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Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg attract millions of visitors each year. The popular cities are home to incredible attractions like Dollywood, Ober Gatlinburg and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Though so many people come to visit, not everyone knows much about the towns themselves. At Visit My Smokies, we’ve put together a list of 8 fun facts about Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg to learn before you visit:
1. Pigeon Forge Only Has About 6,200 Permanent Residents
Though millions of people visit Pigeon Forge for vacation each year, the city only has about 6,200 permanent residents! It’s the visitors who can boost the daily population to more than 50,000. It’s considered a small community because of the small amount of permanent residents, but it has to provide the infrastructure of a big city because of the high number of visitors each year.
2. Gatlinburg Wasn’t the Town’s Original Name
You may have heard that Gatlinburg was not the town’s original name. It was first called White Oak Flats because of the abundance of native white oak trees that covered the landscape. The name Gatlinburg came from a man named Radford Gatlin, who moved to the area and opened a general store in White Oak Flats. After a couple short years, a post office opened in his store, which ultimately led to changing the name of the town to Gatlinburg.
3. The First Permanent Settler in Gatlinburg Was a Woman
Many people think the first person to permanently settle in Gatlinburg was William Ogle, but it was actually his wife and family who were the first to actually live there. William Ogle started building a cabin in Gatlinburg for his family to move to, but when he went to retrieve them, he passed away before he could make it back. His wife gathered the family and moved to Gatlinburg to finish the cabin her husband had worked so hard on. Visitors can still see the historic Ogle cabin today.
4. The Old Mill Was Built by the Same Man Pigeon Forge Got its Name From
Everyone knows of the famous Old Mill in Pigeon Forge. But, did you know it was built by the same man from whom Pigeon Forge got its name? In 1817, Isaac Love built an iron forge along the Little Pigeon River. Later, in 1830, Love and his sons built a grist mill next to the iron forge that is now known as The Old Mill. A community had developed around the forge, so they felt it was right to name part of the town after it.
5. There Are More Fish in Ripley’s Aquarium Than People Who Live in Gatlinburg
Did you know that there are more fish in Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies than the entire town of Gatlinburg? This top aquarium is home to more than 10,000 exotic sea creatures spread across more than 350 different species! On the other hand, Gatlinburg has been ranked among the “Top 20 Small Towns in America” with only about 4,206 permanent residents. Though it doesn’t have that many people living there, the town attracts more than 11 million visitors each year!
6. Gatlinburg Almost Wasn’t in Tennessee
Did you know that Gatlinburg almost wasn’t in the state of Tennessee? Before the state of Tennessee was established, the Gatlinburg area was actually a part of Franklin, which was a territory that almost became the 14th state in the country! Following the Revolutionary War, the frontiersmen petitioned to the federal government to create a new state in the land west of North Carolina and proposed the land be called Franklin, after Benjamin Franklin. Congress voted no, however, so the frontiersmen decided to establish the state without official recognition. However, the state of Franklin collapsed after 4 years when its governor, John Sevier, was arrested for treason by agents in North Carolina. He was eventually forgiven for his crimes and became the first governor of Tennessee.
7. Pigeon Forge is Named After an Extinct Species of Bird
Pigeon Forge is actually named after an extinct species of bird, the passenger pigeon. This extinct species’ name comes from the French word, “passager,” which means “passing by” due to the migratory habits of the species. It was very common in the Smoky Mountain area, but was eventually hunted to extinction. The last documented passenger pigeon died in 1914.
8. Gatlinburg is Home to Tennessee’s First Pancake House
Okay, so this fact is probably the easiest to believe of all: Tennessee’s first pancake house is located in Gatlinburg! The Pancake Pantry opened in 1960, and since then, it has served visitors delicious pancakes and breakfast food. Now, Gatlinburg is famous for its pancakes! Pancake Pantry is still open today and continues to draw in visitors with its warm atmosphere, real butter, fresh whipped cream and fluffy pancakes.
Now that you know all of these interesting facts about Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, it’s time to plan your visit! Find the perfect place to stay and come enjoy all that the area has to offer.