No matter what holidays you celebrate, there are some that are most well-known: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hanukah, St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Day, Easter, Halloween, July 4, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day…but did you know that each month there are dozens of other off-the-wall holidays to celebrate?!
Tomorrow (March 2) is our new favorite – Old Stuff Day – and we’re celebrating with a history lesson on the Great Smoky Mountains. The area has a rich history, comprising everything from music and the arts to moonshine and pioneering women. Many of the things we consider art today in the Smokies were everyday necessities in the past, building Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and Pigeon Forge into what they are today.
Read on for a quick history lesson on the area; then go out and celebrate Old Stuff Day by visiting the historic buildings in Cades Cove, touring the Titanic Museum Attraction, or hunting down an antiques shop in the area!
The Ogle Family
When the first European settlers arrived in the Smokies (at the start of the 19th century), they named the Gatlinburg area White Oak Flats. Among those first settlers was the famous William Ogle, who cut logs for the first cabin in Gatlinburg (although he died before building it himself). Just a few years after his death, William Ogle’s wife, Martha Jane Huskey Ogle, moved to the Gatlinburg area with her 7 children, her brother, and his family. You can look for the Ogle name all over town, including at Fannie Farkle’s for their famous Ogle Dog!
Logging in the Smoky Mountains
Logging was a major industry (and source of income) for people settling in the Great Smoky Mountains in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s no surprise, considering how many hundreds of acres of trees are found in the area. While the logging provided important work and resources for homes, it also produced an unfortunate side effect. By the mid-1920s, logging had destroyed 300,000+ acres of Smoky Mountain trees.
Restoring the Smokies & Creating a Legacy
Around this time, several people began work to preserve the area’s natural beauty for future generations. Ann Davis, after a trip to several national parks out west in 1923, suggested the creation of a national park in the Smokies. David Chapman worked as chairman of the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association. Paul Fink was instrumental in the route of the Appalachian Trail through the Great Smoky Mountains.
Horace Kephart and Georgia Masa used their resources and talents – paired with their passion for the beauty of the area – to raise $5 million from Tennessee and North Carolina residents to buy the land from loggers. John D. Rockefeller Jr. added the remaining $5 million, kicking off a decades-long effort to make the Great Smoky Mountains National Park what it is today.
The Walker Sisters
The 6 Walker sisters lived within the borders of the national park before it was public land, and they held onto their homesteads until their death. They were so passionate in their pleas, in fact, they were the only people allowed to stay within the national park’s borders. They remained there until the death of the last sister in 1964, selling homemade children’s toys, doilies, and fried apple pies. The Walker Sister Homestead still stands today, situated along the Little Brier Gap Trail. On your way, stop at the Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse, which their favorite helped build.
Did you know?
- Radford Gatlin, Gatlinburg’s namesake, was banned from Gatlinburg because of his political views in the Civil War era.
- The Cherokee Indians originally called Gatlinburg “Shaconage,” which meant “Land of Blue Smoke.”
- Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts – founded in 1912 – offers workshops by professional artists that you can check out over a weekend stay!
- The Walker sisters had a 7th sister, but she lived outside of the national park’s boundaries.
- The City of Gatlinburg was incorporated in 1945.
- The first cabin built in Gatlinburg (1807) is still standing in downtown Gatlinburg.
- Today’s Mountain Mall in Gatlinburg was once the site of the Ogle Store, opened in 1850.
More Old Stuff Day Fun in the Smokies
Love old stuff? Want to celebrate all day in the Smokies? We have a few more ideas. Besides checking out the historic buildings in the area (try Cades Cove, Baskins Creek, and the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community), you can indulge in history downtown. Tour the RMS Titanic at the Titanic Museum Attraction downtown, where you’ll get a boarding pass of an actual passenger and learn “your” fate at the end. Shop at The Village Shops in downtown Gatlinburg, where you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time to an old-world European village. Spend a day hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where old-growth forests will surround you.