Elijah, son of John Oliver, one of the original white settlers in Cades Cove, was reportedly born in 1824 (records vary). Because he was a Union sympathizer, he moved his family out of the Cove and is reported to have hidden out on Rich Mountain during most of the Civil War. However, he did return to live in Cades Cover after the Civil War was over.
Elijah built several log buildings on his property starting around 1870. These buildings included a sawmill, a springhouse to keep the butter and milk cool, a smokehouse to preserve and store hams, shoulders, and side meats for the entire year, and a corn crib. He also built a barn for his horses and mules, plows, hay, and his buggies or wagons.
Water for any purpose – cooking, washing, laundry, drinking, and bathing – had to be hauled from the spring up to the house. It was many years after Elijah’s life time before the first, and only, family had water piped from a spring directly into their house, to their homemade kitchen sink. And only two or three other families had the luxury of having water piped from their spring to a faucet just outside their home.
Elijah lived in a time when strangers were taken in and given a meal and shelter. So common was this practice that many Cades Cove residents made a special room built to house the strangers who need shelter. Elijah Oliver was one of these people, as he had a “strangers room” built on his front porch to accommodate those passing through.