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Civil War Comes to the Smokies

The Civil War was one of the most harrowing times in Gatlinburg history and Pigeon Forge history. The Smoky Mountain cities were largely pro-Union, but Tennessee had elected to secede from the United States and join the Confederacy in 1861.

While Gatlinburg tried to remain neutral when war broke out, the city was eventually occupied by Confederate troops who wanted to mine saltpeter (a key ingredient in gunpowder) from nearby Alum Cave. The Confederate Army was forced out of Gatlinburg in 1863 after the Battle of Burg Hill. Over in Pigeon Forge, The Old Mill was used as a makeshift hospital and a quasi-factory for the production of Union Army uniforms.

The Old mill

Unlike many who were in the thick of political party lines at the time, the Smoky Mountain communities had little to gain from throwing their allegiances either way. These downtrodden farmers were concerned about how war would affect their livelihoods and communities, not to mention the fact that they would most likely be the ones to lay down their lives for what some called a rich man’s war but a poor man’s fight.

Without slaves, wealth or even glory at stake, many of these mountain families preferred to keep out of the conflict. When the question of secession came to a vote, only 20 percent of residents in Tennessee Smoky Mountain counties voted “aye,” while around 46 percent of the Smoky Mountain counties in North Carolina were in favor of seceding. Regardless of any one town’s wishes, both states seceded in May, 1861.

Some pro-Union demonstrations erupted in response to this move, including a violent attack on Gatlinburg’s namesake resident Radford Gatlin, but the efforts were to no avail. Tennessee had already entered the war, bringing the Smoky Mountain citizens with them.

One Smoky Mountains site that fell under Confederate interests was known as Alum Cave. A rich source of saltpeter, the cave could provide ample source minerals to create much-needed gunpowder as well as Epsom salts. A Major William H. Thomas along with a legion of local guerrillas, Cherokees and Confederate soldiers held the caves and conscripted local forces to help him build roads and mine the valuable saltpeter. Provisions were acquired from Jefferson City to sustain the forces during this time.

In order to unroot the Confederates from Alum Cave near Pigeon Forge, two companies of Union soldiers were dispatched in December of 1863. 150 Union soldiers led by Colonel William J. Palmer of the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry marched through the Smoky Mountains and down Fighting Creek to the edge of Gatlinburg. A skirmish broke out on Burg Hill, and the outnumbered Confederate forces under Major Thomas quickly retreated along Dudley Creek. Few casualties were had, and no deaths, according to record.

Gatlinburg, Great Smoky Mountains, History, Parks

Logging and the Smokies

In the 1880s, the invention of the band saw and the logging railroad led to a boom in the lumber industry. As forests throughout the Southeastern United States were harvested, lumber companies pushed deeper into the mountain areas of the Appalachian highlands. The first decades of the 20th century were dominated by the timber industry as the logging trade increased their harvests from the forests around Gatlinburg, and new sawmills sprang up along the many available sources of running water to power the operations.

Visitors can take a trip through this industrial history thanks to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a five-mile, one-way loop that begins and ends near downtown Gatlinburg. From the comfort of your car or after short easy walks, you can observe gorgeous waterfalls, one of the Ogle family’s original farmsteads, and Ely’s Mill, an authentic re-creation of an early 20th-century mill operation.

In 1901, Colonel W.B. Townsend established the Little River Lumber Company in Tuckaleechee Cove to the west, and lumber interests began buying up logging rights to vast tracts of forest in the Smokies.

Andrew Jackson Huff (1878–1949), originally of Greene County, was a pivotal figure in Gatlinburg at this time. Huff erected a sawmill in Gatlinburg in 1900,  and local residents began supplementing their income by providing lodging to loggers and other lumber company officials.

As the lumber industry continued to grow, calls rang out to protect the forests of the Great Smoky Mountains, and tourists began to visit the area drawn to the Smokies by the writings of authors such as Mary Noailles Murfree and Horace Kephart, who wrote extensively about the region’s natural wonders. In 1924, the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club was formed to draw further attention to the area as a natural wonder worthy of preservation.

