WEARS VALLEY - This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. The Appalachian people who lived on the land that became Great Smoky Mountains National Park have a rich history, one you can learn about on a Cades Cove Heritage Tour.
The Walker Sisters Quilt Exhibit and Tour explores the history of the Walker sisters.
It starts with a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. A display features quilts that are a physical link to the past. The quilts are on loan to weave the history of the never-married Walker sisters: Margaret, Polly, Martha, Hettie and Louisa.
"The Walker sisters made all their quilts and coverlets and they started from the sheep to the lye soap to washing the wool to spinning the wool to weaving it into cloth and then to quilting," said Robin Goddard.
Robin Goddard is a history interpreter with first-hand knowledge she shares with visitors at the Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse. She grew up in the mountains, lived history and knew the Walker sisters.
"I hope that this presentation not only on the Walker Sisters but about Little Greenbrier School, will encourage them to take their children and their grandchildren to historical buildings that have a story behind them and to teach what stewardship is all about," Goddard said.
She is a steward of their stories, stories the tourists were eager to hear. For about an hour, she shared stories and answers questions. Not only about the sisters but also the Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse. How did they live? Why did they shun outhouses? So many mountain people sold their land for the park, so why did the Walker Sisters stay?
"They were connected to the land. Where were they going to go? This was their home and this is where they chose to stay," Goddard said.
When the national park was established, the Walker sisters were granted a lifetime lease on their land.
"It meant they could live in the park until the last sister died," Goddard said.
The sisters are long gone but Goddard preserves their culture with stories.
"We can't take of it and we can't preserve it if we don't know the history behind it," she said.
The quilts are on display at the Heritage Center through Nov. 8 for anyone to see.
To reserve a place on a tour call the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center at 865-448-0044.
(© 2016 WBIR)