History of Gatlinburg, TN

The quaint, resort-like village of Gatlinburg, nestled in the mountains of East Tennessee, is known for it’s beautiful scenery, great shopping, as well as its colorful history. The small resort town, commonly referred to as the “Gateway to the Smoky Mountains,” lies at the foot of Mt. LeConte and was once called White Oaks Flats during the 19th Century. Throughout the town’s history, settlers came to call this breathtaking community Gatlinburg.

gatlinburghistorypicThe first settlers to Gatlinburg came from South Carolina and held the family name of 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. 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 because of abundant native white oak trees covering the landscape. 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.

Noah Ogle was Gatlinburg’s first merchant of record, establishing a store in 1850 on a site that later became the Riverside Hotel. In 1910, he moved the store to the intersection of River Road and the Elkmont Highway. Ephraim E. Ogle took over his father’s store around 1916; and until 1925, the E. E. Ogle and Company store housed the Gatlinburg Post Office. Grandson, Charlie A. Ogle, and great grandson, Charles Earl Ogle, continued the family tradition. Through the years the store expanded, spreading out, rambling, and jutting about as new merchandise was added. You could purchase almost anything in that store, from hairpins to threshing machines, “if they could find it.” The quaint old general store and adjacent tourist cabins were torn down in the mid 1970s to make way for the Mountain Mall. The Ogles, descended from the area’s first settlers, have played a major role in the city’s development.

There are many stories as to how Gatlinburg got its name, all involving a controversial figure who settled here in 1854. Radford C. Gatlin opened the town’s second general store and when the post office was established in his store, in 1856, the town name changed to Gatlinburg. He was flamboyant and, as a preacher, established his own “Gatlinite” Baptist Church. He was a democrat in a republican community, and was eventually banished from the area.

Some information obtained from http://www.gatlinburg.com/culture_history/

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