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Founded as White Oak Flats in the early 19th century and settled primarily by the veterans of the American Revolution, who were awarded 50-acre tracts of land in the area by the government of North Carolina, the picturesque resort town picked up its modern name in a rather odd manner. By the middle of the 19th century, the town was still small—so small that there was nowhere to put the post office when mail service was extended to the area in 1855. So when local businessman Radford Gatlin offered a corner of his store to house the office, postmaster Richard Reagan was so grateful that he renamed his branch Gatlinburg.
The name stuck around, but Gatlin himself did not. Not a popular figure with the town’s prominent families (he was an outspoken Confederate, while the area at the time had a definite Union leaning), Gatlin was run out of town shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War.
Under its new name, Gatlinburg remained a relatively sleepy village—farming and logging were its economic bread and butter—until the creation of
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
in 1934. Gatlinburg found itself at the entrance to the park, and has reaped the benefits of its stunning, strategic location ever since. More tourists arrive every year, along with great new shops, restaurants and attractions to complement the majestic scenery.