Pigeon Forge TN

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History of Pigeon Forge TN

Pigeon Forge, TN get's its name from an iron forge Isaac Love built sometime during the 1820s, and the Little Pigeon River, which runs through the area.  The Cherokee had been using the area for centuries as a place to hunt, and gained access to it via what is now called the "Indian Gap Trail" across the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina.  This "trading" trail passes through Pigeon Forge and into Sevierville, TN.  During the 1700s, the first European settlers used the trail for access to the Pigeon Forge area, while trappers and hunters from North Carolina and traders from Virginia.

The first permanent European settler at Pigeon Forge was American Revolution Colonel Samuel Wear (1753-1817).  He built a small fort near Walden Creek and the Little Pigeon River, in what is now Pigeon Forge City Park.  The fort served as a safe place for pioneers who appeared in Sevier County.

Mordecai Lewis, an American Revolutionary war veteran, received a 151 acre land grant in the area of what is now Pigeon Forge in 1810.  In 1817, his son-in-law, Isaac Love built the iron forge, which now bears the town's name, for smelting ore into iron bars. 

In 1830, Love built the Pigeon Forge Mill and 11 years later, in 1841, Love's son, William, established a post office, naming it Pigeon Forge.  Although the mill's iron furnace was sold and relocated in the 1880s, the Pigeon Forge Mill still remains, and is listed in the National Records of Historic Places.  In 1870 a health resort was established on the town's north at Henderson Springs, which started bringing in city folk from around eastern United States.

In 1934, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park opened, contributing little initially to the economic development of Pigeon Forge.  During the 1940s, several campgrounds and lodges opened, courtesy improvements to U.S. Highway 441.  And, after businessmen and entrepreneurs failed to convince the nearby residents at Gatlinburg to build a business center, their attention turned to Pigeon Forge.

So, in 1961 the town was incorporated and the first tourist attraction was established - Rebel Railroad.  The railroad was sort of a theme park which took passengers through an area of attacking Union soldiers with a "frontier town" destination, where the visitors could enjoy the saloon or visit the blacksmith shop, and other events. 

After a few years using the "Civil War" theme, the owners renamed the attraction Goldrush Junction, a wild west theme similar to their other tourist train attraction, Tweetsie Railroad in nearby Boone, NC.  The success of Goldrush Junction encouraged the arrival of a log flume ride in 1967, an idea obtained from the New York's World Fair.

In 1969, U.S. Highway 441 in Pigeon Forge was zoned for tourism.  NFL football's Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell bought Goldrush Junction the same year.  In 1976, Goldrush Junction became Silver Dollar City by the new owners, successful theme park businessmen, the Herschend Brothers of Branson, Missouri.  Soon, the park's attendance began to climb.  The 1984 World's Fair (at Knoxville) brought more economic improvement as outlet malls began popping up in Pigeon Forge.

With the town, and tourism growing, Silver Dollar City soon saw competition from another theme park, Magic World.  In response, the Herschends partnered with Dolly Parton (an area native) and Silver Dollar City became Dollywood.  The move was brilliant as Dollywood flourished, while Magic World folded in 1994.

 

The Music Road Hotel, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

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Pigeon Forge Area History
Discover the rich culture and history of Pigeon Forge, North Carolina!

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