Smoky Mountain History: How Did Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville Get Their Names?

Smoky Mountain history in a historic cabin
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There is a wide range of Smoky Mountain history found in the area, especially in the cities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. Not only were these towns home to some of the first settlers of the region, they also have their own unique stories on how they got their names.
To learn how these three exciting cities got their name, watch the video below!

How Did Gatlinburg Get Its Name?

Overview of downtown GatlinburgLong before it became one of the most popular vacation destinations in the United States, Gatlinburg, TN, was just a small mountain town called White Oaks Flats. The name came from the beautiful white oak trees that surrounded the area.

The Smoky Mountain history of Gatlinburg begins in 1854 when a man named Radford Gatlin moved to the area and opened the second general store in White Oaks Flats. A couple of years later, he opened a post office inside his store, which resulted in changing the name of the town to Gatlinburg.

However, Radford Gatlin was not without his own controversies in the area. He is best remembered as being an outspoken controversial figure who strongly supported the Confederacy. In case you aren’t familiar, the families living in East Tennessee during the 19th Century were pro-Union, so Gatlin’s pro-Confederacy stance caused quite a stir.

Radford Gatlin was eventually asked to leave the area because of his views, but his memory is still honored within the name of the town.

Click here to learn more about how Gatlinburg got its name.

close up on The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge TNHow Did Pigeon Forge Get Its Name?

Pigeon Forge got its name by combining two popular characteristics of the area. The first is the passenger pigeons that once called the city home. Although they are now extinct, the pigeons were very predominant during the time of the early settlers.

The second part of the city’s name comes from the old iron forge that was located along the Little Pigeon River.

The Smoky Mountain history behind the first forge in the area is that it was built in 1790 by Mordecai Lewis after he received a 151-acre land grant from the government. However, it wasn’t until 1817 that Lewis’s son-in-law, Isaac Love build the now-famous iron forge. Iron was one of Tennessee’s first true industries, outside of logging and farming.

In 1830, Love and his sons built a grist mill next door to the iron forge. The milling business eventually overtook the ironing business in profitability, so the family ceased iron production at the forge. However, quite a community had developed around the building. So, when the first post office opened, it was only proper to honor the forge in the town’s name.

How Did Sevierville Get Its Name?

dolly statue seviervilleSevierville, TN, is named after one of the most leading political figures the Smoky Mountain have ever seen. John Sevier was a frontiersman, a soldier, a war hero and a politician. Her served under George Washington in the American Revolution. He first made a name for himself by his distinguishable efforts at the battle of King’s Mountain.

In 1796, John Sevier became the first governor of the state of Tennessee when it was formed. He served as governor until from 1796 to 1801 and from 1803 to 1809. After retiring as governor, John Sevier served as a state senator until 1811 when he switched to the US House of Representatives for a year.

Outside of politics, John Sevier is best known for surviving a duel with another notable Tennessee politician, Andrew Jackson.

For more exciting Smoky Mountain history facts, read our blog about 8 Dates That Changed the History of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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