Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge History – My Bear Foot Cabins

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge History

1. William Ogle Visits “The Land of Paradise”

William Ogle traveled to the future site of Gatlinburg, TN, a place he called “The Land of Paradise” in 1802.  He was from South Carolina.  He, his wife, Martha Jane, and seven children, has a vision of a bright future.  He cut and hewed logs for a new home. In 1803 he returned to South Carolina, he fell ill and passed away.

Martha Jane brought her family to the Smokies in 1807 and finished building the cabin. This historic cabin, the first log home ever built in Gatlinburg, is still standing at the Gatlinburg Welcome Center.

2. Isaac Love and His Iron Forge

A businessman named Isaac Love built an iron forge on the West Fork of the Little Pigeon River in 1817. Love inherited this prime riverside property from his father-in-law.  He took advantage of Tennessee’s tax incentives for the creation of iron works on land that could not be farmed. Isaac Love’s forge produced bars of iron, building equipment, and farming implements that were sold across the United States.  The forge was built about 5 miles from the Ogle cabin

3. The Old Mill

In 1830, Isaac Love and his sons built a grist mill beside the iron forge. Local farmers, used it to grind their grain into flour, and was a valued resource. In 1841, the first post office was established at the grist mill.  This is when the town was name “Pigeon Forge,” as the iron forge was located on the Little Pigeon River. The iron forge no longer exists, but The Old Mill still operates and attracts over one million visitors annually.

4. Radford Gatlin Comes to Town

The town that was founded by the Ogle family in the very early 1800’s was named White Oak Flats. In the 1850s, Radford Gatlin moved into the town, and ran the general store.  Eventually, the area’s first post office was established in his shop. After that, the town was called “Gatlinburg.”  Unfortunately, Gatlin was disliked by his neighbors.  He was beaten and  out of run out of town in 1859.

5. Civil War Days

The Civil War was one of the worst times in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge history. Smoky Mountain towns largely sided with the Union, but Tennessee elected to secede from the United States in 1862 and joined the Confederacy.

Gatlinburg was neutral when war broke, but was ultimately occupied by Confederate troops. Alum Cave became an area where the Confederate troops mined saltpeter, necessary or the manufacture of gunpowder. After the Battle of Burg Hill, the Confederate Army was forced to leave in 1863. The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge was used as a hospital and a factory where Union Army uniforms were made.

6. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

1934 had a profound effect on Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. People were coming to East Tennessee to take in the area’s breathtaking natural beauty, and The Smoky Mountain National Park came to be. Improvements to U.S. Route 441 made the Smokies a more accessible vacation destination. Today, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States. There are over 11 million annual visitors.



7. Rebel Railroad 

In 1961, Pigeon Forge’s opened its first theme park, Rebel Railroad, by Grover and Harry Robbins of North Carolina. The coal-fired steam engine, Klondike Katie, made the park famous. Rebel Railroad was purchased by Art Modell in 1970.  He was the owner of the Cleveland Browns, and renamed the park Goldrush Junction. In 1977 the Herschend Family acquired the attraction and renamed it Silver Dollar City.



8. Dollywood

Dolly Parton, born in Sevier County in the Smoky Mountains accepted a deal to become a co-owner of Silver Dollar City in 1982. The theme park became known as Dollywood in 1986, and was an overnight success. 1.3 million people showed up on Dollywood’s opening day. Currently, Dollywood is Tennessee’s #1 ticketed attraction.


Now it’s time to start planning! My Bearfoot Cabins offers a 3BR/5BA cabin that sleeps up to 14, and a 2BR/2BA cabin that sleeps up to 7.  We are sure to have a cabin for your Escape To Times Past. All contact information is on the website.  
Pat and Don Kirchhoefer, Owners