The history of a place is just as vital to its spirit as present time. When history is appreciated and carried on then it creates a place that people feel connected to regardless of if they are guests for a day or residents for many years. There is no doubt that the history of Gatlinburg and the Smokies play a great part in the way millions of people return to the Smoky Mountains time after time. We decided to share with you a few things that we believe help to make up the charm of wonderful town.
At the Bearskin Lodge the history behind both Gatlinburg and the Smokies are very important to us and for a very good reason. In our family of 5 local hotels, each property was created based on the generations that came before us. Our history in Gatlinburg can be traced back to the very first settlers that came to this “Land of Paradise” with intentions of the making the Smokies home. Our owners, the Ogle family, have been calling the area home since their descendant Martha Ogle settled in Gatlinburg with her children and brother. In 1807 Martha came to the Smoky Mountains to honor her husband William’s wishes for this corner of the Appalachians to be their home. William passed away before he could make the trip, so Martha followed through with his plans and built the first home in Gatlinburg. Martha’s cabin still stands in the heart of the city. Gatlinburg’s first home place is a beautiful reminder of how with a little hard work and determination, dreams can become a reality.
Another Ogle couple also played a starring role in the story of how Gatlinburg came to be the city that you visit and love today. Born on a cold February day in 1898 within the foothills of the Smokies, Hattie was also a woman that was determined to create a life that she loved. Though life was hard in the hills, she flourished year after year. At the age of 19 Hattie fell in love with Charlie Ogle, became his wife and also his partner at the family general store. Opening her independent business The Bearskin Craft Shop was a move that would place Hattie on a continuous path to success. By the 1940’s, after years of working with trading bearskins, items at the general store and craft supplies, Hattie decided to shift into the field of hospitality. First, The Bearskin Tourist Home followed by The Bearskin Motel. At a time when the Smokies were beginning to thrive with visitors seeking the beauty and tranquility of the Smoky Mountains, as well as the national park being established, the seeds for Hattie’s success were in place. Hattie continued her life of being an entrepreneur and a pioneer of the hospitality industry throughout her time in Gatlinburg. Hattie Ogle McGiffen was a resident of the city until she passed away at the age of 104 in 2002. Today, her family continues to carry out her love of providing a warm, authentic and home like experience for guests at the Bearskin Lodge that we welcome you to experience.
The next time you’re in Gatlinburg take time to step away from the strip for a bit and connect to some of the history that lies around the edges of the city. Along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail you’ll find the Noah “Bud” Ogle farmstead, a grist mill, cabins, the Alfred Reagan House and other slivers of the past. Head into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Sugarlands Visitors Center to learn about the communities that were once a part of Gatlinburg but are now only ruins sprinkled around the 520,000 acres of national park. Take a drive along Newfound Gap, a road through the park that follows a similar route that the Cherokee hunters once used and called Indian Gap Trail. Take a trip up one of the many attractions in town that offer views of the rolling southern hills of the Appalachians that were first referred to as Schconage by the native Americans. When visiting with us in Gatlinburg and the Smokies, connect to the history of “The Land of Blue Smoke.”
Now that we’ve shared some of Gatlinburg’s history as well as our connection to this beautiful place, we would love for you to join us as our guest. We look forward to carrying on Hattie’s legacy of hospitality during your stay with us.
To plan your stay, click here! → The Bearskin Lodge on the River
Read more about the history of our hotel! → The History of Bearskin Lodge