How Gatlinburg Got Its Name

Long before it became one of the most popular tourist destination in the United States, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, was a simple little mountain village named White Oaks Flats, so named because of the abundance of white oak trees in the region.

White Oak Flats was founded by William Ogle, who arrived in the Smokies from South Carolina in 1802. Ogle was looking for brighter pastures for his wife, Martha Jane, and their seven children, and he thought he’d found them in East Tennessee.

The natural splendor of the mountains drew William’s attention, and he invented the phrase “The Land of Paradise” to describe the region. William started planning a home in the Smoky Mountains to prepare for his family’s transfer from South Carolina.

Before returning home to retrieve Martha and the children, Ogle chopped down local wood and hewed the logs for his new cottage. Sadly, following his return to South Carolina, William became sick and died in 1803.

Enter Radford Gatlin

Gatlinburg’s legacy in the Smoky Mountains dates back to 1854 when a gentleman named Radford Gatlin immigrated to the region and founded the second general store in White Oaks Flats. He established a post office within his business a few years later, and the town’s name was changed to Gatlinburg in his honor. He also served as an energetic and charismatic preacher, and founded the Baptist Church in the region.

Gatlin was a divisive personality who was known for his outspokenness. Even though he gave the town his name, Radford Gatlin was not well-liked in Gatlinburg. Indeed, Gatlin was always at odds with his neighbors, especially the Ogle descendants. When Radford sought to redirect the town’s main road in 1857, it sparked a tremendous dispute between Gatlin and the Ogles.

Because of his political beliefs, Gatlin conflicted with his neighbors. Radford backed the South’s secession from the United States, despite most Gatlinburg residents being pro-Union and anti-slavery.

The friction between Gatlin and the rest of the community reached a breaking point in 1859 when he was eventually beaten up and ejected from the town that bears his name.

With this information about the origin of the name, Gatlinburg is a wonderful spot to visit with your family. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses Gatlinburg on three sides. Millions of visitors bring their families to the region to relax in the mountains and immerse themselves in Gatlinburg’s rich heritage.

We invite you to come experience Gatlinburg with us at Edgewater Hotel. We’ve got your room ready!