aerial view of Pigeon Forge

The History of Pigeon Forge, TN

January 18, 2024

Today, Pigeon Forge is one of the most popular vacation destinations for families, welcoming more than 10 million visitors each year. This now bustling city was once a small town with the gorgeous Smoky Mountains in the backdrop. With a name that derives from an extinct species of bird and an iron forge, this city is rich in history. We’re here to tell you more about it to help you learn how this beautiful town has grown over the years!

Originally Used by the Cherokee

Pigeon Forge was originally a hunting ground for the Cherokee in North Carolina. They used the Indian Gap Trail to cross the Smoky Mountains from North Carolina to what is now modern day Sevierville. This trail brought the first European settlers into the area. In 1785, the Cherokee signed the Treaty of Dumpling Creek, which gave much of Sevier County to the United States.

The 1800s

Little Pigeon River in Pigeon Forge

Pigeon Forge saw plenty of growth during the 1800s. Religion played a major role in the town’s development, and many clergymen would come to preach Methodist teachings in the valley, eventually establishing churches throughout the communities. In 1817, a man named Isaac Love built an iron forge along the banks of the Little Pigeon River — this forge and the large number of passenger pigeons that flocked to the area led to naming the town ‘“Pigeon Forge.” In 1841, Love’s son, William, built the first post office in town. More than 20 years later, the first resort was established in town, and the first tourists to the area arrived soon after.

The 1900s

During the 1900s, Pigeon Forge welcomed a lot of change. Many businesses opened, including a blacksmith shop, a barber shop, a grocery store, a medical practice, and more. There was also a brand new school building that opened in 1923. In 1934, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established, and in 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the park. This put Pigeon Forge on the map, and in 1961, the city was officially incorporated. Tourism and visitation numbers in Pigeon Forge continued to climb as more businesses, shops, and attractions opened throughout the area. Rebel Railroad was built in 1961, then got new ownership in 1970 and was renamed Goldrush Junction in 1970. In 1976, the park changed ownership again and became Silver Dollar City. The final name change came in 1986, when the Herschend brothers partnered with Dolly Parton to create Dollywood. Dollywood is now one of the top theme parks in America!

Pigeon Forge Today

Pirates Voyage in Pigeon Forge

Over the years, Pigeon Forge has seen so much growth and welcomed millions of visitors to its bustling town. We’ve seen many great attractions, restaurants, and shops open throughout the area, drawing in visitors of all ages. In 2019, our action-packed dinner show, Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show, opened its doors, joining other popular dinner attractions, Dolly Parton’s Stampede and Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud. Visitors love the opportunity to witness a high seas adventure in the heart of the mountains, along with a mouth-watering, four-course pirate feast. If you haven’t been to Pigeon Forge recently, we recommend planning a visit to see how much it’s changed over the years!

It’s no secret that Pigeon Forge has a rich history, and its growth over time continues to draw millions of visitors each year. If you’re hoping to learn even more about this popular town, check out these 5 fun facts about Pigeon Forge, TN.

black wooden board