20 Mar 2020
Ever wonder why there’s a bell over the Holy Branch beside Mountain Laurel’s offices? Modern technology and meteorological advancements have made its purpose useless, but it carries with it a piece of Gatlinburg’s history.
Allow us to tell a story.
Heavy rains pound the mountainside. The rain—no longer a pitter-patter, but large heavy hits that resonate on the roof like a drum, has been pouring for hours. The rushing water of the creek comes to your ears and the scent of displaced dirt and mud hits your nostrils.
A thought crosses your mind, a thought you dreaded—flood. You have to warn the town below. They’re counting on you to let them know the danger of the waters. You can’t go door to door. There’s no time for that.
Suddenly, it hits you. The bell. Everyone can hear it, even in the midst of the downpour. Rushing through wind and walls of water, you reach the bridge over the Holy Branch. You grasp the rough, weather-beaten rope with your hands, and you pull the bell with all your might.
The first ring pierces the air, cutting through the incessant pounding of mother nature’s drums of war. You tug again, a second ring. Again; a third. A fourth. A fifth.
You ring the bell until your arms are enflamed, knowing that the clang of the bell could be the only thing between life and death for the people of Gatlinburg. The Little Pigeon River could overflow from the runoff of the Holy Branch and all of the fields, farms, and families could be destroyed.
The water rises in the creek, and you know you’ve done all you can. The people of Gatlinburg have been signaled. God be with them.
The bell over the Holy Branch was used for years to warn townspeople of severe weather and floodwaters that might seriously harm the people of Gatlinburg. Playing an important part to the vitality and safety of Gatlinburg, this old warning system has done loads to aid the community.
Next time you’re near Mountain Laurel’s offices, stop and see the bell that has saved countless lives.