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Sevier County, Tennessee has had its share of historic fires and floods. The history of these events is rather scattered, owing at least partly to the fact that these kinds of disasters tend to take historical records with them. However, a strong regional heritage rooted in oral history has preserved information about the historic flood and fire disasters in Sevier County.
In 1856, fire in Sevierville destroyed the new courthouse, 41 houses, and businesses in the downtown area. Most notably, the county lost valuable records documenting the lives and deaths of its early settlers.
Another fire consumed much of downtown Sevierville again in 1900, causing business to move toward what is now the new site of the Sevierville Commercial District, encircling the new courthouse.
The first major flooded recorded in Sevierville occurred in 1875 when the Pigeon River rose to 19.5 feet! On August 4, 1938, a severe flash flood on Webb Mountain blew out numerous springs, seeps and small tributaries. A 10-12 foot wave of water washed through the city, wreaking havoc on everything in its wake.
In 1966, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) began a flood protection program to correct the west prong of the Little Pigeon River and mitigate flooding. Since this project has been completed, there have not been any floods in Sevierville.
To learn more about the Smoky Mountain’s vibrant oral tradition, check out this article about the Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales event. This summer series brings musicians, artists and storytellers together to share Appalachian culture with visitors in Gatlinburg.