Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Martha Jane Ogle -- Early Settler of Gatlinburg, Tennessee

By Michelle Shocklee

I love spending time in the Great Smoky Mountains. I love visiting Gatlinburg, Tennessee (although I don't recommend going during peak tourist seasons. The traffic and crowds! Oy vey!). Add in an old cabin with a cool history and I'm a happy camper. 

I took this picture of Gatlinburg from the balcony of our rental/condo; 2022

As an author of historical fiction, I'm always seeking out "the story" behind interesting places we visit and fascinating people who come across my path, whether in person or through historical records. Thus, you can imagine how my curiosity and "need to know-it'tive-ness" was piqued when I read about Martha Jane Huskey Ogle, an early settler to the Great Smokies who lived in the very first cabin ever built in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

William and Martha Jane Huskey Ogle; image from undated, unknown newspaper article; Ogle Family

Martha Jane Huskey was born in North Carolina in 1764. It is thought she was part Cherokee, although there is nothing to confirm (or deny) this story that was passed down through the generations. Martha Jane met William "Billy" Ogle, born in Delaware in 1756, when she was 16 years old. In his will, Billy referred to her as "my beloved wife Polly." The couple married, and the first of their seven children was born in South Carolina in 1780. It is said that William hunted and traded with various Indian tribes in Edgefield, South Carolina, and had a good life, but by 1802, he was ready for a new start in a new land. 

Ogle Cabin, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
In the spring of 1802, William made the long journey across the mountains and arrived in White Oak Flats, Tennessee, now present-day Gatlinburg. He selected a building site and named it 'The Land of Paradise.' Billy spent the warmer months laboring to clear the land, and cut and hew logs, all with the intention of building the area's first cabin. However, winter was coming, so Billy traveled back to Edgefield County with plans to pack up his wife, five sons, and two daughters, and move them to Paradise come spring. 

Unfortunately, tragedy struck. Billy fell ill, possibly with malaria, and died in 1803. Martha Jane grieved her husband and moved to Virginia to live with Billy's parents. But as time went by, she grew determined to fulfill Billy's dream of moving the family to his piece of paradise in Tennessee. In 1807, Martha Jane followed her husband's lead and made the long, dangerous journey with her seven children, and her brother Peter and his family. They found the cleared land and hewn logs Billy had prepared five years earlier right where he'd left them. 

Today, the restored cabin can be seen in downtown Gatlinburg. It was relocated from its original site but remains a wonderful example of what early settlers to the area would have lived in. I think Billy and Polly would be pleased to know we're still talking about them all these years later. Their pioneer spirit, hard work, and dedication to family are worth remembering. 

Your turn: Have you been to Gatlinburg? What was your favorite thing about this quaint mountain town? Are you planning a trip there anytime soon?

Springhouse at the Walker Sisters Cabin, the setting for
Appalachian Song

Michelle Shocklee 
is the author of several historical novels, including Count the Nights by Stars, winner of the Christianity Today Book Award, and Under the Tulip Tree, a Christy Awards and Selah Awards finalist. Her work has been included in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books, magazines, and blogs. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of two grown sons, she makes her home in Tennessee, not far from the historical sites she writes about. Visit her online  at www.MichelleShocklee.com


Forever within the memories of my heart.
Always remember, you are perfectly loved.

Bertie Jenkins has spent forty years serving as a midwife for her community in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. Out of all the mothers she’s tended, none affects her more than the young teenager who shows up on her doorstep, injured, afraid, and expecting, one warm June day in 1943. As Bertie and her four sisters tenderly nurture Songbird back to health, the bond between the childless midwife and the motherless teen grows strong. But soon Songbird is forced to make a heartbreaking decision that will tear this little family apart.

Thirty years later, the day after his father’s funeral, Walker Wylie is stunned to learn he was adopted as an infant. The famous country singer enlists the help of adoption advocate Reese Chandler in the hopes of learning why he was abandoned by his birth parents. With the only clue he has in hand, Walker and Reese head deep into the Appalachian Mountains to track down Bertie Jenkins, the midwife who holds the secrets to Walker’s past.




  1. Thank you for posting today. We never have been to Tennessee and I'm mostly happy to travel through all of the adventurers on this blog and others.

  2. Connie, I know exactly what you mean. Thanks for your support of this blog!