The towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge both have interesting histories.

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge To be in a Different State

From around 1784 to 1788, eight counties that would one day be part of East Tennessee formed their own independent territory called Franklin. This small area applied to be the 14th state in the Union, but their bid was rejected by Congress in 1785. When the federal government failed to recognize Franklin, its residents formed an autonomous nation with its own constitution and court system. Revolutionary War hero John Sevier became Franklin’s Governor/President. After a number of years of tension with North Carolina, troops invaded Franklin and arrested John Sevier. The state of Franklin was disbanded, but John Sevier eventually became the first governor of Tennessee. The city of Sevierville, which is located next to Pigeon Forge, is named after him.

Gatlinburg’s Namesake Was Told To Leave Town

Despite being founded by the Ogle family in 1807, the community was named after Radford Gatlin, who arrived around 1854. The town was originally known as White Oak Flats, but its name was changed to Gatlinburg after the first post office was established in Gatlin’s general store. Gatlin was terribly disliked. He had fights with the Ogles to move the main road, and was a Confederate sympathizer. Gatlinburg was pro-Union. In 1859, Gatlin was chased out of the town.

Area Pigeons Went Extinct

The first half of the name of Pigeon Forge refers to a now-extinct species of bird called the passenger pigeon. These birds were once very common in East Tennessee, but they suffered a sharp decline after more Euro-Americans started moving to the area. While Native Americans did eat passenger pigeons, it was the white settlers who really ramped up the hunting of this bird in the 1800s.

Electricity for Pigeon Forge was provided by the Old Mill

Built in 1830, The Old Mill is a famous landmark in Pigeon Forge. Today, the mill grinds grain into flour, but this landmark had a many uses in its day. In the early 1840s, the mill was the site of the town’s first post office where William Love (one of the mill’s builders) chose the name “Pigeon Forge” for the community. “Pigeon” was a reference to the Pigeon River/passenger pigeon and “Forge” was a nod to the iron forge that once stood beside The Old Mill. During the Civil War, the mill was used to create uniforms for the Union and acted as a makeshift hospital for wounded soldiers. In the early 1900s, The Old Mill provided electricity for the residents of Pigeon Forge. The town relied on mill-generated power until 1935.

Cades Cove Almost Became a Lake

In the 1930s, officials in the National Park Service and Tennessee politicians thought Cades Cove was just an empty field. Government officials tried to plan a 400-foot-long dam to create a lake. The plan was endorsed by the director of the National Park Service, the governor of Tennessee, the mayor of Knoxville, and local leaders. However, environmentalists were able to stop the plan, and Cades Cove has become the most visited section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


We hope that reading these fun facts about the area has put you in the mood to start planning your vacation. When you stay with My Bearfoot Cabins, you will have the perfect place to stay during your trip. We are sure to have the ideal property for your next vacation. Browse and book your next getaway.

Pat and Don Kirchhoefer, Owners
Phone: 618-5509-3915