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The Story of Radford Gatlin: The Man Who Gave Gatlinburg Its Name

If you’ve read about how Gatlinburg got its name, we bet you’ve heard that it was from “the most hated man in town.” The man given that title was Radford Gatlin, who was a short-time resident of the town. We’re telling you all about Radford Gatlin and his role in Gatlinburg history!

Who Was Radford Gatlin?

Radford Gatlin was said to be the most hated man in Gatlinburg. We know one thing for sure: He was a controversial man. Before he moved to Gatlinburg, Gatlin owned land in Jefferson County, where he’s said to have engaged in many petty lawsuits with his neighbors. He also had conflict with the Paw Paw Hollow Baptist Church, where he and his wife Elizabeth were members and he was ordained a minister. It was said that Gatlin played a major role in a dispute that resulted in the split-up of the church, and eventually he and his wife were thrown out of the church. Soon after, he sold his farm and moved to the White Oak Flats Community.

What Brought Radford Gatlin to Gatlinburg?

Black and white images of wood cabins in the Smoky MountainsRadford Gatlin and his wife are said to have arrived in White Oak Flats about 1854. Gatlin purchased 50 acres on the east side of the West Fork of the Little Pigeon River from Elisha Ogle. He went on to claim 5,000 acres from a land grant that covered a wide area in Sevier County. However, much of that land was already settled. Once he was settled, Gatlin attempted to organize a church, but due to his unpleasant manners and expressing his unfavorable opinions, he was forbidden use of the church house and his congregation faded. Tension continued to build over time between Gatlin and his neighbors due to Gatlin’s controversial opinions.

How Did Gatlinburg Get Its Name?

On his land in White Oak Flats, Radford Gatlin opened a general store. In 1856, a post office was established inside Gatlin’s store, which is what led to the town being named “Gatlinburg.” There is not a record of exactly how the name was officially changed, but it’s believed that it was because Gatlin owned the general store that the post office was in.

Radford Gatlin’s Departure from Gatlinburg

gatlinburg overlookIt was no secret to anyone living in Gatlinburg at the time that the Gatlins and the Ogles were feuding. From charges and court cases to the burning of barns, the two families had their fair share of tension. While it’s not stated that this feud was the exact reason Gatlin left Gatlinburg, he knew that his presence in the town was unwanted. Many rumors surround his departure from Gatlinburg, and it’s difficult for anyone to separate fact from fiction. Some say his neighbors hated him because of his controversial views and tension with the Ogles, others say he left on his own after multiple lawsuits against the Ogle family. All we know for sure is that Gatlin left town sometime around 1859, but he left behind his mark with the name Gatlinburg.

More About the History of Gatlinburg

If you enjoyed learning more about Radford Gatlin and how Gatlinburg got its name, you’ll love reading more about the history of Gatlinburg! Find out more about Gatlinburg and its history here.