Gatlinburg was an interesting Appalachian experience to say the least, but it was only a set-up for what was to come. Now, you have to understand, I’m a California beach person so anything east of the Mississippi is going to be met with wonder and sometimes, just plain old jaw-dropping amazement. And, Pigeon Forge delivered big-time on the last one.
DOLLY PARTON COUNTRY
All of you Dolly Parton fans will recognize Pigeon Forge as the home of Dollywood and there’s a reason; this is Dolly's home turf. Born the fourth of twelve children, her early life is well documented as is her love of this gorgeous country and the people in it. But it wasn’t until she was approached to invest in an already existing theme park did she find a way to be a blessing to her people. Her name and business savvy turned the modest park (renamed Dollywood) into a huge success, and in doing so, provided incomes to this once impoverished area.
I had no idea what to expect as we drove into Pigeon Forge, but I was not prepared for what I saw! The road we were on opened up into a broad avenue lined with what I can only describe as huge Las Vegas style edifices to entertainment. Clearly influenced by the Las Vegas Strip, the facades were just as gaudy and eye-catching. However, unlike Vegas, here it is all about the family and every kind of entertainment and thrills and chills rides you can imagine. This is in addition to Dollywood which is located several miles out of town. All I can say is bring your wallet. You’re gonna need it!
For something to do, we chose to go to a Titanic exhibition, which I would recommend only if you haven’t ever been to one. This had very few actual artifacts from the sunken ship. What you get are mock-ups of some of the rooms and areas complete with sound effects etc. The most impressive exhibit was a very large model of the Titanic a young man did with Legos. The exterior did provide some good photo-ops though.
More interesting to me was an “adult” area of Pigeon Forge where an old gristmill (now a restaurant and very cool gift shop) still stands by a lovely river. The mill was established in 1830 and bought by a distant relative of mine, John Sevier Trotter in 1849. The food was finger-lickin’-good as was the ice-cream across the street. Oh yes, and don't forget to visit the fresh-from-the-still moonshine store!
Sevierville and John Sevier
You will find the name, Sevier, all over Tennessee. Sevierville is in Sevier County and so on. So, who was he? Well, besides being one of my great-great etc. ancestors, John Sevier, a pioneer, and Revolutionary War hero, almost single handedly created the state. He had help of course, but back when the territory was under North Carolina control, he moved all of his family and his extended family (which was huge) into what is now Tennessee along the Nolichucky River. He actively encouraged others to settle there as well and with his leadership they established the first civil government in the area. Later, he and his brothers fought a decisive victory against the British who had sought to defeat the Patriots by an eastern assault. Sevier was a natural leader, very much like his Commander and Chief, George Washington, and when No. Carolina released its claim on its northern territory so that it could become a state, John Sevier was voted its first Governor.
Sevierville was named after John Sevier by a good friend and supporter. The town is also very proud of the fact that Dolly Parton grew up there. Unfortunately, we didn’t spend a lot of time in Sevierville. It looked like a charming little town. We did stop at the Sevier County Court House, a beautiful old building with monuments to not only Dolly but to John Sevier who is almost as famous as Dolly 😊!
***Click on any picture for a full screen slideshow.
NEXT TIME: KNOXVILLE AND JOHN SEVIER