Congress passed the Weeks Act to allow for the purchase of land for national forests. Authors such as Horace Kephart and Knoxville-area businesses began advocating for the creation of a national park in the Smokies that would be similar to Yellowstone or Yosemite in the Western United States. With the purchase of 76,000 acres (310 km2) in the Little River Lumber Company tract in 1926, the movement quickly became a reality.

Andrew Huff spearheaded the movement in the Gatlinburg area, and he opened the first hotel in Gatlinburg – the Mountain View Hotel – in 1916.[33] His son, Jack, established LeConte Lodge atop Mount Le Conte in 1926.[34] In spite of resistance from lumberers at Elkmont and difficulties with the Tennessee legislature,[32] Great Smoky Mountains National Park opened in 1934.

Some of the first major hotel and resort developments in Gatlinburg in the 1930s were The Greystone Hotel, Riverside Hotel, and The Historic Gatlinburg Inn. In fact, you can still stay in room 388 of The Gatlinburg Inn, the exact spot where, in 1967, a married couple of songwriters named Felice and Boudleaux Bryant were inspired by the lovely mountain surroundings to pen their most iconic tune, “Rocky Top.”

Attractions, Gatlinburg, Great Smoky Mountains, History

The Hostory of Gatlinburg

After the War of 1812, a steady stream of settlers moved into the area. Most were veterans of the American Revolution or War of 1812 who had converted the 50-acre (200,000 m2) tracts they had received for service in war into deeds around White Oak Flats. Prior to Gatlinburg’s incorporation, it was known as White Oak Flats.

Prior to Gatlinburg’s incorporation, it was known as White Oak Flats.

Among these early settlers were Timothy Reagan (c. 1750–1830), John Ownby, Jr. (1791–1857), and Henry Bohanon (1760–1842). Their descendants still live in the area today. The original family names of these and previous settlers like Reagan, Crockett, Ownby, Bohanon, McCarter and Huskey and Ogles are still seen on businesses throughout the region as their descendants remain in Gatlinburg.

There is a White Oak Flats Cemetery in Gatlinburg. Go through the Village in downtown Gatlinburg. Go past the bathrooms and past the cement horse.

A preacher named Radford Gatlin moved to the area in 1854 and opened the second general store in White Oak Flats, in competition with the Ogle family mercantile. Gatlin lobbied to have a post office opened inside his store. In 1856, a post office was established in the general store of Radford Gatlin (c. 1798–1880), giving the town the name “Gatlinburg.” So, Gatlinburg was born. Gatlin, who didn’t arrive in the flats until around 1854, constantly bickered with his neighbors. By 1857, a full-blown feud had erupted between the Gatlins and the Ogles, probably over Gatlin’s attempts to divert the town’s main road. The eve of the U.S. Civil War found Gatlin, who became a Confederate sympathizer, at odds with the residents of the flats, who were mostly pro-Union, and he was forced out in 1859, but his name lives on.

Despite its anti-slavery sentiments, Gatlinburg, like most Smoky Mountain communities, tried to remain neutral during the war. This changed when a company of Confederate Colonel William Holland Thomas‘ Legion occupied the town to protect the salt peter mines at Alum Cave, near the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Federal forces marched south from Knoxville and Sevierville to drive out Thomas’ men, who had built a small fort on Burg Hill. Lucinda Oakley Ogle, whose grandfather witnessed the ensuing skirmish, later recounted her grandfather’s recollections:

… he told me about when he was a sixteen year old boy during the Civil War and would hide under a big cliff on Turkey Nest Ridge and watch the Blue Coats ride their horses around the graveyard hill, shooting their cannon toward Burg Hill where the Grey Coats had a fort and would ride their horses around the Burg Hill …

As the Union forces converged on the town, the outnumbered Confederates were forced to retreat across the Smokies to North Carolina. Confederate forces did not return, although sporadic small raids continued until the end of the war.

