main house retains most of its original design including handmade railings and hand carved mantels.

Smoke house

Smoke House

The Wheatland’s Plantation is open Thursday- Sunday 11AM-4PM Spring, summer and fall. Winter hours are limited, please call. Tours take around one and one-half to two hours and cost $15.00 per person for Historical Tour and $20.00 for History and Ghost Walk. For more information visit the Wheatland’s web site or call 865-365-1052.
The Wheatland’s Plantation is a little over 13 miles from The Resort at Governors Crossing. When leaving The Resort turn right on Collier Drive. Go to the intersection of Collier Dr and the Parkway, turning right. Go to the Winfield Dunn Pkwy (HWY 66). Heading North on Winfield Dunn Pkwy go about 5 miles to TN 338, Boyds Creek Hwy (there is a Pilot Service station on the left). You will turn left onto Boyds Creek Hwy and travel 5.8 miles to the Wheatland Plantation which will be on your left.map

Day Trip from The Resort at Governor’s Crossing to Carver’s Orchard and Applehouse Restaurant

Many times guests at The Resort ask where is some place the locals go. Even though the famed Apple Barn is just minutes away many an area resident in desire of homegrown fruits (especially apples), produce and good eats will make the trip to Carvers in nearby Cosby Tennessee, about 25 miles from The Resort.

Carver’s Orchard and Applehouse Restaurant

Carver’s Orchard and Applehouse Restaurant

With the Great Smoky Mountains as a backdrop customers will see rows and rows of mature apple trees as one starts up Carver’s driveway to the old style apple sorting barn and attached restaurant. Inside the barn guests will find tables and benches full of fresh fruits and produce, much of it raised on the farm or from other local growers. Shelves on interior walls will display homemade jams, apple and peach butter, plus juices and ciders. Above the shelves on the interior west wall you will find giant wooden signs describing the different varieties of apples including their flavor and recommended uses.

Baskets of home grown apples for sale

Baskets of home grown apples for sale

After checking out the barn and stocking up on produce it might be time for some home style southern cooking as you make your way into the Applehouse Restaurant, which serves breakfast (can order up to 1PM), lunch and dinner.  The restaurant is noted for their Catfish Dinners and their awesome Chicken N Dumplings. Just like Sevierville’s Applewood Farmhouse Grill, you get delicious apple fritters with homemade apple butter along with fresh cider included in your meal at the Applehouse Restaurant. If you’re looking for some sweet treats for the trip back to The Resort check out Stacy’s Candy Store on the north side of their parking lot.

Apple Fritters with homemade Apple Butter and fresh Apple Cider

Apple Fritters with homemade Apple Butter and fresh Apple Cider

Chicken & Dumplings Fried Catfish Dinner

Chicken & Dumplings
Fried Catfish Dinner

DIRECTIONS: This is the shortest route and you will be going most of the way cross country. As you exit The Resort turn left onto Collier Drive, when you come to the stop light take a left onto Veterans Blvd. At the second stop light make a right onto Middle Creek Rd., you will then go .8 of a mile to a right on Earnest McMahon Rd. On Earnest McMahon you will go .7 of a mile and Earnest McMahon will fork left, you will then travel 1.6 miles to a stop light. Turn right at the light onto old TN 35 going .2 of a mile to a left staying on old TN 35 (the Walter’s State College campus will be on your left). You will travel .8 of a mile on old TN 35 dead ending on TN 339, take a right. (Side note; just a short distance after making the turn onto 339 you will see a sign for the Harrisburg Covered Bridge, if you have time to stop this is one of 4 remaining covered bridges in the state). On TN 339 you will go 1.3 then TN 339 will make a right hand turn (there is a small gas station/convenience store on the corner). This will now be your longest stretch as you travel 14.9 miles through the Sevier and Cooke County’s country side. TN 339 will dead end onto US 321, make a left and you are 1.8 miles from Carver’s entrance on your right. Your total distance is 23.5 miles.

Google Maps from The Resort at Governor's Crossing to Carver’s Orchard and Applehouse Restaurant

Google Maps from The Resort at Governor’s Crossing to Carver’s Orchard and Applehouse Restaurant

Day Trip from The Resort at Governor’s Crossing to Forbidden Caverns and Bush’s Visitor Center

Many times guests of The Resort at Governor’s Crossing inquire about things to see and do away from Dollywood and the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg tourist scene. A nice day trip of less than 45 miles round trip from The Resort can allow you to visit both the Forbidden Caverns and Bush’s Visitor Center. So load up the family, turn left onto Collier Drive at the entrance to The Resort, as we begin our road trip. Take Collier Drive to a left onto Veterans Boulevard and then a right at the intersection of Dolly Parton Pkwy (US 411). You will travel a little over 11 miles on US 441 until you come to a right on Blowing Cave Road (there will be signs advertising the Forbidden Caverns). A little over a mile on Blowing Cave Road and we will reach our first destination.

Forbidden Caverns

Forbidden Caverns

Hundreds of years ago Indians used the Forbidden Caverns for shelter. The caves river, the source believed to come from an underground lake beneath English Mountain, provided the Indians a ample source of clean water. The Indians also used flint found in the caverns to form arrowheads and Knives. After the turn of the 20th century the fresh water supply found a new use as the cave was used by moonshiners from the early 1920s to around 1943. In the early 1960s investors began undertaking the development of the caverns as an attraction for the general public. The caverns contain many calcite formations that continue to grow along with which is believed to house the largest wall of rare cave onyx or drip stones. The caverns maintain a constant temperature of 58 degrees and the average guided tour lasts about one hour. The Forbidden Caverns does charge admission, Adults $16, children 5-12 $10, four and under are free. Check the coupon books at The Resort for discounted admissions.

A. J. Bush General Store

A. J. Bush General Store

Leaving the caverns we again travel east about 4 miles to the Bush’s Visitor Center. Home of the renowned Bush’s Best Beans, the visitor center is housed in the original A. J Bush & Co. General Store. Free to the general public you can view a short film that includes an intro from Jay & Duke

Duke

Duke

as the film tells the Bush family history and shows modern processing and canning of their beans. You may also view a timeline presentation of the company from its inception. The store also has clothing, home goods and memorabilia for purchase. As you prepare to head back to The Resort conclude our day trip stop in the Bush’s Family Café for a dinner of Southern dishes and special treats.