People Of Great Smoky Mountains

On September 2, 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt stood at Newfound Gap, with one foot on each side of the North Carolina-Tennessee State line, and dedicated “for the enjoyment of the people” the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A tremendous amount of time, labor, money, and desire was necessary to achieve this preserved area east of the Mississippi. Before the SmokyMountains became a national park, average people from different walks of life (including the native Cherokees) lived in and made up the history of the area.

The first European Settlers came to the Smokies in the late 1700s. Those settlers lived the same way the Cherokee did, hunting the wildlife and producing crops. For protection, the settlers chopped down trees to make houses and fences. Clearing the trees made room for further agricultural possibilities and wider roads. Average life for a settler in the Smokies included farming, hauling grain to the local mill, keeping up with the news, and attending church. Farming was done with only hand tools, such as shovels, hoes, and rakes. The more fortunate settlers owned an animal that could help plow the land.

The agricultural pattern of life in the Great Smoky Mountains changed with the arrival of lumbering in the early 1900s. Within 20 years, the largely self-sufficient economy of the people here was almost entirely replaced by dependence on manufactured items, store bought food, and cash. Logging boom towns sprang up overnight at sites that still bear their names: Elkmont, Smokemont, Proctor, Tremont.

Loggers were rapidly cutting the great primeval forests that remained on these mountains. Unless the course of events could be quickly changed, there would be little left of the region’s special character and wilderness resources. Intervention came when Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1934. The forest—at least the 20% that remained uncut within park boundaries—was saved.

More than 1,200 land-owners had to leave their land once the park was established. They left behind many farm buildings, mills, schools, and churches. Over 70 of these structures have since been preserved so that Great Smoky Mountains National Park now contains the largest collection of historic log buildings in the East.

Looking for something unique, whimsical or downright odd? Gatlinburg’s specialty shops have you covered. Find Smoky Mountain art, woodcarvings, leather goods, quilts, handmade soaps, jewelry, pottery, glass and various other souvenirs and collectibles. Most of these items are made by local artisans and serve as great reminders of your time in the Smokies.

Sevier County is home to malls, shopping outlets, and hundreds of stores in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. Smoky Mountains shopping offers great savings from designer clothes and accessories at designer outlet malls to handmade pottery, candles, preserves, candies and specialty foods. Find unique clothing, antiques, gift stores, souvenirs, arts and crafts and more.

Gatlinburg has two smaller malls, the Mountain Mall and the Village Shops, both of which have locally owned businesses offering more one-of-a-kind wares. Be sure to visit Alwine Pottery in the Village Shops, and Mountain Village Décor in the Mountain Mall, both of which sell local hand-crafted items. Nearby, the popular Jonathan’s The Bear Necessities has home items, apparel, books and scrapbook supplies with a decidedly mountain theme.

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News Reporter