Originally called White Oaks Flats because of all the white oak
trees in the area, Gatlinburg, TN is now a vacation resort
located in Sevier County, just across the
Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Cherokee, NC. U.S.
Highway 441 connects the two towns. Less than 7 miles away is the
infamous town of
Pigeon Forge TN,
another vacation getaway for millions of visitors each year.
Centuries before European settlers arrived in Gatlinburg TN, native Americans - and chiefly the Cherokee - used the area as hunting and trading grounds. Following what is now Indian Gap Trail (now Highway 441), they traveled back and forth, undisturbed, until European hunters, trappers and fur traders arrived in the 1700s. The name they gave the area was Shaconage, or "land of blue smoke".
Though many hunters and trappers moved through the then called White Oak Flats area, it wasn't until William Oglesby (changed later to Ogle), from Edgefield, South Carolina, arrived in 1801 or 1802 to build a cabin. The local Cherokee helped him prepare the logs for the cabin and Ogle returned to Edgefield to retrieve his family, describing the place as "The Land of Paradise". While there, he died the following year from malaria.
Ogle's wife, Martha Jane Huskey Ogle and her 5 sons, two daughters, and brother Peter Huskey returned via the Indian Gap Trail in 1807 and erected a cabin from the prepared logs.
Shortly thereafter, a number of people began moving to the White Oaks Flats area - many of them Revolutionary War soldiers who were cashing in their 50-acre deeds for wartime service. Names such as John Ownby, Jr., Timothy Reagan, and Henry Bohanon are included in these first landowners.
In 1856, Radford Gatlin set up a post office his general store, under the name Gatlinburg, with Richard Reagan acting as postmaster. New post office meant the old name of White Oaks Flats had become Gatlinburg, though it took until the later part of the 1890's for the name to become official.
As one story tells it, when it became known that Gatlin was a Confederate supporter during the American Civil War, the predominately Union supporting townsfolk forced him to leave, after a solid beating, of course. Most people viewed Gatlin as a bothersome citizen who was always at odds with the townsfolk.
A sort of "Hatfield and Mckoy" feud had ensued between Gatlin and the Ogles, causing much of the tension. An agreement was struck that would keep his name attached to the town, and off he went.
By 1867 several structures had been built, including a school house in 1867.
During the 1880's logging became a booming business for Gatlinburg, thanks primarily to the newly invented band saw.
The first hotel was built in Gatlinburg TN in 1916, to house the lumber buyers who traveled to the area. It was followed shortly by the Le Conte Lodge in 1926.
Here is an image of Gatlinburg TN in 1925...
Logging continued through the early 1900s and conservationists lobbied Congress to purchase land from the Little River Lumber Company in 1926 to form a National Park. Their theory was, if the West had Yosemite and Yellowstone, then the eastern United States needed one too.
In 1934 the Great Smoky Mountains National Park became a reality with the purchase of 76,000 acres from the lumber company. And, the town was incorporated in 1945. During the 40 or 50 years prior to the opening of the park, the greater Gatlinburg area was a conglomerate of about 600 individuals who lived in log cabins. They were serviced by a church, a blacksmith shop, and general store in the town proper.
After the park opened, more than 40,000 visitors transcended the area in less than a year. The following year, a half million people visited the park.
Many of the landowners from the newly created national park moved to the town proper and took up jobs.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park brought wealth to Gatlinburg, courtesy the newfound tourism industry. And though Gatlin's controversial political views got him banished from Gatlinburg, the community name remained.
By 1940, the cost of one acre of land in the area was $40. Ten years later, that figure had grown to $8,000. Many an early settler became rich nearly overnight.
Gatlinburg TN in 1942...
Gatlinburg TN in 1959...
And in 1971...
An aerial view in 1982...
No experience in the Smoky Mountains should be without a few nights stay in a cabin. And, Gatlinburg has plenty of them. Select from a variety of sizes, amenities and locations. Find a cozy, rustic, or luxury cabin rental in Gatlinburg here.
There are thousands of hotel and motel rooms in Gatlinburg. Problem is they all fill up fast. Book early for the best rooms and locations. From in-town and off the street to budget and semi luxury. Select a room with a fireplace or creek-side balcony.
Finding food is as simple as walking down town. Plenty of restaurants line Gatlinburg's main strip. Eat BBQ, steak, Italian, Mexican, and more. Check out the coffee shops, deli's and breweries. Family dining in our Southern restaurants.
A walk around the main strip in town will probably be your first introduction to this unique mountain village. After that, the sky is the limit. Gatlinburg offers so many things to do. Hike the Smokies, visit a brewery, shop the galleries and malls... dining, arts and crafts, picnics...
From Ripley's museums, a mountain coaster, and hillbilly golf to Ober Gatlinburg, the space needle, and zip lines. Gatlinburg has it all! If playing is your thing, you won't be disappointed. So, grab your family, grab your plastic, and get ready to have some fun, fun, fun!
Looking for that romantic wedding in an enchanted forest? You've come to the right place. Gatlinburg has several wedding chapels, and a number of honeymoon cabins. Sky lift, Chapel at the Park, Space Needle, Creek Bridge, and Gazebo are all Gatlinburg wedding options.