People Are Flocking to This Remarkable Tree Hidden Within The Smoky Mountains

a tree in the smoky mountains with american flags around it

The Pearl Harbor Tree can't be found along any marked path in the Smoky Mountains. Yet, every year, hundreds of tourists set out on a journey to pay their respects (photo contributed by Terry Wulff)

A tree that was planted nearly 100 years ago still stands within the Smoky Mountains off the beaten path, and tourists are flocking to see it

It was Dec. 7, 1941. Golman Myers – born in Cades Cove in 1894 – was in the process of relocating the family farm to Townsend, making way for the National Park. Golman’s son Bernard was five years old and remembers that his Daddy kept up with world events via a little radio. 

When word of the Pearl Harbor attack reached Myers, the mountain man went out in the front yard and planted a tree to honor the fallen. Today that nearly 100-year-old tree, marked with a chain and a plaque by Bernard decades later, is a symbol of patriotism and the connection Americans even in tiny Cades Cove felt to an attack half a world away. 

Cades Cove is known for its beautiful natural features. Certainly, it’s known for wildlife viewing and the remnants of settlers who began moving to the Cove in the 19th century. But it’s also known for a tree that was planted by Golman Myers on the day World War II reached the American shores known as the Pearl Harbor Tree.

A sign that hangs on the tree says "Golman Myers transplanted this tree Dec. 7, 1941"
A sign that hangs on the tree says “Golman Myers transplanted this tree Dec. 7, 1941” (photo contributed by Terry Wulff)

What is the Pearl Harbor Tree?

A massive sweet gum tree was planted on a hill in Cades Cove by Golman Myers on Dec. 7, 1941 in honor or recognition of the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 80 years, it’s grown over 60-feet tall. While the Myers farm and home on the site are long gone, replaced with various trees of different ages, Myers’ patriotic gesture lives on. 

Three decades later, Myer’s youngest son Bernard returned to Cove – where he was born – and placed a metal tag around the tree. “Golman Myers transplanted this tree Dec. 7, 1941.” Golman – who died in 1945 of a heart attack at the age of 51 while tending to livestock in the Cove  – didn’t live long enough to see his tribute touch others’ hearts. But in 2015. Bernard spoke to local TV station WBIR, telling the story of his father and the tree. 

“I knew it [the attack on Pearl Harbor] affected my daddy and I had two draft-age brothers, and he knew what was coming,” said Myers. “I remember him going and getting the tree back here on the mountain. It was just a little sapling, he pulled it up and the tree was about the size of a limb.”

“He said, ‘We will remember this forever.’ He was a farmer and a patriot. He planted that tree knowing that it would grow,” said Myers.

“He was a farmer and a patriot. He planted that tree knowing that it would grow.”

– Bernard Myers

Myer’s oldest sons Thee (Theodore) and Clee both served in  – and survived – the war. Golman told his family they would remember the day forever. Myers placed a tire rim around the tree to keep his sons from mowing it down. Decades later the tree grew big enough to split the rim, which remains embedded at the tree’s base. 

Today, people visit the tree, leaving flags and other patriotic items. Veterans pose for pictures or families pose with pictures of parents or grandparents who served in the war. In 2022, when a massive gathering of Medal of Honor recipients visited Knoxville, several took a tour of Cades Cove at a special event with the Park Service. Many of them and their families visited Myers’ tree. 

The decor around the tree has evolved over the years. But one thing that remains constant are the ever-present American flags (photo contributed by Steven Horner)

Why It’s Highly Sought After

The remnants of the last generations to live in the Cove have chiefly been swept away. Visiting today, you wouldn’t know that life in the Cove advanced much past the 1880s. The memories of people like Golman Meyers – and Kermit Caughron, the last resident of the Cove – are gone. 

“People look at Cades Cove now with only the really old log buildings from the pioneers still standing,” Bernard told WBIR. “They think we must have been a bunch of reclusive people cut off from the rest of the world. It wasn’t that way at all. We had new homes, schools, grocery stores, and my daddy always kept up on world events with a battery-powered RCA radio.”

The Pearl Harbor Tree is one of the few remaining legacies of an entire generation of Cades Cove residents. 

the pearl harbor tree
The Pearl Habor tree is located off the beaten path in Cades Cove. But it can be easily found if you know where to look (photo contributed by Terry Wulff)

How To Find It

The Pearl Harbor Tree is located on a hill that used to be the Myers’ front yard. Today, it’s covered with brush and trees. The tree is not a marked location in the park, which feels a little like another thumb in the eye of Myers’ generation of Cades Cove residents.

To get to the tree … go past the Missionary Baptist Church. You’ll go past a large field and a significant parking lot called The Native Plant Demonstration Plot on Google Maps. 

Then, as the loop road turns to the left, there’s a gravel pull-off with a small boulder on your right. At the back of the pull-off is an unmarked trail going back into the woods. It is the first pull-off after passing the parking lot. From there, work your way up the hill. When you get to the top, you can’t miss it. There are several small flags attached. It is not a long hike, but it’s fairly steep. A fence has been added, and as always, the Park Service asks that visitors be respectful and keep the park litter-free.

To focus on the early settlers and first generations of families in the Cove, the National Park Service has removed the evidence that generations of people lived in the Cove. But life in the cove didn’t end with the horse and buggy. Cove residents drove cars and tractors. They kept up with world events and were touched and moved by them. In 1941, Golman Myers was moved to memorialize a dark day in world history. Now, more than 80 years later, his memorial still stands and it serves as a tribute. But it also serves as a reminder that he and his family – and others like them – also lived in the Cove.

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