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Gatlinburg History

If you had not heard of Gatlinburg before, you have likely heard of it now. Gatlinburg has been on the news a lot lately after the wildfires destroyed so much of this quaint city. This resort-like town is known as the “Gateway to the Smoky Mountains” and is a breathtaking community with amazing people that have vowed to rebuild and be better than ever! Read about the History of Gatlinburg and how this enduring town became one of the most visited mountain towns in the country. 

The history of Gatlinburg began when the Ogle family settled into the area. They were from South Carolina.The Ogles called it the “Land of Paradise.” Soon after, many other families started to settle in the area near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The first 100 years in Gatlinburg were more about the families establishing themselves and taming the land to fit their needs. It was also a time for them to discover trade routes.

The Ogles came to the area in the early 1800s and began calling the area White Oak Flats because of the white oak covered landscape. Martha Jane Huskey Ogle was a middle aged widow who came to the area to start fresh after her husband passed away. She had five sons and two daughters. In fact, it was her husband that called the area known as Gatlinburg today, land of paradise. While preparing to bring his family to the area, he fell ill with malaria and died in 1803.The Ogle’s cabin was abandoned in 1910 when Martha’s great grandson, Andrew, moved a short distance away. You can still see the Ogle’s cabin in downtown Gatlinburg to this day.

Once the Ogle’s were settled in the White Oaks Flats area, other founding families started settling as well like the McCarters, Reagans and Whaleys. Many of the settlers made this area their home after the Revolutionary War. This mountain village began to grow and community buildings were needed. The church was the first building in 1835 and was called the White Oaks Baptist Church. Settlers were primarily Presbyterian, but the Baptist missionaries somehow convinced them to create a Baptist church first. In 1867 a school was finished for the area. It remained open three months of the year. The first public school was not founded until 1912, when a public settlement school was created by the Pi  Beta Phi Fraternity. Although it was called a fraternity, Pi Beta Phi was actually a women’s organization with a tradition of helping the underprivileged. When the settlement school expanded in 1921, Pi Beta Phi purchased the Ogle cabin and used it as a hospital. From 1922 to 1926, the cabin housed mountain artifacts. This school is known today as Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.

Gatlinburg’s first merchant of record was Noah Ogle who opened a store in 1850 on a site that later became Riverside Hotel. He moved the store to the intersection of River Road and Elkmont Highway in 1910. His son, Ephraim E. Ogle took over the store in 1916 and Charlie A. Ogle (grandson) and Charles Earl Ogle (great grandson) continued the family tradition. The store expanded through the years and new merchandise was added. You could basically purchase anything at the store from machinery needs to hairpins. The general store was torn down in the mid 1970s where the Mountain Mall now stands.

If you just drive around the town of Gatlinburg, you can still see, to this day, all the places that still have the Ogle name. There is no denying that the Ogles played a huge part in the development of this beloved mountain nestled city.

There are many stories on how Gatlinburg got its name. They all involve Radford C. Gatlin who settled in the area in 1854. He opened up an area general store.  He was also a Baptist preacher and was known for his Democratic view on things that certainly did not fit the views of the conservative community. In 1856, the town changed its name to Gatlinburg after the post office was established in his store. Facts are few, but Mr. Gatlin was banished from the area after he offended too many people, but somehow the name Gatlinburg just stuck and remains one of the most beloved vacation spots in the country.

Gatlinburg is open to the public and we welcome each and every one of you to visit this beautiful area! Rent a Gatlinburg Vacation Rental or stay in one of our Pigeon Forge Condos. Regardless, we are all in this together and remain one of the nation’s most visited areas. After all, we are #smokymountainstrong and #seviercountystrong.

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