Travel Tennessee A Woman Helped Establish The Great Smoky Mountains National Park—and Saved Gatlinburg Along the Way Anne Davis is our new hero. By Meghan Overdeep Meghan Overdeep Meghan Overdeep has more than a decade of writing and editing experience for top publications. Her expertise extends from weddings and animals to every pop culture moment in between. She has been scouring the Internet for the buzziest Southern news since joining the team in 2017. Southern Living's editorial guidelines Updated on March 17, 2023 Fact checked by Jennifer Hawk Fact checked by Jennifer Hawk Jennifer Hawk is a former English professor with 24 years of experience guiding even the most reluctant through the labyrinths of writing, rhetoric, and research. brand's fact checking process Share Tweet Pin Email It was in 1923, upon returning to home Knoxville, Tennessee, from Yellowstone National Park, when the great Anne Davis famously asked her husband Willis P. Davis, "Why could not our Great Smokies be made a national park—and those magnificent monarchs of the forest preserved for posterity?" It was a good question, but her husband, the president of Knoxville Iron Company, didn't have an answer. Joel Carillet/Getty Images Inspired to preserve the area, the Davises took matters into their own hands, cofounding the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association that same year. But Anne was just getting started. In 1924 she was elected to the Tennessee legislature. She sponsored legislation that allowed the purchase of 78,000 acres of land from the Little River Lumber Company, which, according to the National Park Service, "ultimately became the first large parcel of land set aside for the creation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park." At that time, as Bill Carey, founder and executive director of TN History for Kids, recently pointed out in a column for The Daily Herald, Gatlinburg and the beautiful landscape surrounding it were just another place for heavy industry. That's right. Long before tourists flocked to Gatlinburg's museums and hiking trails, the town was to be "cleared, cut, and mined." WATCH: All-Time Best Guide To The Great Smoky Mountains According to The Tennessean, logging companies owned about 85% of the roughly 400,000 acres originally proposed for the park. But it was Anne's efforts that got the ball rolling on land acquisition even before Congress authorized a Smokies park in 1926. Today she is widely credited with the park's eventual establishment in 1934, and playing a vital role in the preservation of hundreds and thousands of beautiful acres . Now, Great Smoky Mountains National Park occupies 522,427 acres. Gatlinburg, which serves as the Gateway to the Smokies, is one of the most popular tourism destinations in the country. Thank you, Mrs. Davis! Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Southern Living is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy. Jones J. Women of the Smokies. U.S. National Park Service: Great Smoky Mountains. Anderson B. Why Clingmans Dome in the Smoky Mountains needs a new name | Opinion. The Tennessean.