You are currently viewing History of Pigeon Forge, TN – Indian Hunting Ground Turned Family Friendly Resort

History of Pigeon Forge, TN – Indian Hunting Ground Turned Family Friendly Resort


Beginning in the 1980s, a revamped tourism industry enticed visitors from all over the world to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. They came for the Appalachian culture, great shopping, some of the best chalets, vacation condos, and cabins in Smoky Mountains, and of course, Dollywood. But this gem nestled in the eastern portion of Tennessee wasn’t always a mecca of crafts, music, and folklore. Long before Pigeon Forge became a popular tourist destination, Cherokee Indians used the ancient trails as hunting grounds.

To trace Pigeon Forge’s Native American roots, follow US-441, which crosses the Smokey Mountains from North Carolina, meanders through the Pigeon Forge valley, and connects near Sevierville, Tennessee. This major thoroughfare closely follows an ancient Cherokee footpath known as the Indian Gap Trail. Modern-day Sevierville lies near where the Great Indian Warpath, also known as the Great Indian War and Trading Path, connected a network of trails used by Native Americans in eastern North America. The Cherokee who walked and hunted along these paths ceded the land to the United States in 1785 with the signing of the Treaty of Dumplin.

But even before the treaty was signed and Sevier County created. Euro-American settlers followed the Indian Gap Trail to the Pigeon Forge area. One of these early pioneers, Colonel Samuel Wear. Became the area’s first permanent resident when he built a small fort to provide a safe stopover for other travelers. But since Wear’s fort straddled the Indian Gap Trail. It ultimately served as a catalyst for tensions and battles between the Cherokees and the unwelcome pioneers. Today, near the Pigeon Forge City Park. Wear’s grave and a monument mark the sport where the fort stood.

During the 1700s, when pioneers first settled in the area, Pigeon Forge was part of what today is known as the “lost” State of Franklin, an autonomous United States Territory created near the end of the American Revolution. Franklin never officially joined the Union and lasted only four years before later becoming an official part of Tennessee. After Franklin joined Tennessee in the early 1800s, iron worker Isaac Love built a forge along the river known for the flocks of now-extinct passenger pigeons that would gather on its banks. The Little Pigeon River, the diverse frontier wildlife, and Love’s iron forge not only attracted a small community of settlers, but also gave Pigeon Forge its name.

Tourists began visiting Pigeon Forge in the 1870s when the Henderson Springs health resort opened. As any urban dwellers at that time commonly thought that mountain springs had health-restoring qualities. But not until the Great Smoky Mountains National Park opened in 1934. Did a new era of tourism begin for the region. Tourism became official in 1961 with the establishment of Rebel Railroad. The first tourism-oriented business to open shortly after the town incorporated. The attraction, which offered Civil War reenactments and train rides. And steadily gained popularity until eventually transforming into Dollywood in the mid-1980s. When Dolly Parton became a partner in the venture.

Along with the tourist-attractive Dollywood theme park, in the early 1980s the town launched an aggressive economic plan to increase tourism by developing theme parks, music venues, and outlet malls. By 1987, four outlet malls had launched and within five years, malls brought in almost half of the town’s gross revenue. Today, shoppers from across the nation come to Pigeon Forge to peruse more than 200 factory outlets and specialty stores.

So, wonder no more how Native American land in the Smokey Mountains came to be known as Pigeon Forge. History buff, tourist, or nature-lover alike, Pigeon Forge offers a rich history, contemporary appeal, and future adventures.

Please visit our website at to learn more about Smoky Mountains, and to rent beautiful Pigeon Forge cabins.


Source by Bob Robert Foster

Leave a Reply