Dr. John Calvin Post Cades Cove Entrepreneur Introduction by Cherel Henderson
Cades Cove is one of the most popular tourist spots in the great Smoky Mountains National Park. Visitors drive an eleven-mile loop and see a splendidly beaultiful land of pastures and forests.The lucky ones may spot a deer or come upon a “bear jam” (definition: stand-still traffic caused by sighting of a bear). A few empty houses and cabins, a church, a mill, give testament to the community that once thrived here and remind us the dozens of families who left their mountain homes so that it now belongs to the nation. Dave Post here tells the story of his ancestor, Dr. John Calvin Post, his family, and their life in Cades Cove. The great-great grandson of Dr. John Calvin Post, the author of this article, Dave Post, recently sponsored a grave marker dedication ceremony for his ancestor at New Providence Burial Ground, Maryville, Tennessee.
IN MEMORIAM DR. JOHN CALVIN POST MARCH 21, 1803 - January 12, 1873 by David Post
On March 21, 1803, in the State of New York, John Calvin Post was born of Jacobus (James) and Rachael Alyea Post. Calvin was the ninth child born to the couple whose ancestors migrated from the Netherlands to the New World in the 17th Century. He was named for John Calvin, leader of the Protestant Reformation in Europe, and adhered to the tenets of Calvinism throughout his life.
Although scarce knowledge exists of Calvin’s life in the New England States, Post family lore is that Calvin was educated as both a medical doctor and as a mineralogist or geologist, perhaps in Europe, indicating his immediate family was reasonably wealthy. Calvin became acquainted with many learned individuals and successful businessmen as a result of his academic background and social status(1). Every indication is that Dr. Post’s passion was aligned with geology and he was specifically attracted to the prospects of discovery of precious metals. He, like many entrepreneurs of his generation, may have been influenced by the perception of vast mineral resources hidden in the lands of the Native Americans who were displaced from the Southeast by treaties in the early 19th Century. Dr. Post integrated his technical abilities, his spirit of adventure and the support of business associates to initiate mineral explorations in the Southeast in the early 1840s. Among his acquaintances was Dr.Gerald Troost, who served as Tennessee State Geologist from 1831 to 1850. As was documented in the Knoxville Register in February 1846, Dr. Post had established a mining partnership with General James Gamble and Thomas H. Calloway in the Pond Creek Community of Roane County prior to 1845. While residing in Roane County, Dr. Post became acquainted with Dr. Isaac Anderson, leading Presbyterian Evangelist and Founder of Maryville College, who had established an early church in Kingston and shared Dr. Post’s interests in the exploitation of mineral resources. Based on family history, Dr. Post occasionally journeyed back to New England to attend to family affairs. When returning to Roane County via steamboat on one such visit, a boiler explosion resulted in major injuries to Dr. Post which impaired his physical abilities for life.Tragically, a brother who was accompanying him lost his life in the accident. Another brother, William, also began the journey but disembarked earlier in Illinois escaping injury. Undoubtedly relying on his friend and spiritual advisor, Dr. Anderson, Dr. Post was directed to the home of William Thompson, near Maryville College, to recover from his injuries. At this time, Mr. Thompson was mourning the death of his wife, Rebecca Wallace, the granddaughter of William Wallace and daughter of Jesse Wallace, both Revolutionary War soldiers. William Wallace was among the founding fathers of Blount County(2). There at the Thompson home, now preserved as the Thompson-Brown House, Dr. Post was introduced to Martha, William’s daughter who was twenty years younger than he. Romance blossomed resulting in their marriage in 1846 with Dr. Anderson officiating. During his recovery, Dr. Post elected to abandon his interests in the Pond Creek mine, becoming attracted to mineral resources in the Smoky Mountains where Dr. Anderson and his relatives in the McCampbell family were directed. In partnership with the McCampbells, Dr. Post initiated development of the Eldorado Mines on Rich Mountain near the headwaters of Hesse Creek in 1846(3). He established a cabin home for Martha in this vicinity, obviously a much more austere environment than that which she enjoyed in Maryville. Remnants of chimney rocks, an ore smelter and several mine shafts are testaments to that venture. In 1847, the Post’s first child, John Calvin Post II, or Junior, was born at Eldorado. Apparently disappointed in his results at Eldorado, but remaining optimistic, Dr. Post relocated his family to the Southwestern region of the Cades Cove pioneer community in 1847, still following the same mineral vein which initially attracted him to the Smokies. There, near the intersection of the Parsons Branch and Forge Creek Roads, Dr. Post established his cabin home place known as Laurel Springs. Dr. Post’s holdings there, totaling 10,000 acres, were acquired from Thomas H. Calloway, partner in the Pond Creek mine and administrator of the estate of his father, Joseph Calloway, surveyor of the Hiwassee District. Dr. Post is said to have developed extensive gardens, orchards and vineyards, corresponding with leading nurserymen in the optimization of his efforts. The East Tennessean, published at Maryville in 1858, included identification of Dr. Post as both an “M.D.” and as a “Nurseryman”. Due to the absence of a Presbyterian body in Cades Cove, Dr. Post preferred to observe family devotional services at home, often shared with Native Americans standing in silence at the cabin door and windows. Six additional children were born to the Posts at Laurel Springs, five daughters and a son. James William, or J.W., was the last born in 