19 Mar 2020
Situated above the town of Gatlinburg is an area known as the “Roaring Fork”. This name comes from LeConte creek which runs along the route. Today you can travel back in time along a one way road about 5.5 miles in length to get a glimpse of what life was like in the early days for mountain settlers. You will drive past old growth forests with stands of Eastern Hemlock and undergrowth of Azalea, Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron. You will also see several old homesteads containing cabins, barns, corn cribs, tub or grist mills. The drive is closed during the winter months due to the possibility of snow and ice since much of the terrain is very steep.
The first cabin you come to (pictured above) is the Noah “Bud” Ogle cabin. Once part of a 400 acre farm, it was later subdivided amongst his children and he retained only 150 acres. Noah was the great grandson of William and Martha Huskey Ogle – the first Euro-American settlers to the Gatlinburg area. His cabin and buildings were built in 1880’s – 1890’s on what is very poor and rocky soil. He grew mostly corn and had constructed a handmade log flume plumbing system and a tub mill for grinding the corn into meal. He allowed his family to use the mill for free and took a percentage of meal when he ground corn for neighbors. His wife Lucinda Bradley Ogle was the local midwife. He also maintained a rather large apple orchard.
Further down the Motor trail you will come to the homestead of Alfred and Martha Bales Reagan. Once the finest house in the Roaring Fork, little is known of the exact construction dates but most likely many of the improvements were after the turn of the century. The Reagan’s land consisted of 135 acres, most of which are extremely steep and rocky, with huge boulder fields. In an interview with Herb Clabo, regarding the Reagan land, he stated “Hit (sp) went straight up and down! ” . Alfred was a jack of all trades like many men of his day. He was a miller, storekeeper, blacksmith, gunsmith, Master Carpenter and some say at one time a Lay Minister. His wife and children handled most of the farming chores on the 35 acres cleared by the house. He constructed most of the furnishings for his home and when a neighbor passed away he made their coffins at no charge. He sold timber off much of his land and had it milled at Andy Huff’s mill. His son Giles was in a tragic accident at the mill and lost a leg. The leg was buried (with proper rites performed) in a local cemetery.
There are several other sights to see along the Motor Nature Trail including the trailheads to Grotto Falls and Rainbow Falls. Be sure to pack a picnic lunch and spend a few hours exploring an earlier time in the beautiful Smoky Mountains.