The quaint, resort-like village of Gatlinburg, nestled in the mountains of East
Tennessee, is known for it's beautiful scenery, great shopping, as well as its colorful
history. The small resort town, commonly referred to as the "Gateway to the Smoky
Mountains", lies at the foot of Mt. LeConte and was once called White Oaks Flats
during the 19th Century. Throughout the town's history, settlers came to call this
breathtaking community Gatlinburg.
The first settlers to Gatlinburg came from South Carolina and held the family name
of Oglesby, which was later changed to Ogle. Martha Jane Huskey Ogle brought her
seven children to the area and built her cabin, which can still be seen today at
the Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts' campus right in downtown Gatlinburg. Many
reminders of the Ogle family exist today in Gatlinburg, such as hotel names, craft
shops, and area landmarks. The area in which they settled in the early 19th century
became known as White Oaks Flats. This area, which had never been settled before,
was thick with thriving forests and wildlife. The local Native American tribes were
the only human inhabitants and finding a way to live in peace proved to be difficult.
Eventually, the pioneer settlers made the area their home and veterans of the Revolutionary
War came to settle in White Oaks Flats from North Carolina. The fifty-acre land
grants in Tennessee given by North Carolina made this possible.
The mountain village began to grow as community structures were built. The church
was the first building constructed in 1835 and was called the White Oaks Baptist
Church, even though settlers were primarily Presbyterian. The Baptist missionaries
in the area convinced them to create a Baptist church before any other. A school
was finished in 1867 but only remained open during three months out of the year.
Geographical boundaries made communication with the world outside of the Appalachian
Mountains difficult. Mail service became available in around 1855 as a post office
was opened in the mercantile owned by Radford Gatlin, who arrived from North Carolina
in 1855 and was soon to have the town named after him. The postmaster, Richard Reagan,
renamed his office Gatlinburg in appreciation of the office space offered by Gatlin.
This name eventually spread to all of the establishments located in White Oaks Flats
until the original name became obsolete in the late 19th Century.
Radford Gatlin, known for speaking his mind and holding Confederate views in a primarily
Union supported area, was disliked by many. Upon sharing his views one too many
times, a group of masked men, thought to be members of the Ogle family, beat him
and he was eventually run out of town around 1860. Regardless of this history, the
town known today for family fun, entertainment, recreation, and natural beauty is
still called Gatlinburg.