Attractions, Gatlinburg, History

White Oak Flats Community of Gatlinburg

Generations of travelers have visited the quintessential mountain town of Gatlinburg, TN. Surrounded on three sides by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg is known as “The Gateway to the Smokies.” It’s an ideal vacation destination for families seeking a nature-centric escape or for those looking to take to the bustling streets of downtown Gatlinburg with its shopping, attractions and myriad restaurants. Others may prefer to hunker down in one of Gatlinburg’s many luxury accommodation options hidden away on the mountain, where families can revel in anything from cozy condos to massive chalets.

Gatlinburg is a preferred destination thanks to its proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Gatlinburg has been growing as a tourist destination for decades, evolving from a frontier community to a mountain mecca.

The first American settler in the area was a farmer from Edgefield, SC, named William Ogle. In 1802, Ogle traveled to the Smokies to scout out a new homestead for his family. He was so impressed by the variety of flora, fauna and hunting grounds in the surrounding forests that he wrote home to his family to tell them he had discovered “The Land of Paradise,” and he began to make plans to bring his kin to their new home. With the help of his Cherokee neighbors, Ogle hewed trees and prepared the lumber to construct a new cabin home upon his anticipated return after retrieving his family from South Carolina.

Sadly, Ogle passed away from malaria in South Carolina before he could make the journey back to his beloved new home site. His wife, Martha Jane Huskey Ogle, vowed to fulfill her husband’s wishes and made the difficult passage across the mountains to bring her children and several other family members to what soon became known as White Oak Flats, named for the abundance of that particular variety of trees in the area.

After the death of William, Martha took her five sons and two daughters for a short visit with relatives in Virginia. Her brother, Peter Huskey, and his family then accompanied them on their long trip to the East Tennessee area to establish their home

The traveling group discovered Ogle’s original cleared site with the building materials for their new home waiting for them. They got to work constructing the first cabin, which you can still visit in downtown Gatlinburg.

Her home is a very small one room home. You will see a lot of the tools they used back then and the tiny home that she lived in with her 7 children. Fascinating to think of the bravery that women must have had. Definately worth a stop when you visit downtown Gatlinburg.

According to the church minutes of “Fork of Little Pigeon Church”, Martha Ogle was the one of the group of people from White Oak Flats Community that asked the Fork of Little Pigeon Church to establish a church in White Oak Flats as an arm of the church in Sevierville in December 1817.

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Roosevelt’s “Grand Trip” to the Smokies

Many people are aware that President Roosevelt visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1940 to dedicate the park. But few realize that this was his second trip to the Smokies; his first trip occurred in 1936.

“For thirty years I have been wanting to get to the Great Smoky Mountains. I have planned at least a half dozen trips to this section, but each time something happened to prevent my coming. Today I finally made it. I am not disappointed. I am delighted and thrilled. It was a grand trip.” So spoke Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the occasion of the first visit of a sitting president to the new national park.

The presidential party left Washington DC on the evening of September 8, traveling overnight by special train to Knoxville. Waiting for the president in Knoxville was his customized automobile, bearing the presidential seal. The car—a convertible designed to allow the president to see and be seen—had been driven to Knoxville the evening before by White House chauffeur Monte Snyder. After the stop in Knoxville, the train was to continue on to Asheville to meet up with the president and his party after their trip across the Smokies.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedication speech was Sept. 2, 1940 – Labor Day – at the new Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The dedication date came at a point when the nation’s attention was turning from the Great Depression to what would become World War II. Pearl Harbor was still 15 months away, but the rumble of war could be heard in the distance.

Indeed, a great deal of Roosevelt’s park dedication speech dealt not with soaring rhetoric about nature and its beauty but about external threats to the American way of life, what he said were “dangers far more deadly than were those that the frontiersmen had to face.”

Here in the Great Smokies, we meet today to dedicate these mountains, streams and forests to the service of the millions of American people. …

There are trees here that stood before our forefathers came to this continent; there are brooks that will run as clear as on the day the first pioneer cupped his hand and drank from them. In this park, we shall conserve the pine, the redwood, the dogwood, the azalea, the rhododendron, the trout and the brush for the happiness of the American people.

The old frontier that put the hard fibre in the American spirit, and the long muscles on the Americana back, lives and will live in these untamed mountains to give future generations a sense of the land from which their forefathers hewed their homes.