- [S73] Rawlings Funeral Home, Book 2, 9 Jan 1941.
Ida McCoig obituary
- [S104] Cocke County, Tennessee, and its People, Cocke County Heritage Book Committee, (Walsworth Publishing, 1992), 176.
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 14 Sep 2010.
Upland Chronicles: Moonshiners loved using local caverns
by BRANDON BARNES The Mountain Press
Photographer Isaac Otha McCoig with wife, Ida. Fred Derrick and Nola Bird are pictured at the cave entrance in a photograph taken by Otha McCoig. A moonshine still left by moonshiners in the caverns.
Bats and caves: two things Tennessee has more of than any other state in America. No two caves are alike.
There is no better example of this than what is now known as Forbidden Caverns.
Dark and 58 degrees year-round and, at another time, home to Native Americans and moonshiners, Sevier County’s Forbidden Caverns has a more storied history than most any man has ever made for himself.
To understand the history of a place, you must first understand the various people who have inhabited it. Hundreds of years ago, prior to Tennessee even being a state, the Eastern Woodland Indians routinely hunted around what is now known as East Tennessee and what we know of as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
This area provided an abundant source of hunting grounds and, during the winter, the Eastern Woodland Indians, of whom the Cherokee are descendents, would use the cave as shelter from the cold and unpredictable weather. With the caverns being 58 degrees year-round, they served as a great shelter in the winter and as a good place to rest during the hot summers.
Also, in the depths of the cave, was a constant flow of underground spring water that helped sustain the Eastern Woodland Indians not only during hot summers but also the winter time as well.
According to one Native American legend about the cave, there was once an Indian princess who was lost “north of Snake Back Mountain, to the east of Rocky River, lies a place that is forbidden, Hollow Mountain of two streams.”
The Native Americans are not the only people who have left a mark on the history of the caverns. During the early 1900s, Isaac Otha McCoig left his own mark on the English Mountain area.
McCoig, known as Otha to the locals, was only one of the select few people in the area who owned a camera. He made it a weekly tradition to go to Blowing Cave and wait for all the local folks to gather in their church clothes to have their pictures taken by him in front of the cave entrance.
Blowing Cave was the perfect location for Otha to meet with people for pictures. While the cave provided a fascinating background for the pictures, it also served the practical purpose for allowing Otha to develop the photos in the darkness the cave provided.
The legends of Indians and the pictures of families are not the only stories that tell the history of the caverns. During the 1920s and all across the American landscape, moonshiners and moonshine runners became the only way to get any sort of whiskey during Prohibition.
In most areas, it was easy to thwart such efforts; however, Sevier County is not like most places. While people in other cities and states were caught, those in Sevier County and East Tennessee knew of various places to secretly hide out, manufacture and store their moonshine.
One of the best places, if not the best place, was Blowing Cave. The cave and its caverns offered moonshiners two distinct advantages: isolation and a constant water supply.
While it is easy to understand that isolation was a large part of the success of not being caught, the importance of having an underground spring should not be overlooked. Matter of fact, that very water is bottled and sold today by English Mountain Spring Water.
Although the noble experiment of Prohibition lasted only from 1920-1933, moonshining did not end in the depths of Forbidden Caverns until 1943.
Much like when the Eastern Woodland Indians left the area hundreds of years ago, the caverns remained dormant for over 20 years. It was about this time that tourism began picking up throughout the Smoky Mountains. From 1964 to 1967, the caverns underwent three years of preparation, excavating and development.
Blowing Cave was officially opened to the public on June 3, 1967, as Forbidden Caverns, in honor of the Indian legend. The grand opening featured Sen. Howard H. Baker as a speaker along with local girls dressed in cave girl attire complete with Donald Dodgen, a Gatlinburg basketball player, dressed as a caveman.
Now, 43 years have passed and over two million visitors have been mesmerized by the unique and natural underground wonder of Forbidden Caverns. Then again, no one should be surprised. After all, the caverns and their stories have been around longer than any man.
— Brandon Barnes is a Sevier County native and aspiring writer and currently serves on staff at the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce. The Upland Chronicles series celebrates the heritage and past of Sevier County. If you have suggestions for future topics, would like to submit a column or have comments, contact Carroll McMahan at 453-6411 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; or Ron Rader at 604-9161 or email to email@example.com.
- [S112] Census, 1930.
Name Otha Mccoig
Event Type Census
Event Date 1930
Event Place District 05, Cocke, Tennessee, United States
Marital Status Married
Race (Original) White
Relationship to Head of Household Head
Relationship to Head of Household (Original) Head
Birth Year (Estimated) 1887
Father's Birthplace Tennessee
Mother's Birthplace Tennessee
Sheet Letter A
Sheet Number 1
Otha Mccoig Head M 43 Tennessee
Ida Mccoig Wife F 45 Tennessee
Joshephine Mccoig Daughter F 11 Tennessee
Andrew Mccoig Son M 9 Tennessee
Mike Mccoig Son M 7 Tennessee
Sara Mccoig Daughter F 5 Tennessee
"United States Census, 1930," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GR84-QQB?cc=1810731&wc=QZF4-Z4G%3A648806201%2C650275001%2C648818501%2C1589282323 : 8 December 2015), Tennessee > Cocke > District 05 > ED 10 > image 1 of 16; citing NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002).
- [S87] Death Certificate.
Name Otha Mccoig
Event Type Death
Event Date 22 Jun 1933
Event Place 3rd Civil Dis., Sevier, Tennessee
Marital Status Married
Birth Year (Estimated) 1885
Spouse's Name Ida Mccoig
Father's Name Make Mccoig
Father's Birthplace Tenn.
Address Route 11
Cemetery Chestnut Hill
Burial Date 23 Jun 1933
"Tennessee Death Records, 1914-1963," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DBP7-7TP?cc=1417505&wc=34DW-2NL%3A1580581101 : 1 April 2015), 004184145 > image 129 of 2518; State Library and Archives, Nashville.
- [S58] Marriage Certificate.
Name Otha McCoig
Event Type Marriage
Event Date 27 Dec 1917
Event Place , Cocke, Tennessee, United States
Marital Status Married
Spouse's Name Ida Mcgaha
Spouse's Gender Female
"Tennessee, County Marriages, 1790-1950," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C9TN-G3M2-M?cc=1619127&wc=Q63S-1GL%3A1589264474%2C1589372246 : 21 December 2016), Cocke > Marriage registers, 1917-1920, vol 14-15 > image 75 of 510; citing Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville and county clerk offices from various counties.