1860. Two of the girls suffered deaths while young and were buried at the Post family cemetery near the cabin site. In 1864, one of the surviving daughters, Mary Florence, planted a holly tree near the Post’s spring in memory of her deceased sisters. The tree grew and prospered for many years. Dr. Post treasured his property and annually would lead the children around the boundaries to assure their appreciation of the holdings. Although he was physically challenged, Dr. Post managed to establish mineral lease agreements with property owners ranging from Tuckaleechee Cove to Hazel Creek during his years at Laurel Springs. He also corresponded with influential businessmen in the Northeast, hoping to entice investments promoting exploitation of the mountain mineral resources. Ezekial Birdseye, an associate from Connecticut, was his primary agent for communicating such interests. Dr. Post also managed to pursue several business ventures and promoted patentable ideas during this period(4). Life in Cades Cove may have always been challenging for the Post family but the hardships presented by the Civil War brought economic disaster. Dr. Post was aligned politically and emotionally with the Union to the extent that he is rumored to have supported the “underground railroad”(5) and was required to hide in the mountains to avoid capture. This position is quite plausible due to his prior associations with Dr. Anderson and Ezekial Birdseye, both strong abolitionists(5)(6). Undoubtedly his business interests and estate suffered under such circumstances. Although fragmentary correspondence reveals Dr. Post emerged from the conflict with significant disillusionment, he still maintained stature as a community leader, serving on the Cades Cove School Board in 1868(2), and continued to pursue new business partnerships with mountain neighbors. In 1871, John Calvin Post II married a neighbor, Mary Catherine “Caty” Cable, daughter of John P. and Elizabeth Whitehead Cable(8). They soon were eagerly awaiting their first child who was born later in the year but tragically died shortly thereafter. Calvin and Caty elected to erase some of their heartache by relocating to the “new frontier” of Kansas where they joined the families of two of Caty’s aunts. There they experienced the births of three children with one again succumbing to death shortly after birth. In 1878, Calvin became ill and died with burial in the Lone Elm Cemetery. Caty heroically returned her two young children, John Calvin Post III and Letitia, to the sheltering arms of Cades Cove and the love of her family. The children were raised in Cades Cove and eventually married with descendants of Russell Gregory for whom Gregory Bald is named. When Calvin Jr. moved to Kansas, he left an aged father of questionable health, his mother, three sisters and a young brother. Dr. Post’s family struggled financially and physically to maintain Laurel Springs and ultimately elected to move to Maryville in the latter portion of 1872. Dr. Post’s health and spirit were irrevocably broken resulting in his death a few months later. Dr. Post was buried at the New Providence Burial Ground which then included the remains of his friend and business associate Dr. Isaac Anderson and many of his wife’s relatives, including those of her mother, Rebecca Wallace Thompson, grandfather, Jesse Wallace and great grandfather, William Wallace. Unfortunately, due to several years of neglect and apathy, Dr. Post’s grave site, like that of many others, has been lost. Dr. Post’s widow and four surviving children eventually became residents of Chattanooga in Hamilton County, living in close proximity even after the marriages of the daughters. Dr. Post’s youngest son, J.W., returned to Blount County in the early 1900s, became a successful businessman and managed a significant portion of Dr. Post’s property in Cades Cove. He later sold the property to Morton Butler and established himself as an agent for Morton Butler’s interests. Martha On March 27, 2004, the descendants of Dr. John Calvin Post and their friends honored his memory by placing and dedicating a marker commemorating his final resting place in the New Providence Burial Ground. We are fortunate that sufficient records have been preserved to provide his descendants a glimpse of this highly intelligent, educated and visionary pioneer of the Southern Appalachians. He was truly one of the entrepreneurs of the Smoky Mountains who encouraged others to explore the potential of his adopted environment while maintaining social and spiritual values critical to the development of his family and community. There’s much we don’t know about Dr. Post. What we do know encourages us to keep turning over still another rock....perhaps we’ll discover the secrets of the mountains yet!
Tell ye your children of it and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. Joel 1:3
Rest in peace Dr. John Calvin Post.....we are comforted that you are mining the Heavens where the imagined riches of Eldorado pale in comparison and that your earthly remains no longer reside in anonymity.
Remove not the ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set. Proverbs 22:28
1. Turner, Jesse E. Dr. Calvin Post (Unpublished sketch). Ms. Turner was the daughter of Eugenia Raynor Fitzgerald Post who married William Francis Elwood Turner and granddaughter of Dr. Calvin Post. This reference provides the basis for multiple facts included in this sketch.
2. Burns, Inez E. History of Blount County Tennessee, From War Trails to Landing Strip, 1795-1955. Nashville, Tenn. 1957.
3. Records of Dr. Calvin Post in possession of author.
4. Records of Dr. Calvin Post in possession of author.
5. Dunn, Durwood. Cades Cove, The Life and Death of a Southern Appalachian Community, 1819-1937. Knoxville, Tenn. 1988.
6. Dunn, Durwood. An Abolitionist in the Appalachian South. The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tenn. 1997.
7. Shields, A. Randolph. The Families of Cades Cove, 1821-1936. Maryville, Tenn. 1981.