The Fascinating History of Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg, TN is one of the most popular vacation spots in the United States! However, this wasn’t always the case. Over the past 200 years, our Smoky Mountain city has transformed from a small pioneer community into a can’t-miss destination that is visited by over 11 million people each year. To help you prepare for your getaway in the Smokies, The Appy Lodge has put together a brief guide to the fascinating history of Gatlinburg.
The Ogle Family Moves to the Smokies
The Ogles were the first Euro-Americans to permanently settle the land that would become Gatlinburg. William Ogle came to the Smoky Mountains from South Carolina in 1802. He considered East Tennessee to be a “Land of Paradise,” and decided to lay the groundwork for a cabin by cutting down local timber and fashioning it into logs. William then returned to South Carolina to collect his wife, Martha Jane, and their seven children. Tragically, William fell ill and passed away in 1803 before he could return to the Smokies.
William’s efforts were not in vain, however, because Martha Jane and the rest of the family finally made it to the Land of Paradise in 1807. The Ogles finished building the cabin that William had started and became the founding members of a new community in the Smokies. Visitors can still see the Historic Ogle Cabin today at the Gatlinburg Welcome Center.
Gatlinburg Gets its Name
The town that the Ogles established was originally known as White Oak Flats, but this changed with the arrival of a new resident in the mid-19th century. Radford Gatlin came to town in the 1850s and decided to set up a general store. When the area’s first post office was established in Gatlin’s store, people started referring to White Oak Flats as “Gatlinburg.” Although Gatlin had the most famous name in town, he was hated by his neighbors for his pro-secession views and constant bickering with the Ogle family. In 1859, Gatlin was finally chased out of the town bearing his name.
Civil War Breaks Out
The Civil War was a difficult chapter in the history of Gatlinburg. Although Tennessee joined the Confederacy in 1861, the Smoky Mountain area was staunchly pro-Union. Gatlinburg tried to stay neutral during the war, but the Confederate Army eventually invaded and occupied the city. Gatlinburg had strategic value because of its proximity to Alum Cave, where the Confederates mined saltpeter (an important ingredient in gunpowder). The Union Army drove the occupying Confederate forces out in 1863 during the Battle of Burg Hill.
The National Park is Established
In 1934, Gatlinburg found itself at the doorstep of the newly established Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For the first time ever, people from across the country were traveling to East Tennessee to see all of the spectacular scenery in the Smokies. Tourism in the Smoky Mountain area was also aided by improvements made to U.S. Route 441. When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt officially dedicated the national park in 1940 at the Rockefeller Memorial along Newfound Gap Road, he ushered in a new era for Gatlinburg.
Vacationers Fall in Love with Gatlinburg
In the years following the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg has really come into its own. Gatlinburg’s bustling downtown area, known as “The Strip,” is home to a seemingly endless variety of shops, restaurants, and world-class family attractions. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, a major destination in Gatlinburg, has been voted the best aquarium in America by the readers of USA Today. When you see all of the excitement on The Strip, it’s hard to believe that Gatlinburg was once a sleepy little town that no one had ever heard of.
Where to Stay in Gatlinburg
Now that you know the incredible history of Gatlinburg, it’s time to start planning your vacation! When you stay at The Appy Lodge, you will be near all of the best things to see and do in the Smoky Mountains. Offering free parking, indoor and outdoor pools, complimentary breakfast, and walk-in showers, our hotel is the perfect home base for a getaway in Gatlinburg. To start planning your escape, browse our selection of Gatlinburg hotel rooms!