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If you love visiting Gatlinburg, there probably aren’t many things you don’t know about this popular mountain town! However, before it was a tourist town that attracted millions of visitors a year, it was a small town with few residents. The history of Gatlinburg and how it’s evolved over the years is one of the most fascinating things to learn about! To help you learn, we’ve made a list of 5 things you didn’t know about Gatlinburg’s history:
1. Gatlinburg Almost Wasn’t in Tennessee.
Have you heard that Gatlinburg almost wasn’t a part of Tennessee? The town was located in a territory known as Franklin, which actually petitioned to become the 14th state admitted to the Union in 1784. However, the federal government denied their bid for statehood, which is when Franklin formed its own independent territory. Eventually, Franklin’s governor, John Sevier, was arrested for treason and Franklin collapsed after 4 years. John Sevier later went on to be the governor of Tennessee.
2. Most Residents in Gatlinburg Were Pro-Union.
Many people have heard that Gatlinburg was occupied during the Confederacy during the Civil War, but did you know that most of the residents in Gatlinburg were pro-Union? Their pro-Union stance came from a number of factors: One, a majority of Gatlinburg residents did not own slaves, and two, many residents were suspicious of the Southern elites who were pushing for secession. When the Civil War broke out, Gatlinburg tried to remain neutral, but it became occupied by the Confederate Army. The Confederates set up a fort on Burg Hill and mined saltpeter from Alum Cave. Tennessee became the 11th and final state to secede and join the Confederacy in June of 1861.
3. The Man Gatlinburg was Named After was Run Out of Town.
If you haven’t heard the story of how Gatlinburg got its name, it’s definitely an interesting one to tell! Most cities and towns are named after beloved residents, but not Gatlinburg. In fact, it was named after the most hated man in town! Radford Gatlin moved to Gatlinburg in 1854. The town’s first post office was established in Gatlin’s general store, and that’s how the town became known as Gatlinburg. However, Gatlin was constantly fighting with other residents in town, and he was known for having pro-secession views, which conflicted with a majority of the residents. In 1859, Radford Gatlin was run out of town.
4. Construction on the First Home in Gatlinburg Began in 1802.
While the first settlers in Gatlinburg didn’t come until 1807, construction on the first home began in 1802! William Ogle visited Gatlinburg, which was named White Oak Flats at the time, and called it the “Land of Paradise.” He decided he wanted to bring his family there, and selected a site where the first home was to be built in 1802. Ogle got to work cutting the logs for the home before returning to South Carolina to get his family. However, while back in South Carolina, William Ogle fell ill and died in 1803. Four years later, his wife, Martha Jane Husky Ogle, brought her 5 sons and 2 daughters back to the area, along with her brother and his family. They finished the cabin and became the first settlers in Gatlinburg.
5. The First School Only Had 13 Students When It Opened.
The first school in Gatlinburg opened in 1912. It was created by the Phi Beta Phi, which was a women’s organization dedicated to helping the underprivileged. When it first opened its doors, the school only had 13 students! However, it was an immediate success, and the number of students quickly grew to 134. The school mainly focused on arts and crafts and encouraged the thriving “cottage crafts industry” movement at the time.
Plan a Visit to Gatlinburg
Now that you know more about the history of Gatlinburg, it’s time to plan a visit to explore the mountain town itself! The establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park helped it grow from a small mountain town to a bustling tourist town that gets millions of visitors a year. You can step back in time with a visit to the historic structures in the national park, or experience the fun attractions in town, like Ober Gatlinburg and Ripley’s Aquarium! There is something for everyone in Gatlinburg, which is part of the reason it’s such a popular vacation destination.
Learn about all the fun things to do in Gatlinburg, then start planning your trip to this incredible town!