Why is it Gatlinburg? Why not 'Oglesburg'?

Larry Bowers
Posted 11/12/17

I have lived in a number of cities and states, and in the long, winding journey of my career, I am often asked, "Where did you enjoy living the most?"I lived in a home on the banks of the Rio Grande …

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Why is it Gatlinburg? Why not 'Oglesburg'?

I have lived in a number of cities and states, and in the long, winding journey of my career, I am often asked, "Where did you enjoy living the most?"

I lived in a home on the banks of the Rio Grande River in West Texas, and at the end of U.S. Highway 1 in Key West, Fla.

Each of these communities  had good points, bad points and a few points in between.

You usually have a fondness for the place you grew up, and where you attended elementary through high school.

This is also true for me, after my growing-up years in Maryville.  Still, it is not the place I would select to spend my final days, if I had that choice.

My favorite place, of all the places I've lived, is less than an hour's drive from Maryville, and is also in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.

When I left Maryville in 1978, I accepted a position as editor of the Gatlinburg Mountain Press and Sevierville News Record. At the time, they were among the top award-winning (small) newspapers in the Tennessee Press Association.

I am proud of the fact we continued that tradition during the years I was there.
During that time, I had a home in Gatlinburg, moved to Sevierville and then moved on to Pigeon Forge. I got to know a number of the community's descendants from "The Families."

Through the 20th century, there were seven families who guided the community into becoming a mecca for tourism. These families owned a majority of property in and around Gatlinburg, and leased their holdings to multiple retail and tourist developments.

Family members, especially through the middle years of the 20th century, would spend their winters in the warm confines of Florida, returning to Gatlinburg for the tourist season — spring through fall.

This family ownership has waned over the years, but still remains a major ingredient for what Gatlinburg is today.

Referred to as the “Gateway to the Smoky Mountains,” Gatlinburg lies at the foot of Mount LeConte, and was once called White Oaks Flats, during the 19th century. 
Martha Jane Huskey Ogle brought her seven children to the area from North Carolina  and built a cabin, which can still be seen today at the Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts’ campus  in downtown Gatlinburg.

Her settlement in this mountainous area was a tribute to her deceased husband, William, who explored the area as a place to settle his family.

In preparing to move to the mountains, he fell ill and died, possibly frommalaria.

Following the Ogles to Gatlinburg were other families by the names of McCarter, Whaley, Trentham, Reagan, Huskey and a couple more. Their presence remains today.

Living in Gatlinburg, I got to know several of the descendants of these families. I knew a number of the in-laws, and some of the "outlaws." 

There are many stories as to how Gatlinburg got its name, all involving a controversial figure who settled there in 1854.

Radford C. Gatlin opened the town’s second general store and when the post office was established in his store, in 1856, the town name changed to Gatlinburg.

He was a preacher, and established his own “Gatlinite” Baptist Church. He was a Democrat in a Republican community, and was eventually banished from the area.

Why did they keep the name Gatlinburg at that time?

I've always thought the name should have been changed to "Oglesburg" to honor its first settler, Martha Jane Ogle. This was a pioneer woman who made a tremendous effort to honor the dreams of her late husband.

As I see it, few spouses would do that today!


(About the writer: Larry Bowers is a staff writer, and three-time editor, at the Cleveland Daily Banner. Email him at larry.bowers@clevelandbanner.com.)


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