To fully understand the history of Sevierville and its beginnings, you must go back to time when the Native American Indians roamed the Great Smoky Mountains, more specifically those of the Cherokee Nation.
What our history books tell us is that during the 1700s, the Cherokee Indian tribe was the only Native American group that called Tennessee their permanent home. Not only had the Cherokee claimed the eastern, as well as central portions of the state to use as hunting grounds, they had also come to refer to themselves in their native language as the “Principal People.” Some argue that these Cherokee were a detached Iroquoian tribe that settled the region located at the doorsteps of the Smoky Mountains. This tribe included Native Americans who John Sevier fought in order to protect European settlers in and around Sevierville.
Sevierville is named after John Sevier, one of the most famous figures in the history of the state of Tennessee. Known as a frontiersman, soldier, war hero and politician who served under George Washington in the American Revolution, Sevier became renowned for his role in the battle of King’s Mountain.
Sevier was elected as the first governor of the State of Franklin in 1785 – a new state that was established on the land around Watauga, in Johnson City, Tn. The State of Franklin was eventually annexed to North Carolina and Sevier was accused of treason for going against the annexation of Franklin.
Eventually, Sevier recovered and ascended to a higher office, that of the governor of Tennessee. Sevier was Tennessee’s first governor, serving from 1796 until 1801 when the State of Tennessee was formed, and again from 1803 to 1809. Sevier even served as a Tennessee state senator from 1809 until 1811 and followed that up as a member of the US House of Representatives in 1811. You could say that Sevier was “loosely” involved in politics for a good portion of his life.
Sevier, Nicknamed “Nolichucky Jack” for his Nolichucky River exploits, died in Georgia during a boundary negotiation with Creek Indians in 1815.
To many, Sevierville is known as the original birthplace of country music. These southern mountaineer songs are considered by a growing group to be the only true folk music ever produced by the European immigrants to America. Most go back as far as the British ballads of the 1700s.
English Musicologist, Cecil Sharp, said in Smoky Mountain Country by North Callahan that he was tremendously taken with the people who settled the Appalachian Mountains, their strong character, their individuality, the isolation and its effects upon them and their music. The mountain people were sheltered by rugged mountains from the rest of the world and by this very condition, he concluded, they had retained in all its purity the most lyrical folk music in the world.
Today, music inspired by the Smoky Mountains and the Sevierville countryside is recognized around the world. One of the most prolific and well known musicians of this genre hails from Sevierville – country music artist and philanthropist Dolly Parton. One of 12 children born in Locust Ridge, Tennessee, Dolly has remained faithful to her mountain roots, even as her international fame continued to grow. After opening her Dollywood theme park, which helps preserve mountain music and crafts while creating jobs for area residents, she also began the Dollywood Foundation, which funds many charities in the Sevier County region and Tennessee including the Books from Birth program.