History of Gatlinburg

    Gatlinburg, a small resort town located at the foot of Mount LeConte, was first settled in the 1790s by a family from South Carolina. The settlement was called White Oak Flats. Though it was soon a prosperous community, communication beyond the valley was restricted because of the geographical boundaries of the Appalachians. The first settlers to Gatlinburg  held the family name of Oglesby, which was later changed to Ogle. Martha Jane Huskey Ogle brought her seven children to the area and built her cabin, which can still be seen today at the Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts' campus right in downtown Gatlinburg.

    In 1860 an official post office was located in White Oak Flats, and the new postmaster was Richard Reagan who located his office in the town's prosperous mercantile, owned by Radford Gatlin. In appreciation for Gatlin's offer of office space, Reagan renamed the office Gatlinburg, which soon became the unofficial name of the town.

    In the late 1800s, the town name, White Oak Flats, was officially changed to Gatlinburg. Thought to be the kinsman of the inventor of the Gatlin gun, Radford Gatlin became a true entrepreneur, making the best of his keen business-like personality. His shrewdness did not pursue him outside of the store, however, as he enjoyed speaking his mind. He was very straightforward in his advocacy of the Confederate cause, and often spoke out about his political views. It was this unabashed feeling that earned him a severe beating by a group of masked men and was ordered to leave the community immediately. Though forced to leave Gatlinburg, the town still bears his name today.

    Many reminders of the Ogle family exist today in Gatlinburg, such as hotel names, craft shops, and area landmarks. The area in which they settled in the early 19th century became known as White Oaks Flats. This area, which had never been settled before, was thick with thriving forests and wildlife. The local Native American tribes were the only human inhabitants and finding a way to live in peace proved to be difficult. Eventually, the pioneer settlers made the area their home and veterans of the Revolutionary War came to settle in White Oaks Flats from North Carolina. The fifty-acre land grants in Tennessee given by North Carolina made this possible.

    The mountain village began to grow as community structures were built. The church was the first building constructed in 1835 and was called the White Oaks Baptist Church, even though settlers were primarily Presbyterian. The Baptist missionaries in the area convinced them to create a Baptist church before any other. A school was finished in 1867 but only remained open during three months out of the year.

    Regardless of this history, the town known today for family fun, entertainment, recreation, and natural beauty is still called Gatlinburg.

    Gatlinburg lies just on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the visitors' center in the park is only 2 miles from the south edge of town. The town is situated a scant 40 miles from Knoxville, and only about 30 miles from Cherokee, NC (over the mountain and through the park).

    Right next to Gatlinburg is Pigeon Forge, TN, with its famous Dollywood and many other very popular attractions. Located in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee, Gatlinburg is within a day's drive of two-thirds of the nation's population east of the Mississippi River.

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