To find the root of Gatlinburg, the true history, you really can point to one name in particular: Ogle. And it all began with a strong-willed lady named Martha Ogle.
Martha Jane Huskey Ogle to be exact. Along with her children and other family members settled a place called White Oak Flats in 1807. At the time, it was a fairly remote place in the Smoky Mountains. This land, to her recently deceased husband William, was a paradise, and in honor of him they decided to make it their own. Today, that land is prominently Gatlinburg. The Ogle cabin that they build when they first arrived still stands and people can visit it while in town.
The Gatlinburg area was known as White Oak Flats during those early years due to the abundant native white oak trees found everywhere. It was the Ogle family who first settled it followed by familiar family names like McCarter, Reagan, Whaley, and Trentham.
As for the town of Gatlinburg itself and how it got its name, many believe Radford C. Gatlin, who opened the town’s second general store, would be the most likely choice. Gatlin was a flamboyant preacher, establishing his own “Gatlinite” Baptist Church as well as a democrat in a republican community. For unknown reasons, he was eventually banished from the area. Still, the town bears his name.
The Ogles first became aware of the area around 1802 when William Ogle selected a site here. He cut the logs for the cabin, returned to South Carolina and told his family that they were moving. He had found “The Land of Paradise” in the mountains of East Tennessee. William fell ill, malaria most likely, while preparing for the big move and passed away before he could ever return in 1803.
It was after his death that Martha, around age 46 or 47, brought her five sons and two daughters, her brother, Peter Huskey, and his family to White Oak Flats. Her husband’s hewed logs still lay where he had left them. They eventually finished the cabin and settled the land around it.
Pi Beta Phi eventually bought the Ogle farm when the settlement school expanded in 1921 and used it as a hospital. A museum of mountain artifacts used the cabin from 1922-26. Today it’s located a short distance away from its original site at the former site of the community’s first church building.
Other prominent Ogles of note included Noah Ogle – Gatlinburg’s first merchant of record, who established a store in 1850 where the Riverside Hotel is located. Until 1925, the E. E. Ogle and Company store housed the Gatlinburg Post Office. Grandson Charlie A. Ogle and great grandson Charles Earl Ogle continue the family tradition to this day. Over the years, the store has moved and expanded in numerous directions. They’ve sold everything from hairpins to threshing machines, “if they could find it.” The Mountain Mall now stands where the general store was after it was demolished in 1970.
The Ogles, descendants from the area’s first settlers, personify Gatlinburg history and the town’s ongoing development.